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The Wild Angels Review

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Heavenly Blues is president of a chapter of the Hells’ Angels motorcycle gang. When Loser is shot by the cops, the Angels break him out of a hospital bed. Loser dies, and the gang gives him a major send-off.

★★★★

Without Roger Corman's biker movie, there would be no Easy Rider, no Five Easy Pieces, no Midnight Cowboy. It’s hard to tell whether the director intended a cheesy exploitation film crammed with sex and violence or a disenchanted, melancholy meditation on the inevitable failure of the American rebel ideal. Either way the film, taking up where Marlon Brando left off in The Wild One, is extraordinary.

An all‑time great cast toplines showbiz kids Peter Fonda (in cool aviator shades) and Nancy Sinatra (sometimes in a nurse's uniform), plus Laura Dern’s parents Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd and oddball presences like goofy Michael J. Pollard and flame-haired Brit Gayle Hunnicutt. After several reels of misbehaviour, it winds up with a bizarre funeral orgy as the Angels throw a party for deceased Dern, propping him up in the middle of a church (allowing the actor to do a terrific corpse act) while his girlfriend is respectfully gang‑raped (‘the Angels got themselves a new mama!’) and Fonda’s gang leader (addressed as ‘Mr President’ by his followers) gets fed up with the ways things are going and drops out of dropping-out .

Cool and crazy, this was a major commercial success, opening the way for dozens of similar cycle pictures (Hells Angels on Wheels, Angels Hard as They Come, The Glory Stompers, etc) but also opened the road for the counterculture films of the later 1960s and ‘70s. It features a great surf guitar score by Davie Allan and the Arrows. On its original release, the Hells' Angels allegedly put a contract out on Corman's life.

Cool and crazy, this was a major commercial success, opening the way for dozens of similar cycle pictures.

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