The 13th Floor

Afternoon Quickie: Get Your Motor Running with WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS

1971s WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS features a biker gang known as the Devil’s Advocates who spend the night sleeping outside a monastery. In the middle of the night, they encounter Satanist monks who hypnotize Helen, one of the biker’s “old ladies,” into becoming a sacrifice. In a rage the bikers take on the monks and destroy their temple.  Unbeknownst to the gang, Helen has been cursed. At night, she becomes a werewolf and attacks the gang, transferring her curse to the gang and thus creating werewolves who happen to be on wheels. This movie became legendary on the exploitation circuit and was even sampled in a few Rob Zombie songs.

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Although never taught as a cautionary tale for child actors, WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS features the talents of former child star Billy Gray. Gray first entered the public eye in the mid 50s as Bud on the popular TV show FATHER KNOWS BESTFrom there, he did mostly brief appearances on other shows. Then in 1962, he was arrested for marijuana possession, a big deal in the early 60s, but somewhat of a standard for actors now. The arrest led to even fewer brief appearances. On a side note which I’ll label “extremely sad”, according to records Gray was arrested for “seeds and residue” for which he was fined and incarcerated. I’m sure everyone in LA felt much safer knowing that menace was behind bars. Sorry- I can’t seem to find a sarcastic enough font for that last sentence. It would be his only scandal, but it would forever mar his career, and WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS was Gray’s first film performance after his arrest.

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Scandal aside, WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS is a fun, yet poorly-shot biker flick with a bit of monster magic. Although the title would suggest a never-ending rampage of werewolf madness, the beastly gang doesn’t really show up until almost the end of the film. I fell into this movie because I will watch anything involving motorcycles. Werewolves were just icing on the cake.

WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS really is everything a 1970s bike-exploitation film should be- poorly shot and poorly acted but with a whole hell of a lot of riding.  Biker films tend to encapsulate the motorcycle culture and immediately pull you in as a part of the gang. WEREWOLVES does this well because most of the actors are actually bikers with no acting experience what so ever. It shows in many scenes, but again, the riding is great.

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In the end, Gray would go on to play a heroin dealer and general scumbag in the film DUSTY AND SWEETS MCGEE.  He performed so convincingly well many people thought he was an actual heroin dealer. A compliment that would be extremely beneficial for any actor, but given Gray’s past, his career was once again tarnished by the belief that he was an actual heroin dealer.

You won’t find this antiquated gem streaming on media platforms, but you can pick up the DVD for a few bucks on Amazon.

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