The Choppers (1961)

Oh, to have a dad as cool as Arch Hall, Jr! When I saw that Arch Hall, Sr. had done something like produce and write this cautionary/drive-in exploitation tale about punks who chop up cars, I knew that every kid’s dream at one time must have been to be Arch Hall, Jr. (Except for that name and the greasy hairdo.)

What kid wouldn’t want to star in a movie where he got to play a guy named Cruiser who drives around in a way cool hotrod and listens to his own songs on the radio?

We never get to see him perform in this one (you get more than your fill of that in Wild Guitar, the other movie on the double-feature disk from Something Weird Video), but you do get the dramatic scene where Cruiser is parked along side the road in his street rod, acting as a look-out for his crew of delinquent car choppers and he is tapping the steering wheel to some song about Conga Joe that is blaring out of the radio. The closing credits reveal that the architect of this stupidly catchy and nonsensical tune is none other than Arch Hall, Jr!

So we know that Arch isn’t completely without talent, but can he carry a movie? Shoot, how much carrying do you have to do in a movie that doesn’t even hit the sixty minute mark?

Besides, when you’ve got kids undercover as poultry farmers, a fat guy who runs a junkyard named Moose, his drunken, guitar playing sidekick named Cowboy, and Playboy‘s Miss September 1959 backing your debut film performance up, you’re practically critic proof, even if do you remind the audience of someone closer to Wally Cleaver than a master car thief.

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So who are these kids and how did they get involved in this racket that sees them trade their carefree youth for a life of high risk thrills and low budget payoffs from the local crooked junk dealer?

Luckily there’s a radio guy who follows this case from beginning to end and it is he that provides the obligatory narration where he uses his best square voice to sound the alarm about a nation of kids that are just ripe for careers destroying their daddy’s Packards.

The Choppers have a pretty good racket going and have their jobs down to a science. Cruiser acts as look-out and keeps track of how much time they have, while the other members of the gang each do their own thing.

The cops figure out that what they are doing is siphoning out all the gas of unsuspecting people’s cars, replacing it with a certain amount of their own gas, knowing how far it will take the guy before he runs out, then when he walks back to town to get gas or a tow truck, they swoop down in their chicken truck, chop the car and haul all the parts back to Big Moose and his junk yard where he gives them ten cents on the dollar.

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This is one of those ingenious plans that no one ever thinks to do in real life mainly because there’s no chance in hell it would work. How do you know that the guy is going out of town in the first place? Where is this guy when his car gets all the gas siphoned off? Doesn’t he notice that the gas needle is sitting on “E” all of a sudden? How do they know that even if he is going out of town, which road he’ll be on? Or how much gas mileage his rig will get?

And what kind of roads are they doing this on where there isn’t any traffic? I would think that four teenagers with a poultry truck taking an acetylene torch to the undercarriage of a tipped over car would draw a fair amount of attention from motorists and cops who happen to drive by.

Big Moose grows worried that the heat keeps coming out to his junkyard to see if the Choppers fenced any their goods with him and he tells the Choppers (much to their chagrin) that they need to cool it and lay off pulling any more jobs for awhile.

Meanwhile the cops have finally figured out a way to get the Choppers. They set up a stakeout where a guy runs out of gas or something. I was never entirely clear how this would work since the Choppers like to find their own marks, but maybe the cops set it up so this guy would get all his gas siphoned out by the Choppers though I have no clue how they would go about doing that.

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However they did it, the Choppers bite when they see this dude all out of gas. I really liked the cooperation the police and the local media had on this case because they had the radio reporter reporting live on the stakeout as it happened. I guess it’s a good thing that Arch Hall, Jr. liked to listen to himself on the radio instead of whatever station this guy was broadcasting for.

The Choppers manage to get away from the stakeout, but leave a chicken feather at the scene. This combined with Big Moose’s betrayal when they get back to the junkyard to hide the chicken truck (any time a movie involves hiding a chicken truck, you know it’s worth your time) cause the Choppers to get into a shootout with Big Moose and Cowboy.

Then the cops show up and there’s some more shooting of Choppers and cops. The radio guy is there and interviews the drunk father of one of the Choppers. The father is great as he says that his boy will never be taken alive. Thanks for your support dad!

No one is really very good in The Choppers (Arch snarls out his lines like some pouty kid and his friends recite theirs with a robot-like cadence), but you don’t want anyone to be any good. I mean if Arch Hall, Sr. couldn’t write something better than having a stakeout being broadcast as it happens, you couldn’t expect the Hall gene pool to produce a Laurence Olivier.

The Choppers is a fun example of what can happen when a father and son spend quality time together and I would urge all fathers to watch this with their sons so that they don’t become the next generation of Choppers!

© 2015 MonsterHunter

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