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  Cycle Savages, The Bruced Knuckles
Year: 1969
Director: Bill Brame
Stars: Bruce Dern, Melody Patterson, Chris Robinson, Maray Ayres, Karne Ciral, Mick Mehas, Jack Konzal, Walter Robles, Joe McManus, Jerry Taylor, Denise Gilbert, Daniel Gaffouri, Anna Sugano, Gary Littlejohn, Ron Godwin, Scott Brady, Steve Brodie, Casey Kasem
Genre: Drama, Action, Thriller, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Keeg (Bruce Dern) rules over his biker gang with an iron fist, allowing them to run riot as long as they do it by his rules. Today they cause trouble at a diner, menacing the patrons and upsetting their meals, but what Keeg especially doesn't like is one man who appears to be sketching the scene of mayhem on a pad. He catches up with this artist, named Romko (Chris Robinson), at a local bar and though the bartender (Jack Konzal) warns Keeg away, he starts threatening him and telling him he does not take kindly to having his portrait drawn, nor that of his buddies, and after the bartender orders him out, the biker tells Romko in no uncertain terms that this is not over and they will be making sure those pictures are not published...

Bruce Dern made his name in exploitation movies, sure there was the occasional appearance a Hitchcock thriller here and there, but cinemagoers became accustomed to his face mostly as some kind of raging psychopath or other, usually with some fixation: in the case of Cycle Savages (a title which might have been chosen because it sounds like Psycho Savages since the gang spends so little time astride their bikes) it's destroying the hero's ability to create art. He obsesses over this for the whole movie until he settles on a solution (involving a vice), but before that writer and director Bill Brame was content to illustrate precisely just how nasty Keeg and his merry men and women can be, even to the point of not bothering too much with a story.

Keeg's grudge against Romko is all that is needed, though there is a dose of romance too, with the artist growing involved with Lea (Melody Patterson, then best known for TV sitcom F Troop) who he falls in love with unaware that she is part of Keeg's gang and has been employed to spy on him. It all comes back to the grudge, but ah, what do you know? Lea falls in love right back, caught up with the intrigue of this creative type although we have to take it for granted that Romko is quite as fascinating as the film wants us to think he is, for as a performance it's not the most charismatic you'll ever see, not that it really needed to be when Dern was the star of the show, steamrollering all the other cast members in his path and patently far too good for the material.

Yet a memorable item of trivia about The Cycle Savages was that Dern played Casey Kasem's brother in it. Kasem, soon to be synonymous with Top 40 radio thanks to his long-running stint as a DJ, not to mention his role as the voice of Shaggy in the Scooby-Doo cartoons, was actually an executive producer on this film along with record label boss Mike Curb, evidently capitalising on the national youth craze for biker movies which was leaving the genre's most obvious antecedent, the Hollywood Western, in the dust. As it turned out neither really endured though the Western did better in the long run, but you wouldn't get Kasem making for a convincing cowboy, riding up on horseback with six gun drawn, though after a while nobody could think of him apart from the aforementioned most famous aspects of his career.

Nevertheless, it is mildly amusing to see the squeaky clean celeb in his only scene lounging by the pool with bikini clad lovelies, on the phone to Dern to get him to supply more young women, not quite up there with his radio outtakes but memorable all the same. That's assuming you had seen this, as it was lost in the avalanche of like-minded biker flicks at the time, and now is barely recalled for one of Dern's typically committed villains which in truth does render the movie rather more compelling than it might otherwise have been. All the other actors go through the motions of playing up the depravity, but Dern really goes for it: you could believe he was capable of getting up to all the misdeeds the plot attributes to him, from his vendetta against Romko (but why not just make him a photographer?) to having his men lure young women off the streets and into his den where they are given LSD and gang raped, just to amp up the tabloid shock value. That said, there's something weirdly quaint about yesteryear's hamfisted attempts to leave the audience ashen-faced. Music by Jerry Styner.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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