CF Presents Retrorama DVD Review: “Greydon Clark Drive-In Double Feature: Hi-Riders & The Bad Bunch”
Released By: VCI Entertainment
Release Date: April 27, 2010
Number of Discs: 1
Approximate Running Time: 172 Minutes
Special Features: Audio Commentary, Trailers, Interviews
Suggested Price: $19.99
Two lesser known drive-in features from the glory days of the 1970’s produced by exploitation director Greydon Clark. In 1973’s The Bad Bunch, Clark stars as a disillusioned Vietnam veteran trying to rebuild his life while dealing with explosive racial tension. Five years later, in 1978, Clark tackles the car chase genre with Hi-Riders, a tale of a group of young drag racers marked for death after a wealthy rancher’s son is killed during one of their races.
The Fanboy Factor:
Greydon Clark is an often overlooked filmmaker in the exploitation field even though his contributions are solid and sizable. A graduate of the Al Adamson school of independent film production, Clark made the transition from actor to director with all stops in between. While his films may not have been as high profile as many of his peers, they were well crafted drive-in popcorn munchers and usually managed to turn a tidy profit.
Bad Bunch is Clark’s directorial debut and began life as a serious drama called Mothers, Fathers, and Lovers. When this film about a Vietnam veteran, played by Clark, returning home and trying to pick his life back up where he left off failed to attract distributors, he expanded a sub-plot involving the lead character’s African-American friend who was killed in the war. Capitalizing on recent headlines of racial discontent in urban areas, The Bad Bunch tells the story of a gang of black youths, lead by the brother of Clark’s Army buddy, who wrongly suspect him of working with a team of racist police detectives (played with zeal by screen veterans Aldo Ray and Jock Mahoney).
The film has some good scenes and displays Clark’s forte for assembling casts of talented unknowns along with seasoned actors in career downturns. To save money, exteriors and real locations are heavily used and present an entertaining look at California just after the hippie decade. While the ending is abrupt and leaves much unanswered, the film’s build up is still enjoyable for the atmosphere of the early 70’s.
Greydon Clark’s fourth feature, Hi-Riders, displays his significant progress as a director after only a few years. Darby Hinton, Israel from the Daniel Boone television show, stars as a young auto enthusiast who hooks up with a car club called the Hi-Riders. During one of their racing matches with the locals of a nearby town, an influential rancher’s son dies in a collision. Ignoring the protests of the club and the Sheriff that it was an accident, the bereaved father puts a substantial bounty on the member’s heads. The initial attack on the Hi-Riders eliminates all but four of them and the two surviving couples must fight for their lives against heavily armed rednecks.
In addition to Hinton, “old timers” Mel Fererr and Ralph Meeker appear as the shady Sheriff and his corrupt deputy. Neville Brand also appears as a tavern owner in what would be the first of four pictures for Clark. The impressive car stunts were all done in the pre-CGI days and Clark tells a somber story on the commentary of a stunt man who died during the production when a jump fell tragically short.
VCI has done an incredible job with this DVD release and both films come packed with more extras than are often found on major studio products. Greydon Clark provides commentaries for both films and while they may occasionally lapse in silence, they provide a great deal of insight into independent filmmaking. Several interviews are presented with Clark and some of the actors from Hi-Riders plus trailers for several Clark films. The transfers on both films are excellent but retain just enough dirt and grit to remind you that they were meant for drive-ins and grindhouses. The funky menus are also a great 70’s throwback. Hopefully this set will be the first of many similar quality releases in this series.
The Bottom Line:
Discovering quality obscure films from the drive-in days is always a treat. Discovering them in reasonably priced editions with a multitude of extras is even better. This DVD is highly recommended for exploitation fans who want to further their educations in 70’s cinema.