Friday, August 28, 2015

Sidewinder 1 (1977)

          A passable dirt-bike adventure about which it’s difficult to generate strong feelings, Sidewinder 1 is neither heinous nor special. It’s in color, it contains some of the elements that one normally encounters in action movies, and it runs about 90 minutes. Fans who dig shots of motorcycles zooming over hills and through puddles will find a few distractions, and there’s a linear story in place, albeit a perfunctory one. Additionally, some of the actors in the picture will be familiar to those who’ve seen a lot of ’70s and ’80s B-movies and/or schlocky television from the same era. In sum, Sidewinder 1 exists, and that’s about as praiseworthy a remark as one can make. Michal Parks, grumpy and taciturn as always, stars as competitive rider J.M. Wyatt, whose career opportunities have dwindled because of his age and his attitude. J.M. receives an overture from businessman Packard Gentry (Alex Cord), who wishes to create and market a new motorcycle called the Sidewinder 1, employing J.M. as his spokesman and test driver. J.M. agrees to the deal, but only if he gets an ownership stake and permission to redesign the prototype.
          Concurrently, Packard hires a support team including a second driver, hotheaded Digger (Marjoe Gortner), and everybody clashes with Packard’s sister, Chris (Susan Howard), who regards the Sidewinder 1 as a frivolous investment. Complications ensue. None of them is particularly interesting, and because the movie’s budget was obviously meager, the big stunts that are meant to punctuate the action aren’t all that big. (At its worst, the movie includes a shot of a character screaming in a freeze-frame while sound effects imply the horrific crash the filmmakers didn’t have the means to capture on camera.) Every so often, a character tosses off a salty line (one racer says to another, “When the gate drops, the bullshit stops, bucko”), and there’s a strong cheese factor thanks to the original songs on the soundtrack, which are performed by future “I Love a Rainy Night” country/pop star Eddie Rabbit. Still, it’s hard to get past the acting triad of Cord, who tries too hard; Gortner, who tries way too hard; and Parks, who doesn’t try hard enough. Their respective qualities of incompetence and/or indifference suit this cheaply made and mindlessly conceived picture’s utterly generic vibe.

Sidewinder 1: FUNKY

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