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Black Angels (1970)

Directed by Laurence Merrick
Trend Home Video VHS

“A white man can’t have a decent fight with a black man without people saying it’s racial.”

So laments Chainer, the leader of Satan’s Scorpions, an all-white biker gang. Satan’s Scorpions are tough. They take no shit. They give no shit. We know this because they ride fucking motorcycles — without helmets! They don’t care that helmets prevent 37 percent of deaths among motorcycle riders, at least according to the CDC, the authority on death and bad news. But these bikers have balls too big for safety. They drink beer and wield switchblades. They even piss on each other (“It’s champagne! I just blessed you with my golden shower!”). Chainer and his Satan’s Scorpions are at war with the Choppers, an all-black biker gang led by Knifer. In case you were wondering, Chainer carries a chain. Knifer carries a knife. One-Eye has one eye. Frenchy wears a biker vest and a frilly blue silk blouse — to be clear, Frenchy is a guy. The only nickname that’s not obvious belongs to Big Jim, who is neither big nor little so his name is neither accurate nor ironic.

The Black Angels are a pair of white cops who wear black uniforms and sunglasses at night. They’re putting heat on Satan’s Scorpions, but the gang doesn’t care. They smoke a roach right in front of Lt. Harper and his partner! Oh, the nerve! They taunt the cops with a schoolyard chant: “Goodbye Lt. Harper, have yourself a ball, Goodbye Lt. Harper, don’t come back at all!” Oh, what a burn! But the Black Angels drop a hint that the Choppers are on a warpath. The cops then pay a visit to the Choppers and warn that Chainer and his gang are planning something. Knifer isn’t scared: “We’ve had enough of your kind of hell. Three hundred years of your bullshit! From now on we take care of our own!” Uh-oh! Racial tension! Dirty cops! People making out on bales of hay! Now we have a story. One that makes us suffer.

Black Angels contains long, torturous sequences of motorcycle riding, just like every biker gang movie ever (including the ones that haven’t been made yet). Choppers zip down the freeway. They barrel down the street. They turn the corner. They cut through a neighborhood. They nearly hit a lady with an infant. They nearly hit a child. They nearly hit two nuns! God’s workers! This movie would’ve been a lot better if they had actually hit someone, but no. Instead, they ride along a dirt road covered in horse shit, which could be a nod to the motorcycle being a “steel horse,” but probably it’s just a road that’s covered in horse shit. And just when you think the hog-porn is over, it keeps going. Harleys go up a hill. Then through a tunnel. And now they’re back on the freeway — through Hollywood, they ride! There are several (meaning “too many”) musical interludes, including one that involves “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.” The riding scenes are repetitive and endless, and all that time could’ve been used to explore more appealing biker gang activities, like murder. Rape. Robbery. Knife fights. So instead of seeing bikers setting people on fire, we see bikers kick-starting their engines three hundred and sixty-eight times. Is it April 15th yet because this shit is taxing! If you just groaned, then you just experienced what it’s like to watch this movie.

Black Angels is a must-see for people who like to watch people talking. Outside of that, the movie has few things to offer, save some bar fights and a go-go dancer who doesn’t stop dancing in the middle of a bar brawl. There’s also some garden-variety domestic violence. One biker’s on the run from the law because he “beat up my old lady with a baseball bat.” The whole gang laughs because baseball bats are funny. At some point, Chainer roughs up his girlfriend when she comes to the bar late.

“You’re slummy nympho.”
“Nympho, maybe. Slummy? Never!”
“You Texas punching board!”

He slaps her around but then they start making out aggressively in front of a poster that says “Weedies” instead of Wheaties. Get it? No really, get it?

The final showdown between Satan’s Scorpions and the Choppers is underwhelming and set to a song where the lyrics urge, “There’s got to be a change and no more fighting and no more guns/We’ve got to live with one another.” This is the real downfall of the movie. Black Angels takes all the fun out of depraved, rape-fueled biker gangs and then tacks on a life lesson at the end. Writer/director Laurence Merrick (Oscar-nominated Manson, and, uh, Guess What Happened to Count Dracula?) was trying to make a statement and explore cultural issues, like a certain famous biker movie that came before it. There’s actually an homage to Easy Rider – a poster of Peter Fonda is pinned up in the biker bar. It’s right next to the Weedies poster.

In the end though, there’s only one reason to watch Black Angels. Chainer has a pet cougar. An actual cougar. There’s another guy with a pet raccoon, but no one cares because HOLY SHIT, FUCKING COUGAR. In the final shots of the movie, the cougar runs free, which I think is supposed to be a metaphor for how we must learn to coexist and be free from violence, though that might be giving the movie too much credit. Maybe it’s just a cougar running away from this movie.