Thursday, May 22, 2014

Oddball Film Report: "MANOS" THE HANDS OF FATE (1966)

NOTE: This piece was originally written for's Video Cheese. It has been published here by the kind permission of Mr. Ken Begg.

"MANOS" THE HANDS OF FATE (1966 - color)

    "I am Torgo. I take care of the place while the Master is away."

  Should anyone question my dedication to obscure/oddball (my focus isn't so much on "bad" movies as I find the term highly subjective) exploitation films, let me note that I have watched "Manos" the Hands of Fate a good half-dozen or more times just for fun

   This crummy little picture exudes a perverse charm, and I think I know what it is. It's the same thing that draws me to such reported stinkers as Night Fright, Sting of Death, EegahCurse of Bigfoot, and Larry Buchanan's Azalea AIP-TV movies (although I should note that even in that questionable field, "Manos" is still bottom rung stuff). The attraction is that someone working out in the middle of nowhere made a movie. All these films play like really ambitious home movies, and as such contain a certain raw energy and charm a studio or hack production simply can't convey.

    You see, I reflect what may be the last gasps of the 'monster kid' aesthetic. Pop was a Monster Kid, and introduced my fertile young mind to the wonders of his youth: back-issues of Famous Monsters, obscure monster movies on the tube, etc. I was also blessed enough to be a child of the video era, and have a family that bought a VCR. Thus, my childhood was filled with more old monster movies than Pop could have dreamed of. By the time I was ten, I had already seen more stuff than he had been able to by age of twenty! 

    The Universal International stuff from the 50s and the AIP's from the same period formed the majority of my cinematic diet. Then there were the Godzilla movies, the Hercules movies, and assorted 60s junk that would occasionally pop up on television. TNT provided most of our warmest memories of the early 90s. Monstervision and 100% Weird late-night blocks molded my brain into the shape it is now. 100% Weird has translated into offerings from Something Weird Video, while my diet of 'monster' movies has grown to include junk from the 30's into the 80s. I've also discovered such wonderful genres as the 'spy' film, the 'beach' cycle, 40's and 50's crime thrillers, Italian space opera, and so much more!

   I also have a deep thirst for the hopelessly obscure stuff. Regional drive-in exploitation pictures are my favorite vein to mine.

   The 60's stuff speaks to me most loudly, not sure why. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I consumed a LOT of 60's material as I was going through puberty. My early high school years were fuelled by spies, beach parties, and drive-in fare. Bug eyed monsters and go-go girls seemed to swirl around me.

(Maybe it's as simple as the fact that American women were at their most beautiful in the early to mid 1960s. The make-up, the hair styles, the colors, the lack of tattoos and weird piercings, it was the golden age of pulchritude. Most of my best pinup artwork reflects this style.)

   I had always wanted to make movies. More and more I find I want to make regional 1960s monster movies. Maybe this is why I so warmly respond to Mars Needs Women, The Yesterday Machine, Death Curse of Tartu, and The Horror of Party Beach. They look like the kind of thing I could make if I got my chance. 

   "Manos" the Hands of Fate is terrible in every technical way possible. Yet I know that some people got together and made a movie with almost no resources or thanks for their efforts. How can I not respond to that? 

(Some of the notes that follow have been revised from my unsold Jabootu/Sleaze Creatures-esque book ODDBALL: The Sensationally Strange Cinema of the 1960s, just so all my hard work on that tome doesn't go to waste. I'm not actually making any less work for myself, because I'm having to type everything out again. This because all I have is a hard copy of the first couple chapters. Anyway, on to our feature presentation....)

   Had it not been for Mystery Science Theater 3000, our current subject might have remained unknown to all but the citizens of El Paso, Texas. 

   Harold P. Warren was a fertilizer salesman (your joke here) who decided to get in on the movie racket. The film he created was a bizarre mess of a movie with awkward dialog, horrible camera work/editing/etc. and a weird hand fetish ("Manos" in fact, is Spanish for "Hands"). 

   All this was filmed with a single silent 16mm camera that could only get 30 seconds of film at a time, and under scant lighting as well (which was enough to attract several Texas-sized moths we'll be seeing). Every voice is reported to be provided by just four (some say three!) people. A troubled production from the start, even the cast and crew poked fun at the project, calling it "Mangos" Cans of Fruit

   Warren, for his part, wrote, produced, directed, and starred in the film. I'd say he was one of the few who got to dub their own voice, as well.

   First thing we notice is how grainy our feature presentation is, which is to be expected from a 16mm print blown up to 35 (and then duped to 16, which is what I believe the source print to be). Until just recently, this was the best quality the film could be seen in. And, truth be told, it fits the flick perfectly.

   We open on the old suburban-family-on-vacation gambit. Present in a nice big convertible is Mike (Mr. Warren himself, ladies and gentlemen), his attractive wife Margaret, and their little daughter Debbie. Also along for the trip is the little black poodle "Pepe" who has trouble sitting still. I'm sure that, had the mutt not been important to the script, Warren would have nixed the dog. Then again, the dog gives Hal's frustrated line reads at least have some justification besides seeing his potential new career in showbiz circling the drain.

   The supposedly happy family is trying to find their way to Valley Lodge. I say supposedly because when we first meet them, it isn't under the best conditions. They're running late and are almost lost, and are thus a tad testy. Debbie is cold, Margaret worried they won't make it, and Mike is just tired. Either to eat up some running time (one of the movie's plus points is that it runs around 70 minutes) or to establish something that has happened behind the scenes, a cop pulls Mike over and warns him his tail light is out (in a few shots later, we'll see the tail light is, indeed, out, so the scene could have been included to cover for this). 

   Mike is let go with a warning to get it fixed, then continues on his way. Finding a sign pointing to the Valley Lodge, Mike turns off and ends up driving down a long winding road into the Twilight Zone.

   We hear a lounge singer and I think this is meant to be coming from the radio. One assumes this is where the credits were supposed to be, since we earlier got a title card. We watch what looks like vacation footage of the fields-through-the-window-of-a-moving-car variety. It's exactly the kind of footage you risk getting ahold of if you buy a box of old 8mm home movies you find at an antique shop. Having seen such film before, I may have a slightly higher tolerance to this kind of thing than someone else? Eventually, we cut to something that wasn't shot from inside the car. Really. It does happen. I know, because I've seen this before. Trust me.

   We cut to two kids sitting in a Cobra and making out. We hear another song coming from their radio. As limited as they were on resources, it seems rather surreal (a word that aptly describes the film) that they were able to get what sounds like original songs! On the other hand, the sound is the one fairly professional element here (via the busy Glen Glenn Sound studios!). 

   At any rate, the kids take a quick break from their lip-locking to swallow some shots of booze when the boy produces a bottle. Almost out of frame, Mike drives past them in the background. A few seconds later, the kids notice. Having delivered some exposition that there's nothing at the end of that road, the kids jump back into each other's faces. Now, the first thing I wonder is, if there are no houses or anything down the long stretch of road, why is there even a road?

   When we cut back to Mike and the family, we get reminded that the sign did, indeed, point them in this direction. We also see several telephone poles lining the road. Do a lot of counties put telephone lines up in areas where no one lives? Well, someone might move in later, why wait till the last moment! 

   Eventually, the road does end in a sandbank, and Mike is forced to turn around.

   Back at the Cobra, the kids are still making out. The shot opens with a signal flag breezing past the camera (!) to signal another car to pull into scene. You'd think they'd try to set up their signal behind the camera, wouldn't you? The cops from earlier drive up and tell the kids to take their activities elsewhere. The boy insists they weren't doing anything amiss. The cop then utters the film's best line. "Whatever it is you're not doing," he nonchalantly replies, "go don't do it somewhere else." Sadly this exhausts the film's reserve of cleverness.

   Told to skedaddle, the kids drive off in the same direction Mike went! This after it is again established that this road goes nowhere! Meanwhile, in Nowhere, Mike comes driving across a section of the deserted dirt road covered in tire tracks. Since no mention is made of this, let's just chalk it up to the multitude of continuity flaws.

   A brief fade out and in and Mike pulls up before a house he doesn't remember passing on the way out. (This secluded house by the way, is surrounded by other homes visible in the distance!) Margaret convinces Mike to get some directions as long as they've stumbled onto a sign of civilization. It is here we meet the character who has achieved a bit of immortality since this film was re-discovered by Joel and the 'Bots: Torgo, the grounds keeper.

