Monday, June 27, 2011

The Sweet Ride

They were the freaks, the wipe-outs, the beach bums!

"How sweeeeet it is!" - Jackie Gleason

OK, so I'm flipping through one of the too-many-books-of-disposable-pop- cultural-detritus I own, Flip magazine's Flip's Groovy Guide to the Groops (a teenage girl's guide in which "the 100 grooviest groups are waiting to turn you on!", and which includes all-important facts like the eye and hair colors of all the groups - for example, I learned that The Hollies are all blue-eyed yet still appealingly soulful), and on the front page is a listing of other Signet Books from the '60s. One caught my eye, William Murray's The Sweet Ride, because of its Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill! -ish cover come-on: "Everything swings in this novel about a rootless, restless new breed of youth who want nothing more than a "sweet ride" on alcohol, on drugs, in bed, but mostly on the pounding surf."

It sounded so dangerous and, coming as it did right after watching Joseph Losey's oddball Youth Rebellion-Biker-SciFi cult film These Are the Damned (1963), made me think of Oliver "King" Reed's black leather-loving Teddy Boy biker gang in that film - a film that Losey fanboy Dave Cawley had recommended countless times to me that I finally got around to after he mentioned it starred my fave Brit hearthrob Shirley Anne Field (Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, The Entertainer, Alfie). You see, I'll watch anything with this Bolton Beauty in it - even if I must willingly suspend my disbelieve in seeing Days of Our Lives soap fixture Macdonald Carey as the romantic lead (?!?), while scene- and movie-stealing Oliver Reed is buried in the small-print on the film's poster (!!!).

Warning!: Macdonald Carey is the romantic lead!

Mac wants to know: "What are you trying to make out of these children! ANSWER ME!"

Watch the These Are the Damned trailer.

The movie's great theme song ("Black leather, black leather - smash smash smash/Black leather, black leather - crash crash crash/Black leather, black leather - kill kill kill!" - yes, that last line reminds me of Get Smart's killer combo The Sacred Cows) will soon, allegedly, be covered by Dave Cawley and Scott Wallace Brown's upcoming covers band (can't wait!).

These are the damned black leather Teddy Boys

But then I remembered the film adaptation of this Tough Rebel Youth novel was about as threatening and badass as a Billy Jack movie. Indeed, The Sweet Ride (1968) - starring Tony Franciosa (my hero!), Bob Denver (Gilligan!), Michael Sarrazin (the perpetually poetic drifter with the soulful eyes!) and Jaqueline Bisset (Ooo la la!) - was one of my all-time faves! I had thought of the film only months earlier when, alas, Michael Sarrazin passed away at age 70 in April 2011.

Tony Franciosa (in tennis whites): I used to think he was the coolest guy alive!

My man Tony Franciosa (see him shine also in Fathom with Raquel Welch) is the skirt-chasing aging tennis hustler, Michael Sarrazin is the drifter surfer dude, and Bob Denver plays Beatnik jazz musician "Choo-Choo Burns" (basically a reprise of his Maynard G. Krebs guise from the The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis Show) whose "porn star" girlfriend is named "Thumper" Stevens - played by Annapolis, MD native Michele Carey, she of Elvis' Live a Little, Love a Little (1968) fame!

Thumper shows off her bumpers

Listen to Dusty Springfield sing the theme song in The Sweet Ride trailer below.

Besides Dusty Springfield, the movie boasts a great psychedelic soundtrack (and film appearance) by The Moby Grape!

The Gang's All Here: Thumper, Choo Choo, Mr. Clean and Big Jane

Unfortunately, the movie has never come out on an official video or DVD release and remains unattainable except for boots from The Video Beat (

Here's the Video Beat's description of The Sweet Ride:

U.S. film. "The Cycles...The Surf...And The Swingers That Make It All Go!" Music by Dusty Springfield and Moby Grape. A 1960s exploitation film featuring surfers, bikers, psychedelic scenes, drugs and rock and roll—but it's more a character study than a typical youth-culture movie.

A hit-and-run leaves gorgeous Jacqueline Bisset almost dead and the movie unfolds in flashbacks as two suspects tell their story to the police. Tony Franciosa plays "Collie," an aging hipster tennis bum who hustles players at a ritzy tennis club and teaches his younger Malibu roommates how to score with the chicks. Michael Sarrazin plays "Denny," a lusting young surfer who is becoming disillusioned with the swinging hipster scene.

Bob Denver plays "Choo Choo" a hipster jazz pianist who pretends to be gay to get out of being drafted. His girlfriend "Thumper" is a porn star! Jacqueline Bisset plays "Vickie" a mostly-out-of-work actress who is the object of everyone's carnal desires.

Famous Sunset Strip locations include Gazzarri's and Scandia. Cool bar scenes featuring a dirty biker gang decorated with Nazi accoutrements. Look for Moby Grape performing in a wild psychedelic nightclub called the Tarantula! Lots of liquid lights, swirling colors and butt-shaking go-go dancers. Moby Grape play the song, "Never Again." Dusty Springfield sings "Sweet Ride" over credits. Anthony Franciosa, Michael Sarrazin, Jacqueline Bisset, Bob Denver, Michael Wilding, Michele Carey, Lara Lindsay, Norma Crane, Percy Rodriguez, Warren Stevens, Pat Buttram, Charles Dierkop, Seymour Cassel. Bonus Selection: 1960s newsreel footage

Will someone please, please, please release this great '60s beach bohos movie?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent words about The Sweet Ride, which is a treasure trove of hip cinema highlights. Just spent the summer completely hooked on this film--watched it maybe 30-40 times.
And in a pack of good performances, Franciosa reigns supreme. He gives one of the hippest and most energetic performances I've ever seen.
Don't know why the film is so compelling but it may have to do with the setting, that incredible beach house perched on the cliff.
Have never before found a movie I wanted to live inside, but this is it.
Great write-up!

2:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have never before found a movie I wanted to live inside, but this is it.

You just captured the same feeling this movie excites in me.

Roberto M

8:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is now available on DVD(R) through Fox Cinema Archives. I found a used copy on Amazon!

1:29 PM  
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