Hello folks and welcome to the first post of April, and let me tell you March was a great month. Not only did I get to watch a lot of movies, but more of you came to check out what was going on at the Lair as well. So I just wanted to say thanks to all the repeat visitors and first time lookie loos that catch this post.
April is a really religious month with Easter, Good Friday, and Passover all going on and probably not in that order. You see, the Bugg subscribes to no religion, and only prays at the alter of cult film. Keeping that in mind, I’m devoting days this month to religious themes. Each Friday this month we’ll be on a journey through heaven and hell, but this ain’t Friday is it? That’s right it’s B.L.O.G day. And this month each of these heavenly bodies will also be getting some of that old time religion. So without further ado, ‘cause this is already way too much ado, I give you the sweet little vengeful prostitute played by…
Donna Wilkes first made a splash on the genre film screen with the 1978 shark fest Jaws 2, and after a few small TV parts appeared in the Klaus Kinski vehicle Schizoid. Then in 1982 she went up against a legend when she co-starred with Frankie Avalon in the slasher Blood Song. Yet it was her 1984 film which is probably most engrained on the masses, that is if the masses are boys that went to video stores in the late eighties. Yes I remember the box art well, and it was about time that I got around to seeing….
Angel (1984) starring Donna Wilkes, Rory Calhoun, Dick Shawn, Susan Tyrrell, and Cliff Gorman. Directed by Robert Vincent O’Neill.
The star student at her exclusive private high school, 15 year old Molly seems the model teenager. However, Molly has been abandoned by her family, and to afford her school and apartment, she becomes Angel and works as a prostitute on Hollywood Boulevard. Each night with her de facto family Mae (Shawn), a transsexual with a heart of gold, Kit Carson (Calhoun), who spins tales of faded Hollywood westerns, and Solly (Tyrrell), an eccentric painter, she happily lives her double life. Then it all starts to crumble. Angel witnesses the murder of one of her friends, and she sees the face of the necrophilic killer. Lt. Andrews (Gorman) is investigating the string of murders, and in an effort to protect his star witness, he tries to get Angel to end her streetwalking days. Angel is not about to give up her life, and as the killer gets her in his sites, Angel proves she can protect herself when she turns the tables and gets him in the crosshairs of her .44.
The Bugg Picture
In a word, fun, but I suppose if I left it at that, well, you’d be shocked, I’m sure. So yeah I might have a few more things to say. Angel turned out to be a film that was much campier than the exploitation fare I expected and was much more Savage Streets than Thriller. What it did have going for it was a cast of characters who really enjoy getting to know, a great 80’s look, and sex pervert killer who is pretty dang creepy. What it lacks, well, more on that later.
The characters are what really set this film apart from the pack. Rory Calhoun, a former western star in films as well as TV series, The Texan, really brings Kit Carson to life. He basically steals the whole show, and it’s no wonder to me that his character made it to the 1985 sequel Avenging Angel. Calhoun would have had a lock on the best performance if it wasn’t for Dick Shawn as Mae. Shawn, who some may know as Hitler from the Mel Brooks film The Producers, gives the role far more substance than I thought a film of this nature was capable of. Sure, part of the portrayal was rooted in caricature, but Shawn manages to bring a fully realized and complex character to the screen.
You might have noticed that when I was listing off the good performances in the film, Donna Wilkes was not among them. While the 20 year old Wilkes looked the part of the 15 year old good girl/hooker, and did the transformation from school girl to slut faster than anything ZZ Top ever accomplished in their videos, she could not carry a film. Her performance was flat, and if it wasn’t for the gun wielding scenes, there would have been no scenes where the main character was compelling. Also stinking up the joint was Craig Gorman as the milquetoast Lt. Andrews. He wanted Angel to stop hooking! Let me tell you, folks, this guy was a cop and I don’t think he could have stopped traffic if he was the world’s biggest red light in the shape of Pamela Anderson’s juggs.
Unlike other films where the bad performances by one or two of the cast members actually managed to improve the film, here it just makes you mad. The supporting cast (minus Gorman) is so entertaining you kind of wish there was a movie about them. So while Calhoun showed up in Avenging Angel, Ms Wilkes did not. In fact while the Angel series spans fours films, a different girl took on the role in each.
Robert Vincent O’Neill, who directed the film, has a very short resume of films he helmed, but they do include the sequel Avenging Angel and a 1973 film called Wonder Woman featuring Sid Haig. More impressively to cult movie fans O’Neill also wrote the script to the Wings Hauser vehicle Vice Squad. With Angel, O’Neill directs competently, but with no real visual flair. It looks like dozen if not hundreds so similar fare that was released at the time.
Angel is a film that I’m glad I finally got a chance to see, and I will probably pursue the series to see a different Angel helps out matter (or if sequels were entirely unwarranted.) One thing is for sure, a film like this could never be made today. I can’t see any studio exec green lighting a film that centers on a 15 year old prostitute, well, unless there was an Oscar in it for someone. While the film is far from perfect, it is entertaining throughout, and the interesting characters give the film some flavor. Check it out and see if this Angel deserves her halo.