Embittered by his experience working with 20th Century Fox on The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967), and weary of the Poe films for American International Pictures, Roger Corman was in dire need of inspiration for his ne... more »xt production. He found it in Life magazine, which featured a photo of the funeral of Mother Miles, head of the Sacramento, California, Hell's Angels. From this picture came both The Wild Angels and the biker-movie genre itself. Peter Fonda, who replaced George Chakiris, stars as brooding Angels chieftain Heavenly Blues. When his pal Loser (Bruce Dern) is shot by police, Blues attempts to bury him in a small town, but the locals resist, and a brawl ensues. Audiences and critics were alternately appalled and thrilled by the extensive drug use and violence, but beneath Angels' leathery hide beats the heart of a Western, especially in its ruminations on personal freedom. Charles Griffith's script (cowritten by Peter Bogdanovich, who also cameos in the film) helped make Angels the sole U.S. entry for the 1966 Venice Film Festival, which irked the State Department enough to try and revoke the honor. Corman's direction, freed from AIP's period pieces, is lean and exuberantly active, aided by Monte Hellman's editing. The film helped give Fonda the counterculture clout to later make Easy Rider, and boosted the careers of Dern and then-wife Diane Ladd; Nancy Sinatra, however, renounced the picture, fearful of its effect on her image. Mike Curb's score features Davie Allan and the Arrows' fuzz-tone-soaked hit "Blues' Theme." --Paul Gaita« less
"I'm not a movie critic, I'm a motorcyclist. I have this film on video and watch it fairly often, along with Beyond The Law, Hells Angels on Wheels and Angels Hard As They Come (the most underrated of biker flicks). Fonda, Dern, Ladd, Buck Taylor and Norman Alden are great. Nancy Sinatra was terrible and totally miscast, if she' repudiating this movie it's due to her terrible acting. I can't see Micheal J. Pollard as a biker (but he was wonderful in Little Fauss and Big Halsy). The star of this movie is Fonda's chopper, to me, it's more beautiful, and subltly understated, than that ultimate movie chopper in Easy Rider, the Captain America Bike. This movie is really about Heavenly Blue's changing values as his friend Loner dies. Girlfriend Sinatra realizes the change that's come over him, "it's like a piece of you went with him". He reveiws his life and sees it empty, without purpose without his closest compadre The Loser, as in the final line "there's no where to go" as he stays to bury his friend while others flee The Man. They go on to continue the life of carousing and hell raising while Blues follows through on a duty to a friend, and to me symbolically buries himself, his up-to-then life, as well as his only friend."
First Real Outlaw Biker Flick
westtexastopcat | Texas USA | 02/04/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Some folks consider "The Wild One" the first movie about outlaw bikers; it's not. "The Wild One" is about 50s beatniks who happen to tool around on British bikes (except Lee Marvin, the best thing about the movie). If you want the real thing, Hells Angels on Harleys, then "The Wild Angels" is the one. This is the movie that started the genre, so most of the cliches seen in subsequent drive in picture show biker features started here."
The Original Infamous Biker Flick (I'm not sure if I should
- Durrkk | Ohio/PA border USA | 10/17/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Like most people I've seen "Easy Rider" (1969), Peter Fonda's infamous drug-culture biker flick, but I haven't seen any of the other similar films from the '60s. Since "The Wild Angels" was available cheap I decided to enlighten myself to this Grade B film genre.
The first half hour or so is quite good. The Southern California locations and cinematography are incredible and the story is compelling. In fact, the film's worth owning for these elements alone (the scenic footage was shot in Mecca, Idyllwild and Palm Desert, California). The last 55 minutes can be shocking and tedious, however, if you're not psyched-up for it.
This latter portion of the film involves the death of Fonda's best friend, "The Loser," and his funeral & burial. The movie tends to bog down during these segments wherein the only thing that catches your attention (or wakes you up) is the utterly mean-spirited and criminal behavior of the "Angels."
I'm a big Marlon Brando fan so I've seen "The Wild One" from 1954, the original biker flick; but the worst that Brando & his gang do is brawl, drink and chew gum (gasp!). This may be "wild" perhaps but certainly not mean-spirited or criminal.
"The Wild Angels" was filmed only 12 years later, so I'm thinking 'How "wild" can they be?' Surprise, surprise as Fonda's gang members are WAY beyond merely wild & free (which is how they're depicted in the first half hour), they're totally wicked imbeciles (although Fonda himself, I should point out, is usually portrayed in the film merely as the epitome of 'cool').
Want proof? The Angels break into the hospital to "free" the Loser and he ends up dying for lack of proper medical care for his critical wounds. They make sure to get him high before he dies though. While breaking into the hospital one Angel savagely attempts to rape a nurse. And guess what kind of thanks the Angels give to the minister who kindly perfoms The Losers' funeral? They beat him up and trash his sanctuary. Guess what kind of comfort two Angels offer to The Loser's mourning girlfriend? They cruelly rape her. To top it all off they outrageously abuse The Loser's corpse at the funeral party(!!).
