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Bury Me An Angel
(1971)
 

Director:Barbara Peeters                            
Cast:
Dixie Peabody, Terry Mace, Dan Haggerty


SHE TOOK ON THE WHOLE GANG! A howling hellcat humping a hot steel hog on a roaring rampage of revenge!

                                          - Original poster blurb for Bury Me An Angel

An irresistible ad line. That, plus video box art that seems to promise that this motorcycle actioner will be both sexy and provide some kickass action. On the cover, we see the heroine (holding a shotgun) wearing some extremely short cut-off jeans, and her shirt is tied up at the front, showing a good deal of her lower torso. To one side, we see the same woman (dressed in the same garments) giving some redneck sheriff a karate kick in the face. Seeing the box, and remembering the original ad line (though reduced on the box to SHE TOOK ON THE WHOLE GANG), I grabbed this movie off the shelf, expecting to get some good gritty action and sex. But after watching all of Bury Me An Angel, I was disappointed. I didn't hate this movie, but not only didn't I get mostly what I was promised, I didn't get enough of it. Actually, what I was given did interest and entertain me occasionally, but the problem there was I didn't get enough of this stuff either.

Let's start with what the movie actually promises. That skimpy outfit that I described in the previous paragraph? Well, heroine Dag Brandy (Peabody) never wears anything like that outfit, either in style or skimpiness. That karate kick she delivers on the cover? Dag doesn't do any martial arts in this movie, and the redneck sheriff she meets is a wimp who squeaks, "What the cornbread hell is going on?" before walking away. There is a fight at a (you guessed it) bar, but the moves in the fight are just replications of the typical swing-the-pool-cue and the smash-bottle-over-the-head moves, only they are both ineptly choreographed and directed in the dullest manner you can think of. And SHE TOOK ON THE WHOLE GANG? Well, I guess you could say that she takes on a whole "gang" - if you consider one person a "gang"! At the beginning of the movie, Dag sees her brother shotgunned in the face by some unknown punk, who then takes flight. After agonizing over his death (which cues several replays of a close-up of the blast her brother takes in the face both here and elsewhere in the movie,) Dag goes on a cross-state motorcycle hunt with her friends Bernie (Clyde Ventura) and Jonesy (Mace), and together they are determined to take on this whole "gang"!

Not terribly original, I know. But not only is the central character actually played by a woman here, but the movie was written and directed by a woman. Peeters (who directed several movies for New World Pictures, including the cult classic Humanoids From The Deep) puts some scenes in this movie that you wouldn't find in other biker movies. There's a scene when Dag's mother talks to a friend of hers, and wonders out loud if somehow the killing was her fault. ("Did I do wrong raising them?") Another scene has Dag's mother, knowing that her unstoppable daughter is going out to avenge her brother's death, actually has a civilized talk with her daughter in a hopeless attempt to stop her. What's interesting is that Dag wasn't instantly determined to track down her brother's killer. She's stunned for the first few days, and thinks about the situation carefully. We even see her privately weep, lying in bed and remembering cherished moments with her brother. And when she finally makes the decision to go after her brother's killer, she isn't suddenly tough and strong-minded. When she tells Jonesy and Bernie that she's going off, and they can join her if she likes, it's clear that she's still nervous, and would like company and support. And the little we see of the killer is different as well. From the little that we see of the killer at the beginning and ending of the movie, it's made clear that he is nowhere like a typical villain in a biker movie - this villain is actually pretty believable in what he does and says.

I liked seeing that stuff. Indeed, the first 20 or so minutes is like this, and it seemed like Bury Me An Angel would be an entertaining biker epic. But Peeters doesn't seem to know how to fill in what's between moments of interest like that. For one thing, there's no real evolving story line; the movie is mainly a collection of vignettes concerning the trio's encounters with various oddball characters whenever they stop for a breather. None of this stuff does anything for the plot, and neither is it very exciting. Mostly it's just inane chatter, with almost no action or sex anywhere in sight. Peeters can't even make the sight of Dag on a motorbike exciting, since Dag never seems to travel more than 40 m.p.h., and this footage of her and her friends zooming at this speed goes on forever.

There are a few points of interest along the trip. Peabody, in her first movie, is a little awkward in her performance, both in reciting dialogue and moving in a scene. However, her tall frame and her posturing have real presence; I think that in time, she could have become a cult star like Pam Grier. Peabody only made one more movie (Night Call Nurses) before she suddenly disappeared - what happened to her? For that matter, what happened to Peeters? The movie also has an early appearance by Dan Haggerty (in his slim and drug-free days), and he too makes a presence in a role that is more or less an extended cameo. Though the instrumental parts of the score repeat a few specific bars of music over and over ad nauseum, the rock-n-roll songs (performed by the group East-West Pipeline) are fabulous, particularly the song, "Let It Be" (no relation to the Beatles' song of the same name) - anyone got the soundtrack album? And though this movie looks a little dark, it overall has decent production values, and looks more expensive than other productions Roger Corman produced in this era.

Bury Me An Angel is not the worst biker movie every made, but it just doesn't have enough to show us. It's not really painful at any time to watch, though it gets very close at times. It's an almost pointless movie that will make people get impatient with it as it goes along, even to the point where viewers would welcome some gratuitous violence and sex. I'm not sexist, but if Peeters wasn't able to give us enough original and interesting material, I think this movie would have been better if Peeters had the help of a seasoned male director on this movie. Her co-director would have known where to tighten the pace and where to throw in sex and violence, while Peeters could have concentrated on the character side of the movie. It would have been an instant cult classic, I'm sure.

Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)

See also: The Stranger, Run, Angel, Run, Goodbye Pork Pie

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