Pink Angels

Director: Larry G. Brown  
John Alderman, Tom Basham, Rober Biheller

If you have read a good deal of my reviews, you probably have some kind of idea of what kind of person I am in real life. I like my trash all right, but I also do appreciate on occasion exercises that are more thoughtful in nature. One thing that you might not have determined is where my politics lie. Well, I have never voted, and I don't plan on ever doing so - I hate all political parties equally. Still, while I don't exercise my right to vote, I do admit that I have views on various aspects of society. And they are pretty balanced out - I am neither especially liberal or conservative. Among my conservative views, I do believe that many criminals deserve to be locked up for a long, long time, especially those that hurt children. But I do have some liberal viewpoints, among them being that I have a lot of sympathy for people who happen to belong in a minority in a society. One reason being that one particular aspect of myself might have me considered to belong to a minority population of sorts. (I'll leave you to figure out what my minority position might be.) Anyway, there are many minorities I have sympathized with over the years. The struggle of people in the United States who have African ancestry has often been a big struggle. For that matter, it has also been sometimes a struggle for those with African ancestry who have lived in Canada, I am ashamed to reveal. Those who are Asian have also sometimes had a tough time both in the United States and Canada. Fortunately, things have improved over the many centuries, though occasionally there is a story in the news about discrimination that reminds me that we still do have a way to go before everybody can be considered equal.

Another minority of sorts that I have had sympathy for for a long time are those people who are attracted to people of the same sex. I don't think I have to go into great detail about how these certain people have experienced much discrimination for centuries. The arguments against these people have all seemed silly to me despite the fact that I'm not gay. The argument that these people "choose" to be gay seems ludicrous when you think about all the homophobia that's out there - who would voluntarily choose to be in a group of people facing so much harsh opposition? Then there are people like Kirk Cameron who say being gay is "unnatural". Uh, Kirk, scientists have over the decades repeatedly observed homosexual behavior in many animal species in the wild, from chimpanzees to octopi, so I don't think it can be labelled "unnatural". Anyway, to this day people who are gay have faced a lot of obstacles, and that includes in the motion picture industry. Actually, in the early history of Hollywood filmmaking, during the silent era and the first few years of the sound era, there were occasional homosexual characters in Hollywood movies, but once the Hayes code was imposed around 1934, such characters all but disappeared from movies. There were subsequently occasional hints that certain characters were gay, but the interpretation could also be read as such characters were "eccentric" and such. Decades later, clearly (or at least more clearly) gay characters did start appearing in Hollywood movies, but often than not they suffered great misfortune (such as death) before the end of the movie.

Some people might figure that today in the twenty-first century, Hollywood has made great strides in showing gay people in movies. To some degree that's true, but I occasionally hear stories that it's often still a tough fight. Actor Rupert Everett several years ago tried pitching a movie idea concerning a James Bond-like character - who happened to be gay - to various studios, but no studio Pink Angelswould buy it. Several years later, he mentioned that he regretted coming out of the closet, saying that it hurt his career in the long run. Present-day stories like this may make the fact of the existence of the 1972 movie Pink Angels amazing, considering it was made in an era of more homophobia than there is today. It was the first - and so far, only - movie to be made concerning a gay motorcycle gang. Now, motorcycle movies and I have had a bad relationship in the past. With the exception of Easy Rider, there's not one (fictional) motorcycle movie that I have ever enjoyed enough to recommend it to others. But I decided to give this one a chance because of its unusual twist, one that might interest certain viewers looking for the offbeat. There's a lot more that's unusual to be found in the movie, including the way it unfolds. After a confusing opening scene taking place at night at a poolside party, we cut to another scene, where we meet "The General" (George T. Marshall, Putney Swope), a military man arriving during the daytime to a mansion, which seems to be his base of operation. Just seconds after his introduction, and before we get any explanation as to who he is and what exactly he's up to, the movie cuts to the main characters of the movie - the Pink Angels, the aforementioned gay motorcycle gang. Under the direction of their leader Michael (Alderman, Seven), the six scruffy members of the gang gather together in a pre-arranged desert location, get on their motorcycles and their attached sidecars, and take off on what's to be a long trip. Eventually, we learn that they are on their way to a drag queen ball that's going to happen in southern California. The bulk of the movie is devoted to their travels and their various adventures and encounters along the way. These include picking up a hitchhiker (Jackson Bostwick, Shazam!) who at first doesn't know the sexuality of the gang, an encounter with two highway patrol cops that stop the gang and searches their motorbikes, stumbling across some prostitutes in the rural countryside that can't understand why these men are ignoring them, and an encounter with a group of straight Hell's Angels that include Michael Pataki (The Baby) and Dan Haggerty (Escape To Grizzly Mountain) among its members.

