WHEELS OF FIRE (1984) Everything you would hope to find in a C-grade Mad Max rip-off.

wheelsoffire_usbetaboxTheme Song: No.

Interesting Dated References: The scarcity of water. The world after the apocalypse via the 1980s via the Philippines.

Best Line: “Emerging nations, my ass.”

Social Context: I’m not even going to dignify this with a serious response. I bet the writers were thinking they were making some type of statement about oil and gas and countries getting along, but they messed it up.

Summary: Plain and simple, Wheels of Fire is everything (yes everything), which you would hope to find in a C-grade Mad Max rip-off. Now keep in mind that’s not a quality you want to strive for. Ambition and failure share such screen time that the movie stands as a culmination of what it was like to live in the 80s.

The movie begins in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Judging by the women, the only clothes that survived the apocalypse were baggy sweatpants in pastel colors. There are a bunch of tents set up to give us the feel of a friendly base camp. Whatever it is, there are spray-painted refrigerators, hubcaps, tarps, and sticks all over the place. Our hero rolls up in his car that apparently has a jet engine in the trunk.

All it seems to do is make him wince a lot. The hero is named Trace and he is fearlessly played by Gary Watkins whom you might remember from Johnny Dangerously. Trace meets up with his sister Arlie and her posse who are cleverly called The Nomads. Arlie is played by Playboy Playmate Lynda Wiesmeier (36-22-36) who, despite no real distinguishing looks or acting ability, was able to parlay her breasts into moderate screen success in classic Betamax fare like Joysticks, Private School, R.S.V.P., and Avenging Angel, all of which I know I have on Betamax. I also see she was in Teen Wolf, but I can’t recall who she was because I was too fixated on what Boof.

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The tough leader of The Nomads gets all puffy-chested when he sees Arlie hug her brother Trace. Then he realizes it’s her brother and he gets all charming. The boyfriend/leader then goes into a ring to fight for car keys against a dude who looks like 70s-era Burt Reynolds.

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They are fighting with standard electrical piping. Trace and everyone looks on excitedly and the scene lasts forever. I guess this is similar to “racing for pinks” like they do in 2 Fast 2 Furious. So the boyfriend loses fair and square, yet Trace involves himself in the fight and challenges Burt Reynolds. Then another metal electrical piping fight ensues.

Then there’s a Benny Hill-esque chase sequence! Trace jumps in his car and his sister and her boyfriend get in their car. They are chased by a bunch of bad guys. Everyone is driving some type of beat up Charger or Trans Am with a bike rack and a gun mounted to the front and/or sides. Some even have metal spikes. And yes, whenever a car crashes it immediately explodes. After they lose the bad guys, Trace and Arlie meet back up.

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Arlie is wearing some type of leather outfit that kind of looks like it’s made out of the top half of mom pants, but leather instead of stone-washed denim. They realize they are still being followed by, get this, “Scourge,” who is either a single guy or an entire gang. The two decide to once again split up and Trace gives Arlie’s boyfriend some serious grief.

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These bad guys mean serious business. Their gang includes such things as: The Car with Really Clean Animal Pelts on It, and The Motorcycle with Pitchforks on The Front. They go after Trace and are all immediately set on fire by his Flame Gun™. The gun seems to be having a little trouble with the desert gusts of wind, but it looks like the movie crew just kept filming. Trace abandons his car-mounted Flame Gun™ and runs to some type of abandoned silo. He climbs to the top and then the bad guys sneak close and throw a grenade into it. Somehow Trace jumps from the silo and is then behind the bad guys, even though they are still clearly 10 feet from the silo. Then he runs to his car, drives up behind them while they are still all facing the silo, and he shoots them with the Flame Gun™. Not one of them even heard the car approaching. The main leader bad guy is standing back on a hill watching and he acts surprised when the car burns them! Like he didn’t see it approaching, or see Trace jumping from the silo.

Meanwhile Arlie and her boyfriend are fooling around on some dirty gravel. They didn’t even put a blanket down, so you know it must be post-apocalypse. They are then cornered and surrounded by the other gang, possibly named Scourge, and of course they waste no time ripping Arlie’s shirt open.

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Then they strap her to the hood of the car and drive around with her bosom exposed. The boyfriend begs to join their gang, so they start to try to rape him (yes), then grow tired and decide it would be better just to drag him around off the back of a truck. Then Trace shows up, kills everyone, and goes after his sister whom in the next scene is still attached to a car with her boobs flopping all over the place.

