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Angels – Hard as They Come
1971 New World Cinema

In spite of the title, this is not a porn movie, but rather a “Bikesploitation” film of the genre of the 1960’s “Hell’s Angels” movies. Available for the first time on DVD, the movie is a gripping drama that follows the exploits of three “Angels’ (pointedly NOT Hell’s Angels), who are diverted on their way to a drug deal in the desert.

In the opening scene, we meet “Long John,” our hero, and three of his fellow Angels, as they set up a dope deal to be completed in later at a secret desert outpost. However, police in two unmarked cars have the bikers under surveillance, and only their exceptional riding skills and willingness to confront authority allow them to escape. Long John manages to elude capture by riding his chopper (a rigid framed Sportster-based bike with the obligatory girder front end and 6’ sissy bar) through a 7” deep stream, which fortunately destroys the police car as it plunges hubcap deep into the icy waters. His fellow gang member, “Monk,” who later became a famous San Francisco private detective, escapes when his associate “Ape” hurls a stink bomb into the open rear window of the second police car.

Later that same day, or maybe a few days later, or maybe a few weeks later (continuity of plot line isn’t a strong point of this film), Long John and two Brother Angels are riding deep in the desert on their way to the drug deal, when they meet a group of “Dragons,” members of another motorcycle gang, at a small, broken down gas station. After filling their chopper’s gas tanks for $.50, and terrorizing the helpless Mexican-American gas station attendant sufficiently to prove their worthiness to the Dragons, the Angels are invited to a nearby ghost town, where the Dragons have essentially taken a small group of hippies captive. Meanwhile, the rest of the Angels have arrived at the secret desert outpost to await Long John and the consummation of the drug deal.

Here, the plot quickly develops. Ok, it sort of develops. Ok, it drags agonizingly. Long John falls for a hippie chick; perhaps even falls “Hard as They Come.” Enamored by her 8th-grade pencil sketches of the bikers and their antics, the two quickly develop a deep connection. The hippie chick tries to penetrate Long John’s veil of darkness, and asks THE probing question of the 1970’s: “How come the Angels beat up all those nice hippies at Altamonte?” Yes, Long John and the hippie chick have identified the end of the love-fest that had made the 1960’s youth so innocent and free. Their dialog also reveals deep secrets of the outlaw biker culture, like that the “13” on Long John’s vest is a reference to “M,” the 13th letter of the alphabet, which doesn’t stand for “Mom,” “Mud,” “Mayhem,” or any of the other 20-odd other guesses the hippie chick offers, but, indeed, Marijuana.

Meanwhile, the other Angels are getting to know their Dragon hosts at various “mixer” functions held around the ghost town. Everyone is served refreshing adult beverages, smokes countless joints, takes handfuls of pills, and generally has a great time getting to know each other. Their leader is “The General,” a clearly psychotic character who wears a “Kaiser” style German helmet, complete with 2’ spike on top. (Later, in a touching love scene, another hippie chick passionately polishes the General’s helmet). The General’s Lieutenants are “Brain” and “Crab,” who follow his every order. In a brief moment of drama, we learn that Crab’s nickname is not based on the astrological charts when he pulls his pants down. The hippie group is led by “Hank,” a role admirably played by none other than Gary Busey, who’s teeth were quite remarkable even in his youth. “Hank” is a gentle, non-violent man, who is confused and upset by the Dragons and Angels violent tendencies, and is willing to absorb endless verbal abuse in order to avoid having has ass stomped by the bikers.

In the inevitable conflict of Alpha male egos, the General challenges Long John to a motorcycle race. While Long John and the General are hurtling at speeds of well over 25 mph down the quarter-mile dirt road that runs through town, a large group of Dragons spirit away Long John’s beloved hippie chick for a romantic encounter. Upon completion of the race, Long John hears the screams of his new love emanating from a nearby building, and races to her rescue. His loyal Angel brothers join in the resulting melee with the Dragons, and during the battle, the hippie chick is knifed and killed. The Angels lose the fight, and are imprisoned in the ghost town’s jail, where they await “trail” under the harsh laws of the Dragons.

I’ve probably whet your appetite enough at this point to cause you to rush out and buy or rent “Angels – Hard as They Come,” but I’ll leave you with a few teasers:

Will “Hank” abandon his peace-loving principles and aid the Angels against their now common enemy, or will he remain the passive pansy scorned by Long John?

Will “Monk,” the single ***** Angel (Monk only became an Arab years later in his career) who escapes the Dragons, survive his epic motorcycle journey across the desert against the odds of crossing sugar sand on a chopper, and the scorn of a pretty-boy frat member and his crazed dune-buggy assault?

Did Long John actually kill the hippie chick during the fight, or was the knifing actually a botched assassination attempt on the General by one of his aspiring minions?

Is the General’s hat good for more than decoration, and does its rather phallic spike have more than one purpose?

Will the rest of the Angel gang, awaiting their missing brothers at the secret desert drug-deal lair, sober up long enough to realize they’re covered in filth?

Can you really run a Harley engine with an open, unfiltered carburetor in the desert sand and dust for longer than it takes to make a “B” drive-in movie?


The pageantry and glamour of 1970’s “coffin” gas tanks and “King and Queen” seats certainly make the motorcycles in this film the real stars. As much as the kids would enjoy this movie, I’ll have to advise against choosing it for Family DVD Night. The alcohol and drug usage is astonishing, the level of violence is appalling, and the four naked breasts revealed in the film make it all too clear that this title is appropriate only for audiences that are mature, heavily intoxicated, or better still, both.
 

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Aer thsee Hlels Agnels?
 

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Aging Cafe` Racer
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It's going to be a gruesome Fall. I've ordered every f'ing biker movie from BBuster's library. I can't wait to see Fonda when he doesn't look like a frikin cadaver.
That guys like a bad itch, can't get rid of the SOB.....When did he become a "biker icon" anyway, from Easy Rider? his bike was the stupidest looking chopper I've ever seen. Dennis Hoppers Pan was WAY better looking bike and he looked more like a "biker" than that other bozo. His sister should have taken him to Viet Nam with her and left him there, the NVA would have surrendered inside a week rather than put up with them two.
 

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The Toad
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17,458 Posts
Mow...

That guys like a bad itch, can't get rid of the SOB.....When did he become a "biker icon" anyway, from Easy Rider? his bike was the stupidest looking chopper I've ever seen. Dennis Hoppers Pan was WAY better looking bike and he looked more like a "biker" than that other bozo. His sister should have taken him to Viet Nam with her and left him there, the NVA would have surrendered inside a week rather than put up with them two.
... you take it easy snarli, without Peter Fonda there wouldn't have been a Bridget Fonda.....
 
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