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  Angel Unchained Leather NannyBuy this film here.
Year: 1970
Director: Lee Madden
Stars: Don Stroud, Luke Askew, Larry Bishop, Tyne Daly, T. Max Graham, Jean Marie Ingels, Bill McKinney, Jordan Rhodes, Peter Lawrence, Pedro Regas, Linda Smith, Nita Michaels, J. Cosgrove Butchie, T.C. Ryan, Alan Gibbs, Bud Ekins, Jerry Randall, Aldo Ray
Genre: Drama, Action
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Angel (Don Stroud) appreciates his life as a biker, but recently has been feeling listless. Today at a fairground he and his fellow gang members have been fighting with rivals, and they manage to crack a few heads and throw many punches before the cops show up to chase them off the rides, but as he and the leader Pilot (Larry Bishop) are seeking brief refuge in a steam locomotive, Angel admits to his old friend that he has a yearning to strike out on his own, seeking the open road and wherever the day takes him. Pilot acknowledges his feelings, and lets him go, but soon after some time traveling Angel winds up in Arizona and finds trouble...

Biker movies had been around before Easy Rider - the two lead characters in that were not Hell's Angels - but afterwards there was something different about many of them, something more, shall we say, philosophical? The tagline to the Dennis Hopper movie about going looking for America and not finding it anywhere was very relevant to a genre which picked apart the modern malaise the country was suffering what with the sixties turning into the seventies with all the old problems and no new solutions, so it was apt that Angel here should be stumbling across a way to feed his spirit as much as he was sating his appetite for the great outdoors. So it is that he finds a commune and settles in.

But there are problems, in a manner which anticipated the soon to be released Billy Jack, the movie where Tom Laughlin sets about applying his boot to the heads of rednecks to save another of those hippy collectives. The same applied to Angel's new pals, a peace-loving bunch led by Jonathan Tremaine (Luke Askew) who live off the land and wish to do nothing but exist in back to nature contentment. Obviously this not bothering anyone and sustaining a pacifist, live and let live outlook sends their neighbours into a bloodthirsty rage, and before long the flower children are being thoroughly victimised, often by the rednecks showing up in dune buggies (did the production get a discount on these or something?) and threatening the mildmannered folks.

Things don't get any better when Angel, in defending himself from being charged by a buggy, fends it off with a pitchfork and stabs one of the aggressors. Naturally he and his band don't regard this as their own fault and offer a sinister ultimatum: the hippies have a few days before they return, and if the commune haven't packed their bags and left by then, they're going to be forced out with violence. Now, the only person with a capacity for defending them is Angel, but he doesn't brush up on his hapkido and set about the bad guys as Billy Jack would, he goes off and fetches the members of his old gang who take a lot of persuading, but finally agree to assist in the defence of the farm. What could possibly go wrong? Aside from hippies and bikers mixing like oil and water?

For a start, the bikers get bored very quickly and turn their noses up at the alfalfa diet offered. What they much prefer are the chocolate chip cookies the old Indian (Pedro Regas), simply known as Injun (sensitive types, these hippies), bakes in his oven containing a special ingredient to make the partaker high, and the bikers obsess over grabbing that ingredient for their own personal use, to the point they forget what they were there for in the first place. That's an interesting development, but Angel Unchained was so dolefully sincere that even the well-staged action, and there was a fair bit of it, was left in the shadow of the pleas for social tolerance and a statement that some folks just were never going to get along while there was all sorts of prejudice in this cruel world. Summing that up was Angel's new lady friend Merilee, played by Tyne Daly over a decade before Cagney and Lacey made her a TV star, bringing strained gravitas to the role, while star spotters would like to see a pre-Deliverance Bill McKinney as a biker and Aldo Ray as the too laidback Sheriff. Music (lots of samey songs) by Randy Sparks.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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