Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The World’s Fastest Indian


Not a Comanche, nor a Sioux, nor a Navajo, nor a person from Bombay, but an Indian motorsickle. This movie is just a terrific little hoot, based on the true story of Burt Munro, a crazy old Kiwi who went from New Zealand to the Bonneville Salt Flats with his 1920 Indian in the 1960s, intending to break the land speed record for his class. He makes his own pistons, he’s never heard of a fire suit or a drag chute … and doesn’t really understand why the officials in Utah want his machine to have brakes, for cryin’ out loud. He didn’t come to Utah to stop!

It reminded me very much of David Lynch’s little gem The Straight Story. An old guy gets it into his head to do something insane, and pulls it off. (I was going to put in a spoiler warning, but what’s the point? Roger Ebert pointed out in his review that this is not a movie about the second-fastest Indian.) But his amazing victory is only the cherry on top of this sundae. It’s the journey that is the story, and it takes its time. Burt proves irresistible to most of the folks he meets, and ends up reminding even the uptight officials of Bonneville Speed Week that, in the end, in spite of all their rules and regulations, what this meet is all about is a bunch of nuts climbing into death machines and just going as goddam fast as they can!!

Burt’s record from 1967 still stands. All hail to the crazy old farts of this world!