Dirt Bike Armada (1988) by Adam Fox

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Dirt Bike Armada is a 1988 action comedy starring Alfie Schultz as Donny “Kickstand” Harris. The film was directed by Reginald Crowley (fresh off his Golden Globes-nominated miniseries, Another Blackout in Electric City) and features Lowell Armingham (Brain Lasers), Heather DeLaney (Operation: Vigilante U.S.A. II), Tim Conway (The Apple Dumpling Gang) as the mischievous Mr. Humbert, and Mr. T as himself.

The plot concerns twelve-year-old “Kickstand” Harris (Schultz), who is a self-proclaimed dirt bike champion, though he hasn’t mastered all the skills just yet. After several humiliating attempts to win Clover City’s monthly dirt bike tournament, the “Corduroy Challenge”, Kickstand decides that he needs a new Yamaha GT-X to effectively compete. He takes a summer job from a local store owner, Mr. Humbert (Conway), as a cold-hearted assassin, violently murdering several town officials and an elderly criminal-turned-informant awaiting trial.

Along the way, Kickstand develops romantic feelings for a girl two years his senior, Lily (DeLaney), and tries to gain her affection away from her jealous boyfriend, Chester (Armingham), who is also Kickstand’s biggest rival for the upcoming Corduroy Challenge. Fighting the impulse to use his assassin skills to solve his problem (knowing that a non-professional kill will damn his soul to Hell), Kickstand relies on his extensive memory of riddles and jokes to earn Lily’s interest, which infuriates Chester.

Seeking revenge, Chester steals Kickstand’s GT-X money out of his ceramic Mr. T bank. Once he realizes that he has been robbed, Kickstand asks Mr. Humbert for the use of his ancient amulet to peer into the souls of Clover City’s townspeople. Hiding in the bushes outside of the roller-skating rink that night, he spies on Lily and Chester and notices that Chester’s soul looks like a blood-soaked dagger, identifying him as the culprit. Kickstand then implores Mr. Humbert to grant him an armada of dirt bikes, promising to pay him back with the Corduroy Challenge prize money and five more assassinations.

With the dirt bike armada in his power, Kickstand uses the fleet (manned by the ghosts of dead teenagers) to terrorize Chester during the tournament. They run him off the road, throw sharp tacks in front of his tires, and shout troubling descriptions of the afterlife. Mr. Humbert activates his amulet to hypnotically inform the audience of Chester’s misdeeds and they somberly enjoy the wacky action with silent satisfaction. Kickstand wins the tournament and Mr. T himself presents the new champ with a trophy, prize money, and a lengthy speech about the history of bicycles (rumored to be improvised by Mr. T during filming).

After the ceremony, Mr. Humbert informs Kickstand that he is so proud of him that he can keep his prize money and there will be no more assassinations. However, he goes on to say that a by-product of controlling the dirt bike armada means that Kickstand can never physically love a woman. He also reveals that Lily and her parents have been banished to a mystical floating island over a lost sea. Mr. Humbert then vanishes into thin air and Kickstand screams to the heavens. Chester, still visibly shaken from the hideous visage of spirits from beyond the grave besting him during the Corduroy Challenge, concedes victory to Kickstand and they bitterly shake hands.

The film ends with a blooper reel of actor Tim Conway messing up many of his lines and shouting threats at the child stars.

Dirt Bike Armada was a financial powerhouse in the summer of 1988, grossing $48,000,000 at the domestic box office and an additional $3 million from foreign markets. Its soundtrack spawned several hit songs, including the ubiquitous “Boys Gotta Ride” by C.C. Cobalt. However, the film received mixed-to-poor reviews, with several critics later citing the film as the worst of the decade. Further damning the film’s legacy was Yamaha’s contractual insistence that the production use its infamously flawed “Gilded Throttle” series, resulting in many on-set accidents and derision from dirt bike aficionados.

A rumored sequel, entitled Tales from the Dirt Bike Freeway, was cancelled in October of 1988 due to a studio accountant absconding to rural New Mexico with the first film’s profits. Alfie Schultz quit show business the following year, famously lamenting, “I don’t like Mondays.”

 

Adam Fox

 

Header photograph: See page for author: File:USMC-08154.jpg [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/

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