As you can see, the Angels aren't just anti-heroes in this film, they're the SCUM OF THE EARTH. Not only that, but they're a bunch of LOSERS who, as Fonda points out, just "want to get loaded." Hey, everyone needs to let loose and celebrate now and then (God even commands it in the bible -- Deuteronomy 14:26), but if the whole purpose of your life is to just "get loaded" you're not gonna look very good when you hit 35 (the Angels in the movie are all in their 20s), and you're certainly not going to have any energy, drive or charisma. Yeah, the "party animal" life gets old real quick, and then ya gotta grow up (every one grows older but not everyone grows up).
Despite what other reviewers say, Nancy Sinatra does a fabulous job; she would later renounce the film, however, due to it's incredible immorality.
In my teens I went through a "party animal" phase and "partied" with real bikers on quite a few occasions (The Outlaws). These were some bad dudes, to be sure, but they were generally pleasant and merry; I never experienced anything that remotely resembles the Angel's heinous conduct in this flick. So I very seriously doubt the realism of this depiction. In other words, knowing that controversy sells, Roger Corman featured the Angels immorally over-the-top for the simple sake of shock value. Most people, I'm sure, realize this. Still, there's SOME truth to the nature of such outlaw/outcast American biker gangs as depicted in the film.
FINAL ANALYSIS: The first time I saw "The Wild Angels" (2004) I was taken aback (to put it mildly) by the incredibly wicked morality of the Hell's Angels; I simply wasn't prepared to see this in a 1966 flick. I also felt the story really bogged down with The Losers' death, funeral and burial (which involved the last 55 minutes of the film). These factors explain why I rated "The Wild Angels" as 2/5 Stars.
Seeing it again after over two years, fully prepared for the material, I saw the film's uniqueness and brilliance. Yes, some of the Angel's behavior is incredibly reprehensible and, yes, the preacher in the film was right when he stated "Woe to those who say good is evil and evil is good." Still, the picture successfully captures the utterly outcast (and outlaw) nature of the bike gang. They're like a small, totally lost tribe living on the periphery of American soiciety. In a way, one can't help but pity the poor bastages.
Also, I saw the genius of the last 55 minutes of the picture, which involve The Losers' death, funeral and burial. If you're psyched-up to see an action picture you're going to be disappointed because "The Wild Angels" boldly sneers at all such film conventions. The story powerfully shows how the various gang members deal with their grief: They deny it and attempt to lose themselves in drinking/drugs, laughter and criminal conduct. The leader (Fonda) can't shake his great grief; he's not sure if he even loves his "old lady" anymore. When everyone else scatters because "the Heat" arrives, he stays -- risking impending capture -- to bury his fallen comrade.
The original title of "The Wild Angels" was better and more fitting: "All the Fallen Angels."
No matter how you slice it, "The Wild Angels" is shocking, bold, unique and well worthy of its notorious reputation. In fact, it was banned in Denmark, one of the world's most 'liberated' countries, when it was first released.
If you're watching it for the first time you'd better brace yourself."
Still a powerful indictment of 1960s nihilism
Brian Camp | Bronx, NY | 06/30/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Watching THE WILD ANGELS (1966) recently for the first time in over two decades, I was struck by how powerful and relevant it still seems. Unlike some of the more starry-eyed counterculture films of the late 1960s, this one captured quite vividly the nihilism of the era and the dark side of the 1960s. The first film about the Hell's Angels motorcycle club and initiator of a short-lived but popular biker film craze, it presents its Harley-riding characters as cases of arrested development, unable to cope in the adult world, who have managed to form their own social class of outcasts, drunks, losers and misfits. (The real Hell's Angels sued the filmmakers for defamation of character.) The film avoids blatant moralizing, but simply shows the Angels' erratic behavior, contrasting the brutality, misogyny and pot- and alcohol-induced hedonism of the men with the occasional bursts of empathy and self-awareness shown by their female partners. In fact, one of the most compelling aspects of the film today is the work of the four main actresses, Nancy Sinatra, Diane Ladd, Gayle Hunnicutt and Joan Shawlee, neither of whom, on first glance, would seem to belong in such a film. But they all strive to make their characters plausible, believable and human, even in the most demeaning circumstances, and add emotional layers that distinguish the film from its numerous imitators. Also worth singling out is Peter Fonda's portrayal of Blues, the Angels' nominal leader, whose dawning realization of his own tragic blunders provides the true heart of the film.Also striking about the film today is its depiction of a thoroughly desolate Southern California landscape far from Los Angeles. We see the working-class backwater districts of places like San Pedro and Venice Beach; remote desert towns mired in poverty; long, endless highways leading nowhere; and, finally, a town high in the mountains, with woods and snow, where the Angels go to bury one of their number. Some of the wanton behavior in certain scenes seems way over the top today and was clearly added to the film for its sensational and exploitation value, but such scenes are balanced by many more that dramatize, in stark terms, the desperation of people who feel they have no choices and no hopes. It remains one of director Roger Corman's strongest works."
The Wild Angels remembered!
Mitch Schecter | USA | 02/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Finally!!! The Wild Angels on DVD!!! After I saw this film way back in the 60's, I spent countless hours riding my stingray bike around the neighborhood with Davie Allens Guitar screaming in my head,reliving the beginning of that film. The opening sequence is worth the price of the DVD alone. This is Roger Cormans' shining 60's moment for me. And Peter Fonda inscribed his image in every rock'n roll kids mind. Great stuff!!!!!"