Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Confessions Of A B-Movie Addict

Hi, my name is Zach B. I like loud rock n' roll, cheap beer, cigarettes, celebrity gossip, and talking loudly in public places. Perhaps you've read my blog Random Old Records, or listened to the podcast of the same name. If not, then what the hell's wrong with you?! Well, today I'm not here to talk about garage rock, girl groups, or drinking in Cincinnati dive bars. I am unashamed and ready to make a confession about my obsession: bad movies. I absolutely LOVE awful, terrible movies. While other folks watch Raging Bull, Die Hard, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, The Royal Tenenbaums and others of that ilk on repeat, I go crazy over cheap sets, visible boom microphones, wooden acting, and plot holes you could drive a car through. Give me a trashy plot, gratuitous nudity, and/or graphic violence, and I'm a happy guy! In my eyes, the pinnacle of bad movie-making is the Angel Quadrilogy. What, you've never heard of it?! For shame!

For the uninitiated, which I'm assuming is most of the people reading this, the Angel Quadrilogy is the finest (and as far as I know, only) teen prostitute-turned-vigilante series committed to celluloid. In fact, it was this epic saga that set me on the quest to watch every bad movie ever, back when I was an impressionable young lad. I remember stumbling into the back bedroom of my grandparents' house to find my uncle watching the first film in the series, only to be told "Uhhh, you probably shouldn't watch this" before being ushered back to the safety of my nightlight and Casey Kasem's American Top 40. Well shit, there's no better way to tell a kid to seek something out than saying it's BAD FOR THEM! From then on, I was on a mission. Every Sunday, I pulled the TV schedule out of the paper with sweaty palms, dilligently checking to see if that movie was being shown somewhere, anywhere! Eventually, I found it at 2 AM on a Thursday night on local UHF channel Star 64, home of the Kid's Club, cut-rate pro wrestling, and Saved By The Bell reruns. I programmed the VCR and sat down when everyone else had gone to bed to savor this forbidden fruit. To be blunt, it blew my freakin' mind!

To provide a little bit of background, Angel was released by New World Pictures in 1984. Started by B-movie icon Roger Corman in the early '70s, New World provided a steady stream of classic movies like Rock N' Roll High School, Humanoids From The Deep, and Death Race 2000 to drive-ins and inner-city grindhouses hungry for cheap diversions. However, by the time the '80s rolled around, the market for low-brow flicks dried up due to the home video market, gentrification, and big-budget exploitation epics by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. At his peak, Corman sold the studio off and started making straight-to-video trash. The group of investors left holding the bag full of empty promises needed a hit, and quick! Angel was constructed in an attempt to cover every sleazy base known to man, and it succeeded brilliantly.

Molly Stewart is a 15 year old student at a prestigious prep school in Los Angeles. She gets good grades and makes friends easily, but where does she get her money? Oh yeah, that's right! After the bell rings, Molly turns into Angel, a wise-cracking Sunset Strip hooker, watched after by a macho bull-dyke, a washed-up movie cowboy, and an outrageous, scenery-chewing transvestite! Oh, and Molly/Angel is an orphan, doing her best to hide her shattered private life from an earnest, but hard-boiled vice cop and a nosy, but well-meaning teacher. So yeah, we've drawn in the pedophiles and perverts too respectable to watch real porn, and the soap opera addicts hooked on overblown melodrama. What else could make this movie even better? If you answered, "throw in a serial killer!" then you've sunken to my level.

Ya see, there's this creepy, weight-lifting, necrophiliac serial killer roaming around LA, killing prostitutes with reckless abandon. This is where Angel leaves the runway and enters pure bad movie heaven. Angel's friends start dying, people start asking questions, and her world FALLS APART! The killer never speaks, but his motivation and whole life story is revealed in a matter of minutes. This pock-marked mook works out in his shadowy apartment, carves open a raw egg with a knife for whatever reason, then sucks on it while a picture of him and his mother looms ominously in the background. Her hand rests provocatively on his knee. While some might call this lazy storytelling, I think it is goddamn GENIUS! With this one brief image, you know that this dude hates women and had a domineering mother who quite possibly molested him. That's what TV cops call criminal intent. There's transvestites, gore, sweat, ill-advised comedy, neon street scenes, preachy After-School special grandstanding, girl's locker room shower nudity, and badly-choreographed fight scenes. See what I mean when I said all the bases were covered?!

Soon enough, the killer steps over the line, then disguises himself as a Hare Krishna. Wait, what? Angel reaches her limit, steals the father figure cop's gun, and takes shit into her own hands, resulting in a chase and shoot-out to make sure every '80s movie cliche is well represented. Angel is an epic that still stands up 25 years later. I don't have to watch it on a bootleg VHS tape anymore, though. The first three Angel movies are available in an immaculate DVD box set from Anchor Bay. The bastard stepchild of the Angel Quadrilogy, Angel 4: Undercover is out-of-print and so bad that even I'm embarrassed to talk about it. I'll have to compose myself and think before I write about the rest of them, but until then, I'll leave you with "Something Sweet," the insanely catchy theme song from Angel by forgotten LA new-wavers The Allies. "You got something sweet, you got what I neeeeed!" Yeah man!



  1. I saw this movie at drive-in in San Bernardino!

  2. Hey Martha! Zach thanks for a great article. I'll be following BIF regularly.

    I've now got to view Angel all over again. Sweet!