(US - 1984)
Directed by Robert Vincent O'Neil. Written by Robert Vincent O'Neil and Joseph M. Cala. Cast: Cliff Gorman, Susan Tyrrell, Dick Shawn, Rory Calhoun, Donna Wilkes, John Diehl, Elaine Giftos, Donna McDaniel, Graem McGavin, Mel Carter, Steven M. Porter, Peter Jason, Ross Hagen, David Underwood, David Anthony, Dennis Kort, Joseph M. Cala. (R, 93 mins)
With the help of veteran producer Sandy Howard (A MAN CALLED HORSE, THE DEVIL'S RAIN), Robert Vincent O'Neil really had his finger on the pulse of L.A. grime in the early 1980s. O'Neil spent the early 1970s directing drive-in fare like BLOOD MANIA and WONDER WOMEN before finding his niche when he co-wrote the Howard-produced 1982 hit VICE SQUAD, which kickstarted the whole Hollywood Blvd/Sunset Stripsploitation craze (SAVAGE STREETS, CRIMES OF PASSION, SUNSET STRIP, HOLLYWOOD VICE SQUAD, etc.) and cemented Wings Hauser's place in film history with his insane performance as psycho pimp "Ramrod." Following the surprise success of VICE SQUAD, Howard rewarded Hauser with his own "cop who plays by his own rules" actioner with 1983's underappreciated DEADLY FORCE, again written by O'Neil. DEADLY FORCE disappeared from theaters quickly, but Howard and O'Neil (now promoted to director) struck gold in early 1984 with ANGEL, one of the first releases from the post-Roger Corman incarnation of New World Pictures. With its memorably salacious tag line ("High school honor student by day...Hollywood hooker by night"), ANGEL became a sleeper hit in theaters and would spawn three sequels, two of which join it in Vinegar Syndrome's new extras-packed ANGEL COLLECTION Blu-ray set, because physical media is dead.
HELLO, LARRY). Instead, he saves the nastiness for the crux of the plot, which involves a deranged, necrophile serial killer (John Diehl) who's been offing hookers, including two of Angel's friends, Crystal (Donna McDaniel) and Lana (Graem McGavin). Hard-nosed but sympathetic vice cop Lt. Andrews (Cliff Gorman) is on the case, and eventually becomes another of Angel's protectors when she picks the killer out of a lineup and ends up becoming his next target.
|ANGEL opening in Toledo, OH on 2/17/1984
(US - 1985)
Directed by Robert Vincent O'Neil. Written by Robert Vincent O'Neil and Joseph M. Cala. Cast: Betsy Russell, Rory Calhoun, Susan Tyrrell, Ossie Davis, Robert F. Lyons, Steven M. Porter, Paul Lambert, Barry Pearl, Estee Chandler, Ross Hagen, Tim Rossovich, Frank Doubleday, Howard Honig, Tracy Robert Austin, Michael Andrews, Paul "Mousie" Garner, Hoke Howell, Debi Sue Voorhees, Robert Tessier, Liz Sheridan, Edward Blackoff, Karen Mani, Lynda Wiesmeier, Joseph M. Cala. (R, 94 mins)
"When you get to Hell...tell 'em Angel sent you."
ANGEL gave the new regime at New World a hit right out of the gate, so of course, a sequel was quickly commissioned and in theaters exactly one year later. AVENGING ANGEL offered a new Angel, with Betsy Russell (PRIVATE SCHOOL) replacing Donna Wilkes who, emboldened by the box office success of ANGEL, apparently demanded more money than the producers were willing to pay, something director/co-writer Robert Vincent O'Neil still seems pretty bent out of shape about in an interview on the new Blu-ray (he blasts the "stupid producers" for not giving Wilkes what she wanted, though he's quick to point out that "Betsy was a sweetheart"). While ANGEL had some lighthearted moments courtesy of its colorful supporting cast, AVENGING ANGEL almost feels like an outright comedy much of the time after a downbeat opening. Set four years after the events of the first film, Russell's Molly is now a collegiate track star studying law and enjoying a normal life with boyfriend Teddy (Tim Rossovich), who's unaware of her sordid past. She maintains a close father-daughter relationship with Lt. Andrews (Robert F. Lyons replacing Cliff Gorman), but her new life comes crashing down when Andrews is killed after being caught in the crossfire of a mob hit on an undercover cop (Karen Mani) that's witnessed by New Wave-y looking street kid Johnny Glitter (Barry Pearl). Vowing revenge, Molly returns to the mean streets of Hollywood Blvd as "Angel" and puts the band back together in what's basically a "Denizens Assemble!" move, teaming up with Yo-Yo Charlie (Steven M. Porter) and her kooky former landlady Solly (Susan Tyrrell) to bust a senile Kit Carson (Rory Calhoun) out of a sanitarium in Solly's backfiring jalopy of a hearse (complete with "wacky" music). Angel and crew eventually recruit an on-the-run Johnny Glitter--the witness who now has a target on his back--and go after Lt. Andrews' killers.
