I have never had any ambition to ride a motorcycle. The only time I’ve actually ridden on one was the time I was in Indonesia. I was visiting a place where there were no cars, but most people got around on bikes or motorcycles. I had to ride on the back, no helmet, and the driver was about 15 years old. The laws of traffic that we know did not exist there. Zooming around dodging people, chickens, and other cyclists was more than enough to fill my life’s quota for motorcycle riding. That experience hasn’t sullied me on motorcycle movies however. Today we get to experience Dennis Hopper in full on “wow man” mode as the leader of a motorcycle gang in 1967’s “The Glory Stompers.”
The story here is simple enough. Darryl (Jody McCrea…Bonehead from the AIP beach party flicks) is a member of the cycle gang The Glory Stompers. One day, he and his girl Chris (Chris Noel) have a run in with a rival gang, The Black Souls, and their somewhat whacked out leader Chino (Dennis Hopper). Unfortunately for Darryl, The Black Souls aren’t quick to let things be. They follow the couple, then when the opportunity arises, they beat up Darryl and kidnap Chris. Their plan is take her down to Mexico and sell her.
Now Chino seems to be a bit sweet on Chris, much to the dismay of his “mama” Jo Ann (Saundra Gayle). There’s trouble in the ranks, as well, as Chino’s brother Paul (Jim Reader) also seems to have eyes for Chris and is continually trying to protect her from the others. Chino, somewhat stupidly, gives Paul the job of watching their captive while the others head off to a massive biker party. Chris seizes on the opportunity to try and seduce her way to escape.
Meanwhile, Darryl has hit the road with a former cycle gang member called Smiley (Jock Mahoney) in search of his girl. When everybody catches back up with each other, a big battle ensues with knifes and even motorcycles themselves used as weapons.
For a movie filled with biker gangs, there really isn’t anything exciting going on in “The Glory Stompers.” At least, not until the last ten minutes or so. For the most part, the film just kind of wanders with the hero always seeming to be a good 300 miles or so behind the bad guys. That doesn’t exactly make for a lot of heightened tension. At some points in the film we even seem to lose track of the hero. I almost forgot he was in pursuit. By the time we reach the giant biker gang love-in, things are getting a little silly. The ending does redeem the film in some ways, but it takes awhile to get there.
Even without an interesting story, though, we do have Dennis Hopper…and that is worth a lot. if there is such thing as a stereotypical Dennis Hopper performance, well this is it. He spends the whole movie in his own personal groovy little haze, and I don’t mind that one bit. It does help make the proceedings a bit more fun despite the weak story.
When it comes to the biker movie genre, you can do a lot better than “The Glory Stompers.” But if you must hit the road with this gang, at least Dennis Hopper is leading the way.