A real winner as a character study and as a whimsical, lighthearted drama with a tinge of adventure running through its veins, Fast Charlie … and the Moonbeam Rider is a lovely little movie that is as predictable as any other underdog movie, and if you’ve ever seen the BMX bike racing movie Rad from 1986, you’ll realize that that movie is a virtual remake of this one.
A World War I veteran enters a motorcycle riding championship as a dark horse and recruits his old war buddies – and a single mother and her kid – to help him win.
After World War I, disgraced veteran Charlie (David Carradine, quite charming) has become a vagabond small-time conman on his motorcycle, going from town to town swindling five-dollar bills from local yokels who think they’re helping him out, but are actually funding his meager existence. When he gets wind of a big motorcycle race that goes from St. Louis to San Francisco, he tracks down his old war buddies (who hate him for abandoning them on the battlefield) to help him as his pit crew once he enters the tournament. His buddies include a one-legged former racer named Flloyd (L.Q. Jones), Al (R.G. Armstrong), and the halfwit scoundrel Lester (Terry Kiser), and when he tries swindling the wrong woman in a small town, the woman – a single mother named Grace (Brenda Vaccaro) – ends up swindling him instead and gets ownership of his precious motorcycle. Instead of letting her walk away with his bike, Charlie makes a deal with her to accompany him to St. Louis with the motorcycle so that he can enter the race, but he has to become partners with her, which makes her vestige in his enterprise quite binding. Included in the package is her young son, who gets in the way, but having no choice, Charlie brings them and his buddies to St. Louis where he’ll be racing up against a handful of “name brand” racers who are sure to win with their fancy sponsors and souped up bikes, but what no one ever counted on was for Charlie and his Moonbeam Rider to be a formidable competitor.
A real winner as a character study and as a whimsical, lighthearted drama with a tinge of adventure running through its veins, Fast Charlie … and the Moonbeam Rider is a lovely little movie that is as predictable as any other underdog movie, and if you’ve ever seen the BMX bike racing movie Rad from 1986, you’ll realize that that movie is a virtual remake of this one. Producer Roger Corman and director Steve Carver give the movie some real production value and regional flavor with great casting, camerawork, and a great little score by Stu Phillips. Carradine is great, as are his co-stars, and I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this movie.
Kino Lorber is about to release Fast Charlie onto Blu-ray, and it comes in a new 2K transfer, plus a new audio commentary by film historian Eddy Von Mueller, plus the trailer.