The Wild Angels/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
At the beginning of the whole biker film craze, Director Roger Corman made one of the biggest hits with The Wild Angels (1966). The star of the film, Peter Fonda had previously been in more light hearted fare like "Tammy and the Doctor" in which he played a clean cut guy. With The Wild Angels, Fonda took a new path in his career and began playing more rebellious characters.
Heavenly Blues (Peter Fonda) is the leader of the Venice, CA chapter of The Hells Angels. We get an awesome opening credits sequence as Blues drives down the highway while the fuzzed out rock guitar of his "Blues Theme" plays, (it's definitely the precursor to the opening of Easy Rider). One thing you'll notice in the film from the beginning is the use of the Nazi swastika. It even shows up on the main titles.
Blues stops to pick up his best friend "The Loser" (Bruce Dern) at his job. When one of The Loser's co-workers (That guy Dick Miller) notices Blues wearing a Nazi style Iron Cross necklace, he gives him static, but Blues and the Loser don't take his bull and slap him around a bit. The Loser then gets fired because of this outburst and he leaves the job site after tossing his helmet at the boss.
The two head back to The Loser's house where Gaysh (Dern's real life wife Diane Ladd) his old lady is waiting. The next thing they plan to do is get The Loser's stolen bike back from some mexicans who have it up in San Pedro. The entire biker gang including Pigmy (Bonnie and Clyde's Michael J. Pollard) head up to the spot and when they find the bike, a fight breaks out between The Angels and the mexicans after Blues comically refers to them as "Taco benders". Pretty soon the cops show up and the gang take off. The Loser steals one of the cop's bikes and splits in the opposite direction of the gang. After a chase through the mountainous roads, The Loser is shot in the back by the fuzz and arrested. He's then sent to a hospital back in LA.
Blues and the gang decide to break The Loser out, so they send Blues' sexy main squeeze Mike (Nancy Sinatra) in undercover as the Loser's sister and she opens a sliding glass door to the hospital room. The gang proceed to infiltrate and take The Loser out, not before one of the gang attacks a black female nurse, practically raping her.
The Loser is brought back to the club's secret hangout but soon dies because of his untreated bullet wound. The gang now sad, distraught and angry decide to bring The Loser to his hometown to be buried as a tribute.
My favorite scene in the entire film takes place in the church where the gang are listening to the preacher talk. Blues stands up and gives his own speech on freedom and oppression from "The Man". It's a classic counterculture era monologue:
"We wanna be free! We wanna be free to do what we wanna do. We wanna be free to ride. We wanna be free to ride our machines without being hassled by The Man! ... And we wanna get loaded. And we wanna have a good time. And that's what we are gonna do. We are gonna have a good time... We are gonna have a party."
The Wild Angels is one of the crown jewels of the Biker exploitation genre. This is low budget drive-in fare at its best. The story is simple as it gets but it's also the type of movie you can watch again and again. 50 years after it was made it still holds up. For cult film/B-movie buffs it's essential viewing!
Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. He is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life.