Shitty Movie Sundays: Chrome and Hot Leather

Chrome and Hot Leather walks and talks like drive-in outlaw biker gang flick, but it’s missing the two most important elements of true exploitation cinema: blood and nudity. It starts out promisingly enough, and, overall, it’s a quite enjoyable shitty movie watch, but it’s like a cake with no icing. It’s still good, but it wouldn’t be all that hard to make it better.

From way back in 1971, Chrome and Hot Leather was directed by Lee Frost, from a screenplay by Michael Haynes, David Neibel, and Don Tait. Whomever came up with the title isn’t listed in the credits, but that mysterious person certainly did more for this film’s longevity than anything that was captured on film. Perhaps it was producer Wes Bishop. No matter who is responsible, they did a nice job.

The film follows Tony Young as Mitch, a Green Beret sergeant whose fiancé is killed in a motor accident after a clash with a gang of roving bikers. The gang got away without being identified, so the cops are baffled. In a fit of vigilantism, Mitch recruits three of his fellow green berets, one of them played by Marvin Gaye(!), to find who is responsible, even if that means investigating every biker gang in California.

They don’t do that well, at first, drawing the ire of the bikers they question. They really shouldn’t have gone asking questions while wearing their army uniforms. Mitch realizes this, and comes up with a plan. The group buy themselves matching dirt bikes, and after a training montage that rivals anything our nation’s top sports films have ever produced, the green berets are ready to carry on their investigation undercover…as bikers.

What a great idea for a movie, but this is also pretty typical fare for drive-in flicks of the day, stretching all the way back to the late 1940s. Films like this portray a national crimewave of epic proportions that never happened. Biker gangs patrolling the highways Chrome and Hot Leatherand byways of America, and laying siege to small towns, is great fodder for film, though. This flick sees society’s fear of non-conformity, and that time period’s fear of the young, and turns standing with the man into good family entertainment.

But, it shouldn’t be. This flick should be full of knife fights and shootouts and slow-motion shots of flying bodies and splattering blood. And this should be topped off with a generous helping of gratuitous nudity. But, that would only make sense if this were a movie about rebellion. It isn’t. It’s a movie about conformity, so a viewer will have to lower their expectations, some.

Normally, this sterilization of the material would turn me off, but this flick is just so silly. The bikers act all tough, but the only serious criminal among them is the one responsible for the crash. Well, except for the fact the entire gang fled from the scene of a fatal accident without rendering aid. But other than that, they’re just annoying. It’s like the entire gang is just playing ‘biker gang’ and they ended up in over their heads.

The gang is led by William Smith as T.J., and he gives the best performance in the film. It’s not the most believable performance, but it is the best. He acted circles around the film’s star, for instance. The biker who ran the car off the road, starting this whole mess, Casey, is played by Haynes. This appeared to be somewhat of a passion project for Haynes, who has spent the majority of his Hollywood career as a stuntman. This is his Rocky. His character was scum, though.

These are some of the least intimidating criminals to ever grace a crime movie. I love it when films try to portray tough guys with nothing but cliché and overused tropes. It makes for great unintentional comedy, and that’s what makes this a pretty good shitty movie watch. Chrome and Hot Leather slots into the Index at #78, in between I am Legend and Freejack. I just couldn’t put it above Mick’s finest turn as an actor.

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