Run, Angel, Run

Director: Jack Starrett                    
William Smith, Valerie Starrett, Margaret Markov

The presence of William Smith in a movie no doubt brings a smile to the lips of many B movie fans, and also a lot of memories of the 60s and 70s. If you ask them to say the first thing that comes to mind when hearing "motorcycle movie", chances are the reply will be "William Smith". Marlon Brando may have been the first to be in a motorcycle movie....but it was Smith who defined this genre.

This cheap and scruffy motorcycle movie has some interest not only because of the presence of Smith, but as a sign of how other (and better movies) were influencing this movie as well as other movies. The same year this movie was released, Woodstock and Easy Rider were released. So it's not very surprising that this low-budget movie would resort to some of these movies' striking visuals (that were inexpensive to reproduce.) Witness near the beginning of the movie when the camera, filming a motorcycle pack roaring down the highway, is placed in the back of the camera truck close to the ground to make the lead bike seemingly tower over the camera. And then in a cut to the next scene, the next few seconds flash back and forth between the present scene and the next scene. All tricks from Easy Rider. Later in the movie, the hero and his girlfriend are riding all over a train yard and the screen shows multiple images a la Woodstock of the duo and the pursuing bad guy in multiple camera angles.

But here, such tricks seem foolish. This movie doesn't have the historical importance of Woodstock or fresh ideas as Easy Rider had, so using these things on a cheap exploitation movie seem out of place - like window dressing without a window.

Well, actually there is a window in this movie. It's the middle 60 minutes of the movie. But first, the movie: After the Tammy Wynette opening credits song, we find out that Angel (Smith) agreed to expose his gang in the national magazine Like (ha ha) for $10,000. Of course, that means Smith has to go into hiding, but it won't be so bad with his girlfriend and the money. So what if all the motorcycle gangs of California are after them? After a little chasing, they rent a house in a small town and Smith goes to work for a sheep farmer. It's here that Smith unexpectedly loses his mustache with no explanation except maybe for a disguise and the fact that his boss looks strongly like Smith w/mustache.

It's not this particular plot that annoyed me about the movie - it was the fact that at this point, that window comes in and until the 60 minutes are up, nothing happens. Unless you count these breathtaking scenes; Smith fixing a motorcycle. Smith not knowing the difference between a ram and an ewe. Smith and his girlfriend having dinner at his bosses house. Constant cuts to Smith's ex-gang driving around looking for him, alternating in scenes of Smith and his girlfriend arguing with each other. And so on, until the inevitable five minutes. Again, it was not the ending itself that annoyed me but the fact that what lead up to it was an utter waste of time.

The conclusion I must come up with is that this movie was simply made by the wrong people, who didn't seem to know what audiences expect from a motorcycle movie. Certainly they knew nothing about basic filmmaking (count how many times you can see the shadows of the crew or their equipment). But if they had pumped some energy and a constantly evolving story (exploitative or not), this technical ineptness could have been transformed into a gritty 60s feel. American-International and especially New World could have taught them a thing or two about that. Maybe that's why their movies still have popularity today, and Run, Angel, Run has been sentenced to be out-of-print on video.

(UPDATE: Not anymore - it's now available on video and DVD once again!)

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)

See also: The Stranger, Bury Me An Angel, Speedtrap