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  Riding High Beware Of Low Flying Motorcycles
Year: 1981
Director: Ross Cramer
Stars: Eddie Kidd, Irene Handl, Murray Salem, Marella Oppenheim, Bill Mitchell, Zoot Money, Paul Humpoletz, Lynda Bellingham, Daniel Peacock, Owen Whittaker, Claire Toeman, Ken Kitson, Vivienne McKone, Saiward Green, Peter Whitman, April Olrich, Patricia Hodge
Genre: Drama, ActionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dave Munday (Eddie Kidd) lives in a seaside town by the beach in a tiny house with his gran (Irene Handl), and feels he is in a dead end with no prospects to brighten his life. Only one thing makes him happy, and that's his motorcycle which he is very adept at riding, just as well when he's a dispatch rider zooming around the streets delivering documents and packages to local businesses. He has to put up with some uppity behaviour from his clients, such as this lady (Patricia Hodge) who is very short with him, then apologises for being bitchy - Dave observes he'd be bitchy too if he had to work in an office all day. Not for him the confines of the 9 to 5, his heart is set on making the most of his motorbiking, specifically in the sphere of stunts...

There was a time in British cinema for generally non-acting homegrown celebrities where the movie vehicle was part and parcel of the showbiz life, mostly if you were a singer in some capacity, but there were always those efforts which featured current celebs either in cameo roles, support or more rarely a starring part, and Riding High was one of the latter, showing up at the arse end of the nation's film industry that was the nineteen-eighties. By this point much of what audiences wanted to see, aside from the odd prestige production such as Chariots of Fire or Ghandi, was American product, great news for Hollywood as it meant they did not have to invest in British works as they had for some time since the fifties and sixties.

Still, there were a plucky few who tried to make waves in the domestic market, and Derek Ford, a survivor from the sex comedies of the seventies, attempted to find a fresh winning formula now his previous area of specialisation was falling away thanks to the burgeoning home video market. Thus he took the popular motorcycle stunt rider Eddie Kidd and plonked him down in a movie that was very much part of the tries at capturing the youth market at the time, from Quadrophenia (which was hit) to The Music Machine or That Summer! (which were less so). Take one wild-eyed loner standing at the gates of oblivion, or at least some young performer who could embody the spirit of wishing to escape the daily grind the audience could potentially identify with, and give him a struggle against the odds.

Kidd's struggles were well-publicised when in 1996 after a successful career, including doubling for James Bond in a couple of movies and countless stunt shows where he would perform daredevil leaps on his bike, he fell during a performance and in a freak accident managed to land himself in a coma. He did awake, but not at the cost of his mental faculties, so never rode stunts again and was landed with the extra humiliation of bankruptcy; he did turn to charity work and the affection the British public held him in meant everyone's heart went out to him, Britain's own Evel Knievel, only Eddie was somehow less brash and more palatable than the American. That difference informed the plot here, as Dave is pitted against Evel-esque rider Judas S. Chariot (voiceover man extraordinaire Bill Mitchell as an unlikely stuntman).

The director was Ross Cramer, whose main claim to fame was comedy short The Waterloo Bridge Handicap which was often trotted out as a filler between programmes on television. Here he penned a script based on Ford's outline where as often with sporting dramas the template of Rocky was used, so there was a lot of local colour, a spot of unpretentious comedy, training sequences (including one where Kidd is dressed exactly as Sylvester Stallone was when doing his Philly jog), though the romance element was rather neglected. He closest we got was one of the employees of Judas's over the top agent (Murray Salem), the oddly-named Zoro (Marella Oppeneheim doing an American accent rather than a Mexican one), who in a very Fordian shot is seen walking naked along the beach with an equally nude Eddie - from behind, as Cramer had an apparent liking for focusing on his characters' rear ends. The grand finale featured a showcase for Kidd as he leapt a disused viaduct, impressive, but it took a long time to get there, though the pop hit-packed soundtrack was a distraction (Eddie sang, too).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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