With a bigger budget, a better cast of actors, and higher production qualities, “Northville Cemetery Massacre” could have been one hell of a movie. But the catch is that it would have never achieved its status as a cult classic if it did have all the perks listed above. Based on a real biker gang, directors/writers William Dear and Thomas L. Dyke’s action thriller set down on the Spirits (known as the Scorpions Biker Club in real life) a kind band of pious cycle riding nomads who peruse the road for something to do. They’re so kind in fact that they stop mid travel to help an old couple whose car has been run off the road. Dyke and Dear’s story set out to educate people on the good biker clubs actually try to do and how stereotyping is the very essence of ignorance.
Because at first glance we know they’re up to no good and then their actions completely wash away our prejudice to do something noble. While the production quality and acting (this movie marked one of Nick Nolte’s earliest roles) are shaky at best, it helps that the movie (intended for the Scorpions’ usage only) actually has a message to convey and a story to tell. When the club arrives in a small town they’re met with a hateful government and a corrupt sheriff who sets up the raping of an innocent girl. The problem with the set up is that the crime is blamed on the Spirits. This is where it becomes tricky as the Spirits must now band with rival gang members in order to keep their ranks from falling under the gunfire of itchy fingered police officers employed by the corrupt sheriff.
Very reminiscent of “Sons of Anarchy” and “Hell Ride” in many ways, the 1976 production keeps its story tight and tense with an even pacing that never pads the running time. It’s a short and to the point action thriller with a moral about judging even the worst looking biker groups and how ignorance can kill innocent people. Now available from VCI Entertainment, the movie is a hidden gem, one that has sparked a small fan base that tout this as the “Ultimate Biker Flick” which is a bit of a fallacy when you take in to account all the good biker flicks to choose from. But it does make good on the promise of being a genuine biker movie.
The gangs members are in actuality part of biker clubs and we get an inside glimpse in to the politics of the underground circuit tainted by a crime they simply didn’t commit. In spite of not being the most technically advanced movie of its decade, it works with the ensuing carnage with great blood effects and stunt driving around. Hell when all else fails when I want a true biker movie I go to “Northville Cemetery Massacre” where the dialogue is often off-synch and the editing blows but at least it has something to say. Hell it’s not perfect but you know what? I’ll take it for what it is, a kick ass biker movie with a great premise that’s never brought down by the faulty technical aspects including direction and editing. It’s a vision Dyke and Dear approach with love and for that it’s a contender for the “Ultimate Biker Flick.”