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HARD RIDE, THE (director/writer: Burt Topper; cinematographer: Robert Sparks; editor: Kenneth G. Crane; music: Harley Hatcher; cast: Robert Fuller (Phil), William Bonner (Grady), Larry Eisley (Rice), Phyllis Selznick (Rita), Alfonso Williams (Lenny), Tony Russell (Big Red), Marshall Reed (Father Tom), Biff Elliot (Mike), Sherry Bain (Sheryl); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Charles Hannawalt; American International Pictures/Orion Home Video; 1971)
“The film was drained of any fun.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director/writer Burt Topper tries his hand in this AIP cheapie at making a message biker film and goes into a skid. A marine ex-sergeant, Phil (Robert Fuller), goes home with the body of a black buddy, Lenny, killed in Vietnam. At Lenny’s request he contacts his white girlfriend Sheryl (Sherry Bain) and a motorcycle gang leader, an Indian called Big Red (Tony Russell), and tries to persuade his gang to honor Lenny’s request and ride their motorcycles at his funeral. This is not an easy request to fill, as the sarge has his hands full tracking down Big Red and then communicating with him, and even more problems dealing with the confused Sherry. Phil is willed his buddy’s prized possession, a motorcycle called ‘Baby.’ The film has more to do with how Lenny’s girlfriend handles her reactions to those she thinks are putting her down for being with a black man than it does with issues about the Vietnam War. It also features rival motorcycle gangs fighting over ‘Baby,’ which they jealously want. Lenny’s always angry girlfriend and the poor self-righteous sarge, begin a tenuous relationship that slowly gets off the mark. But the straightforward sarge is out of his element, as he’s trapped in a world he doesn’t quite understand–probably because he was away so long fighting to save the world from the commies.

The message delivered about racial tolerance was never made clear, as the aim to uplift this from the usual sleazy biker flick filled with brawls and drunken parties never materialized. Instead there were non-involving and heavy-handed scenes mildly hinting at racial tolerance. There was nothing to take away from this film about the big issues of those days. But worse yet, the film was drained of any fun.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”