Thursday, January 9, 2014

Pink Angels (1972)

          A truly bizarre artifact from the era when homosexuals were still viewed as society’s freaks, this “comedy” depicts the misadventures of a motorcycle gang comprised exclusively of transvestites as they travel from northern California to Los Angeles for a drag “cotillion.” Although the six bikers disguise themselves as Hell’s Angels, wearing fake facial hair as well as denim-and-leather ensembles tricked out with Confederate and Nazi paraphernalia, the dudes are as flamboyant as the day is long, so the would-be humor of the film stems from incidents during which they drop their butch façades to discuss dresses and makeup in fey lisps. Part of what makes Pink Angels such a confusing film is that it’s hard to decide whether the portrayal of gays is affectionate, derisive, of satirical—or even some queasy combination of all three.
          After all, the bikers are only shown doing two mildly “bad” things: inflicting damage on some property when they’re putting on their tough-guy routine, and playfully applying makeup to the men in a rival gang while those men are passed out from drinking. Considering that many films of the ’70s depicted gay men as homicidal psychopaths, the vision of homosexuality in Pink Angels is positively genteel by comparison. That’s not to say, of course, that Pink Angels is any kind of a worthwhile movie. Quite to the contrary, Pink Angels is an amateurish mess with very little characterization or plot. Furthermore, the movie is burdened with a nonsensical running gag about a maniacal military general whose climactic encounter with the gay bikers inexplicably spins the movie in a downbeat direction. Therefore, the best way to watch Pink Angels—presuming one is masochistic enough to do so—is to marvel at the sheer weirdness of the enterprise.
          For one thing, Pink Angels is far from subtle. In one early scene, the bikers hit a roadside food joint, and then lasciviously consume hot dogs while making double-entendres about phallic-sounding motorcycle parts including “ram shafts.” Later, the bikers tromp through a grocery store looking for items like “man-handler” soup. (At the time the film was made, the phrase “man-handler” was used in ads for the Hungry Man line of frozen foods.) Sometimes, screenwriter Margaret McPherson’s attempts at gay patois are clichéd (“What did you have in mind, fancy pants?”), and sometimes McPherson conjures lines that are merely strange (“I’m sick and tired of you, you fickle pringle!”) Every so often, however, McPherson lands a genuinely amusing line, as when the lead biker brazenly tells a cop that his motorcycle’s storage compartment is filled with drugs and “an 8-by-10 of Robert Goulet.”
          Adding to the overall surrealism of Pink Angels is the appearance in the cast of he-man actor Dan Haggerty, who spent most of the ’70s portraying mountain man Grizzly Adams in movies and TV shows. For Pink Angels, he plays a member of the straight gang that parties with the gay bikers (don’t ask), so Haggerty makes out with a black hooker, wakes up to discover he’s wearing makeup (and bows in his hair!), and hits on a transvestite whom he believes is a woman. Even though Pink Angels is actually quite dull to watch all the way through—the picture feels much, much longer than its 81-minute running time—it’s difficult to look away from things as peculiar as the Haggerty scenes. Plus, because Haggerty and tough-guy character actor Michael Pataki (playing the leader of the straight gang) are the only familiar performers in Pink Angels, the illusion of the movie having emerged from some ’70s-cinema dreamscape is nearly complete. In fact, even after watching the whole thing, it’s still challenging to believe that that Pink Angels exists. Seriously, how many other drive-in movies were made about gay bikers?

Pink Angels: FREAKY

1 comment:

Tommy Ross said...

"It's a Maidenform, and it's mine!," ha ha I would definitely put this in the so-bad-it's-good catagory or as you say so-weird-it's good. I don't know if it's true or not but legend has it that the subplot with the crazy general is actually footage from another movie that was shelved and they stitched it in to make the back story. Definitely worth a watch at least one time in your life.