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"Wild Angels" was the first of the American International biker
pictures, which were a drive-in staple of the late 60's and early 70's.
Coming almost a generation after "The Wild Ones" these films were
enjoyed by anyone who enjoyed a beer-assisted drive-in fantasy about
being an outlaw biker for a few hours (they usually played as double
features). It was a big game of lets pretend.
And like "Wild In the Streets" much of the appeal was the fear and disgust these things elicited from parents; as they were the only ones who actually took any of the stuff seriously. Many a Peter Fonda poster from "Wild Angels" went up on bedroom walls as parents pondered where they had gone wrong.
The gang in "Wild Angels" did not wear Hells Angels colors, they were "Angels-San Pedro" although some Hells Angels from the Long Beach chapter actually appeared in the film. AI's biker films had very colorful titles and often mentioned Hell or Angels in the title: "Devils Angels", "The Born Losers", "The Savage Seven", "The Mini-Skirt Mob", "Angels from Hell", "Hells Angels 69", "Hells Belles", and "The Hard Ride".
"Wild Angels" was ground-breaking stuff when it was released and featured more Nazi stuff than the later films because once the surfers adopted the Iron Cross it was no longer cool. It broke the outrage meter with its finale as the funeral for The Loser (Bruce Dern) turned into a gang-bang of his widow (Diane Ladd), the destruction of the chapel, the assault of the minister, the abuse of the corpse, and a rumble with the outraged townspeople. And throw in some drug use.
Roger Corman's direction is his most active ever, and the editing by Monte Hellman keeps the pace moving along. You don't notice until it is over that very little actually happened. Fonda is super cool and Nancy Sinatra is unintentionally hilarious. Michael J. Pollard and Gayle Hunnicutt are instantly recognizable in supporting roles. Mike Curb's score is high-lighted by Davie Allan and the Arrows' hit "Blues' Theme."
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
Roger Corman shocked Hollywood and the world with his controversial
telling of the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Gang. But, in telling the
story, Corman depicts the generation gap of the 1960s and the feeling
of hopelessness by the youth of middle-America as the war in Viet-Nam
raged in the background.
Peter Fonda equals his role in Easy Rider. He plays Heavenly Blues the leader of the Angels. He plays it cold and emotionless-a true leader void of feeling, but hungry for power. Nancy Sinatra gives her finest performance as his devoted girl-friend, still clinging to the old fashion idea of Love, yet willing to do "anything" to keep her man. It's in casting Fonda and Sinatra in the lead roles that Corman gives his movie the impact it richly deserves. They represented the youth of the 1960's rebelling against their parents concepts of love, life, and morality. The supporting cast includes fine performances by Bruce Dern, Diane Ladd, Micheal J. Pollard, and Gayle Hunnicutt.
Corman has created a political film which demonstrates that even "Freedom" has its price.And just what price someone is willing to pay, is up to them. An outstanding film. 10 out of 10.
Roger Corman, the genius of low budget (no budget) exploitation filmmaking,
decided to pioneer the 60's biker genre by making this picture about the
Hell's angels. He spent time with writer Chuck Griffith hanging out with
Hell's angels, and hearing their stories. Then Corman hired the Angels,
along with Peter Fonda (his first succesful movie), Bruce Dern, Nancy
Sinatra (Daddy must have not liked this), and Diane Ladd, along with a few
others who knew how to deliver their lines when asked for.
The result is a decently entertaining picture (which most Corman films tend to be), but overall full of filler material that gets boring after a while (such as party sequences that go on for a very long time) as a substitute for character and story development (another Corman trademark as well). As the saying goes, "Good, quick, and cheap - pick two". This film, however, wasn't inexpensive according to Corman standards - it cost almost 1 million to make (and it raked in over 3 million in its first week alone, with many bikers rolling in to drive-in cinemas to see it).
For 1966, the content (people clad in swastikas, partying and drinking their lights out in a protestant church, women scantily clad in their underwear, passing the occasional joint, and 2 inexplicit rape sequences) was obviously a shocker. Today a film like this would have been ten times more disguisting and explicit, and the church scene would be milked for it's offensive potential (and it wouldn't be able to earn the profit this one did, given today's consolidated theater market).
