Saturday, November 18, 2017

#2,465. Angel Unchained (1970)

Directed By: Lee Madden

Starring: Don Stroud, Luke Askew, Larry Bishop

Tag line: "HATE WAS THE CHAIN THAT LINKED THEM TOGETHER! God Help the One Who Broke It!"

Trivia:  A soundtrack recording was released in 1970 on American International records featuring music composed and sung by Randy Sparks

A 1970 biker flick released by AIP, Angel Unchained has one hell of a pre-title sequence:

The Nomads chapter of the Exiles Motorcycle Club is hanging out at an amusement park, lazily enjoying the kiddie rides. Before long, a rival gang shows up, and within moments the two groups are engaged in an all-out brawl. The melee soon spreads throughout the entire park; a few guys are fighting on the rollercoaster while one biker chases another on the merry-go-round. The cops eventually turn up, causing everyone to scatter, but it’s a lot of fun while it lasts! 

Alas, this little scrap proved to be the final straw for Angel (Don Stroud), the vice-president of the Nomads. After talking things over with club president (and his best friend) Pilot (Larry Bishop), Angel resigns his post and heads out on his own. 

During his travels, Angel helps a couple of hippies who are being harassed by a bigoted gas station attendant. The hippies - one of whom is named Merilee (Tyne Daly) - then take Angel back to their commune, where he’s invited to stay as long as he likes by Jonathan (Luke Askew), their leader. 

Unfortunately, the locals just won’t leave the hippies alone, and stage an attack on the commune. While trying to stop them, Angel stabs one of the attackers with a pitchfork, and in a fit of anger the locals give Jonathan and his followers until the end of the week to clear out, or face the consequences. 

In an effort to keep his commune together, Jonathan asks Angel to talk to his old biker gang, in the hopes they’ll teach his group how to defend themselves (and maybe they'll even stick around long enough to scare away the locals). Though reluctant to do so, Angel rides off and finds Pilot and the others, who agree to accompany him back to the commune. 

But as Angel feared, the bikers take over the place, and the hippies begin to wonder if there will be anything left of their beloved home when the fighting starts. 

Directed by Lee Madden, Angel Unchained is equal parts The Wild Angels and The Magnificent Seven, with a dash of Easy Rider thrown in for good measure. At first glance, this may seem like an odd combination, but Madden and the film’s writer Jeffrey Alan Fiskin manage to make it work, and even throw a little humor in along the way. Soon after they arrive at the commune, a few of the bikers, including Magician (T. Max Graham) and Shotgun (Bill McKinney), get their hands on some “special” cookies made by the “Injun” (Pedro Regas), an aging Native American who manufactures his own hallucinogenic drugs. Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say the Injun’s concoction affects the bikers in a very... unusual way (we’re treated to a bizarre - but oh so funny - fantasy sequence which Magician and the others experience as a result of eating the cookies). 

That said, Angel Unchained is at its best when the action is kicked up a notch, and the final showdown between the locals (who drive dune buggies, of all things) and the hippies / bikers is packed with plenty of drama and excitement. 

Angel Unchained certainly isn’t perfect; it drags a bit at times (especially early on, before Pilot and the Nomads invade the commune); and the relationship that develops between the bikers and the hippies isn’t explored as well as it could have been (Pilot and company go from mocking their hosts one minute to defending them the next, and we’re never quite sure why). But thanks to a handful of well-staged action scenes and a memorable cameo by Aldo Ray (as a laid-back sheriff), Angel Unchained is, at the very least, an entertaining watch.

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