US, 1984, 92 minutes, Colour.
Cliff Gorman, Susan Tyrell, Dick Shawn, Rory Calhoun, John Diehl, Donna Wilkes.
Directed by Robert Vincent O' Neill.
Angel is one of many variations on the vengeance crime genre of American thrillers of the '70s and '80s.
Made by Roger Corman's New World Films, it has the characteristics of the Corman quick, but faithful to genre conventions, thriller. Many reviewers found it just as ugly in its presentation of crime as exploitive films. However, it has a great deal of irony in its screenplay and relies on Hollywood genres for its meaning - which makes it better, more thoughtful than others of its kind.
The film has a very strong cast of character actors and includes Rory Calhoun capitalising and sending up his cowboy image; Dick Shawn with the parody of the amiable transvestite and Susan Tyrell as yet another of her blowsy good-willed women. The film has an authentic Los Angeles atmosphere ? although stylised for the purposes of contrast between high school and the Hollywood Boulevard world.
1. The irony of the title? The film as a piece of Americana? American cities, ugliness, exploitation? Justice, law, vengeance?
2. An effective crime thriller? Real, exploitive? The material heightened, the use of conventions ? to the hilt? Send up and satire?
3. The '80s youth film and the exploitation of the campus comedy? The sex comedy? The exploitive crime thriller? How well did the film take these conventions and blend them? The portrait of the American high school: the authorities brash (more sympathetic than usual); the boys and their all-American style being pilloried? Sex and macho image? The contrast with the boulevard streets and the ugly night world? madness and violence? Prostitutes? The oddball characters? The police, dedicated, brutalised? The vigilante tone? The blending of all these for the film?
4. Angel/Molly: at school, the American girl, her friends, ordinariness, seeming innocence, sports and locker rooms, girls' chatter? The detail of school life? The contrast with home and her story about her mother and her protecting her? Her landlady, Solly? The range of odd friends? Seeing her on the beat, the transformation of the teenage girl? The variety of clients and her style? The encounter with the college boys ? just another variation on the clients? The school heroes growing into clients of prostitutes? Molly's comeuppance of them? The contrast of her worlds, how comprehensible? The comment on the split values and behaviour of today's youth?
5. The focus on the murders and their ugliness? The world of the psychopath? Billy Boy and his behaviour ? echoes of so many psychopath films? mad, sexuality, macho, violence? His macho behaviour and self-image? The atmosphere of fear that he caused? The build-up for the prostitutes and their fear, for Angel?
6. A bizarre world presented with some affection? Solly and her concern, blowsiness, oddball, lesbian, her reactions? Mae and his style, jokes, friends? The humour of the transvestite, but not a laughing at? Kit Carson and Rory Calhoun's image, walking round the Boulevard, using his six-shooter etc.? His seeming to be a put-on, audiences wondering whether he was authentic or not? The magician and his work, and his grief at the death of the prostitute? The stars in the character roles, their skills?
7. Lieutenant Andrews and his work, the puzzle, interviews, interviewing Molly, the clash with him, befriending her, the truth about her mother? The routine work of the police? The Vice Squad and the ugliness of the world? The brutalising effects as exhibited by Andrews?
8. Billy Boy and his arrest, the line up, his breaking out? His going for Molly, the vigilance? Her being sent packing? Mae's encounter and fight with him, death? Solly and the struggle? Kit Carson and his help, the authentic cowboy? The Hare Krishna disguise (tongue in cheek sequence) leading to his death?
9. Angel/Molly and her reaction to the deaths, the world of the streets, the role of the police, her taking the offensive against Billy Boy and pursuing him, shooting him?
10. Kit Carson and his friends representing the old world and what was left of it?
11. The parallel with American police dramas on television? The franker style for cinema screens? Entertainment value? Parable value, mirroring aspects of contemporary society?