Video Vault: The World’s Fastest Indian

The World’s Fastest Indian
2005: Roger Donaldson
PG-13: 127 minutes
Vault Rating: 8

We’re talking to the gear-heads now. This week’s pick hit among the new releases is directed toward a very specific kind of gear-head.

A gear head is one of those guys who spends a lot of time in the shop. He’s got some sort of vehicle in there that he’s always messing with and when he’s not in his shop / shed / garage he wishes he was. And when he talks about that special machine, the gear head becomes rather animated. His eyes get wide and his voice picks up tempo and he begins to talk with his hands.

You know the type.

My brother John is a gear head. Has a rotting Hudson Hornet or two in the back yard he’s always wanted to get around to restoring. Somewhere along the way he became a Harley-Davidson guy. But he is in his element when he is in that space where he can hear an engine’s troubles and heal it by the laying on of hands.

If you are in that class of people this movie will really please you.

Today’s gear head is a very famous New Zealander who spent his life working on a very special motorcycle: the 1920 Indian. Burt Munro, played well enough by Anthony Hopkins, was a fanatic. Such was his mania that he didn’t even have a house. He lived in his shop, did no yard work to the consternation of fenced off neighbors, and thought only about speed.

Munro is seen fabricating his own pistons of odd alloys like a chef who cooks by feel instead of by recipe. His accomplice is the little boy from next door who loves the old man’s world but whose parents do not.

His dream is to one day travel to the Bonneville Salt Flats to really see how fast his Indian will go. But as a pensioner from down under, he hasn’t the money for the trip, which is a complication in our movie. So Munro tests his bike in mad dashes up New Zealand beaches and illegal runs on back roads.

We’ll give you this much: Munro gets to America in 1967. By then he was very old and his heart was failing, but he lived only to do this one thing.

The old timer’s ways provide a sort of “Crocodile Dundee” feel to this part of the movie as he deals with driving in Los Angeles, which is hard enough even for those of us who normally drive on the right side of the road. Other misadventures include a transvestite, a Native American and a lonely rancher lady on the range, all of which lead up to Munro’s historic trip to “Speed Week” at Bonneville in 1967.

Munro had dreamed his entire life of making it to Bonneville and it was holy ground to him. I feel the same way when I walk onto a soccer pitch. Others might feel that liberation when they make music, or do that special thing they were rightly born to do. The gear head of a specific sort might find a dried up lake bed to be his own way to heaven.

This movie plays just like a beautiful bike ride down to Cinnemahoning from the Quehanna Wild Area. There are surprising twists in the tree shaded road, a quiet brook running alongside, and good beer and good people at journey’s end. Anyone would appreciate that ride. And anyone would appreciate this movie.

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Also New This Week:

Dave Chappelle’s Block Party – Rated R – 103 mins – A mix of Dave Chappelle’s sketch comedy and musical interludes, inspired in part by the 1973 documentary Wattstax. Includes every known black megastar of today and stands up as a great concert movie moreso than a comedy film. It is also a riveting, bouncing revelation on the best rap music available today and a very good window into the vibrance of black culture. A must see. Vault Rating: 8

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – Rated R – 102 mins. – Action / Comedy – A murder mystery brings together a private eye, a struggling actress, and a thief masquerading as an actor. Stars Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer and owes a sideways kind of debt to Tarantino. Very well worth a look. Vault Rating: 7

The Pink Panther – 2006 – Comedy – Loosely based on the 1964 Peter Sellers original, where the detective must solve the murder of a famous soccer coach and find out who stole the infamous Pink Panther diamond. Stars Steve Martin, Kevin Kline and Beyonce Knowles.

16 Blocks – PG-13 – 105 mins. – Action/ Drama – An aging cop, Bruce Willis, is assigned the ordinary task of escorting a fast-talking witness, Mos Def, from police custody to a courthouse. While it looks like a reworking of “The Gauntlet,” it also looks like a safe bet, especially if you like Willis.

Other New Releases:

End of the Spear – 2006 – Drama – PG-13 – 108 mins. True story of five missionaries killed by a violent tribe in the jungles of Ecuador. The deaths cause a series of events that will change the lives of the missionaries’ families and of the Mincayani tribe as well.

Getting Played – 2005 – Comedy/Romance – PG-13 – 79 mins. Three beautiful women decide, on a bet, to select and seduce a total stranger. Stars Vivica A. Fox, Bill Bellamy, Carmen Electra. May be trite, but could I please volunteer to get played?

A Good Woman – 2004 – Drama/Comedy/Romance – PG – 93 mins. A seductress lures away the husband of a younger woman. Stars Helen Hunt and Scarlett Johansson.

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Hey! You’re welcome! And so are your comments. Drop us a line at and let us know what you’ve been watching. And until Burt Munro’s land speed record gets broken… Enjoy!

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