   Torgo looks like a smelly old hobo, not unlike Ed Nelson's old hermit in The Devil's Partner. Or maybe like an evil counterpart to Gabby Hayes. Anyway, he wears an old jumpsuit, dark jacket, and hat, all in various shades of brown. He hasn't shaved in a few months and has two sets of eyebrows (!), something more visible in some shots than in others. 

   The real trademark of Torgo, though, is his bulging knees. Although there was a reason for this, it is never mentioned in the film itself. Torgo is introduced in a tight close-up bookended by full shots of the car, as if a random shot from some other movie was accidentally spliced in to repair a film break! Margaret is visibly horrified, however. 

(Beyond Mike's car, by the way, can be seen farmland, houses, and the road! Frankly, unless you've lived in New York City your whole life, this place doesn't look all that isolated.)

   Having established the presence of this new character, we get a more traditional introduction shot of Torgo. He's leaned against the wall near the door, twitching and jerking like he's being eaten alive by bugs but can't swat at any of them. He also holds a staff capped by an impressionist sculpture of a hand. Mike and the family walk over to ask directions, but Torgo is first to speak. Let's enjoy this moment together, as Torgo utters forth his first line in that stuttery voice of his....

   "I am Torgo. I take care of the place while the Master is away." (pause) "But the child. I'm not sure the Master would approve. Or the dog. The Master doesn't like children."

   Man, that's gotta be one of the top ten moments in film history!

   Torgo understandably upsets Margaret, but Mike more or less forces Torgo to let them stay the night as sunset is approaching. To be fair, there aren't a lot of options. As Torgo notes "There is no way out of here. It will be dark soon. There is no way out of here." In a repetitious sequence we seemingly endlessly follow this pattern: Mike thinks they should stay, asks Torgo if its okay and then ignores him, Margaret doesn't want to stay, Torgo twitches. 

   Eventually, they drop the repeat dialog and substitute a menacing piano score. Torgo again makes sure we know "The Master" won't like having company stay at his house, but Mike continues to ignore him. Torgo eventually gives in and even gets the bags from Mike's car for him (Torgo is even given a perky little theme tune for scenes like this).

  Inside, Margaret notes how creepy the place is. While a tad shabby and bare, it hardly seems all that spooky. On the other hand, the fireplace mantle is decorated with multiple sculptures of hands, so you know something weird is going on here. 

   Mike and Margaret also notice a crude portrait of a pale-skinned guy with dark hair and thick mustache (imagine Jeff Foxworthy as a zombie and you'd be in the right arena). He's next to a pillar in a dark room, and his faithful dog is by his side, eyes glowing. By the way, we don't see the picture hanging on the wall, we just see a severe close shot of the painting. It could be hanging in a room across town for all we know, but it captivates Mike and Margaret. They spend the next several hours, er, minutes, commenting on this prop from the cheapest Night Gallery episode ever filmed. This is assumed to be The Master.

   Torgo carries the bags through the scene, his merry little theme playing away (imagine the musical equivalent of going "bink-bink-bink-bink, bink-bink-bink-bink" over and over). Mike and Margaret watch him until he leaves the room, then turn back to that same static shot of the painting. This artefact has our couple so entranced that both fail to see Torgo come out of the bedroom and extend his cane to tap Mike on the shoulder. (Torgo spends a lot of time leaned against things, here it'll be the door-frame for much of the action. The harness for the big knees was said to be rather painful, and it shows the way Torgo hobbles around.) Mike asks Torgo where the Master is, and we get another choice batch of repeat dialog.

   "He has left this world," Torgo explains, "but he is with us always, no matter where we go." Margaret questions this, then turns her fears back to the dog in the painting. Torgo tries to put her at ease. "There is nothing to fear, Madam. The Master likes you. Nothing will happen to you. He likes you."

   "I thought you said he was dead!"

   "Dead? No, Madam, not dead the way you know it. He is with us always. Not dead the way you know it. He is with us always." They don't write 'em like that anymore, do they? 

   Margaret doesn't like this, but Mike thinks its her imagination (he's not very bright or observant, and he forced his way in and began bossing Torgo around as if he were his butler. Warren is taking the road less trod for movie heroes by being an unlikeable jerk. If nothing else, he was ahead of his time in this respect). Debbie is playing with her poodle, blissfully out of the scene. We see Pepe doing a stand and Debbie rewarding him with a treat. Where'd the treat come from? What has this to do with our story? My guess is that Debbie got the dog to do this trick on set and someone thought to turn the camera on. When the film was being cut together later, the scene was probably included because it looked cute. That's my theory.

   Suddenly, Torgo is across the room, saying he'd better show them to their rooms. A howling dog frightens Margaret (a jack rabbit would terrify her at this point) and Mike rushes out to investigate. Since he leaves the door wide open, Pepe runs out and into the darkness to confront whatever beast is making that horrifying sound (Pepe may be a poodle, but he's plenty brave when you consider a good-sized rat could eat him alive). 

   Mike looks on, and huge moths are attacking the light source (which explains why so many low-budget productions rely on day-for-night shooting). Margaret rushes out, but Mike holds her back from going after Pepe. He tells her to get inside and runs to the car to get his gun and flashlight as urgent drums beat on the soundtrack. Pepe stops barking as Mike rushes into the darkness. (By the way, the surrounding area was fairly lush in the daylight, but will now be mostly sand a few stray bushes. If this were French or Italian, it would be held up as some artistic masterpiece for breaking all the cinematic rules. Think about that.)

   Mike finds dead little Puppet, er, Pepe and carries the "dog" away, supposedly to bury it. Here's one moment where the murky lighting is in the film's favor, since we can't fully make out the little plush toy Mike is holding. Fade out. 

   Fade in. Debbie is on the couch stirring from her nap. Margaret tactfully breaks the news about Pepe by asking Mike what could have killed the dog. (Would there really have been enough time go by before Margaret asked this question to justify a complete fade out and in?) Mike finally agrees with Margaret that staying here isn't such a hot idea and he yells for Torgo to put the bags back in the car. (Honestly! Can't the guy see Torgo is practically a cripple?) Dissolve to Mike trying the start the car. I don't want to shock you, but it won't start.

   Inside, we get another choice Torgo moment. He's watching Margaret pack as she notes how glad she'll be to vacate the area. Apparently figuring Margaret couldn't possibly be any more weirded out, Torgo tells her the Master wants her for his wife, adding that the Master likes beautiful women. (Beautiful? Margaret's attractive and all, but she's no Zsa Zsa Gabor or anything.) 

   What follows is the most awkward groping scene ever filmed as Torgo slooooowly twitches his hand up to Margaret's shoulder and fondles her hair. Despite this taking nearly half a minute to occur, Margaret just stands there. I'd think most women would have taken a few steps back or something of that nature. Margaret lets it go for a few seconds (maybe she's supposed to be frozen with fear) before she steps to the side and casts an angry look upon Torgo. Then she really lets him have it by telling him not to do that again! At least she calls him a beast, so we know he got her dander up.

   Torgo starts to sputter about how the Master can't have her and that he wants her for himself. Way too late, Margaret finally acts like a woman and gives Torgo a slap across the face. Then she reverts to her immobility by standing still and calling for Mike (who can't hear her outside where he's working on the car). Eventually deciding she'll have to take action directly, she frowns and steps closer to Torgo. He must be blocking the door or something, as Margaret demands he let her go despite the fact he hasn't restricted her in any way. Torgo begs forgiveness, insisting he meant no harm. He not only convinces Margaret to reluctantly forgive him, but also convinces her not to tell Mike about the episode!

  In the living room, Debbie comes out of a side room and curls up on the couch like she's asleep just before Mike walks in and calls to Margaret that the car won't start. They talk a moment as Torgo moves through with their bags. Mike asks Torgo where the telephone is (great close-up of frustrated Torgo here) and is informed there is no telephone because "the Master does no believe in such devices." Supposedly, Torgo means electronic devices, even though the Master's house is wired for electric lights (!), another detail no one will notice. 

   The nearest telephone is at the crossroads ten miles away (is that by the clump of telephone poles we saw on the drive out?), so they have no choice but stay the night. Torgo puts the bags back in their room.

