Fast Film Friday: The Choppers
~ Chris #16 Demaras ~
I was a kid in the early 80s when stereotypical T&A comedies were so typical. So, when browsing cult-classics, I always ignored ‘The Choppers‘ thinking it was just some stupid 70s bikers and boobs film. Nope! This is a 1961 B-movie classic about juvenile delinquents in hot rods stealing car parts. Don’t expect Rush or Le Mans level of automotive entertainment; ‘The Choppers‘ is so bad it’s good. Just look at that tag line ‘Fuel Injected Action!’
Look…this isn’t a movie review website; this is Demaras Racing. We’re only in it for the cars, so here’s what gearheads need to know about this movie.
The good guy is called Cruiser and he drives a 1925 Ford T-bucket roadster pick-up with a 402 cubic inch Buick V8. The vehicle had been on the cover of Hot Rod magazine, played a big role in the 1957 flick ‘Drag Strip Girl‘ and was owned by drag racing legend TV Tommy Ivo.
The basic plot is that Cruiser and his gang of hot-rodding hooligans Torch, Flip and Snoop, get the local gas station to short-fill the gas tanks of out-of-towners passing through their small, California town. Once the cars leave the city limits, the motorists become stranded, leaving their on the side of the road while they walk back to town.
That’s when the choppers spring into action! Cruiser is on lookout for the cops in his t-bucket, communicating with his crew via vis vintage iPhone. Once the coast is clear, the gang nonchalantly sneak up on the abandoned vehicle in their farm truck loaded with chicken coops.
They strip the wheels, interior and engine components including the carburetor. Then, like with this victim’s 1954 Kaiser Manhattan below, the gang lifts the car up to steal the exhaust system. It’s sort of timeless, when you think about it; 60+ years later, thieves are still crawling under cars…now stealing catalytic converters.
There’s also the story of the cop, an investigator for the insurance company, chasing the choppers, trying to break up their racket. But these youngsters fight back, stealing the cop car’s carb while he’s in a diner! For the rest of the movie, the pursuing policeman drive around with his girlfriend and her very feminine 1957 Renault Dauphine.
The best thing about these late 50s films are the cars. Not just the hero cars, just the cars tooling around in the background of the shot. Between the vintage police cars and shop trucks you’ll spot a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz, 955 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL and a 1959 Buick Electra 225. How cool!
This movie was filmed in 1959 (not released until 1961) and is absolutely a hot rod flick. But it seems like to get it released, the producer had to change it into a heavy-handed, 50’s era, morality tale. There’s some serious, news-reporter narrator bookending the film, hammering home the point that bad parents who drink raise bad kids who steal. Crime doesn’t pay, kids.
In the final scenes, the youth gang barricades themselves in a junk yard and has a full-on Quentin Tarantino level shootout. Cops are killed, teens are killed…it’s actually quite shocking how quickly the kids descend from stealing hubcaps to a kill-crazy rampage. When Cruiser is being dragged off to jail, a reporter asks if the chopper has anything to say, he delivers a sullen reply “Yeah…we had a ball.”. Irredeemable!