The Hard Road/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Review of The Hard Road
It all starts off with a gallery of newspaper headlines: A STUDY IN DESPAIR, ALARMING RISE OF VENEREAL DISEASE, THE DEADLY DRUG CASE, CHARGES IN GIRL'S DEATH, WHY DAUGHTER DIED, ARMY'S POT PROBLEM, THE VD EPIDEMIC, HAIR SPRAY 'KICKS' KILL PALO ALTO BOY, THE CAMPUS FEAR OF LSD, GLUE SNIFFER KILLED IN SHOOTOUT, DEFORMED BABIES OF DRUG USERS, and a few more announcing that yet again in true Exploitation style that there is trouble surrounding the youth of America. This time, it's the "Age of Aquarius" and we know what this meant for film producers in a time when things were getting wilder for the film industry; Exploitation a Go Go! While there were plenty of these films going around, this film is far more special than being the typical fare - Not only is there plenty of familiar faces from the California Skin Flick Exploitation scene to watch, but there's also talk about pregnancy and that winner of Road Show tactics, the VD show, thrown in with mentions of hard drugs and living in the low life; Areas that some other Exploitation films have touched on, but not with the style this film has.
Our case study is a California Hot One called Pam, who's already in trouble when we first see her - She's having a baby and putting it up for adoption, which in the Exploitation world must have been a relief since there have been enough Horrors of Abortion films through the years. Her family is the usual well-to-do-but-pathetic-inside case of a nagging mother and a father who is another case of "The Alcoholic Generation" that has ties with the entertainment industry enough to get their dropout kid a job working for a promoter. Everyone reading this will by now get the picture; Pam meets a Rock Star, goes to a party, gets introduced to drugs, has a one night stand, and loses herself in a Drug trip, but this film took a few extra steps beyond classics like Psych Out as it was the time that harder drugs were starting to come into the world of the Hippies. Pam meets up with a friend she met at a party who introduces her to the world of barbiturates, prostitution, and her Junkie boyfriend, and things go straight down the tubes from there including being introduced to Crystal Meth all the way to being ran down in an LSD haze.
The Hard Road is a classic that has plenty of inspired performances from everyone: Connie Nelson is great to watch as the lost Hippie Chick going down the road, Liz Renay is classic as the nagging mother looking like an inspiration for Deborah Harry's character in Hairspray, Gary Kent is great as the over worked promoter dealing with his star who just happens to have a magic mirror to check out his secretary in classic sleazeoid Hollywood style, and John Alderman gives an outstanding performance as the Junkie boyfriend who gets caught and is put into isolation after having fits in his cell. There are plenty of notable cameos, including Nudie Producer Jay Fineberg as a landlord, and Bruce Kimball from The Mighty Gorga, Love Camp 7, and Chain Gang Women as a warden.
This film captured a moment of a Post-'66 Sunset Strip scene that was going downhill with hard drugs, trying to add in some Roadshow flavor, and added some good dramatics from John Alderman for some extra Exploitation kick. The Hard Road was released in 1970, a few months after Manson and Altamont made the news, and while it is Exploitation, there is a feeling through some of the great performances in it had some viewers relating to what was happening. It's one of the best from an classic era in Grindhouse history and a final gem from the world of the Roadshow.
Reviewed by Screen13 - 3/11/08