   Mike and Margaret have another session of staring at the painting of the Master, represented by the exact same shot from before, and discuss how sinister the man looks. Margaret wants to leave (we got that, Margaret, you've made your point a good fifty times by now) and wonders if Debbie will understand about what happened to Pepe. Not content to let everybody else have all the fun of repeated lines, Mike offers "She'll understand, she's my baby. She'll understand." "I sure hope so." Margaret adds. To which Mike counters with "She's my baby, she'll understand." Art, thy name is Harold P. Warren.

   During the above, Debbie gets up off the couch and goes through the door to the side room. Almost instantly, her parents turn around to see her gone start to panic. The pair begin to search. Margaret goes to the very door Debbie passed through seconds earlier and opens it a couple of inches! Peeking through the crack for a good second or two, she closes the door and moves on! She runs off to look outside as Mike turns to Torgo (relaxing in the door-frame to the bedroom) and asks if he has seen Debbie. Torgo says he hasn't seen her. 

   Margaret rushes back into the shot and tells Mike the door to the outside is bolted. Mike, the last one to come inside, asks if there is another door to the outside. Torgo informs there is such a door in the kitchen, and he indicates the side door Debbie left through. Mike takes this in, then dashes off to the front door (that only he could have bolted)! He runs back and proclaims "That door is bolted too!" I've seen so few movies that achieve this level of delirious stupidity within a minute of screentime. It'll make your head spin!

   Margaret is sure Debbie has left the house (I don't know how she came to this conclusion, given the doors are all bolted) and we soon see the couple outside. Margaret is worried (big surprise) and Mike tries to comfort her by taking her hand, and action treated to a very shaky and incompetent camera zoom. 

   Debbie pops up with a big Doberman in tow. Mike and Margaret assume this to be the hellbeast from the painting. 

(I had a Doberman a few years ago and she was the sweetest thing you ever saw. Ever since, the supposed menace such an animal is to project in TV or motion pictures has been greatly undercut. When Richard Diamond was being chased by Dobermans across the dock of a lake and he was in danger of having his throat torn out, I could only reflect on how cute the animals were. But they, at least, went through the motions of being dangerous. This pooch is quite obviously somebody's pet. It wanders around waiting for someone to come over and pet it. This aspect will add another layer of amusement to the proceedings.)

   The dog splits and Debbie returns to the loving arms of her parents. Later, Mike and Margaret pump Debbie for information. Debbie found the dog in "a big place" that was dark and had people in it. Mike asks her to show him where and in an actual moment of continuity she leads him into the kitchen! 

   Cut to a fire burning at the base of a metal tower, another impressionist sculpture of a hand (yes, we get it by now). Although, this one is pretty obscured since it happens to be the same shade of black as the un-lit backgrounds! 

   Also on hand is a woman in a sheer white gown leaned against a pillar and pretending to be asleep. Then we get a shot of the Master sleeping on a big stone slab (upon which rests yet another hand sculpture), to which the dog is now mysteriously chained. There are multiple pillars, and more white-clad women leaning against them. Mike and family wander into this, then quickly exit.

   Later, everyone comes walking in from the kitchen. Mike decides to interrogate Torgo and sends the girls to their room (without supper, now that I think of it. No one has had time to eat since we met up with these people and they're travelling with a child! Let's hope they had just stopped off for a bite before we met them on the road). 

   Mike closes the door behind them and handles the knob in such a way as to suggest he locked it. He storms out and we cut back to the "big place" where the Master is catching some shuteye. Torgo wanders in and begins to to rant. "I want her! She's mine! Mine! Do you hear?! You have all the wives you need!" He turns his little tirade on the sleeping women, letting them know he has no more use for any of them either. He'll no longer need to awkwardly fondle the Master's wives in their sleep when he was a woman of his own, and he wants Margaret. 
  To make his point, he stops to nervously fondle one bride's hair as he earlier did with Margaret. Torgo blurts that he's through with all of them and breaks into laughter before leaving the scene. I was nervous around Torgo before, when he was just a stuttering, groping, deformed madman. Now that he's gone completely off the deep end, I'm terrified!

   As Mike is running around outside looking for Torgo, the girls are in the bedroom. Debbie is sleeping, Margaret goes to the mirror and starts to undress. Torgo schlumps over to the window and peeks in at Margaret in her nightgown. Possibly catching a glimpse of Torgo in the mirror, Margaret spins around in horror, but there's nobody at the window now. (Which, I must admit, would be pretty unsettling in real life. Although, I'm sure you'd be expecting that kind of thing if you decided to stay in a house that suddenly appeared in the middle of nowhere, inhabited by a perverted creepy guy with a beard, and a big place where a pale guy sleeps on a big stone slab next to a constantly burning fire surrounded by women who all dress the same and sleep standing up....)

   Elsewhere, Mike is being attacked by giant moths, er, walking out in the desert. Torgo sneaks up and clubs Mike, then drags the unconscious dolt over to a pole (?) and ties him up with Mike's belt. 

   Then we cut back to the Master as he awakens. Sitting with his dog at his side, this image mirrors the painting we saw earlier. Expecting us to be complete and utter morons, Warren cuts in a shot of the painting to make sure we all get it. This would have been less insulting if we had seen a shot of the painting and then dissolved to see the newly awakened Master in the same position. But really, why give your audience that much credit? Just because they paid their hard-earned money to see your wares is no reason to assume they might be smart enough to add one and one to make two.

   The Master, as noted, looks like a pale version of Jeff Foxworthy with scraggly dark hair and a big mustache. He wears sandles (honestly, who would be subservient to a man wearing sandles?) and a graduation robe with a pair of big red hand prints sown onto the front. These hands become visible whenever the Master spreads his arms, which occurs a time or two after this. 

   Okay, its not like the elegantly dressed Count Dracula, but it is distinctive, I suppose. Meanwhile, the lack of pant legs poking out from under his robe paints the horrifying image of his maybe being a satanic flasher. While he looks angry and all (and who looks their best when they first wake up?), he doesn't look as supernatural as Warren must've hoped. The Master looks like an accountant from 1975. Fade out.

   Fade in and we're back with the necking 'teenagers' who are hassled by the friendly cops. That's fresh. (There's a shot here where the film ran out in the camera, you can tell because it gets lighter for a split second.) The kids ask why the Man don't bug those others who drove by earlier. It is again established that "this road goes nowhere..." The kids once again follow their orders to go home by driving off farther down the road to nowhere. Was this a one-way road they were shooting on?

  Back with the Master, he gives a little speech/prayer/whatever to "Manos." "Manos" is some sort of pagan god who dwells in "primal darkness" and "the depths of the universe and black chasms of night!" Okay, if you say so. We get a glimpse of a sculptured head that had earlier been among the various hands which decorated the fireplace mantle. Supposedly, this is meant to be an image of "Manos." If so, "Manos" bears a strong resemblance to the superman of the future that kid sculpted for a mask in 1956's The Gamma People. Sadly, Paul Douglas is nowhere to be found. 

   The Master commands his wives to wake as well, and give ear to the words of "Manos."

   Next thing we see, the Master is looking ever more peeved as his wives sit around in a circle and debate on what to do with the new house guests. They're split on weather to kill Debbie or keep her alive. The majority of the debate consists of looped murmurings, repeated over and over, some of them audible enough to hear they are incomplete lines. I might suggest these are the flubbed lines during the recording session and Warren decided to make use of them to imply the arguing gaggle of women. 

   After a short spell of this, the Master has had enough and goes to punish Torgo for letting the source of this debate into the house in the first place (to be fair, Torgo tried to make it clear Debbie staying would be a bad idea, so "Manos" really can't hang this one on him). 

   The Master gone, the women continue to argue. This breaks into a group catfight where the girls are visibly trying not to scratch their sister performers. We can also notice they have strips of red fabric under their sheer gowns, outside their undergarments. The jazzy music tries to fill in the gaps and convince us this is a fierce battle of wills. Hard to tell which side is winning, but we are treated to a rare bit of actual showmanship as one of the girls scoops up some dirt and throws it at the camera. (In case I forgot to mention, the "big place" is outside somewhere. There's sand and some sagebrush occasionally visible in the background.)


   Following in the established theme, we open the next scene with close up of Torgo's hand. Torgo has decided to take a nap all of a sudden, I guess. You'd think he'd be drooling over Margaret through her window, but maybe he's had a long day. 

