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Anti-authoritarian Biker Gangs rode free-wheeling into towns and quickly introduced bullets and blood in an updated spin on the Western where outlaws road into towns on horseback.
Dean’s statement that “I’m doing [life] on my own .. a rebel in my own way,” threatened the economic establishment of the era and in many of the films brought such “embittered” feelings that these small groups of kids theoretically endangered democracy in the U.S.A.
Brando’s “Wild One (1953) which demonized the motor bike hoods who ravaged a small California town, preceded Dean’s “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955) which stereotyped juvenile delinquency and was quickly followed by a fiendish style of music rock and roll (“Rock Around the Clock”, 1956). Anti-moral activities of Hell’s Angels gangs continued to popularize the thug image.
Marauding pscho portrayals morphed into sex, drugs , lifestyle experimentation, rock n roll hippie sixties, where the bike became an essential vehicle for touring the road. The sexy images range from “Vanishing Point’s” nude girl riding a bike in circle or the French "Girl on a Motorcycle" , in which the leather wearing star supposedly had no underwear. Her life in flashback make the suit more sensual.
Somehow an Amazon list of’ hot rob and biker flicks praised a 6l minute drive-in gem, “Teenage Strangler,” which placed teen queens in peril in a small heartland city as the authorities took on dancing, hot rods, and music with a strong beat.
Shot in Huntington, WV , a reviewer wrote: “While the killer is both obvious and a surprise, the real reason to watch is the vintage cars, malt shops, dances, clothes, and furniture. Since the film was shot live on location in 1965, there do not appear to be any fabricated sets.”
Cinema depicting bikers as hellish hooligans spreading anarchy shifted in the late Sixties to a native American, Vietnam Green Beret vet Billy Jack (Tom Laughlin) as a good-guy vigilante (“Born Losers), which opened the same year (1969) as Peter Fonda explored the anti-cultural road (“Easy Rider”). This softened the characterization from outlaws to dudes throwing caution to the wind on a hog.
Billy Jack goes on to inspire counter culture and champion minorities in a series that eventually send him to Washington as a Congressman.
These rebels sported long hair, beards, peace beads and consumed their share of weed and LSD spouting “make love not war.” Instead of revving up the townfolks, they found the prejudice of southern rednecks, the continuing negative image of bikes and bikers, and casual sex exemplified the “hippie” styles.
As a low budget action genre, motorcycling themed films up and coming “stars” got their “first breaks” in some of them. Lee Marvin shared billing with Brando in “Wild Ones.” Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper gained fame too. Exploitation famed Russ Meyer helmed “Motor Psycho.” Bruce Dern was cast in “Angels Unchained,” and “Cycle Savages.”
Television introduced numerous cycling characters. Happy Days “The Fonz” may be the most widely known and, of course, the most law abiding as his slick hair and bike explained his rebellion against 50s norms.