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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Naked Angels DVD Review

Roger Corman and his group did a lot of low-budget genre films, including several biker films, all with "Angels" in the title (The Wild Angels, Devil's Angels, Angels Die Hard, Angels Hard As They Come). What is interesting is that these were hungry and passionate filmmakers at the beginnings of their careers, and so they would manage to do a lot with a low budget, and to make interesting films, often transcending or subverting the genre (The Wild Angels is a seriously good film). Naked Angels is one of the biker films, and yes, it has a lot of shots of the motorcycles on the road, as you'd expect. But there are quite a few surprises in this film as well.

It begins with a bike being stolen, and then there is some cool guitar music, with some sped-up footage of the gang following the guy. And right away we're into a brawl. We learn that this guy, Mother, has returned from two months in the hospital after being beaten by the rival gang.  Anyway, his gang is happy about his return, and they show it by gargling and saying stuff like, "Outa sight, baby."

Mother takes his group to Las Vegas to find the guys that roughed him up. There are cool shots of bikes riding down the Vegas strip. I detest Las Vegas, but I love those shots. This was back in the late 1960s when the Vegas strip was sleazy and gritty (now it's sleazy and shiny). They find one guy, who tells them the rest are in a spot in the desert. He gives them directions.

Naked Angels makes interesting use of still photographs of the gang in Las Vegas, all to an instrumental rock soundtrack. Somewhere in there Mother sleeps with some new chick, while his girlfriend laments how nothing is important to him except getting even.  Some men in suits bust in on Mother and the girl.  It's not clear who they are, but it doesn't matter. This leads to a fight which in turn leads to the gang being told to leave Las Vegas.

Like most of these films, there's not much of a plot. But a lot is done with images and music, and there is a gritty realism that at times is surprising - like during the somewhat violent sex scene in the hay. Part of it, of course, is the low budget aspect. (It's why, for example, The Last House On The Left is a much more intense horror film than most everything from the last few decades.)  And there are little nuggets of wisdom, like "Listen, if you really want to ride bikes you got to eat bugs."  Were truer words ever spoken?

As mentioned, there are lots of shots of them riding, with many of the guys upset with Mother because they're not taking enough breaks. The tension increases between Mother and the rest of the group, until they finally kick him out of the club. But even after that they still aim to stomp the gang that beat him up - a strange sort of loyalty. And of course Mother can't really change his course either.

The tale this film actually tells isn't the one you're expecting. It takes some interesting and surprising turns. And the scene where Mother tries to get gas is pretty awesome. But like with many things in life, the journey of this film is much more interesting than its destination.

Naked Angels was directed by Bruce Clark, and stars Michael Greene as Mother, Jennifer Gan as Marlene, and Richard Rust as Fingers. By the way, Michael Greene also played a motorcyclist in Scenes From A Mall, and Jennifer Gan, as Ginny Gan, was in an episode of The Monkees. How cool is that? She was also in Women In Cages.

The film is presented in the full screen format. (According to IMDB, the original aspect ratio was 1.85:1.) There seemed to be a couple of glitches in the transfer. A line ran up the screen toward the end. The DVD has no special features. Naked Angels was released on August 21, 2012 through Shout! Factory as part of the Roger Corman's Cult Classics collection.

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