   As the caretaker here, you'd think Torgo could rate better quarters. He sleeps on a cot in a mostly bare room. Hanging on the wall is a sheet (?), a rope (?), and what looks like one of the Bride's gowns (!) over the cot. The Master and his very happy-looking dog enter the shot and rouse Torgo. Torgo slowly climbs to his feet and the Master tells him, essentially, he's fired because of his visits to the tomb. "The women have told me." The Master sneers, "They may not be able to say anything, or move when you've there, but they remember everything you say to them... and everything you do to them!"

   The implication is enough, thanks, I need not imagine what it is he's talking about. And Torgo's argument? "But, Master, you have six wives, why can't I have one for myself?" 

   The Master has an answer for this. "You are not one of us, therefore you cannot have one of them!" Huh? If Torgo isn't one of them, what is he? Is he not a member of the "Manos" cult? 

   Torgo insists Margaret will be his, which is the final straw. He must die. Torgo goes down fighting, spouting that he'll help Mike destroy the Master. The Master responds by more or less staring Torgo into submission (a scene which, as you might expect, plays out much longer than it needs to). To celebrate, the Master breaks into laughter and throws out his arms to show off his big red hand-prints again.

   Mike is still tied to the post out in the middle of nowhere. One of the Brides wanders by and snuggles up to him. Since he's the director who also writes this stuff for the character he's playing, Warren gets snuggled and kissed by this woman. She seems angry at his lack of response (since he's still out cold) and starts slapping him! A peek into the psyche of Hal Warren? 

   Back to the catfight. Then we see the Bride who just slapped the director come and tell the Master about the fight and they take off, Torgo stumbling along behind them, slave to the Master's will. 
    We start jumping back and forth here. 
   Margaret wakes up and calls for Mike. 
   Mike is still out cold. 
   Margaret calling for Mike, then turning to see the window-shade roll up and reveal the Master (?) looking in and grinning!
   Sleeping Mike. 
   The tomb, where the Master leads his puppy to the table and attaches its leash. Then he turns to the wives and tells them to cool it. The Master's first wife, a blonde, is noted to be the cause of all the trouble.

    Good a place as any to say the following: Turn back now if you wish not to learn the incredible conclusion of....
 "Manos" the Hands of Fate!

   The Master gathers his wives around and tells them they will kill the Blonde as soon as they kill Torgo. The Blonde becomes defiant, telling him that his powers have weakened over time. Not taking criticism well, the Master has the Blonde chained to a pillar where he smacks her around a little. 

   Blonde out of the way, Torgo is brought in and collapses onto the slab. The Master points two of his wives toward Torgo and tells them to "Kill! Kill!" Torgo is then gently massaged (?) and the Blonde is repulsed.

   Mike wakes and unties himself with minimal effort, then rushes back to the house. He calls to Margaret through the bedroom door, but she's too petrified to move. Mike breaks into the room. Meanwhile, Torgo has been sufficiently rubbed back and forth and the women depart. The Master then leads Torgo by the hand over to the tower-like sculpture. Touching Torgo's finger to the tower causes a puff of smoke and the Master is holding a flaming prop hand (which might look better if the meat hadn't all burned off a couple of fingers, leaving the simple wire skeleton fully exposed). 

   This gives the Master a good hearty laugh. When we cut to a full shot, we can see Torgo running off with no hand and the end of his sleeve on fire. Words can't describe it, but this is hysterical beyond all measure! It's also the last we will see of Torgo.

   The Blonde is horrified. The Master warns her that they'll be killing her as soon as the outsiders are taken care of, and tosses the flaming hand of Torgo (The Flaming Hand of Torgo, starring Bruce Lee!), which is starting to burn out of control, at her feet before exiting, laughing all the way. Back in the bedroom, Margaret tells Mike about seeing the Master at the window. Mike thinks they can hide in the desert and find their way back to civilization. Back at the tomb, the Blonde is transferred to the slab.

   Mike and the family are running around outside. Margaret trips and nearly has a nervous breakdown. The Master and his wives are closing in. There's a shot here where you can see lights in the distance and the Master spreads his arms out to obscure them!
   With the fiends searching the desert, Mike decides they should hide in the house (!) and herds the girls back that way. He must take a moment to shoot at a stock shot lifted from a Disney nature special, I mean, a rattlesnake. 

   The shots are more muffled than the dialog, but are heard by the beat cops we saw earlier! (These guys have the longest shifts, since its supposedly early morning by now, and the widest beats of any cops I've ever seen!) Although the shots could have echoed across  the wilderness for miles, the cops decide to investigate. This means they walk to the front of the car, look around for a second, then give up and leave! (They only go as far as the front of the car because that's as far as they could be lit!)

   Back at the house, some moths have gotten into the living room. In the film's intended action, Mike and the girls enter the room. The bedroom door opens and the Master emerges! He's got his dog along, and it still looks even less vicious than the poodle it supposedly killed earlier. Mike opens fire. 

   In this shot, with Mike's back to us, however, the Master is nowhere to be seen. In the next shot, the Master is standing roughly where Mike was, only in a blurry close-shot! The film's single best camera setup has Mike pointing his gun at the camera and firing (too bad they'd already done this way back in The Great Train Robbery!). Cut back to the Master, who isn't even phased. Fade out.

   Your last chance to turn back before learning the shocking twist ending of....
 "Manos" the Hands of Fate!

   Fade in and the movie is repeating itself again. 

   Two women in a convertible are looking for the Valley Lodge and turn down the same road Mike took. They pass the necking teens. (Are these kids connected to the whole "Manos" conspiracy? Are they the guardians to the gates of Hell or something?)

   Almost instantly, the women arrive in front of the Master's house. Mike is now standing near the door as the official greeter. ("I am Michael. I take care of the place while the Master is away.") 

   Unlike Torgo, Mike is very relaxed. It's like going from Daffy Duck to Dean Martin.

   A quick tour of the tomb shows us that Margaret and Debbie (?!?!?!?!?!) have joined the wives. We now get our credits and a THE END ? gag stolen from Jack H. Harris.


  Bleak and sparse, yet claustrophobic, "Manos" the Hands of Fate was a weirdly effective crudeness at times, but mostly just prompts laughter. The general plot could have been the subject of a 70's telemovie starring Bradford Dillman, Roy Thinnes, or William Shatner. The old 'mysterious house in the middle of nowhere hiding supernatural evil' theme certainly has some potential mileage. In fact, the film might be best summed up by comparing it to a campfire story told by a young boy who has heard fantastic stories, but never learned to read or write.

   Questions abound. Was the Valley Lodge sign merely on the wrong road, or was it a supernatural occurrence designed to lure the unsuspecting into the Master's web? If the sign were wrong, wouldn't somebody have had it removed? Wouldn't the Valley Lodge want the problem fixed? The Valley Lodge seems to be a real place within the context of the story, so do they have a history of unfulfilled reservations? Once a pattern became evident, wouldn't the Lodge have called in the authorities to see what's been happening to their customers? 

   How often does the Master's house appear from out of nowhere? Were the two women in the convertible supposed to show up the next day, or the next year? Given the telephone poles lining the road to nowhere, was Torgo lying about there being no telephone? Was it a trick to keep victims in place? Why would Torgo make up such a story if he knew how much trouble he was going to get into with the Master? (If Warren simply didn't mean to show the telephone poles, he could have snipped the shot and had plenty of driving scenes left over, so what gives?*)

(* Most likely, Warren just wasn't aware that he'd gotten footage of the telephone lines.)

   Who exactly are the Master and his brides? Where did they come from? Who were they before they became disciples of "Manos" and how did they become willing servants? What benefits do they get from the deal? Why do they sleep standing up? Do they only stir when a potential victim wanders into the house? What's the deal with the tomb? Why is it outside? Is it supposed to be the mouth of a cave or something? And how does it work that you reach the tomb by going outside through the kitchen? Is the tomb beneath the house? Is it just outside around back? 

   Was one of Torgo's duties to keep the fire burning at the base of that tower-like sculpture? Was the Master's dog supposed to be a supernatural creature? If not, did Torgo feed the dog regularly and take it for walks? Did Torgo cover the Master with a sheet when it rained?

   What we are made aware of is that the Wives are all stranded travelers like Margaret. They all arrived at different times (though their hairstyles seem to indicate it was within a time frame of five or so years) and the Blonde was the first. 

