Cast & Crew
Hoping to destroy the corrupt power structure of a southern state, Federal agent Ray Faulkner poses as a road gang convict, engineers the escape of a group of hardened chain-gang criminals, and persuades them to work on the side of the law by promising them paroles. After training the men in high-speed driving and hurling lighted bombs at pinpoint targets, Faulkner prepares to move against a statewide moonshine syndicate. One of Faulkner's convicts, Frank Davis (a former driver for the syndicate), is at first hostile to the idea, but he becomes an eager convert when Faulkner reveals that the mob murdered his brother. Also assisting Faulkner is young Stewart Martin, a Federal agent on his first assignment. Once ready, the team of eight starts intercepting the moonshiners' delivery cars until the syndicate leader, Burl, is forced to give Faulkner and his men a share of the illegal whiskey operation and let them make the deliveries. But Burl pulls a double-cross by arranging for Faulkner and Martin to be ambushed by crooked police while making a moonshine run, and Martin is shot down from a police helicopter. By now, however, Sonny, one of Faulkner's men, has learned the location of Burl's stills and "the devil's eight" attack with their specially equipped cars and carefully timed explosives. During the battle, Burl tries to escape by using his mistress Cissy (who was once Davis' girl friend) as a hostage, but Faulkner succeeds in apprehending him. Cissy is reunited with a reformed Davis, and as Burl is being led away to face trial, Faulkner becomes confident that the power structure will soon crumble.
Lada Edmund Jr.
Fred Feitshans Jr.
Richard C. Glouner
James Gordon White
The Devil's 8 -
Working from a story by Larry Gordon, the first draft of the script was written by James Gordon White, whose work shows an affinity for numerically titled movies: The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant (1971), The Thing with Two Heads (1972) and Ten Violent Women (1982). White turned his draft over for polishing by two young assistants at American International Pictures (AIP), both of whom went on to greater things: Willard Huyck, later an Academy Award nominee for writing American Graffiti (1973), and John Milius, who wrote Jeremiah Johnson (1972) and (with Francis Ford Coppola) Apocalypse Now (1979) and directed several features, including Dillinger (1973), Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Red Dawn (1984), all from his own scripts.
Milius later told interviewer Nat Segaloff that the pair had two weeks to complete the task and did it in ten days. "I don't think we ever thought it was our best work," he said. "It was pretty good; it was funny... a lot of noise but not very good action."
White didn't agree with the "pretty good" part. In fact, he told another interviewer, Brian Albright, that he didn't like the film. "They took the Southern flavor out of it and I'm from the south, so I know from whereof I talk."
Filming took place under the title Inferno Road in late 1958 in several locations in the San Bernardino National Forest in Southern California.
White was not on the set to make sure the Southern-ness came through because he didn't get on with director Burt Topper, who began his career at AIP in the late '50s as an in-house producer-director-writer. Topper's work on low budget exploitation pictures earned him this description by critic Andrew Sarris in the landmark book on auteurs The American Cinema: "Topper has been discovered by [French film journal] Cahiers du Cinéma as one of its little jokes on American film scholarship." In broader historical terms, Topper is known as the writer-producer-director and bit player of War Is Hell (1963), which was playing in the Dallas theater where Lee Harvey Oswald took refuge shortly after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
This was the sixth AIP role for teen heartthrob Fabian and the last time he would be credited without his last name "Forte." He and Christopher George, who plays the federal agent in charge of the team, each appeared in nude spreads in Playgirl magazine in the mid-1970s.
The film was not a big hit and received little critical attention, although the Los Angeles Times called it "an amiably preposterous, rambunctious picture... as silly as it is, The Devil's 8 at least moves mercifully fast, has a sense of humor and packs plenty of action."
Director: Burt Topper
Producer: Burt Topper
Screenplay: John Milius and Willard Huyck, James Gordon White, story by Larry Gordon
Cinematography: Richard C. Glouner
Editing: Fred Feitshans Jr.
Art Direction: Paul Sylos
Music: Michael Lloyd, Jerry Styner
Cast: Christopher George (Ray Faulkner), Fabian (Sonny), Tom Nardini (Billy Joe), Leslie Parrish (Cissy), Ross Hagen (Frank Davis)
By Rob Nixon
The Devil's 8 -
Location scenes were filmed at Camp Pinecrest, California.