Saturday, January 31, 2015

the hard ride wasn't an easy ride

I watched The Hard Ride a long time ago.  I watched it again last night.  It was the opening title sequence that hooked me.  In the distance there are nineteen motorcycles coming toward you, side by side, chrome gleaming and the biker's silhouettes are clouded by the dust.  The soundtrack begins with a lone organ, soon followed by the lone voice of Bill Medley singing 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot'.  It really was a great opening for a low budget biker movie.

Sadly the rest of the soundtrack consisted of weak folk rock ballads.  It's a shame the movie didn't have the incredible sound-scape that EASY RIDER offered.  The movie had lots of panoramic biker on the open road footage, but the score brought the movie down to forgettable.  
This had the potential for a great road picture, some good ideas, but falls flat.  It's clear to see that the director was going for EASY RIDER, and yet EASY RIDER had the killer soundtrack.  EASY RIDER to me isn't that great of a flick, the writing wasn't anything special, it was just a B movie that had great vibes and connected with the audience.  THE HARD RIDE lacked the great vibes and the connection.

This movie starred Robert Fuller of LARAMIE, WAGON TRAIN and EMERGENCY! fame.  In fact, it was Jack Webb who saw THE HARD RIDE and insisted that Fuller play Dr. Kelly Brackket in his medical drama.  Fuller didn't want to at first, cause he's a cowboy at heart and had hopes of staying in the saddle.  Webb insisted after Fuller's refusal, Webb reminding him that westerns weren't doing well at that time. Fuller eventually accepted the part and the show had a nice long successful run.

In THE HARD RIDE, Fuller plays a Marine (Phil) who returns the
body of his buddy back to the States from Vietnam and finds his pal's old bike club. His friend had left him his prized souped-up chromed-out 'Baby' and from there attempts to understand the biker's life until the funeral for his friend. Phil runs into trouble with a bad-ass biker gang, who's leader wants Baby for himself, and Phil dead. That's the set-up.

This movie acquires it's 'R' rating with a couple of cheesy-cheap boob shots and poorly choreographed fight scenes. The story really isn't that bad, but the production brought the movie down to it's well deserved B-ness. There's plenty of clumsy romantic scenes as Fuller puts the moves on his dead buddy's girlfriend. It would've been better to have told a better love story, or just focus on the open road.

I have a question. Is this the first movie to interject Vietnam flashbacks?  The best flashback was Fuller carrying his buddy out of a  fire-fight, his friend crying out to him, Fuller looking down at him and then he's looking down while carrying the coffin.  It was a great transition at the first of the movie. This movie inspired the straight laced, straight shooter Jack Webb.  I am wondering if this is the movie that inspired countless Vietnam flashbacks in films that followed.

I don't really know if I'd recommend THE HARD RIDE, nor would I necessarily recommend its better, EASY RIDER.  They are both interesting B biker movie to behold.

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