Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Wild Rebels (1967) - MST3K Review

Rod Tillman (Steve Alaimo) is a stock car driver that crashes… a lot. He ends up sucking so bad that he has to quit his job. As he’s wandering down the road to nowhere he runs into a trio of bikers. Jeeter (John Vella) is the leader of the pack and offers Rod an opportunity to score some easy cash if he works as their driver during a few heists.

At first Rod isn’t interested, even if the sultry skank Linda (Bobbie Byers) is all over him. But befuddled Lieutenant Dorn (Walter R. Philbin) approaches him. The Lieutenant tells Rod to accept the offer and help the cops catch the biker gang. Our hero agrees, but finds out that it’s not going to be easy. Banjo (Willie Pastrano) takes an immediate dislike to him. And Fats (Jeff Gillen) may not say much, but is more cunning than he lets on… at least the movie wants us to believe that. Will Rod be able to survive his adventure with The Wild Rebels?

Movie Review
Let's play a game, who do you think smells the worst?
The 60’s biker film was really a product of its time. This movie tries to capture the feeling of a rebellious counter culture, injecting sex, drugs and danger into one movie. The result is a mish mash of stupid characters doing stupid things and all of them ending up on the wrong side of stupid.

One of the big problems with Wild Rebels is that Rod just isn’t a hero; he’s a dork. When we meet him, he’s just crashed his stock car and it goes downhill from there. His antics at the club where he meets Jeeter’s gang are supposed to be cool, but he comes across more like a jerk and then a spaz when he dances. Once we see him in action as an undercover wheelman – well I don’t believe it for a minute and I’m not surprised that Banjo and Fats are suspicious.

Rod should really wear the helmet all the time.
The bikers are a piece of work. Jeeter is the leader because he seems to be able to string sentences together that involve words with three or more syllables. Banjo is rock stupid and angry. He’s supposed to be the dangerous one, but he’s easily befuddled by everything around him. Only his brute strength and rage make him the least bit scary. But I think he'd fall for the old, "Oh my God, what is that behind you?" trick. Fats is silent because of some kind of head trauma and the movie hints that he may be the smartest one, even if his mouth hangs open all the time and his eyes are glassy. Maybe it’s the drugs.

Linda in disguise as a "square". She even took a
shower to be more believable.
Linda is the femme fatale, but her seductive charms are immediately put in question when you realize that she sleeps with all three of the bikers. Ok, Banjo looks like he takes a shower once a month, and that’s only if he happens to fall into the cesspool next to the shack. She’s supposed to be appealing, and she almost is, but then you see the bikers start pawing at her and you shudder to think of what strange diseases she must have, or at the very least, a flea infestation.
But who is the dumbest character in Wild Rebels? My vote goes to Lieutenant Dorn. He goes on and on about how clever and smart the criminals are. Uh-huh. He automatically makes the idiot list because he’s outwitted by Banjo!

Banjo gets in touch with his inner Homo habilis.
Director William Grefe tries to make these moronic characters work in a typical heist story. He almost does it too. The core of the film could be entertaining on a basic level. If he had upped the intelligence of the bikers a bit and made Rod a little more likable this could have been a solid time waster. But the idiocy of the characters, and the stupidity of the script undermine his efforts. And believe me you can tell he’s trying. There are several attempts at interesting transitions from scene to scene. Some sequences look like they were thought out with some decent framing. He almost gets the racing action to work with its mix of stock footage and inserts of Rod driving.

But in the end Wild Rebels just never gels. You don’t believe these dolts could pull off a basic mugging much less a bank robbery. You don’t believe that Rod could deceive anyone, and you really don’t believe that Fats could run up all those stairs to get to the top of a lighthouse. The only rebels we need here are Joel and the bots!

Episode Review

Banjo won't ride unless Rod is wearing his helmet!
This film comes about half way through season two. It was also the middle episode of a trio of biker based films starting with Sidehackers and ending with The Hellcats. To be honest, this is my favorite of the three (although it has been years since I saw Hellcats I remember not being impressed by it).

For me, Wild Rebels is one of the stronger episodes of the season and I think the movie itself has a lot to do with it. There is just so much to work with here and Joel and bots seem to be having a lot of fun with it. Its less dower than The Sidehackers, but still filled with oily stupid characters that just beg to be mocked.

Most of the humor revolves around how dumb every one is. The bikers get riffed on mercilessly, with Banjo deservedly getting the focus of the humor. But “virgin goddess” Linda opens up a bunch of a jokes once she starts talking about doing all kinds of things “for kicks, baby!” Yes, you can predict the myriad of cereal references that Joel and the bots start throwing out there, but they get some surprisingly naughty lines in about her jumping from guy to guy.

Linda endures the song stylings of Mr. Alaimo.
The middle portion of the film slows down a bit as Rod attempts to get on Jeter's good side and some intrigue with the cops. These scenes are pretty talky, and the riffing suffers a bit. There is a funny moment where Rod attempts to serenade Linda, and that offers the perfect opportunity for Joel and bots to add their own lyrics.

However, the last quarter of Wild Rebels, from the bank heist to the shoot-out is full of great riffing. The chase sequence with its squealing tires as the cars drive through a swamp gives the guys lots of fodder. And when we hit the lighthouse the gloves come off and its pretty much non-stop comedy to the tragic conclusion.

Munchy Crunchy Wild Rebels Cereal! Bot tested
Mother approved!
The host segments aren’t too bad. Things start off with Gypsy being depressed, so Joel shuts down some of the higher functions of the ship so she can tell him about her problems. Looks like that might include the oxygen, as Joel takes a big breath before we go to commercial. When we come back, Gypsy is talking completely coherently and Joel is nodding, but looking a little blue. The mad scientists call and Gypsy takes back control of the ship. For the invention exchange the Mads create Hobby Hogs (instead of Hobby Horses). Joel takes the 3D chess from Star Trek and makes the 3D pizza. Then the movie starts. At the first break Joel explains how bikers could be intellectual. His visual aids are very silly. Up next is a hilarious commercial for the new cereal Wild Rebels the song is classic and the antics of the bots just make this the funniest host segment in the show. The next break has Joel singing to Gypsy and Crow and Tom arrive in full Banjo and Jeeter mode. The movie ends and Joel and bots party. The Mads are annoyed that the movie didn’t break them, but vow some real pain next time.

You don't want to know what fear smells like.
Easily the best of the biker flicks and one of the funnier episodes in an average season of the show. I give it four Banjos out of five.

This episode is available on the Mystery Science Theater Collection Volume 9.


  1. There were a bunch of biker flicks in the 60s and 70s of varying quality and camp. Surprisingly few were made in the 50s despite the success of “The Wild One.” Hunter Thompson’s book about the Hell’s Angels apparently prompted Roger Corman’s “The Wild Angels” in 1966 with Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra. After that, the genre went full throttle. If I ever saw this one (and it’s entirely possible I did) I’ve forgotten all about it. It looks like meaty material for Joel and the bots. My favorite from the period is the crossover biker/horror flick “Psychomania” (1973) in which the gang Living Dead indeed turn themselves into living dead.

    1. I've heard of "Psychomania", but never witnessed it. It sounds like a hoot.

      Yeah, I was surprised how many of these there were. But it fits in with the exploitation flicks from that era. The ones featured on MST3K share one characteristic... they are all grimy movies. Maybe watching them after all those 50s monster and sci-fi flicks made these seem even dirtier, but I always feel like I want to wash the film print off or something.