Thursday, 1 July 2021

Angels' Wild Women


Angels' Wild Women
USA 1972
Directed by Al Adamson
IIP/Severin Blu Ray Zone A/B/C

Warning: Story spoilers... if you’re worried
about such things on an Al Adamson movie.

Angels' Wild Women pretty much goes under the guise, at least as far as it’s marketing is concerned, of being a biker movie... something like a version of Adamson’s The Female Bunch but with the girls trading their horses in for motorcycles. In fact, it’s not really got much in the way of connecting tissue to The Female Bunch (reviewed here) other than sharing some actors and, of course, once again being shot on the Spahn Ranch, presumably after the Manson Murders had happened by this point (I’ll get onto that in a minute). And, while the film certainly deals with characters who are almost all part of the biker counter-culture of the time, the emphasis is not on their motorbikes to an extent that it really transforms the plot much and, neither is the ‘female’ cast of characters pushed as being that strong or liberating (other than an opening sequence where three of the ‘Angels’ take revenge on a couple of guys who have raped one of their own). I mean, it’s not that they’re superfluous to the plot in any way (such as it is, there’s not much of one), it’s just that they don’t really get much more screen time than the various male characters so... yeah, the title and advertising of this bunch of characters seems a little bit inappropriate to say the least. Not that this is an unusual occurrence in an exploitation film but, for example, nobody ever refers to any character, male or female, with the name Angel and the women in this picture aren’t exactly all that wild either, it has to be said. Okay, I literally, just after I published this, realised the placement of the apostrophe in the title was a bit dodgy and so, as I corrected my title, I realised that the implication is that these are the girlfriends etc of the "Hell's Angels" or some such outfit... so that maybe makes a bit more sense.

But it is an engaging mess of a movie and it doesn’t go down the ‘biker hooligans’ route that a lot of the exploitation fare of the time seemed to do. This one has two rival bike gang owners who hate each other enough to have an overly long fist fight near the start of the picture... but love each other enough to work against their common enemy at the end and may well be brothers (although I could have got the wrong end of the stick there). The two brothers are main male protagonist Speed, played really likeably by Ross Hagen (his only film for Adamson) and Turk, played by Preston Pierce. They are joined by a cast that includes regular Adamson stalwarts such as Kent Taylor, the lovely Vicki Volante, Jill Woelfel and, of course, Adamson’s wife Regina Carrol.

When Speed gets called away to join the gang in a ‘men only’ motorcycle/beer swigging shindig out of the county, the girls end up on the Spahn Movie Ranch and, for the first time that I can remember in an Adamson movie, we actually see its name on a big sign. Now Adamson and many of his cast and crew had already shot a few pictures on Spahn, around about the same time Charles Manson and his followers were doing their thing and so they would have known these people. Here, Adamson fully cashes in on his experience of the mood of the place because, the guy in charge of a hippy commune at Spahn Ranch in the film, who takes the girls in for a day or two, is called King and he looks and acts just like Charlie Manson. So this film is pretty much a look at the cult of Manson in some ways, in that he’s not the loving, peaceful person he presents himself as and he ends up, more or less, accidentally killing one of the girls and locking two of them in... then murders one of them who tries to escape and accidentally sees him burying another of his victims.

Eventually, Regina Carrol manages to escape, gets Speed and the gang, and they all return to the ranch to have a big punch up with Manson.... um, sorry, I mean King and his followers. Alas, they are not in time to stop Speed’s main squeeze from being sacrificed in a pseudo-satanic ritual. Speed and Turk pursue the fleeing King on their bikes and Speed rides his bike off a handy cliff and uses it to smash the windscreen of Kings car, sending him and his henchman careening to an explosive death.

And, it’s not a completely terrible film, to be fair. I didn’t rate the framing or cinematography that much but the editing is interesting and the film feels fairly loose (apparently a lot of it was improvised) so the scenes of the big gatherings of beer swilling biker boys etc capture a certain state of mind and slacker mentality which is appealing. There’s one scene which irritated me a little, although I appreciate the cameraman was trying out something different. There’s a conversation between two characters in deep focus with the out of focus branches of a tree or bush between them and the camera. Unfortunately, the soft focus leaves totally cover the faces in the shot for the majority of it and, while I appreciate it’s a deliberate aesthetic decision, it really didn’t do much for me other than annoy me a little, truth be told (and I normally love this kind of deliberate obscuring of an image).

Another point of interest, other than a cameo by Adamson as the director of a war movie in the early stages of this film... or a passing reference to the Satan’s Sadists of the movie of the same title (reviewed here), would be a certain fun sensibility to the fight scenes. For example, in the long, drawn out fist fight between Speed and Turk, they keep trading blows and muttering a lot under their breath and, the style of it, I’m pretty sure, seems influenced by the fight scenes in those wonderful old Italian Bud Spencer and Terence Hill movies, where the dubbed voices of the actors provide almost a low key running commentary around the punches. Similarly, the big punch up on the Spahn Ranch near the end of the picture could almost be lifted, again, from one of those Spencer/Hill movies... although it seems a little inappropriate by this point in the film because, by now, three people are dead and the stakes seem to be just a little too high for these kind of ‘macho fun’ shenanigans.

Another thing I noticed was Adamson’s continued recycling of elements from his previous films. I honestly thought the obvious, upcoming car crash was once more going to be that car rolling down the cliff again... well, it was, it was just a different car and footage this time around. However, I did notice that in some scenes, while the bikers were whizzing around or someone or other was chasing or punching someone, the music from either Psycho-A-Go-Go (reviewed here) or Smashing The Crime Syndicate (reviewed here), or possibly both, was tracked into the movie. It’s great music but possibly not the most appropriate for the action here and, yeah, it popped me right out of the experience as soon as I heard it.

And other than that... I don’t have much else to offer on Angels' Wild Women. As pseudo ‘motorcycle gang’ movies go, it doesn’t have the nasty, intimidating feel that a lot of them have and I found myself liking Speed too much to not have a fair enough time with it. I’d probably watch it again at some point and although it’s nothing special, it’s a better Adamson flick than some of the others he was making around this time.

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