Roger Corman’s The Wild Angels might not be one of the best movies ever, but it’s an important one for three reasons. One: it inspired Peter Fonda to go on and make Easy Rider. Two: As uncredited screenwriter, cinematographer and Assistant Director, this film launched the career of Peter Bogdanovich. Three: It gave us that great speech from Fonda that Primal Scream sampled in their classic song, “Loaded”.
The movie follows a Hell’s Angels biker gang led by Heavenly Blues (Fonda). The film opens when Blues informs fellow Angel, Loser (Bruce Dern) that they’ve located his stolen bike and they’re going to go get it. This leads Blues, Loser and the rest of the gang on a crazy trip that does not end where they expect it to.
Things go south quickly as the police interrupt a fight between the Angels and group of Hispanic mechanics who Blues believes knows where Loser’s bike is. After the fray, Loser steals one of the cops motorcycles and gets himself shot. Later Blues comes up with the brilliant idea to rescue Loser from the hospital so he doesn’t go to jail. However, they break him out to soon and his condition does not improve. While at the hospital one of the Angels tries to rape a nurse, but Blues stops him. However, the nurse remembers Blues and points out his mug shot to the cops.
The Angels attempt to hold a funeral for Loser, but as with all things with these bikers, it turns to total chaos. The most upsetting part of the film comes when Frankenstein, one of the bikers who has been harassing Gaysh, Loser’s girl, the whole film, finally gets his opportunity to rape her. You hope that Blues will stop this rape the way he stopped the nurse’s rape, but rescue never comes. It’s not a graphic scene, thankfully, but it’s upsetting nonetheless.
Gaysh is played by Dern’s real life wife at the time, Diane Ladd. Blues’ girlfriend, Mike, is played by Nancy Sinatra. While both have the potential to be strong characters, they are sadly lost in this film of rowdy bikers who act first and think later.
The film is okay, some of the scenes drag on a little longer than they should, but the friendship between Blues and Loser is well developed. It’s interesting to see Blues struggle with leading his gang while attempting to deal with his own feelings of loss at the death of his friend.
I’m sure it was Boganovich’s influence that brought some character development to this film that should have had none. It takes an otherwise generic B biker film and elevates it every so slightly making it an interesting film to watch.
The film is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and DTS audio. The transfer of the film here is pretty good. It’s still pretty grainy, but it only adds to the grit of the film, were this film pristine it would lose something.
There are no special features.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this one, but I was curious to see a young Peter Fonda and Bruce Dern act together. They are great on screen and Sinatra and Ladd deliver good performances too. Its an awkward film at times, but as a piece of film history, it certainly has a place.
Olive Films presents The Wild Angels. Written by Charles Griffith and Peter Bogdanovich (uncredited). Directed by Roger Corman. Starring: Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Nancy Sinatra and Diane Ladd. Running time: 93 min. Rating: R. Released on DVD: February 17, 2015.
Tags: Bruce Dern, Diane Ladd, Nancy Sinatra, Peter Bogdanovich, Peter Fonda, Roger Corman, The Wild Angels