The film's visual style is exciting, with some interesting camera movement and handheld camerawork, lending a documentary feel (complete with soft focus shots). The soundtrack does not feature any exciting 60's music, only the usual film score by a jazzy rock band. The performances are not as bad as the dialogue itself - if the judges at the Venice Film Festival spoke English, it is unlikely this film would have made it in. Peter Fonda does not come off as a great Hell's Angel, and his performance is on the stiff side (probably afraid of how his dad might react). However, this film - and Corman's next film, "The Trip" - inspired Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper to make Easy Rider (which Corman tried to help finance), a considerably better developed, more meaningful picture than this one - in all departments.
In Venice, California, the leader of Hell's Angels Heavenly Blues
(Peter Fonda) tells his friend Joe 'Loser' Kearns (Bruce Dern) that he
had located his stolen motorcycle in Mecca. While trying to retrieve
the bike, Loser is shot on the back by a police patrol end goes to the
hospital. After the surgery, Blues and the Hell's Angels take Loser
from the hospital and he dies. The troublemakers prepare his funeral at
Sequoia Groves with a wild party.
"The Wild Angels" is among the worst movies I have ever seen. This trash directed by Roger Corman is a dated mess with terrible performances, unlikable characters completely lost and a pointless screenplay. The bikers request the service of the preacher to destroy the church? Blues interrupts the preacher's speech to say shallow words but when the Hell's Angels are ready to bury Loser, he says no words to his best friend. The story has the only objective of shocking the audience with rapes, sacrilege and stupid and senseless violence. My vote is one (awful).
Title (Brazil): "Os Anjos Selvagens" ("The Wild Angels")
Roger Corman's modestly-budgeted biker flick for American International opens brilliantly, with evocative shots by cinematographer Richard Moore that promise a lot more than what Corman, screenwriter Charles Griffith, or the cast members can eventually deliver. Plot has Southern California biker gang enjoying rumbles, cycle jousts, hassling the Mexicans, and outrunning the local heat; but when Bruce Dern steals a police-bike and gets shot, gang "president" Peter Fonda hatches a plan to break him out of the hospital and thus keep him out of prison. Fairly raw and uncompromising, the picture looks terrific from start to finish, but the line-readings are sometimes so awkward that one wishes Corman could cut back on dialogue and just allow the visuals to tell the story. Sort of the older brother to "Easy Rider", "Angels" was eclipsed in popularity and relevance only a few years later, but it's fairly gripping and visceral overall, occasionally amusing, and features some fine actors in support (Diane Ladd, Gayle Hunnicutt, Michael J. Pollard, and Nancy Sinatra, whose hospital crying scene is a hoot). **1/2 from ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is arguably the quintessential exploitation film that doesn't rely on a
mainstream story to fulfill the audiences and instead gives a sordid and
narcissistic look at a wild gang of bikers. Story is about the leader of the
Venice Hell's Angels named Heavenly Blues (Peter Fonda) who tells his biker
pal Loser (Bruce Dern) that they might have found his stolen chopper in a
nearby town called Mecca. They and the other members go there and confront
the Mexican gang that are responsible and a big brawl erupts that brings the
cops but everyone runs off except Loser who steals a cops motorcycle. During
a chase on the highway Loser gets shot in the back and is caught by the
police who put him in a hospital in critical condition.
The Hell's Angels read about Loser in the paper and Blues decides to get him out with the help of his girlfriend Mike (Nancy Sinatra) and after they sneak him out they take him back to his girl Gaysh (Diane Ladd). Everyone watches Loser bleed to death and since the police are looking for them they decide to have a funeral in a small town where they won't be found but at the funeral the Hell's Angels assault the preacher and start a wild drunken orgy.
This was one of the last times that Roger Corman directed a film for a long time and it was because of the way that the distributor wanted to promote his film so after this he started his own company. This is so much more than an exploitation flick and Corman pulls no punches with this story as every character seems to lack any type of integrity. Fonda's character is the leader but he's such a brooder that most of the time he seems annoyed by everyone and that includes his girlfriend. The gang here is portrayed ruthlessly and during the funeral while Ladd is weeping over the body of Dern a few members grab her and rape her behind the coffin! Then when they're done they wave over some others so that they can have a chance. This gang has emblems such as iron crosses and swastikas adorned on them and they yell about just being left alone to do what they want and not be hassled by "The Man". Corman allows the film to end without any message as the characters are involved in another brawl and he doesn't want to showcase these bikers as lost youth or some such nonsense but instead chooses to make a film that will exploit them and also scare audiences. One of the interesting things about these films from the 1960's is to see what certain cities looked like back then such as Palm Springs and Venice with the canals before the condos were built. Other known actors have small roles such as Michael J. Pollard, Norman Alden, Frank Maxwell, and of course Dick Miller. In his own way Corman changed the way films were to be made and not just in an exploitation manner but with showing characters as anti-social and rebellious and omitting the usual message that they supposedly learn from. This probably sounds like a horrid film with nothing to say but I think it's fascinating to watch for the same reasons and in it's own disruptive way it captures a specific time in our country that was taking place.
