Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hell's Angels '69

Hell's Angels '69
D: Lee Madden

Claim to fame: Written by its two stars, who'd both been in two of the genre's best films; nearly all bikers are played by members of the Hell's Angels' mother chapter

Two spoiled rich boys who pull crimes for kicks pose as bikers to use the Angels as a decoy for a casino heist

Chuck (Tom Stern from "Angels from Hell") and his brother Wes (Jeremy Slate from "The Born Losers") are suave and partying but jaded and bored products of inherited wealth who, unbeknownst to their freinds, commit major crimes on the side. Posing as members of a Boston club called the Salem Witches who are visiting California, Chuck and Wes befreind Sonny Barger and the Angels, and even convince them to make a run to Vegas and let them tag along. Their plan, of course, is to focus the cops' attention on the Angels while they rob a casino. What they don't figure on, however, is that they'll be stuck with Terry the Tramp's ex-old lady Betsy (Conny Van Dyke) tagging along --and, worse for them, the unforgiving Angels figuring out that they'd been made saps.
The Stern/Slate story is a novel one for the genre, and it progresses quite well. The storyline with Betsy has a tacked-on feel to it, but not so much so that it drags down the action. So it's hard to pin down where it went wrong.
Sonny Barger (who does a very good job here; portaying oneself in film isn't always as easy as it sounds) had previously had frustrating (and sometimes infamous) dealings with authors and filmmakers, but here presumably got his club fairly paid for a change and, one would guess, also had quite a bit of say in the film itself. The image of the club as bad motherfuckers who just want to be left alone and extend the same courtesy --unless you cross them, in which case they're coming at you with everything-- comes across just as he'd like it to. Though I wonder if he's also responsible for the film's rather dull title.
Oddly, I think it's the realism that is its undoing. Though Terry the Tramp is particularly fun here and Barger always has that great creepy/cool quality, the Angels, being actual Angels, are not as fun to watch as the cartoonish Satan's Sadists, for example. In the end it's a great story, professionally told, but nothing special.
And what's with the music? What little there is is impossibly dull. Sonny couldn't have asked the Dead for a couple tunes or something?
I should stress again that this is a good story, and aside from stuntman Bob Harris nearly every biker here is a real one. So it qualifies as essential viewing, despite its grade of 3.

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