A forgotten relic from a freer (and somewhat goofier) era, Northville Cemetery Massacre is a surprisingly entertaining grindhouser that probably played really well across the drive-ins of the Midwest -- especially if it was paired with something like The Wild Angels or another cheapie equally inspired by Easy Rider.
It's a true-blue indie exploitationer, to be sure, but co-directors Bill Dear and Tom Dyke are smart enough to twist a few conventions and keep the action moving briskly along. The plot is a simple thing: A group of Detroit bikers are framed for a rape they didn't commit (and framed by the cop who did the rapin'!), and before too long they're being harrassed, pursued, and blown wide open by a bunch of trigger-happy lawmen, a great white hunter-type, and the justifiably irate father of the girl who got raped by one of the nastiest cop bastards ever conceived by a screenwriter or two.
Chock full of outrageously outdated clothes, phrases, and attitudes -- and obviously a low-budget cheapie all the way -- Northville Cemetery Massacre is still an appreciably colorful (and slyly intelligent) piece of run 'n' gun filmmaking. That the bikers are the misunderstood heroes -- and that "the law" is where the true corruption lies -- is a unique enough spin to make this entry worthy of some attention, plus there's some broad humor laced along a path that leads to some seriously high-end carnage. When this movie promises a massacre at a cemetery -- it really isn't kidding around.
Highly recommended to anyone who's old enough to remember and appreciate this type of low-budget, down & dirty, occasionally terrible but entirely watchable genre fare, NCM is frankly a whole lot more fun than I expected it to be. Don't go in expecting anything too polished or professional and you might be surprised too. I wouldn't exactly call the flick a B-movie classic, but it's a pretty fascinating little relic that's probably worth seeking out.
Video: The movie is presented in a remastered full-frame transfer. You'll find a good deal of grain and grunge from the original print, but I say they just add to the charm of the experience. I don't think the world really needs a pristine anamorphic widescreen transfer on Northville Cemetery Massacre.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 2.0 track does a fine job of replicating the film's aural glitches, but the finalé is absolutely stuffed with overheated explosions of gunfire.
Three separate audio commentaries have been included, all rather distinctive and all packed with some fairly fascinating war stories. Co-creators Tom Dyke and Bill Dear each contribute their own tracks, the former a recitation of prepared notes and the latter a more off-the-cuff affair, and they're both pretty darn solid! Dyke takes the more studious approach to the film, while Dear is a bit more laid-back, proud and occasionally apologetic. The third commentary is provided by several of the Scorpions MC Detroit, which is the real-live biker gang that starred in the flick. These guys look back at their movie with much nostalgia and bemusement, needless to say. The commentary trilogy is really quite excellent, especially for such a semi-forgotten little grindhouse shoot-'em-up.
Also included are some photo galleries, bios, and a few trailers for The Windsplitter, The Killing Device, and Murder Rap.
Equally as entertaining as any of Roger Corman's biker movies, Northville Cemetery Massacre might have a garish title and a goofy exterior, but there's still some meat, heart and attitude left on this flick's bones. Some of it is unintentionally amusing; some if it's pretty smart and shocking. Give it a spin if you like this sort of stuff.