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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Angel Unchained (1970) Action Bikers

Angel Unchained (1970)  - As I prepare for watching and reviewing the film "Dear God No!" which is self reported as the closest thing to the seventies grind house biker flicks of old out now. I am first in need of a bit of an education by watching some of those films so I understand what the new film is paying homage too. So with that is mind here is the first in a series of 70s biker films I am going to cover this month. Now if you know me, you know I can't just do the straight up biker movies, I will try to find the more unusual ones. On tap are biker werewolves, versus zombies and even Bigfoot. Who is to say whether any of this will get me ready for but it should be an interesting ride.
 Angel Unchained is a strange mix of bikers and hippies joining together to stop the local cowboys from ruining the hippie commune. More than that the film looks at the effects of violence as a solution to problems. By bringing together the peace loving hippies who just want to grow there own food and live communally with the biker who take what they want when they want and live for the excitement of the fight. We see the approaches to life contrasted in a very interesting way. Add to this the outside threat of the local cowboys who disdain the commune because it challenges there rigid belief structure of what life should be and you have the formula for trouble. The commune is there so the hippies can move outside society and live on their own, they want to be outsiders but still within the confines of American society. The locals can't accept outsiders and are determined to hassle them until they leave. Enter the bikers who are really outsiders, not only to the locals and the law but to the hippies too. They are wildcards selfish and violent with the only agenda to do what they want. They represent the extreme that edge of society which can not be tamed.
  This all comes together through the story of Angel, (veteran actor Don Stroud) who after leaving his biker club he travels to a small desert town. Angel decides to intervene when the local cowboys hassle a couple hippies, Merrilee (Tyne Daly long before she was in Cagney and Lacey or Judging Amy) and Hood (T.C. Ryan) he is invited back to the commune. Bonding quickly with Merrilee Angel sees how the commune works. People working together to grow their own food and make a life worth living. He starts to question his own life up until this point. When the locals come buzzing in riding there dune buggies, the pacifist hippies are ill equipped to stop them from destroying their crops and damaging their buildings. This is not the case for Angel who arms himself with a pitchfork and wounds the local's leader Dave. (Peter Lawrence) Of course these guy promise to come back in a week and destroy the commune and creates a crisis for the community.
  Commune leader Tremaine (Luke Askew) asks if Angel can get his biker club to come by to help deal with the cowboys. Angel knows this is a bad idea but can't convince the commune members to choose a different path. Feeling responsible for the current crisis he decides to go talk to the locals and try to smooth things out. Fighting his nature he tries to reason with them but his apology is ignored and he has to fight his way back to the commune. Finally he can see no good way to deal with the locals other than approaching his former club. They are at first cool to the idea but the president of the club Pilot (Larry Bishop) and he are close and they reluctantly agree to hang out there for a week. Of course Angel tries repeatedly to warn the commune out of this course of action but in the end leads his former brothers into the place.
  The film shifts at this point to a contrast between the bikers and the hippies. It is very clear that this relationship is a delicate balance and many differences come up that could cause the bikers to take off leaving the place unprotected. Still they prepare including amusing scenes where the bikers are hoping to teach the commune members to fight back, but they don't seem capable. There are a couple of side stories also, Jackie the former "old lady" to Angel is now with biker Shotgun and he really mistreats her as well as having some testosterone driven issues with Angel. Also is the drug situation at the commune when the bikers get hold of some peyote cookies baked up by Injun and really want to score a larger quantity of the drug. In the end all of the storylines are resolved except the main one.
  Sure there is the big showdown between the commune and the cowboys, but the message the film leaves is that there is no clean way to resolve conflicts by using violence. The commune and the biker seem to triumph in the fight but it is pretty obvious they have lost the war. The commune will never be the same. The Story arc of Angel is well played out and at the end of the film the viewer has to be pleased to be left with quality questions about the use of violence. This I think was a very goods introduction to the biker film. It was not too crazy and had a well thought out plot. The execution by director Lee Madden was capable but the music, oh boy the music. It was that sickly sweet style of sixties music where it seemed a 50 year old guy wrote to sound like hippie music but contains none of the spirit. Still I think this is a worthy entry into my new education and since it is streaming on both Netflix and Amazon Prime should be easy for most of you to access.


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