Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Wild Angels

Excellent long review of the Roger Corman boxed set over on Cinema Retro. In a few cases the reviewp iece is better than the films it covers. My favorites of the films are The Man With X-Ray Eyes and Bloody Mama, the latter more for the movie poster than the film. I mean how can you go wrong with an image of a plump Shelly Winters in a fedora, a cigar jammed into the corner of her mouth, and wielding a tommy-gun? http://www.cinemaretro.com/index.php

But the most interesting review is of Wild Angels, a movie I remember catching at a drive in the days of acid, crash pads and long discussions about what we'd do when we came to power in Washington, "we" being all the stoners in the room.

This was also the time when people such as Leonard Bernstein had to prove their hipness by inviting the Black Panthers to dinner parties. To me the Panthers were a mixed bag. I believe they were murdered in cold blood by Chicago police but I also believe they were generally as racist, intolerant and violent as the Klan even though, I realize, that their formation was a reaction to two centuries of slavery.

But it was a time of tourists, and there was no better emblem of that than Jagger and Richards hiring the Hells Angels to police Altamont. I'm a Stones fans (I always preferred them to the Beatles) but security geniuses they ain't. Their naivete got an innocent young man murdered.

I mention this because one of the films covered in the Cinema Retro piece is The Wild Angels with Peter Fonda, a film about those good old trustworthy honorable fascinating guys that cultural toursists briefly found just peachy.

No matter how stoned, drunk, sexually gratified you were in the course of this drive in flick nothing could lessen the impact of its brutality. This picture broke the contract movie makers have with movie goers. These are people you don't merely dislike. These are people you want to murder. And take your time doing it.

Here's a long paragraph from the review:

"Corman doesn't sugar-coat the gang lifestyle. The self-centeredness, lack of intellect and abscence of loyalty among the members is presented in a forthright manner. The person who is your friend one minute, mocks your tragic circumstances the next. Women are passed around like beer bottles to be used at will by the barbaric male members of the gang. Corman's emphasis on making the gang appear realistic also leads to an inevitable problem: there are no heroes in the film. In fact, there isn't a soul with a single redeemable attribute. Whether Corman sought to make these characters sympathetic seems doubtful. Rather, he seems to have simply been utlizing the Corman touch for exploiting a subject matter in a timely way. The film is primarily interesting because of its cast. Peter Fonda went from being a drab second-rate actor to a pop culture icon with this film and posters of him astride his chopper still adorn head shops today. Nancy Sinatra is largely wasted in a underdeveloped role that could have been played by any actress. Yet, Corman well knew the exploitation value of casting this popular singer. The supporting characters include Corman favorite Bruce Dern and his (then) real life wife Diane Ladd and in minor roles Michael J. Pollard and Gayle Hunnicutt. Members of the actual Hell's Angel's Venice, California chapter also appeared as bikers.Interestingly, Peter Bogdanovich worked on the film in several capacities without screen credit. The film boasts a hallmark of many Corman productions: stunning cinematography that belies the relatively low budget. The film remains a distasteful experience largely because the scum bums depicted onscreen don't confine their assaults to law enforcement officers. They gang rape a grieving widow from their own group- at the same funeral service in which they relentlessly beat and humiliate a preacher. A nurse who tries to care for a wounded gang member is sexually assaulted and the group sports Nazi flags on everything from clothing to caskets."

1 comment:

Bruce said...

I first heard of this movie due to a record* sampling that great Peter Fonda speech. We want to be free to do what we want to do and we want to get loaded man.

Great biker movie but thats not saying a lot when you have competition like Hell's Belles



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