it had been many years since,The Wild Ones had been made with Brando.Hollywood disdained biker movies,there for, good writers were not going to have their name linked to one.the actors in this made it on a lark.they went to party and have fun.they knew they wasn't making any sort of an epic.but in a way they did.people who went to see this didn't care about the script or story line.this was a movie made with people from their generation,and not the same Hollywood old guard.so in many ways this started a trend in Hollywood of making movies,for the young adults,that wasn't Frankie and Annete on the beach.I personally like this movie,and see it to just have fun,not to learn any thing.I know the story is b.s.but it's got bikes,babes, partying,and dudes acting like horse's asses,how can you go wrong?
I first saw this show in '66 when I was a cycle rider myself. I liked it so much that I went to see it twice. Even liked the music. After watching it again over 30 years later, I have to ask myself just what it was that I found so appealing about the film. It was corny, overacted, sometimes badly acted, and it had a juvenile storyline. I guess what I liked about it back then was all the motorcycles. Good to see that Peter Fonda has improved with age.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This Roger Corman's classic was the first movie to portray the biker
culture of Southern Calfornia in a modern way. Peter Fonda portrayed a
character that had refined good looks that never appeared in any biker
movies before. Together they revolutionized the image of bikers on a
The biker leader Heavenly Blues (Peter Fonda) thinks he knows where his biker pal Loser's stolen bike is located. The gang goes out to vandalize the place where they suspect the bike is being kept. Two motorcycle cops shows up to check on the suspicious activity. They see the cops approaching, and flees including Loser who steal one of the police officer's bike. The other officer pursues him, and when he catches up, shoots him in the back. In the process the officer mishandles his bike, and falls into the canyon. Loser gets apprehended few miles down the highway by a police road block.He gets taken in to the hospital but later that night the gang comes to smuggle him out. Loser is critically wounded and dies at home of a biker friend. The gang decides to drop the body at mortuary, and later takes Loser's corps to a church for wild funeral party, where they end up beating up the pastor. By now the police is on to them, and as they go to the cemetery to bury Loser's body, they hear the cop's siren approaching.
This film was like a prototype for the movie "The Easy Rider". If you take "Blues" (Peter Fonda) character from this movie, and have him appear as the same person only a year or so later in the Easy Rider, the transition won't look so unnatural. The two movies could have been done as part 1 and 2 of the same story. That's how similar the two movies are.
What's striking about this film is how good Peter Fonda looks as a Hells Angels biker. I'm sure that no one from that era could have done as good a job as him in his role.
Another thing that was cool about this film was the theme song that was composed by former MGM CEO Mike Curb in his heydays as rock composer (Mike Curb + Davie Allan and The Arrows). Sound track album for this movie contained many more good songs than what was featured on the film.
I remember this movie showing in 1966 at a movie theater called "Midway" on Queens Boulevard in New York.
Many of the actors who starred in this movie are still active today (Including its director, Roger Corman). Which shows Roger Corman had an eye for talent. This movie was was a cultural milestone, and without it, I doubt if the Easy Rider would have been born.
Country that can make a movie like this is a cool country. A country that was America. It's unfortunate that it is forgotten now as memory of the past era.
I love this movie. Although I can't see how the hell Peter Fonda was able to
get acting roles back then, guess it's because of his dad. He was good in
Easy Rider, but in this one and The Trip, what the hell was going on? I like
the soundtrack too, Davie Allan and the Arrows rock! The film has a good
story line and is thoroughly enjoyable. Bruce Dern is believable, though he
plays a corpse that is dragged around over half the film, still. I haven't
seen the DVD version, and don't want to.
Movies like this are best enjoyed when they come on rarely late at night
when likely no one will be watching. The same applies with:
Psych-Out, Savage Seven, The Trip, Hell's Angels on Wheels, Glory Stompers, Cycle Savages, Rebel Rousers, Wild in the Streets, Hell's Angels 69, Run Angel Run, etc.
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