Angel Unchained (1970)


Angel Unchained has the ingredients of your basic AIP picture- bikers, ‘cowboys’ (rednecks), hippies, and lots of action. Unfortunately, it isn’t entirely synthesized. Perhaps I could’ve known this by seeing it had been re-rated a PG-13 by the MPAA, but I also thought ‘hosh-posh, it still probably has that real violent, grungy feel of dueling off between the forces of hicks and bikers’. Turns out the cooler elements of the film, some of which are some of the more amusing and awesomely bad moments from AIP biker movies, are juxtaposed against a core of a story that’s kind of tame, even soft. It’s actually got a Seven Samurai-style story to it, with the roles of the bandits and samurai reversed here- this time it’s the so-called bandits (bikers) fighting off against the good-old boys (cowboys). This starts off some interest even as knock-off material.

The acting as well is not that terrible, at least for what’s required on such an ultra-low budget. Regulars like Don Stroud and Luke Askew are dependable (more so Askew who the year before had a memorable role in Easy Rider), though Tyne Daly, a strange early part for her before The Enforcer and later Judging Amy, keeps the love story a little too mellow for its own good. Angel (Stroud) wants to get away just for a little while from his old gang, so he hooks up with Daly’s character and starts working at a commune/farm, complete with dazed bearded help and a token Native American with a special ‘mix’ of cookies. But as they get terrorized by cowboys on go-carts (yes, go-carts, one of the real highlights of the movie), Angel enlists the help of his biker gang, with some consequences that unfold. All of this is tricky material, and the co-writer/director Lee Madden isn’t totally able to balance out the scenes and moments (and just visual sights like with Bill McKinney’s retro glasses) with the sappier parts. The latter of which also includes a soundtrack that borders on soft-rock, the specifically wrong tone that suddenly makes the material quite dated.

So, if you’re looking for lots of carnage, immoral action, and the stomping out of almost everything in sight, you might be disappointed. Even as there is a neat B-movie style climax involving go-carts vs. bikers that does garner up excitement and laughs, the very end adds a point to what ends up being the lesser qualities of the film. It’s intentions are swell, but it gets confused as whether it should be more hippie or biker style, with the poor Injun (yes, that’s his character name) caught in the middle. Worth watching once, especially for genre fans, but not top-shelf AIP material.