Rommel (Ross Hagen) is one of the best sidehackers in the sport. And what is sidehacking? Well it’s hanging onto a sidecar frame on a motorcycle, while the motorcycle is racing on a dirt track. Rommel fixes bikes when he isn’t hanging off them and that is how he meets J.C. (Michael Pataki) a biker who performs at rodeos and carnivals. The two hit it off, especially when Paisley (Clair Polan) takes a liking to Rommel, even though she is J.C.’s girl.
But nothing doing, Rommel is in love with Rita (Diane McBain) and they spend hours wandering in fields and snuggling under trees. All this love ends up making Paisly mad, so she tells J.C. that Rommel attacked and abused her. J.C., not the most stable guy in the first place, goes off the deep end and savagely attacks and kills Rita. Rommel is shattered, but vows revenge – and that means gathering a group of anti-heroes and taking the fight to J.C. By this point in the film you’ll be wondering where all the Sidehackers went to.
|It's impossible to scrape of sidehacker with kung-fu|
Well, kinda, the movie is pretty unfocused. It starts off appearing to be a film about sidehackers, and then detours into a melodrama about two lovers named Rita and Rommel. But J.C. appears and seems to have wandered in from another movie, possibly a friend of Banjo’s from Wild Rebels. Once J.C. really takes over, the movie ends up going down the exploitation counter-culture cinema that brought about films like The Girl with Gold Boots and The Hellcats.
There is probably a decent movie in here somewhere, but the mixing of all these storylines lessens the whole film and makes it flail around like motorcycle that lost it’s sidehacker.
|Sessions presents, Rommel Live at the Acropolis!|
The sound in the movie is atrocious. Obviously they only had one boom mic and half the time it wasn’t close enough to the action. As a result a lot of the dialogue goes by without you hearing a thing. The music is typical for this type of film, but the theme song used during the love scenes is pretty silly.
What makes the film entertaining is the acting. Well, part of the acting anyway. Ross Hagan plays your typical tough guy with the heart of gold, and he isn’t bad in the part. The goofy hat he wears takes away a bit of his tough guy edge, but maybe it some was something all the sidehackers were wearing back in the day. McBain is pretty good as Rita. She certainly doesn’t deserve her violent end. Unfortunately both of our leads seem to be smokers, because they have some craggy voices and the bad sound has trouble with some of their more intimate dialogue.
|J.C. and Cooch attempt to out yell each other, while|
Paisley acts as the ref.
Cooch is no slacker when it comes to acting. When J.C. sends him to act as a double agent in Rommel’s gang, the whole exchange is filled with mugging, escalating volume and eye popping on both sides. But even better is the scenes where Cooch fears that Rommel’s buddies are on to him. I’m not sure what the actor was going for but it is sad to say he missed.
Finally there is our femme fatale, Paisley. She is actually the most grounded of the three, but she has her moments of over acting. Mostly she gets to looks sexy and slink around, then insult J.C. so he slaps her around again.
|Crapout shows us his big stick.|
Unfortunately, nothing really works in this movie. The sidehacking scenes are kinda interesting, only because I’ve never heard of the sport or seen it performed before. But the love story is tedious, and only around so the impact of Rita’s death can drive Rommel’s revenge. So it turns out that the revenge story is the focus of the whole film. But the execution doesn’t really make it worth your time to watch. I’m wondering if there is a whole subtext with characters named Rommel, Nero and Crapout as our heroes and a man with the same initials as Jesus Christ as the deranged rapist and killer. But that might be giving the film too much credit. Instead, Sidehakers serves as fodder for Joel and the Bots as the first of the 60s biker flick triad they tackled in Season Two.
|A sidehacker gets snuggly with his driver.|
When they sat down in the writing room to work on the first pass they were horrified by the increasing levels of violence and the disturbing rape and murder of Rita. It was obvious they would have to heavily edit the film to make an episode that was family friendly (something they prided themselves on). It would be less work to just pick a different movie and not use this one at all. Unfortunately, Comedy Central had spent the money and expected the crew to use it. Keep in mind, the show was popular enough to get a second season, but they didn’t have the clout yet to push back too much, so the writing team sat down and got to work.
|Crapout, Nero and Rommel confront Cooch. I can't|
believe I just wrote that sentence.
|Cambot makes his first and only visual riff.|
|This gulch is alive with the sound of Moog-sic.|
Sidehackers riffing moves in fits and starts for me. Sometimes you get some great lines. When J.C. slaps Paisley around after she implies he is lousy lover, he snarls the line, “But baby, what a great team we are!” to which Joel replies, “Like Punch and Judy.” Or during a long scene in a bar where the characters are negotiating hiring prices over a game of pool. Crow groans and says, “Since this film isn’t going anywhere, why don’t we all play pool!” But the long scenes of Rommel wandering around with Rita showing how in love they are, or the scenes with Rommel wandering around remembering Rita feel endless. There’s only so much riffing the boys can come up with and it ends up hurting the final product.
|Joel and the bots model Rommel style head gear.|
Sidehackers does have its fans, and I have to say, I given this episode several viewings hoping to see the magic that others have caught. But honestly the whole thing never really works for me. The poor sound make catching the dialogue a real pain, the movie is a slog, and the riffing moves in patches. This is an early Season Two episode, and I think the boys got better as the season progressed. They would return to this genre with Wild Rebels and that riffing session was a lot better on all counts. But the best episode for these types of films would be The Girl with Gold Boots. I would recommend either of those films first, before tackling Sidehackers.
I give it two sidehackers out of five.
I give it two sidehackers out of five.