Directed By: Al Adamson
Starring: Russ Tamblyn, Scott Brady, John 'Bud' Cardos
Tag line: "MOTORCYCLE Maniacs on Wheels -- BREEZY RIDERS Roaring to HELL!"
Trivia: This film was shot at the Spahn Movie Ranch in Simi Valley, CA, at the same time that Charles Manson and his "family" were living there
Any gang that names itself after the Prince of Darkness has quite a reputation to live up to, and in this film’s very first scene we meet a group of bikers who appear to be up to the challenge. While out riding, the gang comes across a couple making out in the woods. Grabbing hold of the guy, they force him to watch as several of their number rape his date. Soon after, the couple, now unconscious (or perhaps dead), is placed in the front seat of their car. Booze is poured over their lips (to give the impression they’ve been drinking), and the car is then pushed over a cliff, breaking apart on the rocks below (if the man and women weren’t already dead, they sure are now).
And with that, Al Adamson’s 1969 biker flick Satan’s Sadists is off and running!
With Anchor (Russ Tamblyn) as their leader, the Satans, which also includes Firewater (John Cardos), Muscle (William Bonner), Romeo (Bobby Clark), Acid (Greydon Clark), Willie (Robert Dix), and Anchor’s main squeeze Gina (Regina Carrol), wreak havoc on the highways of the American Southwest, terrorizing any and all innocent people they meet along the way. Stopping at a roadside diner, the Satans harass a pretty waitress named Tracy (Jackie Taylor), and then turn their attentions towards Nora (Evelyn Frank), the middle-aged wife of Charlie Baldwin (Scott Brady), a cop on a much-needed vacation. To keep the gang at bay, Charlie pulls a gun, but is quickly subdued by Firewater. Another patron, former Marine Johnny (Gary Kent),is knocked cold when he tries to intervene, at which point Anchor leads the Baldwins, as well as Lew (Kent Taylor), who owns the restaurant, outside for a little “fun”, leaving Muscle and Romeo behind to keep an eye on Johnny and Tracy.
Realizing their lives are in danger, a now-conscious Johnny gets the jump on Muscle and Romeo, then, along with Tracy, sneaks out of the restaurant. They then hop into Tracy’s dune buggy and drive away as fast as they can, causing the remaining Satans to give chase. When the dune buggy breaks down in the middle of the desert, Johnny and Tracy head into the nearby hills, in the hopes the rocky terrain will prevent the gang from following on their bikes. Thus begins a tense game of cat and mouse, with Johnny and Tracy doing whatever is necessary to avoid the Satans, who have vowed to keep up the search until the two are found. But with Anchor growing more sadistic by the minute, there’s a good chance the Satans will self-destruct before they can track down their prey.
Filled to its breaking point with violence, Satan’s Sadists is a disturbing, yet ultimately engaging mix of the biker and horror genres, featuring a handful of characters you love to hate. Chief among them is Russ Tamblyn’s Anchor, who, in the early scenes, hangs in the background, quietly watching the other members of his gang while at the same time ignoring Gina, who is obviously in love with him. That all changes the moment Anchor discovers that Charlie Baldwin is a cop. In what is a truly surreal moment, Anchor (holding a gun) chastises the career policeman (and, indeed, all cops) for harassing members of the “Love Generation”, college kids and hippies whose only crime is “growing their hair long, smoking a little grass and getting high” and “writing poetry in the sand”. This dramatic speech is then followed by what might be the film’s most troubling bit of violence, and from then on, Anchor is completely unhinged.
Both Firewater and Gina try talking sense to Anchor, telling him to give up the chase for Charlie and Tracy, but he won’t listen, resulting in even more scenes of shocking brutality. A former Oscar nominee (for 1957’s Peyton Place), Tamblyn is perhaps best known for his performance as Riff in the 1961 award-winning film adaptation of West Side Story, as well as appearances in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, How the West Was Won, and The Haunting. While I wouldn’t rate his turn as Anchor in Satan’s Sadists as one of his all-time best, Tamblyn is nonetheless chilling in the part, providing the movie with what proves to be a very menacing antagonist.
I haven’t yet seen all of Al Adamson’s films, but of the ones I have watched (including Dracula vs. Frankenstein, Brain of Blood, and Cinderella 2000), Satan’s Sadists is far and away the finest of the bunch. As scandalous as it is entertaining, Satan’s Sadists ranks right up there with Easy Rider, The Wild Angels, and Hells Angels on Wheels as one of the best biker movies of the 1960s.