JD’s Biker Movie Reviews:VOL. 3
“ THE WILD ANGELS “
By: Jim Dugger
This month’s cinematic jewel is the “ The Wild Angels”. Released in 1966 and was billed as “the most terrifying movie of our time”. The movie was also known by the name “All The Fallen Angels”. Their credo is violence; their God is hate . I’m not exactly sure what that means but they live up to it in this film. Roger Corman who made dozens of “ B “ movies (Attack of the Crab Monster, A Bucket of Blood and Bloody Mama to name a few) and writer Chuck Griffin spent time hanging out with the Venice chapter of the Hell’s Angels. They partied and listened to some of their stories as part of their research. Corman even hired some of the club members to be extra’s and lend some authenticity to the movie. After it was finished and somewhat successful, the Hell’s Angels sued him for defamation of character and even threatened his life.
This flick almost single-handedly started the trend of outlaw biker films. This one contains every aspect of the biker exploitation film we’ve grown to love or hate and then some. Nihilistic, crude thugs riding around on there bikes causing trouble, docile women following them around no matter what, fighting, confrontations with the “ MAN” and wild parties with sex, drugs and alcohol. This is a good, old school biker drive-in trash film that’s best described as Confused Madness. Check out the original trailer:
This one has several stars in it. Peter Fonda plays “Heavenly Blues” the leader of the angels (not the sort of name that strikes fear in rival gang members). Nancy Sinatra plays Blue’s old lady “ Mike”, Bruce Dern plays Joe Kern AKA “the Loser” and Dianne Ladd plays Loser’s old lady “Gaysh”). Here’s a small tid-bit, Dern and Ladd were married at the time of filming and actress Laura Dern was conceived during filming.
Our story starts out with a little boy riding his tricycle down the sidewalk and is almost run over by Blue’s. (Not sure why Blue’s was riding down the sidewalk in the first place). He rides out to the oil fields to tell the Loser he has found his stolen chopper. Loser’s foreman gives Blue’s grief about his Iron Cross and Swastika patches and they almost fight but Loser gets fired. They round up the rest of the angel’s and head to the California desert town of Mecca. They are followed by the highway patrol so they stop in the bottom of a canyon and leave some of the angel’s and their old ladies and mama’s. (Mama’s are everyone’s old lady)
Once in Mecca they go to the Mexicans garage and after finding some of Loser’s bike parts and some racial name calling a fight breaks out. Two motorcycle cops hear what’s going on and come to break up the fight. All the Angel’s flee, and Loser steals a police bike and the other cop gives chase. As they race up into the mountains, the policeman starts shooting at Loser hitting him. The cop then loses control and crashes off the side of the mountain. Loser finally crashes and is arrested.
Meanwhile the rest of the Angel’s escape back to the canyon and start partying. Complete with Bongo’s (It seems like every biker flick has a member that’s a bongo playing fool), chasing a rabbit, bullfighting, jousting using palm frons all on their bikes, (now that’s biker games) Oh yeah plenty of sex, drugs and alcohol. But a fight breaks out when one member breaks out some “H”. (Guess Blue’s doesn’t approve of hard drugs). Then the cops show up and break up the fight and run everyone off.
Back at the clubhouse they learn Loser is in the hospital and devise a plan to bust him out. (This is where you see why Nancy Sinatra was a singer not an actress) While busting Loser out one member attempts to rape a black nurse but is stopped by Blue’s. They get him back to the clubhouse and his last dying wish is to get high, he does and dies.
The Angel’s take Loser to the funeral home wrapped in a swastika flag to have him taken to Sequoia Groves, California for burial. All the Angel’s head up to get ready for the funeral. The church and coffin are decked out with so many swastika’s and German stuff you think that Hitler, Goering and Himmler were all attending. As the preacher is preforming the service, Blue’s rails against God saying, “we are not children of God, we are Hell’s Angel’s “. Then he gives that cornball speech, “We want to be free. We want to be free to do what we want. We want to be free to ride. We want to be free to ride our machines without being hassled by the man. We want to get loaded. We want to have a good time”.(Guess there are certain aspects of this speech in all of us cause we ride) Then they start trashing the church, beat up the priest, and then the alcohol, drugs and yes the bongo-playing maestro appear and the party begins. They take Loser from his coffin and prop him up in the corner with a joint in his mouth (ahla weekend at Bernie’s), several members gang-bang Losers old lady behind the coffin, even Blue’s does some “H” and has sex behind the pulpit with a different mama.
After the party they carry Loser’s swastika covered coffin through town to the cemetery.
As far as 60s/70s biker films go I thought this one wasn’t bad. Don’t get me wrong the plot is bad. The acting is bad, Bruce Dern does a good job but he does hold his breath and play dead for half the movie. The party scenes are long and drawn out and are nothing more than filler. When this movie was released it broke the outrage meter with the church/funeral scene. It had more swastika’s and Third Reich stuff than Hitler’s man cave.with pissed off townspeople in tow. Blue’s is asked to say a few words and says, “ There’s nothing to say “. As they are lowering the coffin in to the ground a kid throws a rock at the Angel’s and you guessed it, a fight breaks out. As the sirens are approaching everyone splits. Mike says lets go blues and he replies, “there’s nowhere to go”. She gets on some one else’s bike and leaves. The final scene is Blue’s alone shoveling dirt into the grave as the “man” closes in. THE END
In my opinion this flick was made for the sole purpose of shocking the moviegoer into fearing the motorcycle lifestyle for a profit. And in 1966 with the Vietnam War raging and young people protesting anything and everything to do with authority it worked. It grossed nearly $14 million. Back then we rode our Schwinn’s around with playing cards on the spokes pretending to be bikers, I now know why my parents would scratch their heads and wonder where they went wrong. All the bikes are genuine Harley Davidson old school choppers. Each one unique and bad ass. The sound track is pretty good (except for the bongo playing maestro). David Allen and the Arrows preformed it. The Title track Blue’s Theme made it to 37th on the billboard charts. No matter how you slice it this flick is shocking, bold, unique and well worth its notorious reputation. Some of the wanton behavior in certain scenes is way over the top by today’s standards and was clearly added for its sensational and exploitation value. But these scenes are balanced by many more that dramatize the desperation of people who feel they have no choices and no hopes.
I recommend this one, just to see how the mental mindset was back then. Even if it was a mental fart. After all it is said to be the movie that led to Fonda and Hopper coming up with Easy Rider. Its only 1hr and 26min so have a not so straight cigarette or a couple wobbly pops or both, sit back, hold on and enjoy the ride.
Til next month, JD
Oh, and if you want to purchase this film or movie poster for your collection, they can be hard to find. I’ve added links to make it easy.