   But what was life like before that? How long had the Master been living out there before motorists started coming his way? We never see how the girls are indoctrinated, but the conversion makes them pretty loyal to "Manos" if they all started out like terrified Margaret. If the Blonde's rebellion is anything to go by, the grip of "Manos" fades over time. If she were allowed to leave, how long would it have been until the girl became her old self? If the mind can revert to the point where the victim has a will of their own, can the body too revert to normal? In their present state, how far can the disciples of "Manos" wander away from the house? Could they ever take their act on the road, so to speak?

   Does the house really exist or is it a manifestation of "Manos'" will? Does the house cloak itself until a likely victim passes by? Does it slip into another dimension? Is it just an old house in the desert that "Manos" decided to move into? Did "Manos" change the wallpaper when he did?

   Who is "Manos" and how did he pick the Master? We get a little wording that indicates "Manos" would be powerless against "the gods." So is this cult like a hold-over from the ancient world of the Greeks or their ilk? The Master was wearing sandles and a robe.... Is the Master a stranded motorist who stumbled onto the power of "Manos"? Was he once human or something supernatural? He could be a creature from another planet, no more than we're told! 

   Before women began showing up at the house, what did the Master and Torgo do to occupy themselves? What does the cult do to the various male motorists who have dropped by in the past? Assuming at least some of the Wives were travelling with their husbands like Margaret is, what happened to them? Were they all doormen at various times?

   Torgo is the most problematic. What is he? Where did he come from? Is he supposed to be supernatural in any way? Did he always have those knees? Has he been changed physically by "Manos" upon accepting a position in his organization? Was he a lost motorist? Was he the first grounds-keeper for the Master? Are his physical problems and nervous twitches the result of punishments for doing something wrong? Is this Torgo's first case of disobedience to the Master, or has it been a growing problem for a while now?

(My theory? The Master was a prospector during the Depression who built his house out in the middle of nowhere and began unearthing some old ruins, releasing "Manos" in the process. "Manos" made the guy the Master and took over the house. Torgo was an old hermit who wandered by one day and saw the tomb. The Master then infected Torgo with "Manos" and made him caretaker. Then various motorists came by and the women were made Wives and they ate the male motorists. There you have it.)

   The production was troubled from the start. Warren assumed full control and restricted the others as they attempted to improve the movie they knew was coming out a mess. He assured them any problems would be fixed in the processing of the film. They weren't. Thus we got the grainy, murky, under-lit, poorly edited, laughable mess that is "Manos" the Hands of Fate. At least the sound editing is okay, but with a professional outfit like Glen Glenn doing the sound there was bound to be at least a single rose poking out of this pile.

   Reportedly, this movie came about as result of a bet between Warren and screenwriter Stirling Silliphant, who was in El Paso scouting locations. (What the bet was, I couldn't say, but I would love to hear a transcript of the conversation!) The entire production cost $19,000 and was shot in two months with a single camera that, as noted before, could only capture thirty seconds of film at a time. The working title was Lodge of Sins, the lodge in question (of which we never see the entire structure) belonging to county judge Colbert Coldwell.

   The most fondly remembered figure here is also the most tragic. John Reynolds created a memorable character out of Torgo the weird caretaker. His bulging knees were the result of a special harness Reynolds wore to make Torgo appear half goat! Supposedly, he was to have cloven hooves. Margaret's look of horror upon first seeing him was reportedly in reaction to laying eyes upon his inhuman feet. 

   The problem is, we can see Torgo's feet and they're perfectly normal! He wears simple brown shoes! And if he was supposed to have cloven hooves, why didn't Mike notice them? If this effect was determined unworkable, why nix the feet but leave the knees on the costume? The apparatus was reported to be very painful, and Reynolds didn't appreciate the ridicule he received or lack of appreciation for his efforts. A troubled man, Reynolds committed suicide in October of the release year, 1966.

   Hal Warren made a terrible leading man, although one could see him in character parts. Diane Mahree was repetitive as Margaret, although she had a nice 'every-woman' kind of beauty and made a convincing mother. 

   The Wives were Mannequin Manners models. Their employer objected to their scant costumes and added the red fabric 'tails' to provide more cover for their intimate anatomy. They certainly threw themselves into their parts, but you can't accuse any of them of being actresses. 

   Worst actor here was Joyce Molleur opposite Bernie Rosenblum, with whom, as the necking girl, she spend all her scenes joined to at the mouth. (I heard a story that she broke her ankle prior to filming and that was the reason her scenes were confined to the Cobra.) The friendly cop wasn't bad, whoever he was.

   As the Master, Tom Neyman managed to be spooky and imposing at times, despite his wild overacting. Neyman was also the set designer (maybe it was he who had the hand fetish?) and painted the portrait of the Master and his hell-hound. His daughter Jackey played Debbie, who isn't bad for a child who probably isn't fully aware of what's going on around her. She had some amusing scenes with the animals. The Doberman was her pet, named Shanka. Jackey grew up, moved to Oregon, and became a successful painter. The end credits claim make up was provided by "Jacqueline" who was really Jackie Neyman, wife of Tom and mother of Jackey. Jackie made all the costumes as well.

   Jackey and Shanka were the only members of the crew to get any kind of payment for their participation. Jackey received a new bicycle, and Shanka got a fifty pound bag of dog food. Everyone else was supposed to get a cut of the film's non-existent profits. 

   A big premire was held in El Paso, with invitations accepted by several local dignitaries. Audience reaction was so poor, the cast and crew snuck out early. Warren tried to finance a sequel (!), as well as a biker movie, but neither picture was ever produced. Warren continued as a salesman and inventor until his death of a heart attack in 1985.

   After Mystery Science Theater 3000, "Manos" the Hands of Fate gained a cult following. On that show, Mike Nelson popped up from time to time as Torgo. The film is widely considered the all-time worst movie to ever appear on the series. 

   In 2004, Aaron Allard and James Lafluer made a Canadian documentary called Hotel Torgo. Too bad that Warren, who always defended his little opus, didn't live to see that.

   Happily, at least for guys like me, the film's original negative turned up and the film has been given a pristine transfer for the new medium of BluRay (a sort of glorified DVD format) From the photos I've seen -some of which were used for this review- it looks just beautiful! Sadly, it's the event which has convinced me I should buy a BluRay player.
   Goodnight, folks....

Monday, May 19, 2014

Girls, Dinosaurs, and gorgeous 1960's Color

Shots from 1967, at one of Sinclair's dinosaur exhibits (these huge models traveled the country for some years after being built for the 1964 World's Fair. Just imagine the delight had by a child who happened to see the train carrying them along on individual flat-cars). No idea who the girls are, but likely local beauty contest winners. Either way, here's a free look inside my head..... These images courtesy of the delightful Vintage Everyday blog.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Oddball Film Report: ANGELS BRIGADE (1978)

Note: this piece was written for Ken Begg's Video Cheese reviews, although it ran rather longer than the usual VC piece. It is published here by the very kind permission of Mr. Ken Begg of

ANGELS BRIGADE (1978 - color)

   "Director Greydon Clark tries to out-Angel Charlie."

   I'm sure some will remember a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode built around a movie called "Angels Revenge." Said film was a re-edited version (removing a huge chunk from the middle of the picture and moving it to the opening in an attempt to hit the action scenes early) of a film actually released as Angels Brigade

    Using my powers of cinematic deduction, I'm going to say the original title was actually The Seven Angels. The copyright tag goes to "Seven Angels Productions" and a number of independent films of this period were made by production companies that used the title of their first (and often only) film as their banner. I'm sure this was more a tax dodge than anything else, a set up where an independent non-entity would be able to take the hit from Uncle Sam instead of any named producer, such would be my guess. 

    A run by the Database confirms that Seven Angels was the working title, but the actual release title appears to be Angels Brigade. The trivia section, meanwhile, notes the title is Seven From Heaven.

   Angels Brigade was a (rather tame) entry in a genre we might informally call the 'female commando' genre, which includes such fare as Hell Squad (a.k.a. Commando Girls), Panther Squad, and Hustler Squad, amid a sea of similar titles. Angels Brigade was the first such film I'd seen, and may be the cleanest of the lot, avoiding nudity and profanity where other films of the genre reportedly thrive on it. 

