Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Corman Anthology: Angel (1984)

It's rare that a movie sounds so sweet, yet is so full of sleaze.  1984's Angel is the start of a four-film series, despite the third film being subtitled The Final Chapter.  It tells the tale of an under-age prostitute in Los Angeles who is leading a double-life.  This may have sounded like a Christmas film at first glance, but it really, really isn't!  It's a New World Pictures release, which means that Roger Corman has his old man fingers all over it.  As people that worked under him at the time have noted, Corman had a simple business model- make simple, genre films that come out, make a profit and then vanish.  It worked for the longest time, so I guess it's hard to argue with it- at least to a point.  In a post-modern, DVD age, looking back at many of these films does not always do them justice.  The plots are usually simple to understand- sometimes to a fault- and the characters are written as broadly as possible.  Does this first film in the series hold up after 26 years- and change- or did it age like bad cheese?  To find out, read on...
This is Angel.  She's your typical A-type personality and Honor Student.  She spends her nights on the Holywood Strip as a prostitute...at age 15.  Joy.
The problem- a serial killer is on the loose and he's taking out prostitutes.  As the Demon from Millennium said 'Killing prostitutes- that's so cliche.'  This also sets up a sub-plot involving the uniformed officer on the left...which kind of ends abruptly later on.
Angel has friends on the Strip- a cross-dressing man and a guy who thinks that he's a cowboy.  Comedy characters in a film about under-age prostitutes dying at the hands of a necrophilic serial killer- makes sense to me!
Things get 'real' when not one, but two of Angel's friends and co-workers die.  As I lead you through these films, you'll notice that this plot thread comes up a lot!
No Corman film is complete without superfluous nudity.  In this case, it comes from a scene of the co-eds running into the shower at school.  Another common thread for the Angel films- the lead never shows any skin.  Granted, she's supposed to be 15 here, so I can accept it...
The killer grows a fascination with Angel/Molly, especially after she fingers him for the crime.  He disguises himself as a Hari Krishna- I'm sure it made sense to him at the time- and tries to get to her, but first has to face off with the cross-dressing father/mother figure of Angel.

By the way, he randomly kills that uniformed officer off-screen.  See- I told you that it just ended abruptly!
This means 'War' to Angel and she gets out her Chekhov's Gun- which is actually a gun this time- to track him down.  When an under-age prostitute is walking down the Hollywood Strip with a .44 Caliber handgun, it's time to run!
The killer is brought to justice by the authorities.  Nah, just kidding.  He's actually shot to death by the cowboy, who was sparing Angel the job.  It's like Road to Perdition...but with under-age prostitutes, cowboys and a cross-dresser.  The End.
Los Angeles is truly the City of Angel.  The plot of this movie is pretty basic, but it works...at least as far as its trying to be.  Is the film great?  No, not really.  It wasn't trying to be though.  It's a Roger Corman film that was probably made for less than a million dollars and probably made at least four times its budget back on VHS alone.  The mix of comedy, melodrama and sleaze is certainly an odd one.  One minute, Angel is chatting with her cross-dressing father/mother figure- who's supposed to look like Jack Lemmon from Some Like It Hot- and the next minute, her friend is murdered and the scene cuts away just before her killer has sex with her corpse!  That's not to say that you can't mix genres like that, but it does require a subtle touch.  You don't exactly get that here!  With all of that said, the film is decent and gets its message across.  If you're a fan of Corman films, you know what to expect here.  Let's just see if the sequels stack up as well.  What do you think, Creepy Chaplin man...
Up next, the second Angel film features new cast members, dead old cast members and...more comedy.  If you thought the first film was a weird mix, check this out!  Stay tuned...

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