• The Wild Angels
Embittered by his experience working with 20th Century Fox on The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967), and weary of the Poe films for American International Pictures, Roger Corman was in dire need of inspiration for his next production. He found it in Life magazine, which featured a photo of the funeral of Mother Miles, head of the Sacramento, California, Hell's Angels. From this picture came both The Wild Angels and the biker-movie genre itself. Peter Fonda, who replaced George Chakiris, stars as brooding Angels chieftain Heavenly Blues. When his pal Loser (Bruce Dern) is shot by police, Blues attempts to bury him in a small town, but the locals resist, and a brawl ensues. Audiences and critics were alternately appalled and thrilled by the extensive drug use and violence, but beneath Angels' leathery hide beats the heart of a Western, especially in its ruminations on personal freedom. Charles Griffith's script (cowritten by Peter Bogdanovich, who also cameos in the film) helped make Angels the sole U.S. entry for the 1966 Venice Film Festival, which irked the State Department enough to try and revoke the honor. Corman's direction, freed from AIP's period pieces, is lean and exuberantly active, aided by Monte Hellman's editing. The film helped give Fonda the counterculture clout to later make Easy Rider, and boosted the careers of Dern and then-wife Diane Ladd; Nancy Sinatra, however, renounced the picture, fearful of its effect on her image. Mike Curb's score features Davie Allan and the Arrows' fuzz-tone-soaked hit "Blues' Theme." --Paul Gaita

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The Wild Angels

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