   I'm tempted to say Angels Brigade might be an unsold pilot movie that was released to theaters, but I can't confirm that. There are several elements that support the idea, however. The violence is pretty tame (they've even added in Filmation-type cartoon sound effects, so we hear sounds like "bonk" whenever someone is punched!), the ending seems to be made to set up sequel stories, and the wide range of guest stars are mostly known for their television work. The inclusion of a teenage student also seems to be designed to give an identification figure to TV-watching youths. The theme of kids being hooked by narcotics is also handled pretty peripherally.

  On the other hand, some of the violence is over the top for late-70s television and an extended scene of our heroines dressed only in soaking wet underwear seems a bit much for the tube. There are other elements a tad dark for 70s TV, like the interrogation scene which involves threatening to slice off a man's genitalia, and later a vote of weather to kill him or not. It's a hard duck to pin down.

   We open with a kid trying to purchase some 'merchandise' from Sticks, the local pusher. The kid, Bobby, is turned away for not having the right amount of doe. Not to be denied, Bobby clobbers Sticks with a beer bottle. Seeing blood from where he got slugged, Sticks passes out, allowing Bobby to make off with the 'loot.' 

   Sticks calls his superior, Mr. Farrell. (Mr. Farrell is played by the top-billed Jack Palance, a long way from Shane.) Farrell arrives on the scene and picks up Sticks (who I thought for sure called Jack Mr. Fromme), who leads the way to Bobby. Sticks (very mildly) mauls Bobby and reclaims the drugs. Farrell Instructs his underling not to be too rough with the kid, and to "Leave a roll on him so they'll know he's a user." With that, the bad guys split and leave Bobby spread out on the lawn.

   There's a pretty good transition here as the camera zooms in on a newspaper clipping that has fallen from Bobby's pocket. The music rises as we read that Michelle Wilson is playing The Rainbow Room in Las Vegas. (We will shortly discover that Bobby is related to Michelle, I think he's her nephew). 

   We get the mandated Las Vegas montage before we join Michelle, giving her last performance in town. In attendance is Michelle's manager, Manny (played by Alan Hale, a long way from Destry), and Arthur Godfrey (played by Arthur Godfrey, a long way from The Glass Bottom Boat). Michelle makes sure to introduce the showbiz legend to the crowd before leaving the stage. 

   Her song meanwhile, "Shine Your Love" is pretty funny. "Shine, shine, shine, shine, shine, shine your love" makes up about 80% of the number. The song isn't bad, technically speaking (the band is pretty good if you like lounge/disco stuff of the late 70s/early 80s. I can take it or leave it), but this sequence gives the distinct impression that Michelle Wilson's entire act is to shout the word "shine" into her microphone as many times as possible in an evening. This, we learn, has gotten her booked on The Tonight Show! (Or, as it was informally known at the time, "Carson." But I'll lay you even odds that Michelle will actually end up chatting with Steve Lawrence.)

   Manny and Michelle discuss her career. Manny is excited because all Michelle's hard work is paying off. Michelle appreciates that, but wants nothing more than to get home and hit the bed. Arthur Godfrey stops by her dressing room to invite Michelle to a party being held in his room, but she has to get up early. Godfrey notes that if she keeps on the straight and narrow, she has "the makings of a superstar!" There must be a lot more to her act than singing "Shine Your Love." She's no Charo, that's for sure. 

   (Ammusing is Michelle's Good Girl credentials, given the notoriety of actress Susan Kiger. Her most important contribution to pop culture trivia is that she was the first Playboy Playmate to do hardcore porn before posing. According to her adoring bio on the IMDB, Susan appeared in a 1976 X-rated movie called "Deadly Love" -but the Database listing is titled Hot Nasties!- before becoming the January '77 Playmate of the Month. H.O.T.S. would seem to be her most famous movie, for what that's worth. She can also be glimpsed in Galaxina and ended her career with 1982's Death Screams, where she finally received top billing. Knowing this about Kiger, it seems double odd that this flick has no nudity, doesn't it?)

    Manny answers the telephone, and tries to tell the caller that Michelle is far too busy to accept any personal calls. Then he learns the call is quite serious and hands the phone to Michelle. Michelle is shaken to hear about Bobby.

(Hale handles himself well in this scene -although he can never hide that big huggable buddy persona of his- and reminds us that he used to be an actor. Its not much, but its nice to see him in action. Very shortly, he would become increasingly ill. He looks much healthier here than he would just a year or so later. By the time he made The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island, he was looking old and tired. He also dropped a lot of weight. He gamely returned to the role of Skipper Jonas Grumby for an episode of ALF a few years later -as well as a quick cameo with Bob Denver in Back To The Beach. It was evident that he wasn't in the best condition, but he still had that magic. You could sort of tell he'd done the last Gilligan movie just to spend some more time with his friends from the show. Gilligan's Island gets a lot of knocks, but it was always obvious that -most of- those people loved each other. Back to this movie though, Hale's short visit is much more uplifting than what we will see of another castaway who drops by.) 

   Later, no real indication of how much later, Michelle is sulking. She had no idea Bobby was having drug problems. Manny tries to cheer her up, but there's really not much he can do except arrange for her to take some time off to be near Bobby. (By the way, we will never see Bobby again in this picture.) 

   The maid announces a woman who claims to be Bobby's school teacher and we meet April. (April is played by Jacqulin Cole, who also played a school teacher in the lame Satan's Cheerleaders. Out of her 8 title filmography we find she worked twice for Al Adamson in the beginning of her career, in Satan's Sadists and The Female Bunch. The second film, by the way, features Regina Carrol, Russ Tamblyn, Lon Chaney, and that chick from Girl in Gold Boots!)

  Manny leaves Michelle with April, but makes sure to note he'll be there if she needs anything at all. April then let's Michelle in on something big. It seems for two years now, April has been gathering info on a drug ring in L.A. that has been selling their wares to school kids. April knows the location and layout of the processing plant where the raw product is brought in and made ready for California streets.

  Okay, let's just assume that this school teacher was able to obtain this information, anything is possible. So why doesn't she go to the police with this information? I guess that would be cheating, for she has a plan to destroy the compound and everything in it! She's been busy too, as we'll learn, she's been scouting out talent to help in the raid. The thing is, she knows her potential teammates would never trust her. Michelle though, being famous, would have a better chance of gaining their trust. I don't know about you, but I find this premise a little weak.

  And get this, April notes that "your song is doing so well" to Michelle. So it would seem Michelle Wilson's fame is, indeed, built upon her rendition of "Shine Your Love!" And she's qualified to join a commando raid because of it! You can see here that Clark let slip a much better idea. It could have been called "The Singing Angels" and starred Annette Funicello, Donna Loren, Shelley Fabares, Connie Stevens, Della Rae, and Helen Shapiro! Oh, I'm already sorry such a movie was never made!

  April also spurts "We can do this! Women CAN make a difference!" Funny how dated that line sounds in an era of female CEOs and executives. Frankly, it seems a bit dusty for 1978. I'm guessing the idea here is that April has decided to make this a personal victory for her gender, rather than let all those old-fashioned men at the police department handle it. 

   Later, we even get a scene meant to imply a female officer is some rarified item. In 1978?!! C'mon! I know the LAPD has women's units at least as far back as the 30's. A large part of the force HAD to be female during the War due to the shortage of men. 

   So let me spell this out, because the writers obviously never thought of this, April has, by withholding this information, caused countless innocent children to become addicts just so she can get some ego-boost by not letting the police handle this! Michelle doesn't think of this either, for she decides to join April and the pair set out to build the rest of the group.

   First up is Terry Grant, a black giantess stuntwoman who can also modify any machine to do anything it needs to. Her story might have made a more interesting movie. We also get a cameo by Greydon Clark, as himself it seems, who is directing the picture Terry is working on. If I remember the various backstories correctly, Terry's brother was the victim of an overdose. She's in, giving the gang the required funkiness it needs to really stick it to those jive turkeys!

  Up next is Kako, the pretty little martial arts expert. In perhaps an accidental moment of decent character development, Kako is from Vietnam, and thus would know first hand what unchecked drug trade can do to innocent people. She's also a fairly recent arrival ("over two years") so she speaks English with a pronounced accent, her sentences weirdly structured at times. She works with kids so she's also IN.

