Directed By: Various
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Gary Busey, Ellen Burstyn, Scott Glenn, Dan Hagerty, John Ireland, Dorothy Malone, Dixie Peabody, Sid Haig
Roger Corman is known as the “King of the B’s” the unquestioned master of the low budget movie. This is the first installment of a themed collection of his oeuvre. The title really says it all. Here are seven drive in standards ranging from the sublime to shlock.
Some of these movies are public domain jewels and for others this is the first time they have been released on DVD. If your a fan of b-movies you might already own a few of these as several are popular in the -as many public domain movies we can squeeze onto a DVD sets- so here is a rundown of what’s included.
Naked Angel – This is one of the clunkers. An LA biker gang falls apart as they cross the desert to find a Las Vegas biker gang to extract revenge. After many trails(trials?) they eventually find the abandoned mine the Vegas gang is partying in and kick some butt. Everybody may have made up at the end but by then but I didn’t care enough to remember. Nice footage of choppers on dirt roads in the desert, but thats about it.
Bury Me an Angel – Interesting for the fact that it was directed by a woman, Barbara Peters, and featured a female protagonist. It’s a revenge themed road movie with a hippie Grizzly Adams thrown in. Again, at least there is some nice footage of bikes riding through nice landscapes.
The Fast and the Furious – Filmed in 1955 and based on a story by Corman himself this movie has absolutely nothing to do with the modern Fast and the Furious franchise including the fact that it’s a better than decent movie. John Ireland plays a fugitive who takes Dorothy Malone and her Jaguar hostage. To get across the border to Mexico he tries to bluff his way into a rally race that will take him across the border. As with a bunch of old racing movies some of the best bits is the b-roll stuff, in this case vintage west coast sports car racing footage.
The T Bird Gang – A young man goes undercover to break up an organized gang of juvenile delinquents who killed his father during a warehouse robbery. These are very discipled and organized juvenile delinquents. What does this have to do with Hot Bikes, Cool Cars and Bad Babes? The not so juvenile gang leader drives a white T Bird. Decent pot boiler, but not something you’ll find yourself going back to.
The Wild Ride – A standard morality tale about a bunch of annoying punk teenagers, lead by Jack Nicholson, who can’t believe one of their buddies is growing up and doesn’t want to act like a hoodlum anymore. It’s all fun and games until somebody gets killed in this well produced film. It feels like something drivers education students would have been forced to watch in the sixties, except that it stars Jack Nicholson and as annoying as the story is he makes it watchable.
The Winner (also know as Pit Stop) – This little gem directed by Jack Hill and shot by Austin McKinney is a real shot in the arm. It’s almost an anti morality tale where the monster, instead of getting his comeuppance, gets to move up to the big time. A racing promoter spots a local street racer, Rick, and offers him a shot at racing for him at his figure eight track. Rick takes one look at the chaos of the rolling demolition derby that is figure eight racing and decides he doesn’t feel like suicide just yet. At least that is until he runs into Hawk, played by a scenery chewing Sid Haig, who is the local figure eight champ. Hawk just crawls up under Rick’s skin and Rick cannot resit the idea of beating him. So begins the hero’s journey, Rick’s path to defeat the loud and obnoxious and eventually downright malicious Hawk. It’s not as easy as he first imagines and he learns he can’t do it by himself but eventually he does prevail. As entertaining as this movie is the b-roll and stock footage of vintage figure eight racing almost steals the show, but it’s the last scenes that I keep thinking abut over and over.
Angels Hard as They Come – This movie has Scott Glenn and Gary Busey in it. Even they can’t save it, that’s all that really needs to be said. It looks horrible and makes little to no sense. By far it’s the worst of the bunch here.
Except for Angels Hard as They Come all of these are watchable and entertaining in one way or another. It’s an interesting slice of the Corman experience from the late fifties through the early seventies.
The video here is all over the place, some of it is quite good some of it is appalling. The transfer looks decent the difference seems to be in the source material. Where a good print was available the video is very good, like The Winner. If the print is bad like Angels Hard as They Come it looks like dirty super eight being badly projected. The worst bits are some of the extra materials which are the little promos and concession stand commercials tagged onto the beginning of movies at the theater or drive ins. This is fitting in a way because they were always worn out when you saw them at the drive in or theater as well. All that aside though the video is not overly compressed like you see in some compilations. Digital and compression artifacts are not a problem with these DVD’s
The story is the same with the audio. The quality is heavily dependent on the source material. As best as I could tell it’s all monaural and probably the best your ever going to hear for these movies.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The 4 DVDs are packaged in a double width DVD case with a card board slipcase. The artwork matches the content perfectly and features a photo montage of scenes from the movies. The menus are straight forward and functional but aesthetically leave a bit to be desired. There are included as extras classic Corman movie trailers and movie ads.
There is over ten hours of content in this four DVD collection. There are really only a couple of stinkers here and there are a few here that I will find myself going back to again and again, I’m kind of itching to pop in The Winner right now. On top of that they aren’t squeezed so tight that the distributor can get four movies on one DVD. If I put my b-movie goggles on this collection gets a ten out of ten, b-movie goggles off and I have to drop that to six out of ten. Myself I’m looking forward to Best of the B’s Collection 2.
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10
The Movies 6/10
The Video 6/10
The Audio 6/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10