Tag Archives: Hunter S Thompson

10 great biker films

PsychomaniaThis September, the living dead won’t be shuffling on to the screen, they’ll roar across it on the back of motorcycles, as the BFI releases its Blu-ray of Australian-born director Don Sharp’s 1973 cult film, Psychomania, a fusion of two obsessions of early 70s exploitation cinema: the occult and vicious motorcycle packs.

Motorcycle gangs first appeared on the big screen in the early 1950s. A trickle of motorcycle-themed film appeared until the mid-60s, but it wasn’t until the release of US gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s 1966 book Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs and then the 1969 Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Speedway concert, at which Hells Angels working as bouncers killed an audience member, that popular culture’s preoccupation with criminal motorcycle gangs reached fever pitch.

Hollywood produced a deluge of outlaw biker movies and, while this has been the motorcycle’s most common screen manifestation, the machines have also symbolised the quest for freedom and self-discovery.

My latest piece for the British Film Institute site, 10 major cinematic milestones focused on the motorbike, is available to read in full here.

What are your favourite films featuring motorcycles?

Pulp Friday: biker pulp

“Lusting females with sadism and sex on their mind.”

Bikers were one of the major themes of pulp fiction in the late sixties and seventies.

Society’s fascination with bikers obviously dates back much further than this, but by the late sixties it had well and truly seeped into popular culture, thanks to the well publicised violence at Aldamont, movies like Easy Rider (1969) and the success of Hunter S Thompson’s 1965 gonzo journalism classic, Hells Angels.

Australia was no exception to this trend, with concerns about law and order arising from the growth of the counter culture and the popularity of movies like Stone (1974) and Mad Max (1979) resulting in our own fascination with bikie culture.

The result was wave of pulp novels focusing on the exploits of outlaw biker gangs and the cops trying to break them. The books mirrored mainstream society’s fascination/loathing of bikie culture, real and imagined, mixed with lashings of gratuitous sex and hard-core violence.

Wheels of Death (1975) and Bikie Birds (1973) are two Australian examples of biker pulp fiction. Both were written by Stuart Hall, who penned approximately 45 pulp novels between 1970 and 1980, including a number of biker pulps for Scripts, the adults-only inprint of Sydney-based pulp publisher Horwitz Publications.

In addition to writing about the denim clad male members of these bikie gangs, Hall devoted considerable attention to the women (or ‘birds’ as women were often referred to in popular working class Australian slang) who rode with them, characters every bit as sexually loose and violent as their male counterparts.… Read more