By the mid 1960s, Sam Arkoff’s and James Nicholson’s American International Pictures (AIP) were riding high with their various beach parties, the gothic Poe/Price ventures, an array of Italian sword and sandal imports from Italy, and of course, their introduction to the biker film. In 1966, AIP released THE WILD ANGELS with Peter Fonda, and it spearheaded a whole new hog wild genre for the exploitation market. Tales of rugged riders and their untamed misadventures would be a popular mainstay of independent (and occasionally major) film companies for years. AIP either produced or distributed over a dozen of these motorcycle exploits from 1966 to 1971, with DEVIL’S ANGELS being the second of these.
A quick, in-name only sequel to Roger Corman’s THE WILD ANGELS, DEVIL’S ANGELS involves a biker gang named the Skulls, on the run after one of their members, Gage (Buck Taylor, also in THE WILD ANGELS), accidentally crashes into and kills a pedestrian. Cody (John Cassavetes, MACHINE GUN McCAIN), the dwindling gang’s leader, is indeed rebellious, but a touch more astute and level-headed than the rest of his juvenile cronies. With the intent of venturing off to the “Hole-In-the-Wall” (the legendary sanctuary of Butch and Sundance), the Skulls stop off in the small town of Brookville, where an election-induced community fair is being held. Instantly confronted by the town’s authorities, the imposing sheriff (Leo Gordon, THE HAUNTED PALACE) tells them that they can stay the night at the beach, but they must get out of town first thing in the morning, or else!
Marianne (Mimsy Farmer, FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET), a bikinied beauty pageant contestant and a snot-nosed little tease, lets Skulls member Roy (Kipp Whitman, BUMMER) take her for a ride, and she later willingly shows up at their late-night beach party. She smokes a little grass, gets a bit harassed and is slightly roughed up, but before any kind of sexual contact can be made, she runs to the sheriff. With Marianne’s clothes torn and the evident scratches on her face, Cody is held responsible for the gang’s actions (even though she never said she was actually raped) and is forced to spend the night in jail.
Cody is quickly released from jail since they can’t hold him on any charges, but his buddies are already planning revenge even though their leader just wants to move one. They call upon 200 hundred more bikers (a gang called the Stompers) for back-up, and despite Cody’s willingness to conduct their assault in an orderly manner after a faux trial, it all turns into a violent catastrophe, as the Skulls tear apart the town as if it was just another casual diversion. Disgusted, Cody throws off his emblemed jacket and leaves the whole mess behind, taking off on his own. As he rides off, he looks back and glimpses a line of Highway Patrol cars infiltrating the panicked town of Brookville.
The most valuable asset of DEVIL’S ANGELS is the presence of the great Cassavetes, who used to star in films like this to help bankroll his own acclaimed directorial efforts (in this case, it would have been FACES, and the actor would go on to appear in Roman Polanski’s smash ROSEMARY’S BABY the following year). The dynamic production team consisted of AIP vets including producer Burt Topper, executive producer Roger Corman, director Daniel Haller (who had been set designer for most of Corman’s Poe films, and had previously directed DIE MONSTER DIE) and screenwriter Charles Griffith, whose script for THE WILD ANGELS was rejected and re-written by an uncredited Peter Bogdanovich. Here, Griffith’s screenplay is pretty standard, but it allows for an entertaining romp with a lot of dated jargon about “the man” and such, and wild scenarios like the Skulls causing havoc in a grocery store and destroying the small camper of a vacationing couple after they unintentionally knock over one of their parked hogs.
Buck Kartalian (who was in everything from studio films like PLANET OF THE APES to softcore skin flicks like PLEASE DON’T EAT MY MOTHER) plays Funky, a graffiti vandalizing oddball biker who is freed from jail by his pals in one of the film’s most amusing scenes (Kartalian seems like he would fit in better with Von Zipper and that lot). Beverly Adams (TORTURE GARDEN) is Cody’s main squeeze, and she sports a short hairdo given to her by then-boyfriend Vidal Sassoon. Mimsy Farmer (in one of four pictures she did for AIP) is playing a similar role as she had in RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP, but in that film, she actually was sexually assaulted and did a lot more than smoke weed and down cans of Coors. Others in the cast include Marc Cavell (also in THE WILD ANGELS), Wally Campo, Russ Bender and Nai Bonet. The music is by Mike Curb, but also on the soundtrack is Dave Allan and the Arrows’ renditions of “Blues Theme” and “Bongo Party”, which were leftover from THE WILD ANGELS.
Unless you saw it on its original theatrical run or at a multi-title bill at a drive-in back in the 1970s, you've probably only witnessed DEVIL’S ANGELS in a full screen, pan & scan format. MGM’s new manufactured-on-demand DVD, released as part of its Limited Edition Collection, comes complete with an Orion logo at the beginning, and the film has been remastered in its original 2.35:1 Panavision aspect widescreen ratio with anamorphic enhancement. Colors looks stable, detail is sharp, and although there is not much in the way of print blemishes, it’s pretty grainy on the whole, though never anything too unnerving. The mono English audio is very clear and the music is given a distinct boost in the mix. No trailer or chapter stops are included, but the viewer can move ahead though at ten minute intervals throughout the presentation. (George R. Reis)
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