The Vintagent Classics: The films that inspired us. 

Death Riders (1976)

Run Time: 1:28:00
Director: Jim Wilson (as James Wilson)
Key Cast: Henry Trumblay, Bud Boerma, Joe Byars


This film is respectfully dedicated to all whose daring feats cost them their lives.

Jim Wilson’s only Directorial credit brings us a wonderful behind the scenes look at the life of a traveling daredevil troop as they criss-cross the country with a motorcycle rodeo clown named Squeeks, performing their “Death Riders Motorcycle Thrill Show” at local fairs. The film is absolutely endearing and brings to mind On Any Sunday (1971) meets Jackass, in the best possible of ways.


The best part of the Death Riders thrill show…is to stay alive!

Flaming walls, long jumps over anything and everything, including fair going fans and even the inhabitants of a nudist colony. The suspense is surprisingly nerve wracking as these riders take their lives in their hands to pull off death defying, hilariously named stunts. The Death Riders work hard and play even harder. Downtime is spent taking cowboys up on challenges to ride the bull, carnival rides with pretty local girls, and taking the bikes out in the dirt of the vast American deserts. The film even documents Larry Man making a new world record jumping 45 people off a 2 foot ramp.

The director of photography for Death Riders, Vilmos Zsigmond also shot Sugarland Express and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and it’s the photography that really makes this film great. Long wistful shots of American landscape, close up shots of adoring fans on the edge of their seats in the bleachers, and pensive silent moments of the boys before they put their necks on the line. The soundtrack is also wonderful. If anyone compiles it before me, please let me know!

Soundtrack: Sunshine Baby – Terry Stafford / Broken Bones – Tommy Cash / The Glory Train – Pat Boone / Live for Now – T.G Sheppard / Death Rider – Dorsey Burnette / Junkyard Serenade – Porter Jordan / The Love of My man – Diane Jordan / Highway Country Blues – Kenny Seratt / I Hate to Drink Alone – Jerry Naylor / Sunny Side Up – Terry Stafford.


Read more at Cine Meccanica

Buy the DVD at The Video Beat