Retro Review: ‘Werewolves on Wheels’

On a near weekly basis you can find me strolling through the aisles of my local video store/concert venue/diner/screening room Black Lodge here in Memphis. With 30,000+ titles I am always bound to find an old favorite or something new. On this particular trip I found a movie on the Biker Movie shelf of the Grindhouse & Drive-in section with a title that was impossible to ignore. A grindhouse film made in 1971 known as Werewolves on Wheels.

On the barren roads of the American Southwest the biker gang the Devil’s Advocates ride their choppers down the roads and highways bringing chaos wherever they go. On their journey the raucous crew find themselves in an old abandoned church deep in the forest where the usual group of creepy people in hooded robes are conducting a ritual. As a surprise to…well, probably nobody watching this movie, the eerie cult invokes Satan and end up cursing the Devil’s Advocates, in particular the girlfriend of their leader. It is not long before she, and her partner who she bit transform into werewolves whenever night falls.

During the era of exploitation cinema two genres could be counted on to bring in an audience; horror movies and biker movies. Both were cheap to make and appealed to the kind of people who often piled into the dingy theaters and drive-ins where they played. Writer director Michael Levesque decided if these two types of flicks work well on their own, putting them together has to payoff double. Werewolves on Wheels has all the wildness and grittiness one would expect from a grindhouse motorcycles movie. The bulk of the movie is in fact the Devil’s Advocates goofing off and riding around because it is a cost-effective way to pad the runtime. But once the werewolfery and Satan-worshipping kicks up, there is a solid Hammer-esque edge to it albeit on a tiny budget. On top of that the make-up work on the werewolf is far superior to anything I expected. And when you have a movie about motorcycling lycanthropes that is the best one can hope for, because this flicks definitely delivers on that front.

I defy anyone who loves cult cinema and B-movies to see a title like Werewolves on Wheels and not want to immediately watch it. There are inevitable flaws including a wonky ending, but it could easily be the greatest movie ever to have both werewolves and motorcycles. So if that combination of monster and motorbike is your jam this could be your new favorite movie.