Our review of Avenging Angel, published December 9th, 2007, is also available.
High school honor student by day,
In the 1980s the Angel trilogy filled a much needed cinematic void: the teenage hooker turned vigilante theme. For those who felt they were missing out on trick turners blowing away bad guys (both figuratively and literally)—sporting those oh-so-stylish '80s sunglasses and moustaches—there was Angel, Avenging Angel, and Angel III: The Final Chapter to whet their appetites. Featuring sleazy sex, wild characters, and action only straight-to-DVD filmmakers can deliver, the Angel series burst upon the scene with raging success. Finally, after years of waiting and billions of emails from gazillions of fans worldwide, The Angel Collection has finally made its way to DVD care of Anchor Bay Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Avenging Angel (AKA Angel II) (1985):
Angel III: The Final Chapter (1988):
Is there a more perfect 3AM series of movies than the Angel films? Here's a trilogy that has it all: boobs, blood, action, guns, car chases, wacky characters, a teenage hooker heroine, Rory Calhoun, the guy who played the original "Shaft," Ossie Davis (!), a foul mouthed lesbian, an old guy in drag named Mae, and more '80s rock schlock than you can shake an eight-track tape at. Like the finest aged cheese, Angel, Avenging Angel, and Angel III: The Final Chapter are sharp, distinctive, and sort of moldy. Yet would you have it any other way?
Let's start with the original Angel. In this first installment, Angel is a 15-year old hooker with a heart of gold. As played by the cherub faced 25-year old Donna Wilkes (who'd make only one more feature film after this), Angel is the epitome of the word "jailbait": I can vividly see forty year old men watching these movies and drooling over Wilkes jiggle and wiggle, and frankly it scares the crap outta me. Director Robert Vincent O'Neill (Vice Squad) knows that the audience for a film of this nature is looking for two things: T&A and lots of cheap-o action. He delivers both of these in large doses. The film went on to rake in over $23 million at the box office, proving that certain moviegoers will go see anything upon the promise of nubile coeds and violent murders. Taken in the context of what it really is (straight-to-video fare), Angel entertains, due in no small part to the supporting characters. Veteran actors Rory Calhoun, Dick Shawn, and Susan Tyrell lend their skills to the proceedings, making sure that there are plenty of laughs on their behalf. Dick Shawn as the hulking Mae provides a bit more heart than the type of story needs. Calhoun, all leather skin and sandpaper voice, shows that he was apparently not above slumming to be in a movie about teenage hookers. Yes, this is all trashy late night fare, but at least it's entertaining late night trashy fare.
While Avenging Angel is just as gritty, the film stretches to find a more solid standing in cartoonish behavior. With the inclusion of a character named Johnny Glitter (Barry Pearl, TV's Port Charles), as well as the return of Calhoun and Tyrell as Angel's faux paternal units Kit and Solly, things got…well, they got a bit goofy. This time around Solly's role has been expanded, her foul mouth running over the edge of good taste and into a valley of "f**ks" an "s**ts." And yet she remains one of the most lovable—and memorable—butch dyke characters (the film's words, not mine!) in recent memory. The plot for Avenging Angel is about as close a knock-off of the original as you can get—Angel must once again find Hollywood justice for the death of a friend. Betsy Russell, taking over the role from Wilkes, shows all the thespian merits of a sheet of plywood—her delivery is flat and uninspired, a true testament to beauty over talent. And yet I found Avenging Angel to be the most enjoyable of the series—the production values are higher, the characters a bit broader, and the action…well, nobody's perfect. How can you not like a movie that has the balls to throw a baby over the edge of a four story staircase and…well, you'll just have to watch the movie to witness the howl-inducing outcome. Avenging Angel is classic '80s cinema.
