Bad Movies Done Right – Hi-Riders

Every day Robert Saucedo shines a spotlight on a movie either so bad it’s good or just downright terrible. Today: Wild Hogs meets Death Proof.

Aliens and Predators. Godzillas and Mothras. Flintstones and Jetsons. There are few rivalries throughout history that reach such legendary status.

Greydon Clark’s Hi-Riders provides a big, juicy ‘70s exploitation kiss to one of the greatest feuds since Tom Cruise and his homosexuality: bikers and rednecks.

Released in 1978, Hi-Riders starred Darby Hinton as Mark, a cherub-faced hustler with a penchant for dressing like Jesus’ hippy brother, and Diane Peterson as Lynn, a stunningly beautiful Farah Fawcett look-alike with a killer smile and a sexual drive linked to the size of a man’s engine.

Together, the couple rolls into town looking to hustle some poor slob out of his money in a car race.  Before Vin Diesel and Paul Walker were getting all fast and furious in the backseat of their custom-made street racers, the Hi-Riders controlled the drag racing scene in filmdom. When Mark and Lynn make the mistake out of beating a loud-mouthed member of the street gang, he takes off with the winnings — prompting the two to chase him all the way to the secret Hi-Rider hideaway.

The Hi-Riders are a raucous group of bikers and drag racers — in love as much with their vehicles as they are with the floozies who follow them around like pilot fish do with sharks.

It doesn’t take long for Mark and Lynn to win over the gang of bikers and street racers who occupy the abandoned western movie set that makes up the Hi-Riders’ hideout. Pretty soon, Mark and his woman have joined the Hi-Riders and the entire gang of leather-sporting, beer guzzling miscreants are on the move — in search of a new town where they can make some money hustling locals in drag races.

Unfortunately, the first stop made by the gang proves to be disastrous when a freak accident leads to the death of a Hi-Rider and a group of local teenagers. Bad turns worse when one of the slain teenagers is revealed to be the son of a local high-powered rancher — a man who vows to bring about the end of all those hooligans who indirectly caused the death of his son.

For the first half of the movie, Hi-Riders plays out like a Robert Altman version of a Justin Lin movie . The plot leisurely stretches out like a cat sunning by the window and story is only moved along by a series of casual comedic encounters caused by the Hi-Riders’ rowdy behavior and not-so-casual street races caused by their need for speed. There doesn’t seem to be any real antagonist or conflict until the end of the film’s second act.

By the third act, though, Hi-Riders has been transformed into a straight-up revenge thriller. Stephen McNally plays Mr. Lewis, the aforementioned rancher who gathers up a posse of shotgun wielding locals. Before long, there are only a handful of Hi-Riders left running for their lives in search of somebody who’ll believe their story and come to their rescue.

Mel Ferrer plays the town’s sheriff, a no-nonsense lawman that may or may not be in the pocket of Mr. Lewis. Unsure if they can trust the local police, the remaining Hi-Riders decide to take the law into their own hands — pushing the film forward to its explosive conclusion.

Hi-Riders is pure ‘70s schlock — but in the best way possible. Full of extreme stunts, rowdy music and plenty of bodacious nude bodies, Hi-Riders pulls out all the stops on the entertainment train. Director Greydon Clark also shot the undeniably entertaining The Bad Bunch, a ‘70s film that explored race relations with a touch that wasn’t so much deft as it was obnoxiously trashy.

Hi-Riders manages to surpass The Bad Bunch when it comes to fun drive-in entertainment — and it looks great too! Dean Cundey is the film’s cinematographer. Cundey would later go on to serve as D.P. for filmmakers such as John Carpenter, Robert Zemeckis and Stephen Spielberg.

While the dialogue might be as cheesy as one would expect in a ‘70s era biker movie and some of the acting from supporting characters can be downright amateurish at times, Hi-Riders remains recommended viewing for all those that enjoy grindhouse or exploitation films — more so if you have a stake in the great biker/redneck feud of yore.

Robert Saucedo could really go for a bottle of water after writing this review. Follow Robert on Twitter @robsaucedo2500.

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