Thursday, August 11, 2016

Episode 17: Angel (1984)

“Remind me NEVER to get murdered.”

High school honors student Molly Stewart (Donna Wilkes) has been leading a double-life for close to three years. By day, she portrays the facade of the all-American teenager, but by night, she becomes Angel, one of Hollywood Boulevard’s most popular flesh-peddlers. Abandoned by her single-parent mother, Molly hustles the streets night after night, selling her body to the highest bidder just to keep her head above water.

Soon, Molly and her street-walking comrades become the target of a ruthless killer (John Diehl), who butchers women without rhyme of reason. One by one, those closest to Molly fall prey to a psychopath with an unquenchable blood thirst. Determined to nab the killer before the body count rises, Lieutenant Andrews (Cliff Gordon) remains hot on his trail. In the process, Andrews develops a paternal relationship with Molly and his need to put an end to the madness builds when he realizes she could very well be the next victim.

Angel is a classic experiment in both exploitation and sleaze, painting a vivid and accurate image of Hollywood Boulevard in the early-to-mid ‘80s. While it’s hard not to be riveted by sordid scenes shot on the city’s streets, there is much to appreciate during Molly’s day-to-day life, in particular her interactions with such whacky, off-the-wall characters as Solly (Susan Tyrell), apartment manager; Mae (Dick Shawn), a middle-aged transvestite; and Lana (Gram McGravin), a young prostitute who longs for a normal life as as much, if not more, than Molly.

Though Donna Wilkes was in her mid-twenties playing a character only fifteen, she really shines here. Her portrayal of a young girl thrown into an adult world before having the ability to fully enjoy life as a child is touching, honest, and stands out among the actresses who went on to play the character in the subsequent sequels (Betsy Russell of Avenging Angel, Mitzi Kapture of Angel III: The Final Chapter, and Darlene Vogel of Angel 4: Undercover).

As a source for this episode of B-Movie Bonanza, I used the Blu ray edition, which runs 1:32:51. So, slip into a pair six-inch stilettos and your favorite booty shorts because it’s time to strut along Hollywood Boulevard, circa 1984, as we follow Molly a.k.a. Angel on a touching, and oftentimes frightening, journey.

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