Boulevard of Broken Dreams – Rediscovering ‘Angel’ (US 1984 – 92 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - November 26, 2015
Boulevard of Broken Dreams – Rediscovering ‘Angel’ (US 1984 – 92 mins)

A surprise hit for the independent New World Pictures, ‘Angel’ was an entertaining drama-cum-thriller, mixing humour with horror while incorporating characters with hearts of gold, amongst all the seedy goings-on.

After being deserted by her parents, and to help pay for her private schooling, 15 year old Grade ‘A’ student Molly Stewart (Donna Wilkes) spends her nights prowling Sunset Blvd as prostitute ‘Angel’. There she befriends various oddballs including a protective transvestite (Dick Shawn) and a once revered western stuntman (Rory Calhoun). These already violent streets are being made worse by a knife-wielding serial killer intent of ridding the town of its prostitutes. A caring detective (Cliff Gorman) is determined to catch the psycho whiling trying to prevent Angel from becoming the next victim.

A low-budget treat, ‘Angel’ has rightly become a minor cult picture over the years, due mainly to the excellent cult supporting cast. A gaunt looking Rory Calhoun is great fun as Kit Carson, a fading western star, while Susan Tyrrell has some nice moments as Angel’s bad-tempered landlady. Comedy legend Dick Shawn shines as Mae, a transvestite with a heart of gold, and a serious looking Cliff Gorman convinces as a strong-willed Los Angeles detective. Looking much younger than her 24 years, Donna Wilkes was the perfect choice for the smart yet vulnerable Molly and her alter ego Angel, a mini-skirted and high-heeled hooker. Wilkes had earlier appeared in the more exploitative teen drama ‘Fyre’ (’79), and before that had a scream-filled role in ‘Jaws 2’ (’78). John Diehl also made a strong impression as the psycho-killer with a penchant for sleeping with dead hookers, with his scenes adding a welcome dark edge to the sometimes jokey atmosphere.

Director and writer Robert Vincent O’Neill also made the 1985 sequel ‘Avenging Angel’, and although this time buxom Betsy Russell took over the title role, various actors from the first movie did reprise their parts, most notably Rory Calhoun and Susan Tyrrell. O’Neill would again direct the third instalment ‘Angel III: The Final Chapter’, though this time nobody from the first two pictures appeared. The character was brought back for the last time in 1994’s cable offering ‘Angel 4: Undercover’, though this time with a different director and (once again) lead actress (Darlene Vogel). None of the sequels were a patch on the first and all proved a failure at the box office.

There are some decent action sequences to be seen here, with the finale particularly exciting, which has a gun-toting Wilkes tearing down Hollywood Blvd in hot pursuit of the crazed killer.

While the movie is fairly tame considering its controversial subject matter, ‘Angel’ was still a very good and colourful picture with much to offer. And even though there’s nothing ground-breaking to be found, it remains a low-budget delight that’s perfect late-night viewing for the popcorn crowd.

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