Hells Angels on Wheels


1h 35m 1967
Hells Angels on Wheels

Brief Synopsis

A gas station attendant falls for the girlfriend of a vicious motorcycle gang.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Action
Release Date
Jan 1967
Premiere Information
Wichita, Kansas, opening: 24 May 1967
Production Company
Fanfare Film Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
U. S. Films
Country
United States
Location
Northern California, USA; San Francisco, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 35m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

A group of northern California motorcyclists known as the Hell's Angels roar into a town near San Francisco and terrorize a gas station owner and his patrons. That night they are joined by the gas station attendant, Poet, who has been fired from his job because he argued with a customer. After joining the Angels in a gang fight, Poet accompanies them to an amusement park and is beaten up by four sailors. In retaliation, the gang, led by Buddy, tracks down the sailors and kills one of them. Then they all go to the apartment of Buddy's girl, Shill, for a wild party. Warned by highway officer Bingham that the Angels are prime suspects in the sailor's murder, Buddy decides that they should go away for the weekend. Plans are made for two of the Angels, Gypsy and Abigale, to be married in Nevada. Following the unconventional church wedding and a battle with local thugs, the gang moves on to the "ruins," a favorite hangout, where a party is in session. During the orgy, Buddy and Poet quarrel over Shill, and a vicious fight ensues. The violence ends when Buddy crashes through a glass window and dies in the flames of his burning motorcycle.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Action
Release Date
Jan 1967
Premiere Information
Wichita, Kansas, opening: 24 May 1967
Production Company
Fanfare Film Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
U. S. Films
Country
United States
Location
Northern California, USA; San Francisco, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 35m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Articles

Hells Angels on Wheels


Jack Nicholson was ten years into a film career that seemed, as he neared 30, to be going nowhere and on the cusp of divorce from his first wife when he agreed to star in Hells Angels on Wheels (1967) for director Richard Rush. Made to cash in on Roger Corman's hugely profitable biker flick The Wild Angels (1967) but bearing the official imprimatur of America's most notorious outlaw biker gang (who also served as technical advisors and extras in the film), Hells Angels on Wheels offered Nicholson the chance to play a character closer in spirit to his true personality and emblematic of the sort of anti-heroes he would play in Easy Rider (1969) and Five Easy Pieces (1970). Though he was only in it for the money, Nicholson earned the best notices of his career to that point by playing a sensitive son of the middle class who joins a motorcycle gang on a lark but grows increasingly more disturbed by their hedonistic excesses. To prep for the role, Nicholson visited with Hells Angels head honcho Sonny Barger, who offered the young actor "a toke for a poke." After Nicholson graciously took a drag on an offered joint, Barger punched him in the stomach: the poke that was the price of a toke. Despite this rocky start, Nicholson and Barger became good friends during shooting, with the rank and file Angels coming to believe Nicholson was a real biker from an out-of-town charter.

By Richard Harland Smith
Hells Angels On Wheels

Hells Angels on Wheels

Jack Nicholson was ten years into a film career that seemed, as he neared 30, to be going nowhere and on the cusp of divorce from his first wife when he agreed to star in Hells Angels on Wheels (1967) for director Richard Rush. Made to cash in on Roger Corman's hugely profitable biker flick The Wild Angels (1967) but bearing the official imprimatur of America's most notorious outlaw biker gang (who also served as technical advisors and extras in the film), Hells Angels on Wheels offered Nicholson the chance to play a character closer in spirit to his true personality and emblematic of the sort of anti-heroes he would play in Easy Rider (1969) and Five Easy Pieces (1970). Though he was only in it for the money, Nicholson earned the best notices of his career to that point by playing a sensitive son of the middle class who joins a motorcycle gang on a lark but grows increasingly more disturbed by their hedonistic excesses. To prep for the role, Nicholson visited with Hells Angels head honcho Sonny Barger, who offered the young actor "a toke for a poke." After Nicholson graciously took a drag on an offered joint, Barger punched him in the stomach: the poke that was the price of a toke. Despite this rocky start, Nicholson and Barger became good friends during shooting, with the rank and file Angels coming to believe Nicholson was a real biker from an out-of-town charter. By Richard Harland Smith

Hell's Angels on Wheels


Hell's Angel's on Wheels (1967) is a pre-Easy Rider (1969) biker film by Richard Rush, who would later surprise everyone by directing the critically acclaimed and multiple-Academy Award nominated film The Stunt Man (1980). Hell§s Angel's on Wheels is a much earlier effort and a straightforward, low-budget quickie that stars Jack Nicholson as "Poet," a lone-wolf cyclist with what one Hell's Angel groupie refers to as somebody with "nice, middle-class morals' - and this because he's uncomfortable stripping down in front of a third party. Don't worry, though, Jack soon loses enough inhibitions to partake in group-gropes at a Hell's Angel's party where body paints are splashed about as often as the beer, but beneath it all, he's still an old romantic who's willing to do anything for the girl.

