Thursday, April 7, 2022

#2,735. The Glory Stompers (1967) - Quentin Tarantino Recommends


In March of 1994, actor / director Dennis Hopper sat down briefly with Quentin Tarantino, who at the time was busy editing Pulp Fiction. Hopper had just co-starred in True Romance, which Tarantino wrote, and the two chatted briefly about movies.

Towards the end of their conversation, Tarantino mentioned that one of his all-time favorite Dennis Hopper films was 1967’s The Glory Stompers, in which the noted actor played Chino, leader of the biker gang The Black Souls. Calling it a “wacky, kooky performance”, Tarantino added “I loved you in that. You know, that is the beginning of you as Frank Booth in Blue Velvet right there”.

Story-wise, there’s not much to The Glory Stompers. Chino and the other Black Souls track down Darryl (Jody McCrea), leader of the rival gang the Stompers. They beat Darryl unmercifully, so much so that they are convinced they’ve killed him. Fearful of being arrested for murder, Chino abducts Darryl’s girlfriend Chris (Chris Noel), who witnessed the attack, and he and the Black Souls hightail it to the border.

But Darryl survives the attack, and with the help of aging former biker Smiley (Jock Mahoney) searches for Chino and the Black Souls, hoping to get Chris back before the fugitive gang disappears into Mexico.

Like I said, it’s not the most complex storyline, yet it’s Hopper who makes The Glory Stompers an entertaining watch. Infatuated with Chris (which, in part, led to the initial showdown with Daryll), Hopper’s Chino goes to great lengths to keep her to himself, preventing his fellow gang members (including Mouth, played by a young Casey Kasem) from having any alone time with her.

Naturally, this doesn’t sit well with Chino’s steady girlfriend Jo Ann (Saundra Gayle), and there are a few interesting scenes featuring her and Chris. Throughout the movie, we actually feel kinda sorry for Jo Ann, a woman in love with a guy who doesn’t seem to care much about anyone except his kid brother, fellow Black Souls gang member Monk (played by Lindsey Crosby, Bing’s youngest son).

In addition to the drama within the ranks of Chino’s gang, the occasional cutaways to Daryll and Smiley searching for the Black Souls brings an added - and quite effective – level of tension to the film (at one point, Daryll rides right past the Black Souls, who had pulled off the road to rest).

But it’s Hopper who makes The Glory Stompers so damned intriguing, delivering a performance every bit as manic as Billy in Easy Rider or his title character in the 1976 Australian film Mad Dog Morgan. From start to finish, The Glory Stompers is Hopper’s show, and he does not disappoint (During that same discussion with Tarantino, Hopper said his behind-the-scenes antics drove the film’s original director, Anthony Lanza, to quit the movie. So Hopper stepped in, thus making The Glory Stompers the first time he ever directed a movie).

Tarantino is such a fan of The Glory Stompers that he selected it to be one of the films screened at his very first QT-Fest back in 1996, and while there are aspects of it that make it a good movie, it’s Hopper who brings 
The Glory Stompers close to greatness.
Rating: 8 out of 10

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