As they motor off into the neon-lit night, their leader, Mad John can be heard shouting, ‘Hey, if the LSD don’t get us, then the cannabis will.’ It’s part joke, part bravado, a youthful two-fingers up to the world.
Made in 1973, this is a fascinating documentary, if at times funny through its overly sensationalist tone, on the Hells Angels Motor Cycle Club of England - ‘900ccs or over’. It follows the dozen-or-so members of the London Chapter, established in 1969, by a transatlantic decree from the Californian Hells Angels. The London Chapter is run by Mad John (who first appeared in court aged 12, and had 5 other convictions at the time this film was made), and his Sergeant-at-Arms, Karl (who considers himself a psychopath, and was once so violently assaulted his eyes were popped out from their sockets, and were replaced in cross-eyed).
We follow Mad John and Karl as they prepare to take a ride down to the coast. The film tellingly reveals John’s visit to his ex-partner who is unimpressed by the Angels and their juvenile antics. Unable or unwilling to talk to his wife or children, Mad John spends the visit collecting mail and playing with his Alsatian dog Hitler. John has an naive and unhealthy interest in Nazi’s, and towards the end of the film makes an odd analogy between Hitler’s vision for an Aryan Germany with his vision for a Universal Chapter of Hells Angels.
Inadvertent comedy comes from a Python-like interview with one of the Angels’ moms (‘He’s a nice boy, really’), and the Chapter’s failure to make it all the way down to the coast. Instead, they end up on a disused canal barge Katrina, where the Angels spend the night drinking, smoking and er…watching Doctor Who.