It pleases me to report that my home state of Minnesota recently became the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage, and gay and lesbian couples will be free to say “I do” beginning on August 1st of this year. There were many celebratory shin-digs, large and small, thrown to commemorate this historic moment, and there will be even more if whack-job congresswoman Michele Bachmann follows through on her promise to move to a more socially retrograde region of the country, and it’s certainly no stretch to imagine that there have been plenty of movies playing, at least in the background, at many of these joyous get-togethers. But I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that director Larry G. Brown’s 1972 Crown International gay-biker flick The Pink Angels wasn’t among the viewing choices on offer at any of them. Call it a hunch, if you will.
Not that the film itself is especially offensive, mind you, even though most (though not all) of the characters are stereotypical “swishy” ’70s queens rather than the leather-clad “bear”types you’d probably expect to be a bit more representative of the reality of the homosexual motorcycle-enthusiast community. It would likely be quite a reach to describe this flick as being in any way a respectful treatment of its lurid-at-the-time subject matter, sure, but at least our titular Angels are depicted as being, by and large, decent, fun-loving guys who just want to be left alone to pursue their livesi n their own way, and the bad guys are the authority figures and gay-bashing, overly-macho hetero Harley-heads who are out to rain on our (for lack of a better term) heroes’ parade.
Still — it’d giving it far too much credit to describe this film as a monumental leap forward for gay rights and/or tolerance in general, either. So what exactly are we talking about here, then? Well, weird as it may sound to say this about a movie centered around gay folks made in the early years of the so-called “Me Decade,” The Pink Angels seems to have no political or social agenda whatsoever! But that’s just part and parcel of a larger issue, really — that being that it seems to have no clue what sort of flick it wants to be on any level, and Brown and company were quite obviously just winging things from the get-go and willing to settle for, well, whatever they ended up coming up with.
All of which means, of course, that’s this is an absolutely fantastic watch from start to finish — even if it doesn’t make a lick of sense. Or maybe because it doesn’t make a lick of sense.
The “plot,” to the extent that such a thing can even be said to even exist here, revolves around our erstwhile flamboyant protagonists making their way out to Los Angeles (from where it’s never stated) in order to attend a drag ball, and along the way they have a fancy roadside picnic, raise hell at a hot dog stand, get hassled by the cops, get hassled again by some of their straight freewheelin’ counterparts (led by B-movie stalwart Michael Pataki and future Grizzly Adams star Dan Haggerty) run afoul (from a distance) of a bumbling military General, pick up hitch-hikers, try on dresses, and generally engage in pointless tomfoolery just because — hey, they can. Throw in some bargain-basement wannabe-surrealism, a lame-ass pseudo-funky/pseudo-folkish soundtrack, uniformly bright and sunny cinematography, and the general “making this shit up as we go along” ethos of Easy Rider, and you’ve got a recipe for one thoroughly entertaining, always-engaging cinematic disaster.
Of the six principal players, John Alderman stands out as scruffy, rough-and-tumble leader Michael, Tom Basham takes a memorable turn as the ultra-effeminate David, Bruce Kimball does nicely as hulk-with-an-overly-sensitive- side Arnold, and Henry Olek is all kinds of stupid fun as the supposedly British, wanna-be-Oscar -Wilde-in-leather Edward, but it’s all such overtly campy and OTT stuff that you can’t fairly single out anyone as doing a “better” job than anyone else, I suppose.
And then there’s that ending. Now, according to someone on IMDB who claims, at least, to be this film’s executive producer — one Gary Radzat — what they were really going for here was some kind of “cinema verite” thing, but director Brown was batshit insane, couldn’t keep things in order, and neglected to film a final reel altogether! So they had to get everybody back together and shoot some kind of conclusion (under whose direction the supposed Radzat never says), since CIP had picked it up, sight unseen, for distribution, and what they came up with was shockingly downbeat, even tragic, absolute “bummer” that, sure, at least ostensibly brings together the various strands of the impromptu “story” that had been left dangling and didn’t seem to be destined to meet up in any way, shape, or form, but that completely turns the light-hearted atmosphere established in the first 70-or-so mutes on its ear for no apparent reason other than a kind of ruthless-outta-nowhere expediency.
In other words, it’s fucking perfect.
Let’s be honest — anyone who wants to watch a flick that fits anything like a standard definition of “competent,” or that even has anything vaguely recognizable as a point, will have checked out of this one at about the 15-minute mark. Those of us still left standing by the time they need to put a wrap on things are pretty much willing to take anything the filmmakers serve up and just go with it. Sure, it’s a shocker to have such a crash-and-burn (not literally, mind you, but it may as well be) finale tacked onto an essentially harmless — and formless — romp, but hey, nothing else about the proceedings makes any sense up to this point, either, so why start now ?
So — what are you waiting for? Grab Mill Creek’s 3-disc, 12-movie Savage Cinema DVD bargain pack (where it’s presented with a nicely-remastered widescreen picture, pretty damn good mono sound, and no extras) and give The Pink Angels a go right now. It’s quite literally unlike anything else ever made — which doesn’t, of course, mean that it’s actually any good, but is still pretty much the highest compliment I can think of to bestow upon anything.