“It’s time to face the ghosts of the past”.
I don’t like the original Easy Rider very much, but I can appreciate how important it is in the history of cinema. Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda were key contributors to the 70s movement that produced directors and writers like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, William Friedkin and others. And even if I don’t like Easy Rider a whole lot, I respect it enough to be offended on behalf of Fonda and Hopper, by the monumentally terrible sequel, Easy Rider: The Ride Back.
In some excruciating voiceover, the movie opens with Morgan (Phil Pitzer) telling us about the death of his brother, Wyatt (Fonda in the original). Apparently on the day Wyatt was killed, the sky was blue and clear, “Just like on 9/11”. What does this movie have to do with September 11, 2001? Nothing. This random comment comes out of nowhere and disappears to the same place. It’s also a great representative of what this movie is a whole. Ill conceived, badly written, clunky, messy and all over the place.
In a mess of flashbacks, exposition and a never ending cast of characters (each with less dimension than the last) we eventually get a story about Morgan, his sister Shane (Sheree J Wilson), brother Virgil (Chris Engne) and his father Old Hickock (Newell Alexander). Morgan and his father haven’t spoken in decades, ever since Morgan burnt his draft card in defiance of his WWII veteran father. Shane convinces Morgan to head home for their father’s birthday to bury the hatchet.
Riding the iconic Captain America bike made famous by Fonda in the original Easy Rider, Morgan heads across country with his friend Wes Coast. That’s about all I can say for certain about what goes down in this movie, because it really does unravel fast. Confusing flashbacks try to give us back story and motivation for each character, but it all only works to confuse things even more. And there’s a new character introduced roughly every 16 seconds.
Easy Rider: The Ride Back is legitimately terrible. It’s badly written, badly acted, badly directed, badly shot and badly edited. But the story behind it is so fascinating that I had to see it. Phil Pitzer, co-writer and star, is some big shot, rich as shit lawyer. Through some weird loopholes, he somehow ended up owning the rights to the characters. So, as a lawyer with no movie experience, of course he chose to co-write and star. And the results are even worse than you’d expect.
This movie is the equivalent of digging up Dennis Hopper’s grave and pissing on the corpse. It’s not so bad it’s good, it’s just so bad, it’s worse. Apparently Pitzer has a third script in the works and refers to Easy Rider as a franchise. It’s kind of depressing knowing that a third movie is a possibility. What’s even more depressing is that if it does get made, I probably won’t be able to resist watching it. Because this is some real train wreck stuff.