Tag Archive: Angels Hard As They Come (1971)


angelsashardastheycomeThis month is the 42nd anniversary of the release of this little gem of an outlaw biker flick, notable for being written by Jonathan Demme, and starring Scott Glenn and Gary Busey before they were stars.  In fact, this was Busey’s first film role.

As is my general rule, I’ll not review this film as such–you can find an excellent review herebut I did want to try bring out some other maybe lesser known things about this film that might shed some different light on it.  First, Demme, who was in the 1970s a protege of Roger Corman, describes this film as being done for Corman (p. 18-19) as very loosely based on Rashomon–the 1950 Kurosawa classic about the nature of guilt and how witnesses to the same events can have very different and conflicting interpretations of those events.  The opportunity Corman gave Demme changed the 26-year-old Demme’s life by giving him a huge break, and he’s very grateful to Corman for having had the faith in him to take on this project.

Charles Dierkop as "The General," leader of the rival MC.

Charles Dierkop as “The General,” leader of the rival MC.

Angels came out in 1971, near the end of the fad of “outlaw biker cinema” that moreorless started with The Wild One in 1953.  According to Bill Ogersby‘s chapter in Underground USA: Filmmaking Beyond the Hollywood Canon some movies in this sub-genre before Angels tended to romanticize the counter-culture aspects of the real life Hell’s Angels as a kind of anti-establishment icon.  After the violence at the Altamont Free Concert where the brutality of Hell’s Angels members was on full display; this sad affair ended the naive fascination with the motorcycle club.  Angels and a handful of other of the remaining post-Altamount biker films (such as: Satan’s Sadists [1970]; Angels Die Hard [1970]; Hell’s Bloody Devils [1970]; The Hard Ride [1971]; and The Jesus Trip [1971]) exploited the violence of the Altamont tragedy by showing more violent depictions of bikers. None of these depictions was less violent than Angels as it portrayed a gang rape gone wrong, resulting in a woman’s death, and a rival MC leader (Charles Dierkop, who as it turns out also celebrates his birthday this month) sadistically punishing Scott Glenn and his  band for the crime.    

Gary Busey is a Hippie!

Gary Busey is a Hippie!

Turning to onset antics, Gary Littlejohn, who did the stunts for this film (and played “Piston”) gave an interview a few years back (for Brian Albright’s Wild Beyond Belief: Interviews with Exploitation Fimmakers of the 1960s and 1970s, p. 165) on working with Gary Busey on the latter’s first film.  Apparently, the young 27-year-old Busey’s famous temper was already in place back then, and when he wasn’t turning in the performance (as a hippie leader) Demme wanted, Littlejohn bodyblocked Busey as he was carrying a bucket of water down a flight of stairs (off camera, presumably).  Busey went off on Littlejohn (ahem) and his performances were markedly improved afterwards, and Busey and Littlejohn became friends after that.

Go find this film (at the above YouTube link, if nothing else), and love yourself some good later-period outlaw bikers.  Then go back and watch the whole cannon, between episodes of the new season of Sons of Anarchy, which owes much to this film and this era of genre films.

The Last 5 Films I’ve Seen #1

When I started this blog, I promised myself to not let this become yet another movie review blog.  There are some great review blogs out there, and I doubt I can add much to individual films that people would want to read.  Especially when folks like DaveShah and the folks at Anti-Film School are already doing some great reviews, among others.  Besides, I’m such an optimist that I’d probably give everything a good review anyway.

However, I did want to keep a record of what I’m watching, and maybe make a short statement on each.  There’s no theme to these: some I found refs to from Twitter, some from podcasts I listen to, and some from browsing on YouTube, which is among my favorite place to find and watch movies.

la_horde_xlg 

La Horde (2009)

French zombie flick.  Downside: no explanation for the zombie apocalypse; upside: being a vigilante cop meting out justice in the drug and gang infested projects when that apocalypse hits.  There’s a good review here, and I agree: this film has some good over-the-top comic book action sequences, and breaks zombie conventions with abandon, and in a very intense angry way.  I dug it, but some thought it’s all been done before and better.

children-shouldnt-poster

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1973) 

Low budget zombie film, reminds me in some respects of I Drink Your Blood in that a small band of counter-culture types end up in trouble in a rural spot.  CSPWDT came out just a year or two after IDYB, so one might see there may be some IDYB influence here.

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Tourist Trap (1979)

Even though this film borrows heavily from the plot of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)and at least one of the crew worked on that–this stands the test of time as something of a lost classic by the team that would later bring us Puppet Master (1989).  I always thought this movie is what when gets if one were to think of a slasher set in The House On the Rock, a similar sort of tourist trap in southern Wisconsin.

angelsashardastheycome

Angels Hard As They Come (1971)

Outlaw biker exploitation film that is notable for being written by Jonathan Demme, and featuring Scott Glenn and Gary Busey early in their careers.  Well acted by Glenn and Charles Dierkorp as the main antagonist; this is a pretty decent genre film, although it plays as well as a Western as it does an outlaw biker exploitation one, right down to the abandoned desert town this one is set in.

Slave GirlsSlave Girls From Beyond Infinity (1987)

Gawdy sexploitation fun that could only come from 1987, but is quite tame by today’s standards.  Loosely based on “The Most Dangerous Game,” a 1924 short story that is one of the most famous in the annals of American literature that has been put to film at least once a decade from the 1930s through the 1980s, according to one account,  At any rate, this film has higher production values than one would expect (minus the visible mic stand in one shot, ahem) and is just a lot of schlocky fun, with boobies, which is the point, isn’t it?