If you need proof of that you need to look no further than the knock-down, drag-out fight that occurs between the hooker killer disguised as a Hari Krishna and Dick Shawn's aging drag queen. I don't know what's worse, Shawn's hilariously bad one-liners or the clunky choreography.
There's nothing at all fresh about the story here, the killer is given no motivation whatsoever and it leaves a slew of unanswered questions in its wake but it's so much fun I couldn't be mad at it. The cast is peppered with stars of another era past their prime, but the two most memorable actors here are Cliff Gorman, ridiculously serious as the cop on the case and the wonderful Susan Tyrell playing Angel's landlady. She gets laughs without even opening her mouth, but when she speaks, it's priceless.
I could take or leave the serial killer aspect of the story simply because it's so routine, but I was interested in seeing the fallout from Angel's hidden life getting exposed. That, to me, was the much more interesting plot development, but not enough is done with it. Still, for whatever reason, "Angel" was a solid hit. I can't say it's good, but I can say that I enjoyed it for what it is.
"Angel" is a trashy 80´s cult thriller showing L.A. and Hollywood Boulevard from the seedy side and its strange gallery of characters. The main plot is Angel´s two sides of life and how difficult it is to be left alone in the world without no one really caring and how easy it is to end up on the wrong side to survive at an early age. With other words we have a solid storyline with a social message. Then it comes down to how you handle that sort of story and in this case we do get a B-movie that in a way portray the difficult life as a young prostitute in a glitzy L.A.ish way, which feels a bit weird and unbalanced. The cute Donna Wilkes is hardly a superb actress, but does give life to Angel. And it´s interesting to se John Diehl just prior to his "Miami Vice" days as a serial killer on the edge. "Angel" doesn´t really hold all the seams together. Is it a teen sex drama/comedy or an exploitation slasher movie? Nevertheless, it was nice to revisit the good ol´80´s with its vibe, look and feel.
Worth a rental.
For a story about a girl who is a straight-A student and streetwise prostitute at the same time, we never really get into understanding the mind of Angel or what she has gone through as a result of her lost family. Although Donna Wilkes tries her hardest, her acting never exceeds B-Movie standards and so the whole movie only really depicts Angel as who she really is, Molly Stuart, the lost little girl who is sad and fragile but without the independence that her facade attempts to convey. Angel doesn't ever really seem like a strong character, and so the film doesn't ever really follow strong dynamics, which is disappointing considering the decent-concept plot created for the film.
And Angel's pacing is poor as it's slow for practically the whole film, then suddenly resolved in a fast 5 minutes. The fast 5 minutes are climactic and well constructed, featuring a cool ending, but the character Angel is supposed to have changed suddenly during this time but we get no real feel that she does and instead all that's left is a girl in a yellow dress running with a gun after a serial killer disguised as a monk. How this all came to be is strange, and really it's not worth sitting through to find out because the thrills are empty and the characters aren't interesting. There is nudity along the way which is probably the high point, and Donna Wilkes does try hard, but aside from that Angel is bereft of any real appeal outside of 80's junkies who would call Angel a guilty pleasure, regardless of its empty atmosphere, joyless script and lack of direction.
The name angel refers to the street name of our main character Molly Stewart (Donna Wilkes). Honor student by day, she hustles the streets of Hollywood Blvd by night to pay the bills after being abandoned by her parents. Shit turns worse when a serial killer starts brutally murdering her friends and she goes all Charles Bronson to take her revenge. Can a vice cop help her catch the killer while at the same time convincing her to get off the streets for good?
For an exploitation picture, "Angel" is relatively well made with some good actors well handled by director Robert Vincent O'Neill. Sure the dialogue and gratuitous nudity can get in the way of its story telling (imagine an exploitation film doing that?!) but O'Neill is still able to craft empathy for our main character and her questionable moral decisions to get by.
For me the best part of "Angel" is the colorful secondary characters that aid Angel in her goals and ambitions. We get Dick Shawn as the witty transvestite Mae, Susan Tyrrell as the Jewish dyke apartment manager Solly, Cliff Gorman as the respectable empathetic vice cop (with a crazy eye) and Steven M. Porter as yo-yo street entertainer Charlie. The real winner though is Rory Calhoun as Kit Carson, a loveable snile ex-western actor turned street entertainer. He totally owns the scenes that he is in.
What helps "Angel" is that it strives to be more than just merely another exploitation picture by providing the audience with empathy for our lead character, a suspenseful killer and even some good old fashioned vengeful action with likeable secondary characters. At it's heart it's still an exploitation picture with some silted dialogue and a few subplots that go nowhere (what happened to Angel's guidance counselor?) that keep it from being better. "Angel" really struck a chord with the grindhouse audiences who in turn made the film a modest hit, paving the way for four sequels: "Avenging Angel", "Angel III: The Final Chapter" and "Angel 4: Undercover".