After the innocent era of “beach party” movies had petered out, AIP had quickly turned its attention to an exploitive wave of “biker” films that the company either produced or distributed. This genre of cycles and sadists still has a large number of enthusiasts to this day, and MGM Home Entertainment has been releasing them to DVD slowly but surely. First came THE WILD ANGELS, which was later re-issued with HELL’S BELLES, then THE CYCLE SAVAGES with ANGEL UNCHAINED, and now the latest duo of biker classics unleashed on the precious Midnite Movies banner: THE MINI-SKIRT MOB/CHROME AND HOT LEATHER. Although these biker films seem to be paired at random, the two titles here have a common plot point: both involve a violent road rage incident resulting in death and revenge.
Never before available on home video until now, THE MINI-SKIRT MOB has one of the best drive-in movie titles of all time! This flick has rodeo champion Jeff Logan (Ross Hagen) trying to start a life anew with his new bride, the brunette Connie (Sherry Jackson). Havoc results as the blond super bitch leader of “The Mini-Skirts” biker gang Shayne (Diane McBain) and her pals turn the wedding party into a boozy scuffle, as she still has self-indulgent romantic feelings for the now hitched Jeff. The couple is able to flee from the troublemaking broad, but it seems that Shayne won’t give up that easily since one of her male entourage was killed during a violent road chase with the peace-seeking newlyweds.
The honeymoon turns into a nightmare as Jeff and Connie are held prisoner out in the desert in their own trailer at the hands of the Mini-Skirts, who have stolen the couple’s trusty hunting rifle. After some HILLS HAVE EYES type “cat and mouse” antics, Shayne’s younger (and much sweeter) sister Edie (Patty McCormack) helps them escape by sneaking down to the trailer, donning Connie’s clothes and creating a clever diversion. In the process of all the confusion, she is mistakenly set on fire by the dopey prosecutors. Shayne eventually ends up falling off a cliff, as the once moral Jackson lets go off her arm than saving her pathetic life!
THE MINI-SKIRT MOB lives up to its name as it delivers the exploitive goods for the most part. With a cheerfully dated score by the great Les Baxter, it’s full of inane dialog (Connie compares her shining knight’s downfall in her eyes to a memory about a waiter with socks that didn’t match his pants), wild chases, brawling (including a cat fight between the lovely Jackson and the lovely McBain), and other sorted (and typical) late 60s movie violence (the scene where McCormack’s double is running frantically, covered in flames, is a riot!). The cast is supported by Harry Dean Stanton and top-billed Jeremy Slate as dense devotees of the adamant Shayne, played by McBain with feisty zest. Slate worked with director Dexter the next year in another AIP biker flick, HELL’S BELLES, while McCormack appeared in Dexter’s MARYJANE, also released by AIP in ’68. Ross Hagen was a familiar face in motorcycle pictures, appearing in THE HELLCATS (1967), FIVE THE HARD WAY (1969) (also with McBain) and Al Adamson’s ANGELS’ WILD WOMEN (1972). For more rough female riders, check out H.G. Lewis’ SHE DEVILS ON WHEELS.
On the flip side of the disc is 1971’s CHROME AND HOT LEATHER, from the team of director Lee Frost and producer Wes Bishop. In it, William Smith plays T.J., the tough leader of a biker gang called the Wizards. One of his more unruly cohorts, Casey (Michael Haynes), is directly responsible for the deaths of two young women as he smashes the hood of their car with a chain, causing them to loose control and stumble off a cliff. When one of the killed girls’ Green Beret fiancée, Mitch (Tony Young) catches wind that a biker gang was responsible, he sets out to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice. He gets together his three best army buddies: Al (Peter Brown from Jack Hill’s COFFY and Bob Kelljan’s ACT OF VENGEANCE), Hank (Michael Sterns, also in director Frost’s ZERO IN AND SCREAM and CHAIN GANG WOMEN), and Jim (soul singing legend Marvin Gaye is in his only feature film). They purchase matching red Kawasaki dirt bikes, learn to ride them, garb themselves in typical biker attire, and mingle with real bikers. Eventually, they track down the Wizards, but Mitch’s cover is blown and he’s given a helluva beating. His buddies come to the rescue, and eventually they devise a war-like strategic plan to detain the wild Wizards.
Since it was directed and produced by Frost and Bishop, the men behind such cinematic sleaze as THE PICK-UP (1968), LOVE CAMP 7 (1968), THE SCAVENGERS (1969) and others, CHROME AND HOT LEATHER is often criticized for its PG-rated tameness (though it was recently re-rated PG-13 for “for violence, sexuality and drug material”). But that doesn’t mean that the film still doesn’t pack a popcorn punch, with its respectable level of action including some great motorcycle chases and well-choreographed brawling (star Michael Haynes is more well known as a Hollywood stuntman), and like THE MINI-SKIRT MOB, has a great cast. William Smith had done so many of these films, that by this point in his career he was easily identified as a biker leader, and the rest of the cast (Gaye is good, but his role is minor and restrained) handle things well. Kathy Baumann makes a very sexy motorcycle "mama," but unfortunately she has little to do. Look for other biker film regulars Larry Bishop (THE SAVAGE SEVEN, ANGEL UNCHAINED) and Dan Haggerty (ANGELS DIE HARD, THE PINK ANGELS), Bobby “Boris” Pickett (of “Monster Mash” fame) and a 20-year old Cheryl Ladd (here billed as “Cherie Moor”) making her feature debut in a small but pivotal role. CHROME AND HOT LEATHER usually played theatrically on the bottom of a double bill with WHOEVER SLEW AUNTIE ROO?, and AIP only released on more biker film: 1972’s THE DIRT GANG.
Continuing their expected standard of quality, MGM has done an excellent job releasing these two wild wheels titles on DVD. Both are presented in their original 1.85:1 aspect ratios with anamorphic enhancement. The transfers are crisp, well-detailed, and have bright colors. Audio on both is excellent for mono tracks. CHROME has a secondary Spanish language track, while both titles include optional French, Spanish and English. Original theatrical trailers are included for both films, and they showcase AIP's typical style of marketing at the time. (George R. Reis)
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