Friday, 14 December 2012

The Peace Killers (1971) Douglas Schwartz

Of the many and beautiful subgenres of exploitation out there I'd have to say that bikersploitation has always been one of the least attractive to me. I don't find much visceral appeal in speeding hot metal or the open road, and seeing a bunch of dudes in leathers just makes me want to go dungeon hopping. Plus as a general rule I'm not all that find of black and white representations of subcultures designed to play on the ignorance and prejudice of the masses. So far as I can gather bikers weren't all inherently violent at best and grisly sadists at worst. And hippies weren't just simple minded peaceniks. The Peace Killers plays both stereotypes to the hilt, patently silly however you look at it and probobly a little offensive if you were there at the time. But setting aside history and reason it pretty much rocks, a swift, no nonsense bit of nonsense that any old school exploitation fan could love.

The plot follows Kristy, who used to run with the vicious Death Row gang but fled after seeing a gang rape. Nothing beats a good gang rape for getting your moral compass spinning. She defects to a hippy commune but is spotted at a gas station by some Death Row members so they go after her. After some violent altercations the hippies and her team up with a rival gang led by hard as nails mama Black Widow and the stage is set for confrontation. There's little to no fat here, no extraneous dicking around with romance or scene setting parties, things just move. Just enough characterisation to make things matter, a bit of torture, a bit of rape and regular doses of fun violence all building up to a rather splendid climax that makes up for its lack of choreography or slick shooting with bloodshed and a great rough 'n tumble energy.

Of course it wouldn't all work without actors, and they do a good job. Jess Walton is agreeably innocent and lovable as Kristy (doesn't hurt that she's gorgeous and shows skin), Paul Prokop brings a sense of sincerity to his ridiculous cartoon caricature hippy leader Alex, despite lines virtually indistinguishable from the sort of mockery expected from South Park or The Simpsons. Clint Ritchie is terrific as arch baddie Rebel, charismatic and enthusiastic enough in his nastiness to be one of the more impressive pre Hess exploitation villains. But most fun is Lavalle Roby as Black Widow, spitting her lines with immensely enjoyable, even Pam Grier worthy venom. Cult fans will probobly enjoy Michael Ontkean (Slap Shot, Twin Peaks) as well, though he has a pretty uninteresting role.

So all in all this is a winner. It isn't especially strong or brutal, but for a pre Last House on the Left effort it's still nicely mean at times, plenty die, blood is spilled and there's even a genuinely thrilling sequence that I won't spoil. Unjustly it still seems to be pretty obscure these days so I say track down a copy as soon as you can.

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