   April's plan thus far is to sneak into the compound, then Kako will shimmey up to the roof and drop an explosive down the chimney. Really, that's it. Well, except for one thing. There are two guards at the gate, so they'll need a distraction. 

   Terry suggests another member join their group, Maria the fashion model. "You've probably seen her photos in all the magazines," Terry informs, "she's a top model." Not my first choice for a covert commando raid, but then I'm not a streetwise LA school teacher. 

   Maria is introduced during a photoshoot, from the camera's point of view. In one of the few moments the film raises our hopes before dashing them, we first see Maria posing in a teeny tiny bikini. But after that we see her posing in a series of long dresses. For some reason, she's being shot on a trampoline. Seems a complicated means to achieve action shots, no more than she's doing. Maybe she's doing the credit sequence to a James Bond movie, this was during the Roger Moore era, after all. (In fact, Moonraker had just come out.) Still, she's fully clad and shot from the waist up, so probably not.

   As our female fighting force approaches the location of this shoot, who should they pass on the street but April's student, Trish. (Trish is played by Liza Greer, a name not likely to call much attention to itself. Apart from a small role in Hi-Riders as "young girl" and an episode of Full House, this film represents her entire career in front of the camera. She's not bad here, though, and she's certainly cute, so its hard to say why she didn't have a larger acting career. A model since the age of twelve, I feel safe in assuming she got the part here largely due to her being the sister of one of our Angels. More on her in a minute.) 

   April doesn't have time to chat, and Trish is intrigued to find her teacher hanging out with Michelle Wilson.

   The girls have made their headquarters in a garage somewhere. We never see it from the outside, and we're never told whose garage it is. I'm assuming it belongs to Terry, who modifies her own stunt vehicles. The place, as we'll see, has a hydralic car-lift. Until I thought about it, though, I thought they were just hanging out at a local gas station! That's almost surely what the real location is. The place being Terry's is pure conjecture on my part. Maybe they're just supposed to be hanging out down at the Jiffy-Lube on the corner. 

   At any rate, the Angels are standing around waiting for Maria to show. The question arises as to if their "top model" can be trusted. We soon learn as she enters the building, all smiles and pouring out of a purple bikini top under an open shirt. I mention this detail because I'm sure we're meant to notice, though I can't say if this is Director Clark's idea, or something actress Noela Velasco suggested. 

   She may have been trying to make an impression (though she didn't have much of an impact on the screen. According to the Database, as far as it can be trusted, Noela's sole other credit is an episode of Chico and the Man). 

   Maria has brought along a friend, the policewoman who helped her conquer her earlier drug addiction. For some reason I can remember everybody's names here except for Maria (who I spent the last several paragraphs calling 'Donna' before I went back and fixed everything -more to avoid confusion than to cover my hide) and her pal from the the police. If it's okay with you, I'll just call her Pepper.

   In truth, the character's name is Elaine Brenner. She's played by Robin Greer (Liza's older sister), who boasts a fairly fruitful career in television. She had regular roles on Ryan's Hope and Falcon Crest, and guest spots on many more shows, including (of interest to Jabootu fans) the "Face to Face" episode of The Hitchhiker! Like her younger sister, Robin also did an episode of Full House. In fact, the same episode, "A Little Romance" if you're interested. It gets better, too, for Robin's very first film was none other than Satan's Cheerleaders!

   So Pepper asks what the exact plan is. Since Pepper knows that this involves a raid on a narcotics plant, you'd think she'd pass this information on to her superiors. The movie is just smart enough to go into this later, but just dumb enough to make Pepper and her chief look like morons. For now, though, she's supposed to be the smart one. 

   April chimes in "we're going to drop a bomb down that chimney" as she points at the map she's been carrying all this time. "That's a nice idea," Pepper responds, "but its not a plan." Dragging some tin cans across the table to act as visual aid, Pepper sets up a little diorama of the compound and pretty much repeats the established scheme except now she assigns specific people to various positions. They'll take out the guards, break through the gate, get Kako to the roof, and she'll slip an explosive down the stove-pipe. 

   Still seems pretty loose to me, but Trish pops up from the darkened corner and approves "Alright! I think it's great!" Some commandos our Angels be, eh? They try to send the high schooler home, but Trish begs to stay, and becomes the team's mascot. With all Seven Angels in place, we get a segue wipe shaped like a seven.

   First order of business is to buy a vehicle that Terry can modify into their mobile battlestation. Something that will be bullet-proof and able to ram through the compound's gate. So they head over to the used car lot and scope out a big red van. Since they're at a new location, it's time for another colorful cameo. This time its Pat Buttram (a long, long way from Gene Autrey's side), and he's dressed like a cowboy, and speaks in folksy farm talk.

   Buttram, of course, is a familiar face and voice to just about anyone who has ever looked at television. He remains most famous these days as the conniving Mr. Haney on Green Acres. I first heard him as the voice of Sheriff of Nottingham in Disney's animated Robin Hood. His filmography lists 70 titles on the Database, and I'm sure that's incomplete! Coming from radio, he broke into the movies when Gene Autrey asked him to replace fellow future Hooterville citizen Smiley Burnette as his sidekick. This lead to a string of successful features and Gene's popular television series. They remained close friends until Pat passed away in 1994. His last film project was a voice in A Goofy Movie, and he remains a much imitated voice in the animation field. 

  As you might expect, Clark is making Pat base his character on lovable old Mr. Haney. This is a pretty sad scene for Buttram's fans, so I'll gloss through it. The girls want the van, Pat tells them how much it will cost, Michelle writes him a check, and the girls drive off as Pat tries to tell them the check needs to be verrified before they can take the van. Pat then deadpans (without really looking at the camera, this man was a pro) and notes that they'll have to bring the van in for repairs soon anyway. That done, we move onto a montage set to the film's forgettable theme song.

   We see Terry fixing the van, with specific close ups of her cutting a metal panel and mixing body putty. Hardly the most action packed element, mixing body putty, but I guess they're showing us that being a member of a rag-tag female commando unit isn't all breathless excitement and daily danger. 

   To the film's credit, though not too much credit, we see the girls are in training. They're exercising and learning hand to hand combat from Pepper. While childishly simplistic, Pepper training the girls is at least somewhat logical. Between Pepper's department training, Kako's martial arts skills, Terry's mechanical knowledge, and Michelle's, eh, ability to sing that one song she knows, this is sure to be a force not seen since the glory days of the Fighting 69th! 

   The montage reaches its laugh-provoking finale when the three-way split screen is replaced with a full screen and we see the girls standing in a row, fists on their hips, wearing their new jumpsuits. They're just standing there, silently, as the song fades out. This supposed to be really cool, but I had to start laughing to think of these girls after all their training, striking a pose and holding it for a ridiculously long period. They're all staring straight ahead, and there's no one around to see them in all their glory. Somehow, not even the word 'cartoonish' can convey the vibe here. 

(This same image will serve as the background plate for our end credits. Had they saved the shot for that, it would have worked much better.) 

   The scene is rich in other ways too. Even Trish has been issued a uniform, and stands on the end of the line in the same heroic pose as others, this despite the fact that the Angels have made it pretty clear Trish won't be going on away missions with them.

   And then there's the uniforms themselves, which are anything but practical for espionage. (Michelle presumably bought these uniforms, but given the way they look, I'd sooner think that she brought them with her from Vegas. As costumes for a dance team or something, they make more sense.) 

   They all wear bright white jumpsuits with wide 70s collars and the fronts unzipped down below their breasts (actually, they may be zipped up a bit more in this scene, since Trish is a part of the group). They have bright red stripes running up their sides and down each leg, red and blue stars on their collars, and bright red, high-heeled boots. To top things off, each wears a black holster strap around their waists and a gun at their hips. I guess they couldn't find bright yellow holsters, otherwise they're set for skulking around in the dark and fighting crime! 

   They look like Evel Kenivel's armed guard cheerleaders.

   Back to the narrative. Terry unveils their new combat van. It's sleek, black, and contains all sorts of goodies. Not really 007's famous Aston Martin, but I guess it'll work to take out one narcotics plant. There's a battering ram built into the front that doesn't show (the bumper has just been re-enforced within an inch of its life), there are side mounted rockets connected to a control panel inside (this to destroy any pursuers), and the back opens wide to allow Terry to ride out on her motorbike, which now has mounted machineguns! (Remember this, because in a moment, weaponry will be a problem.) 

