JD’s Biker Movie Reviews, Vol 7: The World’s Fastest Indian

By jdugger on

JD’s Biker Movie Reviews: VOL  7.


By: Jim Dugger


Well it’s that time of year, when that jolly fat man rides in, reeks havoc in our lives and then rides out leaving us even further in debt. MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!!!!! So this month I’m leaving my perverse and demented love for B-exploitation flicks under the Christmas tree. I do however have a gift in my saddlebags, and it’s this magical movie “The Worlds Fastest Indian”.  Now I know what you’re thinking and no it has nothing to with a New Delhi track star or an apache warrior chasing a buffalo on foot. This is the very true story of a man, his motorcycle and his dream. Herbert James “Burt” Munro was born in 1899 in Invercargill, New Zealand and would eventually break the land speed record on his 1920 Indian Scout. Burt spent many years customizing and modifying his bike to go faster and faster.

This movie was directed by Roger Donaldson, who is also credited with other movies such as; Cocktail, Dante’s Peak and Species. Roger was a personal friend of Burt Munro and in 1971 he directed a documentary entitled “Offerings to the God of Speed”. (The documentary is very interesting on its own) Anthony Hopkins plays Burt and to me gives his best performance since Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs. It also stars a young Aaron Murphy as (Tom) the boy next door who is befriended by Burt. Diane Ladd plays (Ada) an American widow who falls for Burt. Paul Rodriquez plays (Fernando) a used car salesman who helps Burt. Chris Lawford- son of famous actor Peter Lawford-plays (Jim Moffit) a top American driver who was instrumental in Burt’s record-breaking run. There is also a long line of notable actors who make up the wide range of characters Burt meets on his journey. The film had a budget of 25 million and is still the highest grossing local New Zealand film opening with $ 7,043,000 and over $ 18,297,690 worldwide. At the time there was a lot of buzz about Hopkins’s performance being Oscar worthy but because of the small production company, and maybe the somewhat confusing title and the release of the gay cowboy thriller “Broke Back Mountain”, the buzz kind of fell by the wayside.

worldsfastestindian3Our story starts with Burt in his home town up early in the morning revving his bike and pissing off his neighbors. He is a kooky old man with a single dream, to go to speed week in Bonneville, Utah and run on the salt flats. He has been building his own parts and modifying his 1920 v-twin Indian scout for 25 years. The townspeople are throwing him a fund raiser / party to raise money to go to the states and follow his dream. The local motorcycle gang shows up and challenges him to a race. He accepts and races only to wreak and lose. He has a heart attack and is told he’ll never ride again and he has to slow down.


Next, Burt mortgages his property and books passage on a cargo ship. On his way to the docks the motorcycle gang stops and gives him back the race winnings. (From this point forward you can’t help but root for Burt) It’s a road trip movie about the trials and tribulations to achieve his dream.  This lovable, naive, bumbling, fish out water meets a vast array of characters on this 1960s trip from L.A. to Utah. There are the custom agents.  He meets a taxi driver who rips him off.  He meets a transvestite motel clerk who takes a shine to Burt. He buys a used car and the dealer helps him build a trailer to haul his bike. On his way his trailer breaks down and he meets Jake (the Indian) who helps him with his trailer and Burt’s prostate problem. They can’t get his trailer fixed so he pushes on and stops at the first farmhouse he comes to. He meets the widow Ada and she helps him fix his trailer and takes a shine to Burt and he ends up spending the night. He picks up an air force pilot on leave from Vietnam and takes him to the salt flats. Once there he is told he was supposed to register months in advance and since he didn’t he can’t run. He is also told that he is too old and his bike is too unsafe to run. He’s befriended by a top American driver (Jim Moffit) and with his help Burt is allowed to run. You can guess the outcome and as they say, the rest is history. THE END!

worldsfastestindian2I left out much of the details for your viewing pleasure. There is a story with every character Burt meets. I really enjoyed this movie a lot. It’s a very well done, feel good movie. Very enjoyable and inspiring film about dreams, taking chances and living life to its fullest. The acting was outstanding. The cinematography is very good. The editing is done well and locations are beautiful. The speed shots are done extremely well.  There isn’t much I didn’t like about this movie, but for having the word fastest in the title it does move a little a slow in the middle, but it holds your interest all the way through. Burt Munro was a folk hero and legend in his native New Zealand. He had no money or no professional training, only a dream and his motorsickle. (As he would call it) Burt went to Bonneville 10 times in his life, the movie focuses on just this one trip where Burt broke the record. He set the world record for a bike under 1000cc at a speed of 205.67 mph the fastest recorded speed of an Indian motorcycle. His record and legend remain till this day. That was august 26, 1967 he was 68 years old and was riding his 47 year old Indian scout.

worldsfastestindian5What I took away from the movie and recommend that you do as well, is, live your life to the fullest and keep chasing your dreams , no matter how long it takes to achieve them. I highly recommended this movie for anybody and would make a fantastic stocking stuffer. The DVD also has the 1971 documentary on it.  I put the image of the movie poster to the left there…click it and and buy it for the movie aficionado on your Christmas list.  It’s a touching ride well worth taking. The movie is 127 minutes long.  So grab your loved one or the whole family, some eggnog, sit back and enjoy the ride. This one’s proof “It’s the journey not destination”.

It’s that time of the year when we all run ourselves almost to death and have a tendency to imbibe in the adult beverages. We all notice a larger police presence and road blocks come up with great regularity. I’d like to share a personal experience about drinking and driving. A couple nights ago there was a big toy run/bike night with a huge after party.  By the end of the night and knowing full well I was over the legal limit, I did something I haven’t ever done before. I took a cab home.

Sure enough, I passed a police road block but, since it was a cab, they waved it past. I arrived home without incident, which was a real surprise for I have never driven a cab before and am not sure where I got it or what to do with it now it’s taking all the room in my garage. HA HA. Seriously enjoy Christmas responsibly. Be careful. MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

Till Next Year,


Jim Dugger




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