CRUISIN’ HIGH / CAT MURKIL & THE SILKS (1976) Super fucking awesome mid-70s gang exploitation film.

cruisnhigh_usposter02>Theme Song:


“Slow Down baby” by Hollingsworth

Interesting Dated References: Boogie vans, everything that was good about movie-making in the 70s.

Best Line: Delivered by black pimp — “Lets get out of here, I feel like I’m at Disneyland.” Delivered by Cat, in reference to middle finger — “Well hey, why don’t you connect with this.”

Social Context: Well, the script for Cruisin’ High had a social message to be delivered, that’s for sure. Now whether or not it translated to the screen is debatable. The bottom line here is a story about youth gone wild and how gangs are the path to ultimate destruction for young men. Somewhere along the way the message got a little lost when the filmmakers realized they were making one of the best movies ever.

Summary: Right off the bat let me clear up one thing about the title/marketing of this film, it was initially released in 1976 under the title Cat Murkil & The Silks and marketed under the mid-70s wave of “teen gangs gone wild” films. I’m assuming, and common sense tells me, the title didn’t go over well. So it was re-released in 1979 as “Cruisin’ High” in order to catch the late-70s wave of the “gangs gone wild” genre films like The Warriors. Then, in 1985 it was rereleased as Cruisin’ High but with much more menacing artwork in order to cash in on various “teen gangs gone wild” films of the 80s like Class of 1984, and Tuff Turf. Now why is this relevant you ask? Well, anytime a movie is marketed three different ways under two different titles, there’s usually a problem. Sometimes it means the movie is really ahead of its time and good; most of the time it just means it’s shitty.

For the record I will forget all the preconceptions about the name and art changes and focus on the movie. Things start off great with a blonde-haired surfer type tagging up a wall with “Eddie the Cat.” I assume he is the Cat from the title:

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His friends pull up and invite him to go “cruising.” Then it happens: A fucking awesome scene with tons of chicks and dudes cruising each other in fucking awesome 70s cars. In fact, whoever can identify this car/van is my hero:

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It’s like a compressed boogie van type thing. Almost like a dune buggy with a miniature van frame on it. So we follow the guys as they steal car radios, beer, chips, and cigarettes, and go to their flophouse for a “party.” When they get there, there’s a bunch of people sitting in the room just waiting for them to arrive with the chips and beer. The guys proceed to party down and gang member Punch gets laid. It is made obvious that Punch and Cat are having a power struggle about who leads the gang. As the guys leave the party, another unnamed gang pull along side and shoot at them, causing them to crash. When Cat comes to, he sees the other guys are knocked out, but Punch is struggling to get up. Cat draws his gun and, seeing his chance to take lead of the gang, shoots Punch.

That’s some pretty heavy stuff and is made all the more confusing when the next scene is Cat driving with his mom pouting about the cops. The guys from The Silks go to Punch’s funeral, then have a brief struggle about who will lead the gang and how they are going to get revenge on the other gang. Revenge comes in the form of two of the skinniest gang members sneaking into the high school and stabbing the rival gang leader during showers. Now that seems a little messy, but whatever.

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From top to bottom: Gang leader who is built and looks like he’s a football player, and below that are killers #1 and #2 who look like they are 14 years old. Yes, the 70s porno muscle guy is easily shanked by the two 90 lb. 14-year-old boys. Half the guys in the shower look at least 30!

Now we’re back in a classroom and these kids are sneaking a cigarette in the back of class and passing it around. More scenes around the high school include The Silks intimidating cops, chasing off “jive ass dope pushers,” talking openly about their shower shanking, and intimidating teachers into marking them present. Hardcore. As things begin to look up for the gang, they are visited by the cast of a blaxploitation movie to argue about turf. That ends peacefully, but is pretty disorienting since it’s a bunch of skinny white boys intimidating the cast of Shaft.

Eventually there is a party and the rival Hispanic gang comes a calling to avenge their dead leader. When the leader challenges Cat to a knife fight, he runs away and ditches the rival gang by running out a door and ducking into “the dark.” Cat is then rejected from the gang and tries to shack up with his brother’s wife. Oh, his brother is about to get released from jail. Unfortunately it seems the wife has moved on and gotten a new boyfriend. So Cat goes after the new boyfriend, ties him up and shoots the girlfriend in or around her vagina. Then the cops are hip to Cat, so he pays a visit to his former gang and throws a fit. In the middle of his fit, he kicks out a milk crate from the makeshift “coffee table.” The table was made out of two milk crates and a plywood board. This causes the “coffee table” to be ruined, and intimidates the other guys a lot and they recognize him as the leader again. By this point his brother has figured out that Cat killed his wife and her adulterer and he chases Cat down and tells him to “get out of town or he will kill him,” or something to that affect.

Are you getting all this, I mean really? Cat takes the guys to the loading docks to steal TV sets, which are in large boxes marked “T.V. Set.” In the middle of this heist, the Hispanic gang shows up and a large fight begins. Then the cops show up and all hell breaks loose. Somewhere in here another member of The Silks, named “Bumps,” shoots Cat in the same way Cat did when he took control of the gang. The movie closes with The Silks at Cat’s funeral.

According to the internet, the actor that played Cat (David Kyle Foster) went on to become a missionary and religious speaker. His website is located here. In his bio he admits to being an actor and male prostitute. Also of note to readers is the fact that they specialize in the healing of “sexual brokeness.” I would love to talk to David, but I respect what he’s doing now and he probably doesn’t want to tell hilarious anecdotes about Crusin’ High. Wow, and I just realized he was one of the first people killed in Halloween.

Poster and Box Art
First of all, the amount of titles and art variances on this one movie is making it impossible to approach this in a reasonable manner. The original poster looks like one from the wave of early 60s “teen gangs gone wild” films. Considering it was 1976, this seems a little dated, especially with the lack of full-color graphics. When the movie was rereleased in 1979 as Cruisin’ High we got this gem:

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Ridiculous, right? I mean, how great is that? The illustration captures the silly yet sincere nature of the film without coming off like a poster for Grease. Like I said above, the Beta/VHS boxes come in a variety of formats:

cruisnhigh_box04The cover version I have features a much more “post apocalyptic” vibe since it is the 1985 “rebranding.”

Availability: A great injustice is being done to society with the absence of this film from circulation. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to track down VHS versions of either title: Cruisin High or Cat Murkil & The Silks. Go buy them now before I buy all of them as backup copies.