Friday, July 10, 2009

The Best of BLOG!: The Glory Stompers

Originally posted 2 November 2007

Act One: Contains Spoilers

If it's one thing I can't stand, it's a movie review that gives away the entire plot. That said, the beauty of 1968's The Glory Stompers is not in the tale, but in the telling. Notably, in the dialogue, and in the wild, over-the-top performance of Dennis Hopper.

Hopper's portrayal of Chino, leader of outlaw biker gang the Black Souls, is a performance that informed every performance that followed, from Billy in Easy Rider to the Harlequin in Apocalypse Now to Frank Booth in Blue Velvet. It's a blueprint for a style of acting best characterized as "Hopperese"

Our story begins with a star-crossed couple whose relationship engenders the drama that is about to unfold. Darryl (Jody McCrea) is a member in good standing of The Glory Stompers motorcycle club and Chris (Chris Noel of Wild, Wild Winter) is his long-suffering girlfriend.

Darryl and Chris are having issues. "I want to be more than just a Stompers girl," Chris laments. As far as she's concerned, the Stompers are just a bunch of "over-age juvenile delinquents."

Darryl tries to explain, "Chris, you don't understand, they're my friends. They're like family."

"Some family."

Darryl tries to hip her on the upside of the biker lifestyle: "Don't you see? They're free. No hassles, no nine to fives..."

But she remains unmoved.

Enter the Black Souls. Hopper and company glide in on their two-wheel ponies to disrupt the proceedings. Following a cryptic hand signal from their fearless leader, the Black Souls crash the Stompers' party. Hopper, as Chino, wastes no time in menacing the female lead.

"Leave me alone," She pleads.

"Hey, baby, like I just want to, you know, dance with you, baby."

Darryl intevenes. "Leave her alone."

Chino replies, "Hey, man, you just had to tell me she was taken, man. You don't have to get physical with me."

"I don't want you to touch her again."

Chino can't believe this clod, who played "Bonehead" in many a beach party picture, is playing the tough guy. "This cat is obviously suicidal, man."

When Darryl and Chris split the scene for a little private time, the Black Souls follow at a discreet distance. Just when Chris is starting to see things Darryl's way, the Black Souls break up their romantic rendezvous with biker-type mayhem and lashings of the good old ultra-violence. After "Magoo" puts a large dent in Darryl's skull with a tire iron, it looks like the Black Souls' fun and games have taken a detour that leads straight to the gas chamber. "It's murder, baby," surmises Chino. But he's a man with a plan, as we soon discover.

Leaving Darryl for dead, the gang heads south, taking the girl with them. Making camp for the night, Chino explains it all for the benefit of his blonde-haired captive: "Here's the situation, baby. Like we accidentally snuffed out your old man. Now the only way out for me and my people is to either snuff you out, or to sell you, to some high-class Mexican friends of ours. Now, being good people, we decided to sell you."

But before the Black Souls go down to Mexico, they're going to blow off some steam at the love-in.

Act Two: Trouble at the Love-In

As the Black Souls prepare to make the scene at the love-in, Chino has to deal with his jealous girlfriend, and the rest of the Black Souls, who, with the exception of his brother "Clean-Cut," want to gang-rape their captive. Even "Mouth," the joker of the bunch, played semi-convincingly by Casey Kasem, of American Top 40 infamy, wants a piece of the action.

Chino sorts out his minions first by kicking Magoo's ass, then telling the gang, "You see this little doll here? She ain't no mama, man. She ain't no mama. Now, if any of you dudes want to hassle, just turn it on. Just turn it on!"

Since they're are no takers, Chino puts Clean-Cut in charge of guarding Chris, and heads down to the love-in with the rest of the gang.

Meanwhile, Darryl has arisen from his braining at the hands of the Black Souls, in a scene laden with Christian symbolism. He hits the road in search of his chick, enlisting the aid of Smiley, a former Stomper, played by a bloated Jock Mahoney (Tarzan's Three Challenges). Smiley hips him to the probable whereabouts of Chris and the Black Souls, and Darryl roars off to get revenge, and salvage his relationship.

At the love-in, Chino and his pals cut loose with the other swingers, including hippie chicks in body paint, and even a few Glory Stompers, unaware of the plight of their brother Darryl and his biker babe.

Darryl gets to the party a little after dawn the following morning, missing the Black Souls by an hour or so. He assembles a small posse, and rides off to give Chino his comeuppance.

Act Three: Rumble at Spahn Ranch

The final act of our drama follows the tried-and-true formula of many a Western, as the lovingly photographed California highways become a collision course where the good guys meet the bad guys in the final showdown.
Not wanting to completely ruin the movie for you, o loyal readers, I will just provide a few highlights:

Chino's biker mama attempts to make up with her man after she's earned his disapproval by trying to stick a blade into the kidnapee, prompting Chino to ask her, "What are ya, knife-happy?"

She snuggles next to her man as he blows a joint, offering up her lush charms. Chino gives her the brush, telling her, "Hey, baby, I just want to get loaded."

"Chino, get loaded later."

"Get loaded later? What does that mean?" A brilliant retort, not to mention Hopper's personal credo for much of the next two decades.

In the final reel, the body count is three, all of 'em Black Souls, natch, and two of 'em Black Soul on Black Soul crimes.

This is my favorite biker movie of all time, getting the edge over The Wild Angels and even Easy Rider, which was more than just a genre film, anyway. Extra points are scored by The Glory Stompers fuzz-guitar soundtrack, performed by none other than Davie Allan and the Arrows.

The film was released on videocassette in the late '80s, but I nominate it for a deluxe DVD reissue, with commentary by Hopper, who actually directed much of the movie, and maybe Casey Kasem.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

Man, I love this flick. I have the VHS, but it's truly sad to see the 2.35 aspect ratio of the opening credits cut to pan & scan. I was hoping MGM might release this as part of their Midnite Movies DVD line, perhaps on a double bill with "The Savage Seven". Sadly, since MGM has changed hands, there doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm over that line anymore.