I have to admit that I checked out this supposed erotic thriller Angel purely because of its enticing and quite deceptive tagline. It’s a great tagline and it goes High School Honor Student by Day. Hollywood Hooker by Night. Jesus Zombie Christ, if this doesn’t get audiences to check out the movie, I don’t know what will. They sure knew how to market their sleazy thrillers in the eighties I’ll tell you that. Depending on your mood, taste and age, you will get a different vibe from this interesting movie. For me, it was more of an oddity with some curious undertones that we will talk about later.
Once you start watching Angel, you’ll notice that it’s much more than your garden variety thriller. First of all, there’s not much nudity or sexual content here despite all the signals. Secondly, this is actually a very intense serial killer movie with a raw and gritty atmosphere. We will have to opportunity to not only see but also feel the vibe of the famous Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. Everything feels authentic as fuck and it will take you some forty years back in time. The lives of the outcasts we will be following bring about a sense of sorrow and perseverence despite the harsh realities of life.
Meet Molly Stewart, a young girl living in the bustling city of Los Angeles. She seems just like any other fifteen-year-old girl, only she has to take care of her disabled mother while attending high school. The truth is, however, very much different.
I mentioned earlier that for you this might be just another clumsy and too straightforward thriller from the eighties. And I get that, because there’s a lot of silly action and plot development towards the end. Hell, the beginning and the middle aren’t any better. However, I just can’t shake that underlying sense of honesty and focus on the lives of people living on the margins of society. The way Angel treats prostitution or sex work to be more current, is quite progressive. It raises the issues of not only financial but also sexual freedom albeit accidentally.
Today, the oldest profession has moved from the busy streets into the online world, but is still very much alive and kicking. It sure is away from the eyes of the society, but its problems remain the same. With increasing frequency new documentaries about the challenges of sex work are shining a light on this issue that apparently no one wants to talk about. Politicians avoid it vigorously and the general public is full of tribal condemnation and ready to shame and blame.
Those curious undertones I was referencing to earlier have to do with the daddy issues. Ten minutes in and she’s talking about him and how he installed Hollywood walk of fame stars and took her there. Angel also has no less then three older males treating her like she’s their daughter. Opposite of her, we have the killer obviously having some mommy issues. Instead of going in details about this, I will leave you to explore this subject.
Finally, the cast of Angel is just superb. Donna Wilkes was 23 years old and looked kind of rough but cute playing 15-year-old high school student. Rory Calhoun basically played himself as an aging star of B westerns. And what to say about Dick Shawn playing transvestite and Cliff Gorman tough police detective other than kudos. The icing on the cake is John Diehl whom you will surely recognize from many television shows and movies. He was intensely creepy and unsettling, barely uttering any lines throughout the entire movie.
If you’re looking for similar movies, I recommend you check out Fear City. This dark thriller starring Tom Berenger and Melanie Griffith features an eerily similar story. It’s only taking place in New York City. I should also mention that this movie spawned three sequels. Each of them features a different actress in the same role with very poor results. So, I think that you should avoid them but if you’re up for some exploration just go for it.
Director: Robert Vincent O’Neil
Writers: Robert Vincent O’Neil, Joseph Michael Cala
Cast: Donna Wilkes, Dick Shawn, Rory Calhoun, Cliff Gorman, John Diehl, Susan Tyrrell, Elaine Giftos, Steven M. Porter
Fun Facts: When Angel is dropped off in front of Mann’s Chinese Theatre, the movie marquee reveals that Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983) is playing.