It's a mystery why Pink Angels starts with that poolside party sequence. There is another party sequence near the end of the movie also with the Pink Angels gang, in full drag like with the opening sequence, but the movie never makes it clear if it's the same party that was shown in the opening sequence of the movie. There is also subsequently the question as to if the character of "The General" has any connection with the Pink Angels. The answer is yes - though it certainly isn't revealed to us right away. In his opening scene, and with the movie subsequently going back on occasion to this character's going-ons in his mansion, for the longest time it is a mystery just what the general's connection is with the Pink Angels. In case you are wondering what my motives are for bringing up these two opening confusing scenes, it's to illustrate in part just how strange and bizarre the movie is as a whole. Certainly the idea of a gay motorcycle gang movie is by itself unusual even in this day and age, but the way that the movie has been made makes the entire enterprise even more offbeat than you can imagine. Although the opening credits list a screenwriter (who, by the way, has no other film credits other than this one to her name), there are a great number of sections in the movie when it feels that the filmmakers were just making things up as they went along. There are moments in passing (a supermarket customer's reaction to the bikers, a hotel clerk's confused reaction to the bikers, etc.) as well as entire scenes (the general putting a gun together while blindfolded, the bikers having mechanical problems, etc.) that seem to have no purpose except to stretch out the movie enough to have a long enough running time. All throughout the movie, I was asking myself what on earth the filmmakers were trying to say - that is, if they were trying to say anything. Whether they were trying to say something or not, the movie seems to be aimless. You will sit in front of your television screen scratching your head from start to end, wondering how you are supposed to react to all this strangeness on display.

Although the title of the movie tells us who the characters of the story are that we will be following from the beginning to the end, the movie itself doesn't make that great deal of an attempt to make these six men into strong characters, either individually or as a group. For example, there's the leader of the pack, Michael - at least I think he's supposed to be the leader. It's real hard to tell, since he not only doesn't have that much dialogue, a lot of the decisions that are made come from the other men in the group. Needless to say, the other men in the group also aren't given that much dialogue, especially dialogue that would differentiate them from each other. One biker has an English accent, and it's mentioned that he is indeed from England. But nothing is done with this. They all come across for the most part like background characters instead of individuals who do or say things that make great impact on a regular basis to themselves or other people. Whether you are sympathetic to homosexuals or are homophobic, it's hard to get involved one way or another with these gay men. The filmmakers themselves don't really seem to have a concrete opinion one way or another on these individuals. On one hand, the Pink Angels are shown at times to be people who just want to have a good time and never really hurt anyone during their travels. And they look good compared to some of the people they encounter on their travels, like the extremely mean-spirited highway patrol cops that stop them at one point. On the other hand, they are all portrayed to have "flaming" personalities instead of a more balanced portrayal, they get a good number of homophobic insults and reactions from others during their journey, and what eventually happens to them at the end of the movie is both grotesque and a real downer way to end a movie no matter if you are gay or straight.

Larry G. Brown, the director of this movie, made the unintentionally funny movie Psychopath a year later. But here, there is very little that can be found to be entertaining, either intentionally or unintentionally. In fairness, it's pretty clear that he was working here with quite a low budget; I am sure it was pretty hard to sell the idea of this movie to potential investors back in the early 1970s. As a result of the low budget, the movie is missing a lot of polish that might have spruced things up considerably. Except for the cool-looking opening sequence when the Pink Angels gather together in a desert location full of massive concrete pipes, the locations are both dull and generic, with the poorly chosen camera angles filming them not helping. There are also a number of technical errors, ranging from the shadow of the boom mike clearly visible in one scene to some jarring editing here and there that strongly suggests the production couldn't afford to film key footage that would smoothly link one scene to the next. The direction also stumbles when it comes to providing suitable exploitation material. There's no real violence, nor is there any onscreen sex. There is some (female) nudity here and there, but it's not presented in a light that is the least bit erotic. By now, you might be surprised by what I'm about to tell you, that there is indeed one good thing of substance to be found in Pink Angels. And that is the movie's soundtrack. The soft rock songs (some by famed songwriter/singer Mike Settle) that play throughout the movie are surprisingly good. In fact, if they were to ever release this movie's soundtrack on CD, I would buy a copy. If there is anything else positive to say about the movie, I guess it would be that the movie has some historical value, one of the first Hollywood movies to deal with clear-cut homosexual characters just a few years after the production code was dismantled. But I think film historians, as well as anyone else whether they are gay or straight, will find Pink Angels to be a real embarrassment, and after watching it will do nothing to lift it out of the obscurity it currently lies in.

(Posted January 20, 2015)

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD, as part of box set)

See also: Lone Hero, The Peace Killers, The Stranger