TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: AVENGING ANGEL (1985)

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AVENGING ANGEL (1985)

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Sequel to New World’s exploitation hit Angel was rushed into production and released just under a year from the 1984 original…and it shows. The story has Molly/Angel (now Betsy Russell) off the streets and in college for four years, thanks to Lt. Andrews (now Robert F. Lyons). When Andrews is gunned down by a group of mobsters, Molly returns to the streets as Angel to track down his killers. Helping her are her old street ‘family’ Kit (Rory Calhoun), Solly (Susan Tyrrell), Yo-Yo (Steven M. Porter) and witness Johnny Glitter (Barry Pearl).

While the creative team of writer/director Robert Vincent O’Neill and co-writer Joseph Michael Cala return, lead actress Donna Wilkes and actor Cliff Gorman did not and it hurts the continuity of the flick. Add to that a new cinematographer, Peter Lyons Collister, giving it a different look and new composer, Christopher Young giving it a new score and you get a film that barely registers as a sequel if not for Calhoun, Tyyell and Porter to give it a familiarity with the first flick. That aside, the exploitation elements are really watered down and it feels like a TV movie. O’Neill gives it none of the style and fun trashiness of the original and the story is very uninspired. There seems to be an effort to clean it up for more mainstream consumption to the point of a baby being added to the proceedings, which is completely unnecessary. It’s got none of the energy the first flick had either, nor the atmosphere of the streets that the first flick used so well. The acting is very wooden, except for the delightfully energetic Calhoun and Tyrrell and despite being quite a fox, we don’t endear to Russell’s Angel as we did with the sympathetic teen street walker of Wilkes’s incarnation. It feels like a totally different film and a totally different kind of film, as it tries to be more action flick than exploitation movie…and being an exploitation movie was part of what made the first film work. A high school hooker being hunted by a serial killer is sleazy fun, some college girl avenging a friend’s death in fishnets and a miniskirt, not so much.

I actually saw this chapter in a theater and it was very disappointing. The original Angel nailed the exploitation tone perfectly for a story about a high school student turning tricks as a Hollywood hooker and this film tries to downplay it’s sleazy roots and go for a more mainstream low budget action flick and fails. None of the style or trashiness that made the first flick so enjoyable is there and one wonders if writer/director O’Neill wanted to do this movie at all and was just accepting a paycheck. If not for a few supporting characters being present and acted by their original performers, this would not feel like a sequel to the 1984 hit. When you throw in the baby and a lot of broad humor, it almost isn’t. Despite under-performing at the box office, there were two more sequels with two more actresses as Angel. Avenging Angel also stars Escape From New York’s Frank Doubleday as a mobster’s arrogant son.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 hot, but yet, not Angels.

avenging angel rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: ANGEL (1984)

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ANGEL (1984)

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Angel is a fun exploitation flick that is not only very 80s, but the first movie released by New World Pictures after being sold by Roger Corman…and it was their first hit, grossing almost six times it’s original cost back.

The film tells the story of 15 year old Molly Stewart (Donna Wilkes), a scholarly prep school student who supports herself, after being abandoned by her mother and years earlier by her father, turning tricks on the Hollywood strip. Hooking under the name Angel, Molly is working at a dangerous time. There is a serial killer (John Diehl) on the loose targeting the ladies of the night and more than one of Angel’s friends have been slaughtered. Worse still, is that Angel has seen his face and is now a target herself. Will Angel be just another victim or will the resourceful teen turn the hunter into the hunted?

Flick is directed by Robert Vincent O’Neill, who co-wrote with Joseph Michael Cala and despite being an exploitation flick through and through, O’Neil manages to give it some heart. He surrounds Angel with an eccentric group of colorful friends, such as former cowboy star Kit (Rory Calhoun), foul mouthed dyke Solly (Susan Tyrell) and transvestite Mae (Dick Shawn). There is actually a bit of a sweet element to the story, underneath the blood and boobs, as Molly yearns for the day she can get off the street and the sympathetic cop (Cliff Gorman) who would like to see her succeed. Sure the story is cliché and we know the moment it begins, her life as a hooker with a heart of gold will be discovered at school, but O’Neil does have fun with his story without ever making fun of it. He also does provide some suspense and generates some sympathy for the killer’s hooker victims. This because the street people are portrayed as human beings who are a community among themselves and it is only a somewhat bland killer that fails the film a bit. That and his unintentionally funny…or maybe it was intentional?…choice of disguising himself as a Hare Krishna, when on the lam from the cops and on the hunt for Angel. Otherwise the film achieves what it sets out to do in grand exploitation style.

The cast won’t get any awards, but fill their parts well. Cutie Donna Wilkes was 24 when hired to play the 15 year old Molly and she’s fine. She gives us a sweet but very tough young girl who refuses to be a victim. She could have had a bit more range, but for a B-Movie like this, she’s more than adequate. Same can be said of Gorman’s tough cop. His character is a bit of a bland cliché, but works in the context of the film. Again, the silent killer (he only speaks once) played by Diehl is a bit bland, but is creepy enough to make it work. The supporting characters really shine as Calhoun, Tyrell and Shawn all add some life to the proceedings with their eccentric portrayals of some of the lost souls of the Hollywood Strip. They also do well in creating a foster family for Angel and they look out for her and their affection for each other seems genuine. Also worth mentioning is Donna McDaniel who gives her hooker Crystal a very likable personality in her brief screen time.

This is not Shakespeare, but it is fun. It’s an exploitation flick and knows it and never apologizes for it. It gives it’s cliché story a bit of a heart and treats the story with respect even if it is a B-Movie about a teenage hooker and a serial killer. It’s not a great flick by any stretch, but it is entertaining for what it is and gives us some surprisingly sympathetic and likable characters. Add a lot of fun 80s nostalgia and you have a perfectly suitable Saturday Night flick on the couch with some of your favorite poisons. Box office gross of Angel generated 3 sequels, none of which equaled it’s success.

MonsterZero NJ extra trivia: Cinematographer on this flick was Andrew Davis who went on to direct Chuck Norris in Code Of Silence, Steven Seagal in Under Siege and Harrison Ford in The Fugitive!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Angels.

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