Posts Tagged ‘Savage Cinema’

lf

 

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.

PINK-ANGELS

 

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.

pinkangels2

 

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.

i140326

 

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 ?

MV5BMTYyMDk4MTQ5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTEyNTg0Mw@@._V1_SY317_CR6,0,214,317_

 

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.

Wild_riders_poster_01

It’s definitely a tough call, with many worthy contenders to the “throne,” but if someone were to ask me what the out-and-out sleaziest entry in the Crown International Pictures “canon” is, I’d probably have to go with writer/director Richard Kanter’s ultra-mean-spirited, deeply misogynistic Wild Riders, a bikesploitation flick that positively oozes ill will toward the fairer sex and does its best to make tragic heroes out of a pair of thieves, rapists, and murderers. As is so often the case with movies we look at around here, they sure don’t make ’em like this anymore, and maybe that’s not always such a bad thing —

Consider : the “action” here starts with two obviously fucked-in-the head bikers (our titular “Wild Riders”), whose names we later learn are Pete (the comparably “suave” one, played to the hilt by Arell Blanton) and Stick (the scruffy one, played by Alex Rocco in the same year he’d take his legendary turn as Moe Green in The Godfather), not only raping some luckless lass, but then proceeding to nail her to a fucking tree, an act so outlandish and beyond the pale that it proves to be too much even for the outlaw Florida cycle club they’re riding with, with the end result being that the gang gives ’em the boot and Pete and Stick make tracks for sunny California (which is where the supposed “Florida” scenes were shot, anyway).

Our psychopathic twosome doesn’t waste too much time getting to know the lay of the (La-La) land once out west, deciding almost immediately to go have some — ahem! — “fun” at the snazzy Hollywood Hills home of a good-looking young lady they spy laying out by her pool. It turns out the aforementioned mistress of the house, buxom brunette Rona (Elizabeth Knowles) , who likes to live on the wild side a bit, is sharing her semi-palatial digs for a few days with her equally-buxom, but frankly kinda repressed, red-headed gal pal Laure (I know, I know — it looks like there should be an “i” in her name, but there isn’t — oh, and she’s played by Sherry Bain) while her apparently-not-all-that-missed hubby, an accomplished cellist, is away. If  all that sounds to you like a sure-fire set-up for disaster —well, you’re right.

Wild_Riders_photo1_625px

Pete manages to smooth-talk his way into Rona’s pool, then her house, then her bed, but things don’t go so well for semi-retarded dirtball Stick and Laure, and when she insults his manhood, he ends up raping her in rather savage fashion.  To her credit, she doesn’t take this indignity laying down (no pun intended, honestly) and after informing Rona what her new house “guests” are really like, Pete flips his lid and decides to get just as rough as his buddy. An odyssey of home-ransacking, hostage-taking, and violent sexual assault soon unfolds — and then things get really weird.

vlcsnap-00003

Despite his rather sudden and violent about-face, Rona actually finds herself falling in love with Pete (hey, actor Arell Blanton did, in fact, sing this movie’s low-grade folk-ish theme song, so maybe he’s got other hidden “talents,” as well), and Kanter most definitely plays up some kind of pseudo-sympathetic angle vis-a-vis his thoroughly sadistic protagonists, to the point that what when the cello-wielding man of the house makes his return , finds what’s happened to his home and his honey (and her friend), and uses his instrument to exact murderous revenge on the interlopers, we’re actually supposed to feel, well — kinda sorry for them!

I’m sure, at this point, that this all sounds, as the title for this review would imply, like Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda have wandered into Wes Craven’s classic The Last House On The Left, but this movie actually came out a year before Krug and his fucked-up family changed cinematic history forever. Am I saying Craven copied Kanter in any way, shape, or form? Probably not — it’s been well-established that Bergman’s The Virgin Spring was the thematic progenitor for Last House, and we’re definitely supposed to sympathize with the victims and their grief-stricken paretnts in both those films rather than their attackers, but the timing is quite interesting, to say the least.

Wild_Riders_photo2_625px

Still, to be perfectly honest, that strange historical parallel is probably about the only reason I can think of to recommend that anyone sit through Wild Riders. This is some thoroughly unpleasant stuff, and the “just a good ol’ boy, never meanin’ no harm” angle that Kanter plays is only compounded in its offensiveness when he has one of his victims end up having her hear stolen by her victimizer. I’m normally the first guy in the room to enjoy it when all conventions of good taste and morality are thrown out the window (the less enlightened might go so far as to celebrate this film’s “political incorrectness,” but there’s nothing noble about bucking the supposed “PC” status quo when we’re talking about rape, for Christ’s sake), but this one was a little much even for me. Sure, later fare like I Spit On Your Grave is much more graphic and brutal, but at least Meir Zarchi had enough sense to know who the villains were in his film.

MV5BMTYyMDk4MTQ5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTEyNTg0Mw@@._V1_SY317_CR6,0,214,317_

What the hell, though — if you’re curious, Wild Riders is available on DVD from Mill Creek as part of their three-DVD, 12-movie Savage Cinema collection, where’s it’s presented with a nice-looking widescreen transfer, good mono sound, and no extras. This set’s pretty heavy on biker fare in general, so all in all it’s a solid purchase — especially given its well-under-$10 price point — but honestly, this particular flick is only worth taking in for its value as a historical curiosity, and is repugnant enough to probably  make even the most die-hard Tea Party supporter and/or Fox “news” viewer thankful for at least some social progress.