Plot: Jay (Ben Murphy) is an American in Australia and he is loving the local sand, sun, and of course, women. As he was an Olympic level swimmer, he loves to be in the water and he has been able to surf to his heart’s content, on Australia’s numerous, beautiful beaches. His skills in the surf attract the attention of Lynn (Wendy Hughes), who is impressed by his balance and has an idea, though it will require Jay to leave the surf behind, at least for now. She introduces him to Dave (John Clayton), a thrill seeker who races sidecars, a dangerous sport that requires a partner with excellent balance, hence Jay’s presence. This leads to a crash course in the wild, high stakes sport, as well as a love triangle that begins between the trio. How will these three work out their situation, both on and off the track?
Entertainment Value: This is a breakneck slice of Ozploitation, with fast motors, wild races, and a rough and tumble love triangle, all with a hard edged, politically incorrect 70s texture. The story is interesting and while we’ve seen friendly rivals clashing over a woman before, Sidecar Racers doesn’t approach the premise like a romantic comedy, not in the least. There is some humor at times, but also a lot of rough, rugged moments that will likely remind viewers of how much has changed socially, so it is dated from some perspectives. But the movie is a product of its time, like most are, so no, it isn’t always brisk and respectful in how it handles some situations. What helps this one stand out from other movies that center on motor sports is how intimate and in the moment the scenes are filmed. The races are up close and personal, putting us right in the action and that gives those scenes more kick than usual. Imagine Mad Max’s vehicle sequences, that kind of intense, kinetic presence, but with a crowded field of sidecar racers with little room to evade and advance. I was always entertained with Sidecar Racers, so I think it more than earns a solid recommendation.
I do think the on track action tends to steal the show here, but the cast is good too and overall, the performances are natural and believable. That is one element that works well here, you can see these characters as real people because they come off as quite authentic. This pays off not just with solid acting, but also in the general atmosphere, helping Sidecar Racers feel grounded throughout. I can totally see most of these folks deep in the trenches of the race world, so the combination of characters and actors is quite a nice match here. Wendy Hughes has likely the best turn here and she exudes a real charming persona, so it is easy to see how our other leads would scramble for her attention. She brings a light, charismatic touch to an otherwise tough and rough vibe here. John Clayton brings a big personality to his role and has the required arrogance, while Ben Murphy is more understated, but watching the two banter and jockey to one up each other is fun. The cast also includes Arna-Marie Winchester and in a small, but memorable role, Peter Graves.