Chrome and Hot Leather (1971)

Hotheaded biker gang member Casey (Michael Haynes, The Dunwich Horror) breaks away from the pack of his fellow Wizards to terrorize two female motorists, and ultimately sends them over a cliff and to their deaths. One of the young ladies (future Charlie’s Angel Cheryl Ladd, in her motion-picture debut) was the fiancée of U.S. Army Sgt. Mitchell (Tony Young, Policewomen), who doesn’t take the news well.

In fact, when he returns from a stint in ’Nam, Mitch enlists three Army buddies (including singer Marvin Gaye, in his lone film role) to help him track down the Wizards, led by human muscle T.J. (William Smith, Terror in Beverly Hills). To do this, they go undercover as bikers as best as they can, starting with the purchase of four matching red Kawasaki dirt bikes, and traverse L.A.’s Bronson Canyon on their would-be hogs, inquiring about the Wizards’ whereabouts. (Actually, everyone throughout the film refers to T.J.’s gang as “The Devils,” despite its members’ sleeveless denim jackets clearly emblazoned with the word “Wizards” on the back.)

Released by AIP as demand for the biker pic began to wane, Chrome and Hot Leather tackles the disillusionment of the Vietnam vet under the unassuming guise of the two-wheeled subgenre, giving Mitch and his Green Berets the victory and respect our real American soldiers were denied. Now, how much of this was intended by director Lee Frost — the prolific exploitation filmmaker behind The Defilers, House on Bare Mountain, The Black Gestapo, Zero in and Scream, Love Camp 7, et al. — is up for debate.

But why bother debating? It’s easier just to enjoy Chrome and Hot Leather as is and at face value. (Speaking of faces, is it possible Casey served as the visual inspiration for Ben Stiller’s White Goodman character in Dodgeball? See Exhibit A.) Although somewhat relegated to supporting status in the third act, Smith is a hoot as head Wizard, particularly with the line, “Gabriel, can’t you see we’re menacing someone?” Keep your eyes peeled for Dan Haggerty, Erik Estrada and “Monster Mash” singer Boris “Boris” Pickett, as well as enough smoke and grime to make those peepers of yours water. —Rod Lott

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