Angels Hard as they Come
Action, Drama | 85 mins | Released: 1971
Director: Joe Viola
Starring: Scott Glenn, Charles Dierkop, James Inglehart, Gilda Texter, Gary Littlejohn, Gary Busey, Don Carerra
Our Rating: 5
A drug deal is foiled, when the cops show up. They agree to meet in a few days out in the desert and complete the deal. The Angels biker gang heads for the meeting place. On the way they meet up with the Dragons, another biker gang, and are invited to come party with some hippies in an old ghost town. The General, leader of the Dragons is a psychotic dwarf and his henchman Axe isn’t too stable either. The trouble starts when one of the hippie girls is murdered and the Dragons decide that one of the Angels did it..
Angels Hard as They Come is a 1971 biker film produced by Jonathan Demme.
Jonathan Demme met Roger Corman while doing publicity on Von Richthofen and Brown. The producer was impressed by publicity material Demme had written and asked if he was interested in writing a motorcycle movie. Demme pitched the idea of a motorcycle version of Rashomon and wrote it with Joe Viola, who directed TV commercials Demme had produced.
The film was very successful with Corman saying it earned rentals of over $700,000 and returning a profit of 46% within the first year.
Fans of 1960s/70s exploitation movies will flip over this one!
Author: Infofreak from Perth, Australia, 2 February 2004
“Fans of 1960/70s exploitation movies will flip over this one! Jonathan Demme originally pitched the project to Roger Corman as “a biker Rashomon”. Now that’s not exactly how it ended up, but it’s still terrific viewing for cult fans nonetheless. Demme co-wrote and co-produced and his pal Joe Viola directed. Viola and Demme were then involved with the women-in-prison movies ‘The Hot Box’ and ‘Black Mama, White Mama’ before they parted ways. Viola concentrated on writing for TV while Demme eventually became a major Hollywood director. Scott Glenn, who in the 90s co-starred in Demme’s enormously successful ‘The Silence Of The Lambs’, plays Long John, a biker who gets invited to a ghost town where some Hell’s Angels are partying with some local hippies. Unfortunately a girl is murdered and Long John and his pals are accused by the bikers leader The General (Charles Dierkop, of ‘Police Woman’ fame, and the Killer Santa in ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’). They face a kangaroo court and then… well, imagine your worst. Glenn and Dierkop are both great to watch but the real icing on the cake is the supporting cast which includes Gary Busey as an unlikely hippie, biker regular Gary Littlejohn, ‘Vanishing Point’s nude motorcycle girl Gilda Texter, James Inglehart (Randy Black in Russ Meyer’s trash classic ‘Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls’), Janet Wood (who as Sweet Li’L Alice featured in the unforgettable naked knife fight with Raven De La Croix in Meyer’s ‘Up!’), and even – get this! – the fat guy from Sam Fuller’s ‘Shock Corridor’ (Larry Tucker) as a cat called Lucifer! Such a cast makes ‘Angels Hard As They Come’ essential viewing for all fans of psychotronic cinema! Don’t overlook this forgotten biker gem.”
Makes taking a nap look like Mardi Gras
Author: TheMarquisDeSuave from Worcester, MA, 14 January 2007
“Jonathan Demme, who wrote the script for this, went on to become one of Hollywood’s most prominent directors. There’s no indication of his talent whatsoever in this, his first work. “Angels Hard as They Come” is possibly the dullest, least interesting biker flick I’ve seen. Its not bad enough to be funny and not good enough to be noteworthy. Its just boring all the way through. The back of the DVD I got says its a satire of the genre. If thats true, its an accurate (if unfunny) depiction of the biker films. If not, its the most clichéd biker film I’ve seen in a while. Demme originally planned for the film to be a “biker ‘Rashomon'”. If that original concept had panned out, this may have been like his later interesting (if overrated) take on the women-in-prison film “Caged Heat”. Unfortunately it didn’t, and we were stuck with this.
People don’t watch biker films for quality acting or good direction. They watch them for some exploitation thrills. The standard rumble scenes are in “Angels”, but they offer no excitement at all because the characters are so uninteresting and hard to differentiate from one another. I realize that biker films don’t have multi-dimensional protagonists, but the ones in this aren’t even amusing stock types. Plus, the film is pretty tame outside of some brief nudity (its not wall to wall with sadism). To be fair, some of the acting is decent (in particular Scott Glenn) and its fun to see cult actor Larry Tucker (“Shock Corridor”, “Blast of Silence”) in a small role in the beginning. Still, if you want a good biker flick check out “The Wild Angels” or “The Born Losers”. “Angels Hard as They Come” makes taking a nap look like Mardi Gras.”
a gritty, lost classic in the biker movie era
Author: MisterWhiplash from United States, 17 July 2006
“On the one hand, after watching Angels Hard as They Come, I could understand why it’s not higher rated or even been seen anymore than the common garden-variety B-movie biker flick, as it is true shamelessly Corman-style. On the other hand, I ended really liking how it was executed. The collaborators, Joe Viola and Jonathan Demme, wring out plenty of dirty fun out of such violent and twisted material without ‘softening’ it up like some biker movies of the period. It’s got almost no characters from the ‘outside’ world, just bikers, and maybe a few hippies (and yes, one of them an out-of-place and amusingly one-note Gary Busey). So part of the entertainment comes from bikers just being as rough and crazy as possible. But with this the writers come up with some unexpectedly funny moments, some more harsh than others, and sometimes even commenting on some of the absurdities of the Dragons. This is done dialog-wise many times- as Viola’s style isn’t nearly as strong or affecting as Demme provides- and sometimes through ideas shown and it all being realistic even as its crudely artificial.
One such scene, as a quick example, is when the leader of the pack General (Charles Dierkop as a well-played maniac) is seen from the waist up having short moment of pleasure, then as the camera pans down his motorcycle is getting a cleaning (pun intended, but then the title itself is almost there just for a goof). Or in having one of the side characters, the one black character of a story, adrift in the desert, almost putting to a stop the Corman rule of there being almost constant danger &/or fights &/or sex/nudity/et all. Other ideas abound in the crazy extremities that the Dragons go through against the three Angels (one being Scott Glenn in maybe the best ‘acting’ of the film), including a final idea that never does come to fruition. All through, the filmmakers basically acknowledge what kind of film they’re making, and don’t skimp out on the early biker movies might not have dealt with, at least as much. Rape, racism, torture, pure decadence and decay in the devastation. But the factor of it all having practically a Western-movie element to it, a B-Western at that, is not thrown away for a story without focus.
It’s arcane and simplistic in music, usually exploitive in themes and character, and it’s got the cinematic flavor of a beer soaked ashtray. But to hell if it isn’t one of my favorites of its kind, if only on the most guilty-pleasure level.”