Hell's Angel's on Wheels is not exactly "the best thing since 7-UP" (as one biker groupie says), but it does feature cinematography by Laszlo Kovacs, who would work with Nicholson on several other films, including Easy Rider, and Five Easy Pieces (1970), and it has groovy music by Stu Phillips, a veteran of various television series soundtracks who did music for such films as Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970), among others. Appropriate for the era, colors, whether in set design and/or clothes, are bright and lively.

In a bid for authenticity, there is a special opening credit to veteran and real-life Hell's Angel leader Sonny Barger, as himself. According to the Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film, Barger was responsible for bringing "along followers from Oakland and Daly City as well as the Nomads of Sacramento." In the Re/Search #10 publication Jim Morton says "the Angels liked and endorsed the film" - a gesture few critics could figure out." Reader's of Hunter Thompson's Hell's Angles will be disappointed by the relatively tame proceedings on film, as disgruntled bikers say lines such as "It is better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven" and bar brawls carry as much emotional impact as an early Batman television series fisticuffs (minus the sound-effect graphics), but the gang fights do erupt with regularity and there are plenty of other shenanigans to keep the motor running. The real kicker for this film, the genuine payoff, the moment-to-remember that makes it all worth the price of admission, is all packed into the very end. It comes with a message of betrayal that merges with the credits and leaves you a bit stunned, a powerful and abrupt flash that devours the various meandering detours that precede it.

Image Entertainment's dvd release of Hell's Angel's on Wheels presents the film in its widescreen ratio along with original trailer.

For more information about Hell's Angels on Wheel, visit Image Entertainment. To order Hell's Angels on Wheels, go to TCM Shopping.

by Pablo Kjolseth

Hell's Angels on Wheels

Hell's Angel's on Wheels (1967) is a pre-Easy Rider (1969) biker film by Richard Rush, who would later surprise everyone by directing the critically acclaimed and multiple-Academy Award nominated film The Stunt Man (1980). Hell§s Angel's on Wheels is a much earlier effort and a straightforward, low-budget quickie that stars Jack Nicholson as "Poet," a lone-wolf cyclist with what one Hell's Angel groupie refers to as somebody with "nice, middle-class morals' - and this because he's uncomfortable stripping down in front of a third party. Don't worry, though, Jack soon loses enough inhibitions to partake in group-gropes at a Hell's Angel's party where body paints are splashed about as often as the beer, but beneath it all, he's still an old romantic who's willing to do anything for the girl. Hell's Angel's on Wheels is not exactly "the best thing since 7-UP" (as one biker groupie says), but it does feature cinematography by Laszlo Kovacs, who would work with Nicholson on several other films, including Easy Rider, and Five Easy Pieces (1970), and it has groovy music by Stu Phillips, a veteran of various television series soundtracks who did music for such films as Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970), among others. Appropriate for the era, colors, whether in set design and/or clothes, are bright and lively. In a bid for authenticity, there is a special opening credit to veteran and real-life Hell's Angel leader Sonny Barger, as himself. According to the Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film, Barger was responsible for bringing "along followers from Oakland and Daly City as well as the Nomads of Sacramento." In the Re/Search #10 publication Jim Morton says "the Angels liked and endorsed the film" - a gesture few critics could figure out." Reader's of Hunter Thompson's Hell's Angles will be disappointed by the relatively tame proceedings on film, as disgruntled bikers say lines such as "It is better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven" and bar brawls carry as much emotional impact as an early Batman television series fisticuffs (minus the sound-effect graphics), but the gang fights do erupt with regularity and there are plenty of other shenanigans to keep the motor running. The real kicker for this film, the genuine payoff, the moment-to-remember that makes it all worth the price of admission, is all packed into the very end. It comes with a message of betrayal that merges with the credits and leaves you a bit stunned, a powerful and abrupt flash that devours the various meandering detours that precede it. Image Entertainment's dvd release of Hell's Angel's on Wheels presents the film in its widescreen ratio along with original trailer. For more information about Hell's Angels on Wheel, visit Image Entertainment. To order Hell's Angels on Wheels, go to TCM Shopping. by Pablo Kjolseth

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Location scenes filmed in northern California, including the San Francisco vicinity.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States May 24, 1967

Released in United States Spring March 24, 1967

Released in United States Spring March 24, 1967

Released in United States May 24, 1967 (Wichita, Kansas)