Wednesday, August 19, 2015


"Mad dogs from hell !"

"Hunting down their prey with a quarter-ton of hot steel between their legs !"
(and its in Eastman Color !)

     In 1966 Roger Corman unleashed THE WILD ANGELS and kicked into high gear the biker genre (which could lay its roots back to 1953's THE WILD ONE) and dragged it kicking and screaming into the world of 60's radicalism, LSD and low budget drive-in movies featuring the requisite sex and violence. After THE WILD ANGELS success the the screens were flooded with dozens (if not hundreds) of independent and major film companies takes on scuzzy black leather bikers with Nazi regalia (along with their female counterparts) roaring down highways and terrifying middle class America. Its kinda amazing when watching THE WILD ANGELS today on how well scrubbed and nattily dressed Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra are as the leads
     Their cheapness to produce was another reason the biker film was a popular genre with independent filmmakers. Along with very minimal special effects usually needed you could make a deal with a local motorcycle shop for loan of some bikes, the desert locals which were popular with the genre was cheap and easy to film in since the need for permits could be avoided for the most part and for background extras a local cycle gang could probably be rounded up without to much trouble for the price of a few cases of beer.
    NAKED ANGELS was released in 1969 and although it has all the standard hallmarks of other low budget biker flick such as desolate desert highways and a garage rock based score (more on that later) it does feature some above average work by its leads, a neon filled Las Vegas sequence and some quirky editing that gives it an almost art house look (albeit a low budget grungy one) to it. Directed/written by Bruce D. Clark and co-written by Marc Siegler (who later  teamed-up for New World's GALAXY OF TERROR) it also features early screen credit for future ace cinematographer Dean Cundey (HALLOWEEN and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK) who's credited here as make-up artist - and most likely spent a little time behind the camera.

     Gang leader "Mother" (Michael Greene from TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A.) returns to his buddies after spending two months in the hospital from beating at the hands of a rival gang. Greeting his second in command "Fingers" (Richard Rush THE STUDENT NURSES) by engaging in drinking game where they spit mouthfuls of beer back into each others glasses and then announces his plan to head to Las Vegas to exact an ass kicking revenge on the rival gang which goes by the name of the Vegas Hotdoggers. He also lays claim to the strawberry blond foul mouthed Marlene (the wonderful Jennifer Gan from WOMEN IN CAGES - and who looks cool as hell here filling out her open stitched leather pants).
     Heading into Las Vegas Mother and company first stop by a topless bar and kick the crap out of a guy to get him to tell where the rival gang is located. Out and about in Vegas Mother picks up a pretty brunette and after getting her back to her place her gangster boyfriend shows up and chases him up on a roof before the police and his gang intercede. The Vegas sequences are beautifully shot and give a nostalgic view of a pre-theme park hotel Vegas on Fremont St. (you can even spot a movie theatre marquee advertising TORTURE GARDEN and THE COLLECTOR) with still shots interspersed in that whether by design or not gives the film a European art house type feel to it. The cinematography is by Robert Eberlen who strangely only has a few other obscure DP credits on his resume. There is some great use of the wide open desert spaces with the climatic stand-off on a barren salt flat composed particularly well, but to be honest the endless time killing driving through the desert gets a bit monotonous.


     As with most movies of this genre there's a bit of a misogynistic streak running through it with Mother's brutal sex with Marlene in barn the group has taken shelter in after fleeing Vegas and later offering her up to the gang as a punishment for defying him and being a bit too frre & easy when he was in the hospital. Mother's increasing erratic leadership (there's hints that perhaps his brain got scrambled as a result of the beating) leads to a mutiny by his gang as they refuse to follow him further into the barren desert in his quest for revenge. Heading off on his own Mother soon finds himself beset by thirst and lack of gas along with heat stroke induced hallucinations that have him and his acquaintances in a wild west setting complete with a saloon shoot-out.
    For a low budget biker film the acting is pretty darn good with Michael Greene's slowly going psychotic Mother character giving an intense and creepy stare down with a crazy gas station attendant at one point and in a perfect world the New York theatre trained Richard Rust would have been a bigger star (his speech to Mother upon the gangs mutiny is striking). Also in a bit of a twist, there's there's some actual tenderness shown in the burgeoning romance between Rust's Fingers and Gan's Marlene. With her wild mane of hair and iron cross festooned bare midriff blouse Jennifer Gan is wonderful here seeming to be having a ball with her role as she deliciously spews out out her dialogue. Along with her role in the Filipino WOMEN IN CAGES she also played a biker chick in The Monkees episode THE WILD MONKESS from 1967 and had small parts in IN LIKE FLINT and VALLEY OF THE DOLLS. Like Richard Rust (who passed away in 1994) she left us much too early at the age of 62 in 2000. Director Penelope Spears can be seen lurking about as one of the biker chicks.

    Being released in 1969 Corman was nominally attached to NAKED ANGELS as an unnamed associate producer as this was just a short time before he left A.I.P. to start New World and although not technicality  a "Roger Corman film" it did later became an unofficial part of the New World film catalog. Along with ANGELS DIE HARD (1970), BURY ME AN ANGEL (1971) and ANGELS HARD AS THEY COME (1971) this was rumored to be part of an "Angel" collection that was to be released by Shout Factory as part of their deal with New World. Sadly this fell by the wayside after their New World releases sputtered out and Shout later released NAKED ANGELS as a bare bones stand alone release from a full frame master.
    The terrific acid drenched fuzz guitar soundtrack (one of the best of its kind) is by Mothers of Invention bassist Jeff Simmons and was released by Frank Zappa's Straight label. NAKED ANGELS originally went out on the top of a double bill with Jack Hill's excellent b&w racing drama PIT STOP.



  1. I've not seen this one - but as with all such movies I certainly would given the chance. I wish that Angels collection had made it out of the planning stages - I love getting multiple movies in a reasonably priced collection.

  2. I really enjoyed this one. A lot of of line reviewers really slam it, but it its a cool little drive-in movie.