AVENGING ANGEL opening in Toledo, OH on 2/1/1985
(US - 1988)
Written and directed by Tom DeSimone. Cast: Maud Adams, Mitzi Kapture, Richard Roundtree, Mark Blankfield, Kin Shriner, Emile Beaucard, Tawny Fere, Barbara Treutelaar, Susan Moore, Anna Navarro, Floyd Levine, Kyle T. Heffner, Dick Miller, Toni Basil, S.A. Griffin, Bob DeSimone, Julie K. Smith. (R, 99 mins)
Set ten years after the events of AVENGING ANGEL, ANGEL III: THE FINAL CHAPTER finds Molly (now played by future SILK STALKINGS star Mitzi Kapture) working as a police photographer in NYC while doing freelance gigs on the side (Dick Miller sighting as a cranky newspaper editor!). While covering the opening of a posh art gallery, something about visiting L.A. gallery owner Gloria Rollins (Anna Navarro) catches her eye and prompts her to investigate. Yes, she's her long-lost mother, who abandoned her a decade and a half earlier. Molly follows Gloria back to L.A. and confronts her only to have her killed shortly after by a bomb planted in her car. It turns out Molly has a younger half-sister named Michelle (Tawny Fere), who was kidnapped six months earlier by art dealer Nadine (two-time Bond girl Maud Adams), whose gallery business is a front for a cocaine/pornography/white slavery operation with a Middle Eastern crime syndicate headed by Shahid (Emile Beaucard). This means only one thing: it's time for Molly to once again become "Angel" and tear up the streets of L.A. looking for her sister, this time with the help of street magician and ice cream truck driver Spanky (Mark Blankfield of FRIDAYS, JEKYLL & HYDE...TOGETHER AGAIN, and THE JERK, TOO) and his filmmaker buddy and Molly love interest Neal (Kin Shriner). The shamelessly mugging Blankfield and the boring Shriner aren't exactly on the level of the absent Rory Calhoun as the rootin' tootin' Kit Carson or Susan Tyrrell as Solly (the latter is mentioned but never seen), while Adams approaches this as if she's still in OCTOPUSSY mode, hissing bitchy and culturally insensitive Bond villain bon mots like "Enjoy the scenery while you can, Angel...in a few days you'll be on your back in a whorehouse in Calcutta, fucking the locals for fish heads and rice," or admonishing Shahid's extreme intimidation tactics with "This is the United States of America! We don't do car bombs here!" Richard Roundtree also periodically appears as yet another hard-nosed but sympathetic police lieutenant who warns Angel to stay out of the investigation while basically letting her crack the case for him and reluctantly complimenting her "chutzpah."
PACIFIC BLUE star Darlene Vogel as Molly, this time using her Angel persona to pose as a groupie in pursuit of the killer who offed an aspiring rock star. Universally regarded as the franchise nadir, ANGEL 4 features a seriously slumming Roddy McDowall as an duplicitous record exec, and was an early directing effort by Richard Schenkman (hiding behind the pseudonym "George Axmith"), who went on to make a pair of minor late '90s cult movies with his friend Jon Cryer: THE POMPATUS OF LOVE and WENT TO CONEY ISLAND ON A MISSION FROM GOD...BE BACK BY FIVE. As tame as they might seem now, given the subject matter and changing times and attitudes, there's little chance of something like the ANGEL franchise being rebooted today. And that's a damn shame because Sam Elliott or Kurt Russell would absolutely rule as Kit Carson.