Angel (1983), Avenging Angel (1984), Angel III: The Final Chapter (1988)
God fucking bless the 70's and 80's for its pure late night cinematic brilliance. It's actually quite sad to think that films like these will never be made again. Can you imagine if a film like Angel had been made today? It would never be done, and if it were by some chance, it would be severely watered down and bogged with faces of beautiful celebrities. The Angel Collection from Anchor Bay is your one-way ticket time machine to a kinda mainstream sleazy past and while all three films don't hold up quite as neatly as one would expect, there's certainly a whole lotta bang for your entertainment buck to be found here.
In the first of the series, Donna Wilkes stars as the title character Angel/Molly, honor student by day, hooker by night. Angel roams Hollywood Blvd till the wee hours of the morn' only to return home with just enough time to study for the following day of school. Angel has everyone convinced that she's taking care of her sick mom, while in actuality, she was abandoned at age 12 and supports herself by turning tricks. Angel's not alone though as she keeps close contact on the streets with her prostitute friends, including a transvestite named Mae (Dick Shawn). In addition to her fellow streetwalkers Angel is looked after by some of the late night street performers including has been cowboy Kit Carson (played by that guy who's always standing and walking, Rory Calhoun), her lesbian landlord Solly (Susan Tyrell), Yo-Yo Charlie (Stephen Porter) and Angel's real only father figure, a kindly police officer named Lt. Andrews (Cliff Gorman).
It's tough for a 15-year old on the streets, who happens to attend a posh private school and occupies a nice two-bedroom apartment, but things are about to get even worse for poor Angel. Hookers are being butchered one by one and eventually a couple of Angel's close streetwalking friends are found dead. Angel becomes the sole witness to the murderer at one point, which of course now puts her on the top of his to do list (along with Angel's remaining friends). Angel is now forced to protect herself and those around her by any means necessary.
It was a pleasure to rediscover Angel after all these years, but a little disconcerting to find that it wasn't quite as nasty as I had remembered. Perhaps I'm just jaded and have seen one too many midnite movies. Still, the film is fairly gritty and would never have been made in this day and age. Despite the fact that Wilkes is actually 25 years old, she does indeed fit the part and still looks VERY young. While the sex and violence quotient is present, it was a bit more subdued than I had remembered from my childhood (my childhood?). Although the fact that the film centers around a 15-year old gun toting prostitute who hangs around with a transvestite and over the hill man who still thinks he's a cowboy is still quite disturbing enough, thank you.
Angel is effective late night fare for many reasons, but what really stands out here are the surprisingly effective performances. Perhaps those involved were all taking it a bit too seriously, but they're all pretty much dead on here, especially Wilkes, who delivers a shockingly genuine performance as the tortured Angel. To satisfy your urges, there's also a splendid 80's rock anthem called "Something Sweet" belted out by a group called "The Allies" (which also plays over the opening menu screen).
Avenging Angel was made the year after the original was released and takes place a solid 4 years later, with writer/director Robert Vincent O'Neill returning. Betsy Russell now stars as the title character Angel, who's off the streets and attending law school. When Lt. Andrews (this time played by Robert F. Lyons) is gunned down, Angel returns to the streets to bring down some vigilante justice on those responsible for his death. Angel/Molly is joined once again by Yo-Yo Charlie, Solly and Kit Carson who all return from the original, ready to lend a hand. The gang is also joined by eccentric newcomer Johnny Glitter (Barry Pearl) along with a few other human oddities, oh yeah - did I mention the abandoned baby?
In the long run, Avenging Angel is far less appealing than the original, but still makes for some entertaining late night fare. To say that these characters have "jumped the shark" only one year after the original would be a gross understatement. Mixed in with the sleazy sex and violence is an extremely bizarre 3-stooges-esque sequence in which "the gang" attempts to break Kit Carson out of an insane asylum, wacky stuff indeed. The story itself is far more predictable and performances aren't nearly as strong as in the first. The key here though is the cast of eccentric loonies, which are even more outrageous than in the first film. Watching this group of gun toting misfits running around the late night streets of Hollywood Blvd is pure gold and exactly what the midnite movie doctor ordered. Between the first and the second film of the series, you've got one hell of a double feature here.
The third in the series Angel: The Final Chapter finds an entirely new cast and crew and unfortunately, winds up paying dearly in the long run. This go round, Angel/Molly (Mitzi Kapture) is a freelance photographer living in NY. During a chance encounter while photographing an art gallery, she winds up catching a glimpse of her long lost mother. When Angel returns to LA to track down her mother she's in for more than she bargained for, when she learns she has a younger sister and her mother falls victim to a vicious car bombing. With the help of a street performer/ice cream salesman named Spanky (Mark Blankfield) and a film editor named Neal (Kin Shriner) Angel tries to crack a high class prostitution/white slavery ring led by lady of the evening Nadine (Maud Adams). Angel will stop at nothing to save her younger sister from certain doom. Also, be on the lookout for Richard Roundtree as police Lt. Doniger.
Easily the most forgettable of the three, Angel: The Final Chapter has direct to video written all over it. In retrospect, it's mildly entertaining at best, but as a cap to the trilogy (there's no mention of the fourth Angel here anywhere), not nearly as satisfying as the first two. It's fairly dull and uneventful - even all the nudity couldn't keep my interest!
The first of the series sports the most questionable transfer of the three. Although print damage is minimal, the transfer still sports mostly muted colors and heavy doses of grain. The second two films fare much better with stronger colors, minimal grain (if any) and virtually no signs of print damage. Overall the second film has the strongest appearance with the 3rd coming in next followed by the original. The mono audio that spans all three films is equally as sharp as well. Dialogue is clear, and there is really no evidence of distortion, aside from the occasional high pitch screech.
Extras for the first film include 2 trailers and 3 brief deleted scenes with no audio (subtitles compliment the picture instead). The second films extras include 2 trailers and a brief stills/poster gallery with the third film featuring only a trailer. The packaging itself consists of a tri fold package showcasing the good and bad side of Angel that holds all three discs intact.
Considering that this set can be found for under 30 bucks, it really is a no brainer. Late night flicks don't really get much better than this, and with the exception of the third flick, this set comes highly recommended. The price is certainly right and the midnite movie value these films provided is certainly priceless.