The Wild Angels (1966) from Tuna

If I told you a film starred Peter Fonda, Nancy Sinatra, Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, and featured veteran character actor Michael J. Pollard and character actress Kim Hamilton (Guiding Light, General Hospital, To Kill a Mockingbird), and was partially directed by Peter Bogdanovich, you would be thinking major Hollywood release, right? Wrong.

The Wild Angels (1966) is a Roger Corman biker exploitation film, which used members of the Venice chapter of the Hells Angels to fill out the cast. This is the film that started Bogdanovich as a director. He hired on as an assistant, but before the film was over, directed the second unit, and did the editing of his footage.

Fonda (Blues) is the president of the Palos Verdes Angels, and Fonda is his old lady. The gang goes to Meca, California, to recover the bike owned by Dern (Loser), which was stolen by Mexicans. Ladd, Losers old lady, of course goes along. When the police interrupt the attitude adjustment the Angels are giving to the "taco benders," Dern steal a police bike, and is shot by them in pursuit. The angels break him out of the hospital, only to have him die at their hangout. While they are springing Loser, one of the gang members assaults a nurse (Hamilton). The decide to give Loser a proper funeral in his home town, but Blues realizes that he has "no where to go" after all that has happened, especially since he was the only one identified by the nurse.


There are incidental underwear shots from several of the female gang members, but the real exposure is a see-through bra worn by Hamilton during the rape scene.
and IMDB readers have it at 4.6/10 based on only a few votes. People felt much differently about it in 1966, as it grossed $6.5m in the US. IT was made for $285.000.00, which probably wouldn't have paid for even one of the stars 10 years later. It was nominated for a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1

  • No important features

Despite Maltin and the IMDb, this is a well-made film. Obviously, there was a lot of talent to work with. The plot is probably the weakest element, but gave ample opportunity for sex, drugs and violence. Photography was very good for a 1966 film, art direction was top-notch in the gang hideout, and the DVD transfer is a very good looking Anamorphic. It is too bad they couldn't have assembled the major players for a commentary on this one.

The Critics Vote

  • Maltin hates this film at 1 1/2 stars, calling it a poor second cousin to Easy Rider (which was made well after this one),

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 4.7
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Resorting again to the Scoopy report card system, and noting that the genre is exploitation, I give this film a solid B. (Obviously lower if viewed as a mainstream movie)

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