Okay, now things get really tricky. Trace runs into another blonde chick who is being attacked by the bad guys. There are bad guys on dirt bikes falling in sand all over the place in an effort to act like they got shot. Half of the wipeouts are unintentional because of the huge fucking sand drifts they are driving through, and other guys are just clearly jumping off their bikes. After all the bad guys are dead, Trace meets the new lady-warrior who is named Stinger. Next up we see some old grandpa and his daughter being chased by the bad guys. The old man is shot and the daughter escapes. Later that night, Trace tries to get laid, but Stinger refuses his advances. She walks off and is captured by “sand people.” These sand people are short dudes wearing white wigs. They bring her to their cave and throw her in a cage where as luck would have it, the daughter chick is also being held captive. In the morning Stinger sends her pet hawk to let Trace know what has happened. Back at bad-guy camp, Arlie is still tied up with her giant boobs swinging all over the place.

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The film crew even took steps to carefully light her boobs from below. The must have used “can lighting.” She gets thrown around and raped by the bad guy leader whom I think is named Scourge.

Elsewhere, Trace stumbles upon the sand people who actually just look like a bunch of guys from a cock-rock band. So yeah, the sand people are easily defeated and Trace and his posse escape only to stumble upon yet another roadside attack. This time it’s some army type organization that was just attacked by the Scourge bad guys. The only survivor is a Filipino midget who Trace rescues.

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The midget, whose name is Mud, explains to the daughter chick that he was trying to do escape or something. They take him to some friendly “True Believer” camp where once again almost everyone is wearing baggy sweat pants.

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The logo for the army that was helping the True Believers is a giant orange anus, as represented by the guy wearing the yellow leather vest thing. Some guy who looks like David Cross comes out and explains that at the True Believer camp everything is positive and they are trying to build a rocket ship. It’s some type of hippie cult. You’d think Trace would be a little more concerned about his sister and the gang-bangers (no pun intended) holding her hostage. But no, he just has all the time in the world to sit around and chat with the army dudes and the True Believer people.

Back at bad-guy camp we hear they are going to attack the True Believer camp. So then Arlie gets thrown around with her boobs hanging out some more. Trace and Stinger get into some kind of political argument and then he decides to “ravage her body,” which she apparently enjoys.

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As they “make love” we are treated to some type of violin-y thing with a cloud-sky backdrop as the image of the two fooling around is superimposed. Special effects, indeed. Trace decides to leave the True Believer camp, who are then promptly attacked by Scourge and his bad guys.

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There’s like 85 explosions and they blow up David Cross’ rocket, then kill all the army dudes and a bunch of the True Believers. Stinger’s hawk goes and gets Trace and he returns to camp after Scourge has already retreated. Yes, the daughter chick and Stinger survive. Everyone decides they should attack Scourge at their home base. Trace goes off and finds some cave where all the Scourge bad guys are feasting. He watches his sister Arlie try to ingratiate herself to get some food. This is where the dialogue and acting really shine:

Trace gets captured and those army dudes man-up and get ready to attack. Scourge (the guy) gives a speech about “the die being cast” to Scourge (the gang).

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Let’s not forget he has a painted-on widow’s peak and is wearing football equipment. The army dudes attack and there’s a full-scale war (considering the budget). There’s 80-billion explosions, Arlie dies, Stinger dies, but not before giving some lame speech to the daughter chick (who I actually think they keep calling Spike), Trace has another car chase with the main bad guy and kills him, and then the good guys win. Then Trace drives off into the sunset because he can’t have anyone tying him down.

Oh, and one more extra special nerd alert: There is an actor in this movie named Dennis Cole who plays the character “Harlan” that I don’t recall seeing during my extensive review. His son (in real life not in La La Land) was Joe Cole, famous roadie and murdered friend of Henry Rollins. Again, not knowledge everyone cares about, but never let it be said I’m not doing my homework.

Poster and Box Art: Wheels of Fire was released in a million different countries and as a result has like 20 different posters, all basically featuring the same thing. It’s classic 80s action movie poster stuffThere’s a few interesting things to note about the U.S. Betamax cover:

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First off, my dad posed for some of the box art. He’s never mentioned this and I’ve never talked to him about it, but I’m certain it’s him.

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Second, this angry mob is actually pretty cool and I just wanted to make sure they got some screen time.

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Lastly, of note here is a car not featured in a movie doing things not seen in the movie, and more importantly, the artists signature. That takes guts. The art either looks like that, or it looks like some variation on this:

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I’m not going to post the 20 different variations on these two designs. Note the interesting play on the “We Don’t Need Another Hero” song from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome by making the tagline say “This is one hero we do need.”

Availability: This has aired a lot on MGMHD (yes in HD). I don’t see it on DVD anywhere though. Used VHS as always.

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