12/9/06

202 The Sidehackers

(1969, Drama-Bikers/Sports, color)

Sidehacking is the thing to do / and it doesn’t hurt to have a low I.Q.

Rating: **1/2

In a nutshell:

A practitioner of an obscure motorcycle sport attempts to avenge his girlfriend’s murder.

Summary:

Stay tuned for butt-dangling mayhem.Sidehacking is when you put a seatless sidecar on a dirt bike and then ride it at lunatic speeds around a track while your partner hangs off of it, dangling his buttocks mere centimeters from the ground. Oh, and you’re doing this at the same time as about a dozen other teams in a race, so if you’re winning, your butt-dangling partner is in even greater danger of dismemberment or death if he falls off. Yes, it’s an actual sport, and yes, it takes up about the first quarter of the movie.

Our particular sidehacker’s name is Rommel, and it’s unclear whether he’s the one who rides the bike or dangles his butt, but as far as the plot goes it hardly matters. Rommel has a girlfriend, Rita, whom he takes out romping through soft focus meadows. Apparently misunderstanding the meaning of the word “locket,” she gives him an actual padlock to wear around his neck to remind him of her. When he’s not racing or romping, he wears a muffiny white hat and works in a motorcycle garage with his married friend and has generic conversations about single versus married life.

One day a circuit rider (some kind of sideshow act, I guess) named J.C. and his gang come to them for motorcycle repair. Despite the fact that J.C. is clearly psychotic and his girlfriend Paisley is clearly attracted to him, Rommel gets friendly and invites them out to a long sidehacking sequence. Intrigued by the sheer goofiness of it, J.C. invites Rommel to come be a circuit rider with him. When Rommel turns him down, J.C. sulks and beats up Paisley.
This seems to sour their relationship, and Paisley runs off looking for some Rommel love. Rommel wisely says no, but unwisely says no in an insufferably condescending manner. Paisley gets mad and tells J.C. that Rommel tried to rape her. J.C. gets his gang together and busts in on Rommel and Rita as they grumble and romp in gingham lingerie.

The next scene is of Rommel dejectedly wandering the streets, meadows and oilfields where…where he first knew love, I guess, while a folk singer sings a sad, sad song. We have no idea what’s going on until Crow tells us “For those of you playing along at home, Rita is dead.” Yes, J.C. killed her. Thankfully, the folks at Best Brains cut the brutal rape/murder scene, sacrificing an important plot point for the sake of basic human decency. (For a full explanation of the deleted scene and why it’s not there, I refer you to Mike Nelson’s reflections on this episode in the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide.)

Despite his married friend’s sensible suggestion to let the police take care of things, Rommel sells everything he owns in order to hire a gang of vicious killers to help him track down J.C. J.C. hears about it and sends his phenomenally stupid henchman Cooch to lure Rommel into a trap. Then he kills Paisley for no discernable reason. Rommel finds out about the trap and calls the police, but walks into it anyway, and by the end everyone has fled or gotten killed except for him and J.C. After a brief fight scene, Rommel apparently decides it’s not worth killing J.C. to get his revenge and turns his back on the homicidal biker. J.C. shoots and kills him, and the last scene shows Rommel lying dead in the mud intercut with previous footage of him and Rita romping through soft focus meadows.

Introduction:

I will.  I will.  I will push the button.  I will.Joel has just washed Tom and Crow and tries to get them to go to bed. They refuse, and when Joel tells them not to utter another peep, they do anyway.

Host Segment One:

Joel introduces Gretchen, the glow-in-the-dark slinky. She capers and dances and does her impression of the 60s. Dr. Forrester has cut himself in two so that he can be a living slinky dog toy. The Mads warn them that this movie is especially bad. “Remember that bad thing we saw? This is even worse.”

Host Segment Two:

Joel and the ‘Bots sing a little sidehacking song while Cambot projects sidehacking footage onto a bluescreen behind them.

Host Segment Three:

Cambot replays the second sidehacking sequence while Joel and the ‘Bots add color sports commentary with their own sidehacking terminology. Quoth Tom, “Itchy gorilla! It’s an itchy gorilla!”

Host Segment Four:

Joel and the ‘Bots wear muffiny white hats and mourn the death of Rita. J.C. and Cooch (played by Mike Nelson and Frank Conniff) show up in the Hexfield Viewscreen and mock them.

Host Segment Five:

Joel sings his own version of the sad folk song, “Only Love Pads the Film.” They read letters, and when it’s time to end, Frank, in a moment of Cooch-ism, agrees to push the button over and over again without actually doing it.

Thoughts:

Our muffin-hatted hero.The invention exchange is decent, and the color commentary sketch is quite funny, if a little overlong, but the real treats of this episode are not one, but two really funny songs, both expertly performed by Joel. Mike Nelson as J.C. is hilarious as well.

The actual sport of sidehacking takes up most of the first quarter of this movie, and then it disappears and the rest of the film just kind of dissipates into an awful biker revenge thriller. Though, to use the word “thriller” implies actual “thrills.” I guess the word I’m looking for is “incongruous mess.” I know—that’s two words.

As far as the actual film goes, this would probably be among the most painful to watch in an untreated version, however, the stupid sport, the over-the-top soft focus romance, and the cartoonish violence all make perfect joke fodder for Joel and the ‘Bots. Drug references abound during the awkward fadeouts and random blurs of the romantic scenes. During the long boring sidehacking scenes, they pretend to announce the race for a while (Cambot helps by adding ESPN-style scores to the side and bottom of the screen) before devolving into Indiana Jones quotes. After a while Joel suggests that the audience at home should just go and get a sandwich. The endless violent stupidity of the film’s second half kind of wears on you, but Joel and the ‘Bots find enough goofy points to keep it interesting. It’s awkward and incongruous enough that I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch it again, but I wouldn’t turn it off if I came into a room where it was playing.