“An innocent girl is first prize in the dirtiest game ever played! Kitten on wheels, with her bike, her boots and her bikini!” Those are just some taglines of the 1967 biker flick Born Losers. We were hooked, so we wanted to find out more.
I admit it, it’s a guilty pleasure of mine: 60’s & 70’s exploitation films. Most of them combine sex and violence with mostly bad actors and poor storylines, nevertheless these films have something about them that you just have to love. Even though some of them are so bad you can’t watch them since they’re so incoherent in their storylines and acting, they’re just great.
So here’s the first one in this series I’m about to do about biker flicks of the 60’s and 70’s: The Born Losers from 1967, just one of many of those biker movies, but still quite a good one.
Born Losers evolves around the story of Billy Jack, a half-Indian Vietnam war veteran. Avoiding society, he lives in a trailer peacefully in the mountains of the California central coast. Trouble begins when he descends from his unspoiled home and drives into the small beach town of Big Rock. A minor traffic accident in which a young guy in a VW hits a motorcycle results in a savage assault of the driver by members of the Born Losers Motorcycle Club. Sure enough all the bystanders are too afraid to help or be involved in any kind of way.
Witnessing the scene from a coffee shop, Billy Jack intervenes and rescues the young man that was beaten up by the bikers. Soon after the police arrives and arrests Billy for using a rifle to stop the fight. In jail Billy is treated with suspicion and hostility by the police and gets a huge fine for firing off a rifle in public.
Meanwhile, the Born Losers terrorize the beach town, race up and down main street and take a couple of young girls with them, four of them later on get raped. Among those girls is Vicky, who during the film always seems to ride her motorcycle in nothing but her bikini. As Billy gets out of jail he soon again meets the biker gang and gets brutally beaten up and taken to their lair where he meets Vicky for the first time. She agrees to become the gang’s sexually compliant “biker mama” if they release Billy.
Back at the police station, Billy is unable to get any help from the police and decides to return to the gang’s lair himself to rescue Vicky. Armed with a rifle, he captures the gang, shoots their leader and forces some of the other members to take Vicky to the hospital since she had been badly beaten up. As the police finally arrive, Billy rides away on one of the gang’s motorcycles and accidentally gets shot in the back by a police officer.
Later he’s found lying by the shore of a lake, nearly dead. The movie ends with him being placed on a stretcher to be flown to a hospital as Vicky and the sheriff give him a salute.
Read more about: Biker Flicks
Technical / Production
The movie was filmed on location in Southern California at Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Rancho Palos Verdes, the University of California, Big Sur, Morro Bay and other locations on the coast. Filming was done in just three weeks at a budget of 160’000 $. When director Tom Laughlin ran out of money during post production, he showed the film to famous exploitation film company American International Pictures who then bought out the original investors and financed the rest of the film so it could be released in July 1967.
The film was commercially successful and made director Tom Laughlin able to raise the money to make its sequel, Billy Jack, focussing more on the life of its main character and not on biker gangs at all. With the sequel being commercially successful, American International Pictures re-released Born Losers in 1974 and it became the company’s highest grossing release until 1979, when The Amityville Horror came out.
Although highly succesful at the box office, critical response for Born Losers was generally negative. It was mostly criticized for using violence just for the sake of it and to attract visitors. Something that pretty much every biker movie of this decade was criticized for.
Although Born Losers is just one of many biker movies, it’s still something special: Some of the bikes ridden in the film – mainly the crazy Panhead Trike with upswept handlebars – are just true pieces of art and show what kinds of Choppers were ridden in these days. A lot of the members of the club don’t even drive chopped up Harleys but other bikes like Triumphs, Hondas or Yamahas, something that also reflects the real state of some of those clubs back then: It didn’t only have to be Harley Davidsons that those guys were riding.