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Fast Charlie ... the Moonbeam Rider

Kino // PG // March 15, 2022
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted May 16, 2022 | E-mail the Author
Fast Charlie ... The Moonbeam Rider:

Fast Charlie ... The Moonbeam Rider is a late 1970s knockabout racing comedy starring David Carradine, (of Television's Kung Fu fame) and Brenda Vaccaro from Airport '77 and steady TV work from 1961 until 2021 and counting, which by my math is a 60 year career and pretty darn impressive! The movie itself is much less impressive than Vaccaro's career, with a curious title and small stakes, but it's certainly entertaining and agreeable enough - you might just learn a life-lesson or two. If you caught this as a kid you may have nostalgic memories and want to revisit it, or if you love vintage motorcycles, Carradine, or Vaccaro.

Fast Charlie takes place just after the first World War, which as we know was a hugely popular subject during the late '70s. I'm joking about that, but I suppose heavy-duty nostalgia was still a thing during this movie's production, with such shows as Happy Days romanticizing the '50s, while The Waltons managed to eke value from the Great Depression. At any rate, Charlie (Carradine) shows up in a small town after the war, needing to sell his motorcycle to drum up a hundred bucks, a lot of dough in 1919. Nobody has that kind of scratch, but when he proposes to raffle the bike off for a couple dollars entry fee, he finds lots of takers. Through details I won't divulge, so as not to spoil any surprises, he ends up with the same bike, lovely Grace Wolf, (Vaccaro) and her boy Wesley (Whit Clay) in tow, on the way to his true mission, enrollment in the first ever cross-country motorcycle race!

Director Steve Carver (Big Bad Mama) worked again with Carradine on Lone Wolf McQuade, but this movie, lensed in 1977, appears to have been their first feature together. Carver gets plenty of typical crinkle-eyed charm from Carradine, as well as a few laughs from the rag-tag gang of a pit-crew Charlie assembles from his old war buddies, played by a variety of familiar character actor faces including Noble Willingham, R.G. Armstrong and L.Q. Jones. In fact the first half of the movie is mostly set-up, as Charlie, Grace, and Wesley go from town to town securing the crew, on their way to the race's starting point. And along the way, wouldn't you know it, Charlie looks like he might earn the respect of young Wesley and the affections of his mom. Luckily, this familiar trope, and Vaccaro's vanishing act - going first from a compelling, well-rounded character to mere love interest - gives way to what it's assumed the audience wants.

And thus Fast Charlie ... The Moonbeam Rider races to the finish line with plenty of vintage motorcycle action, a good 30 or 40 minute's-worth. There's a team of evil racers out to cheat their way to the grand prize, and plenty of dust kicked up. People get thrown, kicked, and punched off their bikes, the vintage Harleys roar, and even the most casual viewer will be hard-pressed to say they didn't have a good old time when all is said and done.

Fast Charlie ... The Moonbeam Rider isn't the tale of a speedy New Ager, and while the hero is a scoundrel, the movie is no 1970s anti-hero downer. It's a slight and breezy road-trip comedy with early 20th-Century period charm and some good vintage motorcycle racing fun. Vaccaro adds grit to her character, (and looks super hot in her Newsie outfit) while Carradine lends his off-kilter cool to what would make a great rental for nostalgia buffs, or a possible purchase for motorcycle fanatics. Overall, this Kino Lorber release, with commentary track, is mildly Recommended.


The DVD

Video:
Kino Lorber brings us Fast Charlie in a brand new 2k transfer, in a 1.85:1 ratio, 1080p presentation. This Roger Corman produced programmer follows suit with other Corman productions, it was done on the cheap, and though this movie looks pretty great on Blu-ray, it won't blow anyone's doors off, as befits its origins. Colors are fairly naturalistic, though sometimes skin tones run a bit hot. Details are acceptable and film grain is present in spades. A little bit of print damage appears here and there, but compression artifacts aren't a problem. Overall this looks like a high-quality presentation of a Saturday afternoon TV movie special, not terrible, but not terribly exciting either.


Sound:
Fast Charlie roars off the screen in Dolby Digital DTS 2.0 mono audio which sounds fine, with dialog pretty clean, and easy to understand, and the very 1970s-sounding soundtrack mixed in nicely. The source isn't great, but there's nothing to really complain about.


Extras:
In addition to English Subtitles and the Theatrical Trailer, Fast Charlie ... The Moonbeam Rider comes with a Commentary Track by film historian Eddy Von Mueller. The track is scholarly, interesting, only slightly dry, and covers a lot of ground both specific to the movie and as a general overview of movies of this ilk, during the mid-late-'70s. It moves along at a steady pace and is definitely worth a listen.


Final Thoughts:
Fast Charlie ... The Moonbeam Rider isn't the tale of a speedy New Ager, and while the hero is a scoundrel, the movie is no 1970s anti-hero downer. It's a slight and breezy road-trip comedy with early 20th-Century period charm and some good vintage motorcycle racing fun. Vaccaro adds grit to her character, (and looks super hot in her Newsie outfit) while Carradine lends his off-kilter cool to what would make a great rental for nostalgia buffs, or a possible purchase for motorcycle fanatics. Overall, this Kino Lorber release, with commentary track, is mildly Recommended.

www.kurtdahlke.com

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