Saturday, May 7, 2011

Angels from Hell

Angels from Hell
D: Bruce Kessler (also producer)

A brash, angry biker returns from 'Nam and quickly takes over the local MC. And unlike their previous president, he's not interested in playing nice with The Man.

Biker Mike (Tom Stern) returns to Bakersfield from Vietnam even angrier than when he left. After beating the crap out of a couple locals who jumped a black biker, he hooks up with old pal Smiley (Ted Markland), who introduces him to the club he's running with, the Madcaps. Mike quickly takes over the club, as well as its hottest hanger-on chick, Gina (Arlene Martel). Most Madcaps seem happy with the new arrangement; a few, notably Dennis (former San Francisco and Portland wrestler Pepper Martin), are not.
George, the club's former president, had an agreement with the local police captain (Jack Starrett): If they don't bother anyone in town, the cops will leave their clubhouse alone. Mike isn't too interested in such a deal. Biker-cop conflicts begin, with a few bikers pulling pranks on a rookie cop--one of which hopspitalizes him.
The Madcaps split the scene for a while, crashing the home of a movie star, an old pal of Mike's. A producer there likes the guys, and talks about doing one of them there popular cycle pictures with them. Such events futher swell Mike's head and plant seeds for future plans...
Shortly after their return, things start to sour. Dennis, still disgruntled, is caught cannibalizing Mike's bike and dealt with. Nutty Norman (Paul Bertoya) is a little free with his fists when dealing with his ol' lady. And back in town, Speed (Stephen Oliver) is picked up on trumped up charges by a couple of cops out for revenge, who end up beating him to death. Though Mike is seething, Bingham persuades him to go on the club's planned run and let him try to bust the rogue cops legally.
Ride they do, and are welcomed at a commune in the midst of an outdoor party (where the Lollipop Shoppe are playing). Unfortunately, things continue to turn to shit: Nutty ends up killing his old lady. Though a few --notably Gina-- want him turned in, Mike would rather cover it up and rein in and channel Nutty's violent urges.
The gang returns to town, and Mike's hubris and unquenchable thirst for power, glory, and revenge peak. He lays out his plan, one so over the top that even his pal Smiley wants out, leading to a great ending.

For some reason this one isn't as well remembered as I think it ought to be. It manages to do the "message" thing without being preachy or corny, and moves at a good pace even when it meanders a bit. Though it opens pretty violently and then fails to keep that pace, it does build good tension. Even the incidental stuff, like the bikers meeting the hippies, and member Durkens (looking like a proto-Johnny Depp) waxing philosophical about weed, is entertaining stuff. All the acting is pretty solid; Starrett is superb.
It also looks great. Some of the extras are actual members of the Madcaps MC, and presumably that's where the very nice bikes come from. The bad-ass looking titles and the clubhouse interiors were painted by Von Dutch.
The strong soundtrack by Stu Phillips includes the classic title track and songs performed by the Lollipop Shoppe and the Peanut Butter Conspiracy (and a lame protesty tune sung by Markland).
Sonny Barger gets a "story consultant" credit.
4 outta 5 choppers for this solid entry.

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