Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Pink Angels (1976)

Every movie fan has given a cursory nod to the “so bad it’s good” label.  You can even get fancy and specific; “golden turkey,” “campy,” “kitschy,” and “jaw dropping.”  That’s all well and good, but what does it all mean in the end?
Look, I like having all of these terms in my arsenal as well.  There was one instance, however, that I wasn’t trained for at Movie Watching Boot Camp.  What happens when a film is so off the charts terrible that it doesn’t fit into your frame of reference?   What happens when all your fancy film book learning falters as a life line?  
In other words, how the hell do you explain the atrocity that is The Pink Angels (1976)?  This movie simply defies all logic, and leaves you with a head ache.  There are rational questions one might ask: What the hell did I just watch?  What was I supposed to think about it?  Why did I bother, and what would have happened if I didn’t?  
Now here’s a another piece of yarn to add to the ball: Although I’ve judged The Pink Angels to be an abomination, I’m still recommending it.  Why?  We’ll get there.   
Let me now give you a hint of a plot synopsis: The Pink Angels is quite simply about a gay, cross dressing biker gang on the way to a drag ball.  That’s an interesting, solid idea.  There should be plenty of room for character development, or satire, or zany comedy...hell, something.  
How many movies can you name about homosexual bikers?  Not many, right?  That at least grants this points for originality.  
Now let’s talk about how this little flick goes off the rails...and goes down in a blaze of glory.   

Here’s the first flaw: I couldn’t tell any of the Pink Angels apart.  
Working off of memory, I would say there’s five or six of them.  There are various levels of stereotype on display, from the most limp wristed queen to the almost “butch” leader.  The entire cast, quite frankly, swings for the fences and over acts.  They are playing at being “gay,” instead of convincing us they just happen to be homosexual. 
Now I suppose by today’s standards, this might be offensive.  In my mind, there are two reasons why it’s not.  1)  You can take this seriously.  2)  This is a stretch, but the wrong headed, bad attempts at acing provides the film’s amusement value. 
Okay, so it’s a bunch of unknown actors being ridiculous...that’s a moderately fun way to kill hour and a half, right?  
That brings us to the second flaw: The makers of The Pink Angels obviously weren’t content with making simple camp.  Oh no.  There is clearly a somber undertone lurking underneath the surface here.  This is a statement, man.   
If you don’t believe me, listen to the sound track.  There is a terrible theme song played through out the movie.  Picture a low rent Joe Cocker warbling: “I can see America/She’s just around the bend...Just around the bend...Just around the bend...”  It’s deep. I don’t know what it’s about, but it’s deep.
(Minor spoiler ahead.)    
Then there’s the matter of the ending: I’m not going to spoil it, but I will tell you that Easy Rider is invoked.  What’s the difference between the ending of The Pink Angels and that of Easy Rider?  Easy Rider at least makes coherent sense.  The downbeat conclusion of The Pink Angels comes out of nowhere...literally.  
What about our zany, over the top quirkiness?  How can everyone suddenly be dead?  What the hell just happened?
(Minor spoiler done.)  

Here’s the last flaw I’ll point out: Most of the filmmaking here is absolutely terrible.  There is not much shot composition, someone just pops the camera on the tripod and goes.  There is more ADR (additional dialogue recorded...dubbed in at post) than I have ever seen in my life.  Where the hell was the sound guy?   
Yet there are two sequences that are extraordinarily well done.  The first scene of the movie introduces us to the Angels as they crash a straight party.  There is slow motion, color, and emotion.  We don’t know the Angels yet, but this causes us to instinctively side with them.  They are, after all, rebels with the cause of destroying the establishment.  
The other one involves an epic, hot dog eating montage outside a greasy spoon.  Yes, it’s supposed to be homoerotic.  The main thing, however, is that it is well cut together and shot.  I wouldn’t be a hack film writer without name dropping at least once.  So here it goes: Kenneth Anger.  That’s all I am saying.   
With all of these contradictions, I’m not even sure if The Pink Angels is “bad” per se.  Just deeply conflicted and lacking direction.  
There is absolutely no production information that I can find.  That means that many of my questions will not be answered.  This would be a strong candidate for a behind the scenes commentary.  I know that will never happen.   
So I’m suggesting you watch this?  Yes.  Every fan of strange cinema needs to see this at least once.  Bask in the fact that something this odd exists.  Don’t spend over 900 words wondering why like I just did.
MVT: As I said before, the fact that this movie exists at all. 
Make or Break: The strange opening scene
Rating: This is a tough film to rate.  I’m giving it a 6, which is low.  Still, once again, see it.      

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