Finally we come to Angel III: The Final Chapter, and we all know how sequels fare with the word "final" in the title. (Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter or The Final Conflict: Omen III, anyone?) Continuing the downward sequel spiral, Angel III transports our heroine (this time played by Mitzi Kapture, who actually looks like she's trying to act) to New York City and does away with any of the previous installments' characters. Gone is the brashness of Solly or the odd charm of Kit Carson—this time Angel's on her own, and frankly, she's floundering in a sea of movie mediocrity (did I just sound all artsy-fartsy there, or what?!). Writer/director Tom DeSimone took over the reigns from Robert Vincent O'Neill, and though trying to make something out of an Angel sequel is the equivalent of attempting to bake a cake with six rocks and a glass of water, he still makes a noble attempt at cohesiveness. Unfortunately, by 1988 the series had all but dried up—how many places can you really go with a one time 15 year old Hollywood whore? Not many, and this third installment proves it. There are the requisite shootouts with the bad guys, and a lot of inane dialogue that does nothing to move the plot along (attempts at wit and humor are all but squandered under DeSimone's shaky writing hand). While Angel III: The Final Chapter is still fairly watchable (I can't completely poo-poo a movie that sports a car chase with an ice cream truck), it's the weakest link in the series.
And so we come to the conclusion of our review of the The Angel Collection, a series of films that has both inspired and enlightened, uplifted and enthralled. Well, maybe not, but they sure have created lots of "happy moments" in the pants of a few dirty old men.
Angel, Avenging Angel, and Angel III: The Final Chapter are all presented in their original aspect ratios of 1.85:1 with an anamorphic enhancement for 16x9 TV sets. As usual, Anchor Bay has done a great job of preserving schlock, and The Angel Collection is no exception—though the first film tends to be a bit dark and grainy, overall the second two movies feature solid colors and black levels. Of course, none of these transfers are going to look pristine—since each film appears to have been budgeted at around $469.73, inconsistencies and flaws will arise. However, Anchor Bay has tried to produce the best looking transfer possible for hardcore fans, and they've succeeded. I have the feeling this is the best these films will ever look, bar none. Not surprisingly, the most impressive transfer, Angel III: The Final Chapter, is the newest (1988) and the grainiest looking, the original Angel, is the oldest (1984).
Each soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono in English. I'm not going to try and tell you that these are great mixes—the fact is that they're flat and pretty dull. However, seeing as a 5.1 remix wasn't warranted, overall these tracks are all in pretty good shape. The bulk of each one is front heavy without anything in the way of directional effects or surrounds sounds. The best sounding mix is on, not surprising, Angel III: The Final Chapter—the dialogue, music, and effects are a bit richer than the previous films. All aspects of the soundtracks are free of distortion of hiss, save for the first Angel, which features a small amount of distortion in some of the dialogue. No alternate soundtracks or subtitles are available on any of these discs.
Angel, Avenging Angel, and Angel III are generally void of any substantial extra features. The biggest extra comes in the form of a few deleted scenes from the original Angel. These are presented with subtitles since the sound was apparently lost. Most of them are fairly inconsequential, though I'm sure fans will be thrilled to see these unearthed treasures. Also included on Angel are theatrical trailers. Avenging Angel features two trailers and a short image gallery of publicity photos and posters. Angel III: The Final Chapter includes a single trailer for the film.
And so the book closes on what may be the most universally enjoyed film series ever. Star Wars and Indiana Jones have nothing on Angel. Or, maybe I'm just delusional after eating all those little brown mushrooms in my backyard. Either way, The Angel Collection should satisfy those looking for late night Skinemax fun on a Friday night. As usual, Anchor Bay has done a far, far better job than this serious probably deserves.
The Angel Collection is found guilty of every sin under the sun, yet I'm still letting it go free because we all need movies like this when the midnight hour rolls around. Case dismissed!
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What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice, Angel
Perp Profile, Angel
Studio: Anchor Bay
Distinguishing Marks, Angel
• Theatrical Trailers
Scales of Justice, Avenging Angel
Perp Profile, Avenging Angel
Studio: Anchor Bay
Distinguishing Marks, Avenging Angel
• Poster and Still Gallery
Scales of Justice, Angel III: The Final Chapter
Perp Profile, Angel III: The Final Chapter
Studio: Anchor Bay
Distinguishing Marks, Angel III: The Final Chapter
• Theatrical Trailer
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