   The problem here is that, as we see on film a couple times after this, the door opens and closes so slowly that everybody would be killed from enemy fire before Terry had a chance to exit!

   Finally, a hatch in the roof slides back and a bullet-proof turret flips into position. What can possibly stop these girls, now? Actually, someone points out they still don't have the needed fire-power (and this after Terry modified a van to include rear-facing rocket launchers)!

   One of them, and I can't recall which, but I would guess Pepper (actually, I think it might have been Terry!), tells of a survivalist unit called The American Rights that's set up in the hills and possesses "enough fire-power to start World War 3!" They decide to steal the needed weaponry from the survivalists! 

   To scope out the complex before breaking in to steal what they need, a plan is improvised of Maria (with Terry posing as her driver) posing as a rich widow who plans to make a generous donation to The American Rights. The idea being that the men will be so distracted by her "bod" that no one will notice her collecting information. (What would she have done if the compound contained female survivalists? Shouldn't she figure the men's wives, daughters, or sisters will be at the base, given that survivalists like these build compounds to house their families should the worst happen?)

   At the compound, we are treated to what may be the most painful element of the film. That would be the sight of beloved character actor Jim Backus (a loooooong way from His Kind of Woman) as Commander Lidsey March, the self-appointed leader of the most helpless gang of survivalists ever seen (Burt Gummer would slit all their throats if given sixteen seconds). 

   March wears an exagerated unform like something from Sgt. Pepper's, while his men wear crummy uniforms consisting of blue shirts. They all live in a run down hovel surrounded by a metal fence and a few shacks. Ha ha! Those crazy, underfunded survivalists, huh? Oh, and to top things off, they're a bunch of racists! What a knee-slapper! We discover this as March invites Maria inside to discuss the details of their financial transaction, but Terry isn't allowed inside. 

   Instead, they tour the grounds (March notes that everything is above-board and lawful, but, you know, those crazy right-wingers must be doing something stupid, even if it is legal), which is exactly what Maria wants to see. The Angel-Van waits up the road. Before Maria departs, March tries to smooth things out, saying how he hopes the earlier trouble with her driver hasn't caused a problem. Terry offers to shake March's hand, which he only does out of respect for the rich white woman who is going to give him some money. In a lame joke, Terry nearly crushes his fingers and sends March to his knees. Take that! You tough guy! You and all your jive racist lonely white guys who live in a shack in the middle of nowhere! Turkeys!

   Maria has the layout, and soon we see Kako and April (in their Clorox-approved uniforms, just shining in the darkness) breaking in to lift some hardware from the American Rights Gun Shed. Said structure seems to have a skylight, since the plan involves Kako walking across a rope suspended over the fence and slipping down into the building. We're sparred most of the details, since this sequence is so dark its hard to tell anything that's going on. The one thing we can make out is the whiter-than-white uniforms our plucky heroines are wearing. 

   Kako starts back across the rope carrying a VERY light, but hard to make out load on her back. We'll learn later that her haul consists of a single M16, and possibly the pistols they'll be carrying later (I'm assuming she slipped everything into a backpack, but that's just a guess based on the murkiness of this scene).

   March is in the main building preparing a big 'ol pot of stew or something for the men, and he's singing "America, the Beautiful" because right-wing racist survivalists are patriots to a defunct country whose time has passed and anyone who still supported the Nation after that icky war in Vietnam just had to be brain-dead morons and losers and unpopular with chicks. 

   Needless to say, even from across the compound, when March glances out the window he notices Kako creeping off the roof of the supply building, in her white suit against a stark black background. March hits the floodlights and signals the men. In an almost effective suspense moment, Kako is momentarily blinded by the floodlight flickering to life directly in front of her, and she staggers as she tightropes her way back to the Super-Van. 

   Fortunately, March has the only key to the main gate, and he has trouble reaching it because he brought the huge pot of soup with him (?) after he had placed it on the counter. Maybe he was so excited about having a girl over that he brought out the soup to celebrate. Really, its just been done to set up an awful slapstick scene where he has his underling hold the pot in his unprotected hands while March digs for his keys. 

   March gets the gate open and the men rush the Groovy-Van as the Angels pile out and mop up the floor with them. Terry personally punches March through a wall before the girls take off with their booty. This means that March knows who socked him, and who stole his legally held arms. He could easily go to the police and alert them to the fact that vigilante women are now roaming the streets of Los Angeles with an M16. He won't do that, though, because survivalists never trust the authorities (even local ones), I guess.

   I think its here that we get Pepper's story explained a bit better, as she checks in with her superior, Miller. Miller is played by Neville Brand (a long, long, loooooooong way from D.O.A.), although fairness makes me note this is a step up for Brand from such fare as the junky Eaten Alive, and his scenes here are among the best in the picture. 

   Brand was one of this nation's highest decorated war heroes, cited as being anywhere from 4th highest to 2nd highest, just behind Audey Murphy. Training films he appeared in pointed him into acting and away from an intended career in the service, and he went on to appear, often as the heavy or henchman, in an incredible number of great films. You can see him in such pictures as Stalag 17 and Riot in Cell Block 11, and starring in the 60s series Laredo. Needless to say, he deserved better than appearing in Greydon Clark movies, but as I said, his scenes probably make up the best stuff here.

   Miller is charged with a special branch of the LAPD, and Pepper is one of his officers. Pepper is a field agent, her duty to infiltrate drug-rings and report on their activities. This time, she's going off the plan, believing April's little group to be able to do some good that the police can't (!) so she's withholding details until the time is right. Miller doesn't like it, but lets Pepper do what she thinks is best (although he does remind her she's part of a system and subject to consequences).

   Next we see the girls doing target practice under Pepper's direction. It seems all the girls, with just the bare minimum of instruction, are now all expert marksmen, er, markswomen. Yeah, right! We've swerved fully into comedy territory now! 

   Trish wants to shoot too, which builds to a joke scene. Pepper hands over a gun to Trish, who fires and is surprised when the recoil makes the gun jump in her hand. Trish turns to ask why it kicks so hard and another round fires. This hits the ground in front of the Funky Van where the Angels are lined up, and causes them all to jump back in unison. Frightened, Trish gives the gun back to Pepper and runs off. Pepper plans to apologise before showing Trish "really how to shoot." 

   Words can't describe how irksome this sequence is! A trained policewoman hands over a loaded gun to someone who has never handled a weapon before and without instruction lets them squeeze off a round to teach them a lesson! 

   Come on, people! What if Trish had shot one of the Angels, or herself? Pepper could be suspended at best, locked up for endangering a minor is more likely. April would have her pantsuit sued off her back by Trish's parents, who would likely pursue legal action against the rest of the group as well. Kako works with kids, so her career would be ruined. Michelle's budding career could fall apart, or not, you can never tell with showbiz. Maria has been in trouble with the law before, so she's not likely to win much sympathy from anyone in the system. Terry might survive the incident unscathed career-wise, but I'm sure she'd still be involved in the mass lawsuit from Trish's family. In real life, Pepper would have familiarised Trish with an empty weapon and explained its full use before turning over a loaded gun. This is just horrible writing!

   Now that they can all use a gun, the time is right to hit the drug lab. No, wait, April informs them a new shipment of raw product in on the way to the plant. First they need to hit the drop off point and prevent the bad guys from getting ahold of the stuff. 

   How much time has passed? Has April or Trish been to class? How is April hearing all this stuff? Is one of the drug runners talking in front of his daughter, who then sings to April when she's in class? Teachers just know things the rest of us don't, I guess. Amazingly, however, April doesn't know the location of the drop. The girls know who can tell them though.

   We see Sticks at a gas station (I'm guessing the same gas station that's providing the garage interiors for Angel HQ). The girls pull up in the Marvy Van and entice Sticks closer, then yank him into the back and drive off. (I suppose I should mention, sad as this is, that Sticks is played by Darby Hinton, young Israel on the Fess Parker series Daniel Boone.) 

   Turns out Sticks was the guy that hooked Maria. (Is there just one pusher in all Los Angeles? The drug war should be much easier to win, then!) Sticks is hung upside down with his feet apart, then the girls question him. To loosen his lips, Kako keeps slashing her katana at his in-seam. Sticks starts to sing, but not to Kako's satisfaction. She takes a rather close swing and Sticks nearly passes out. The way this is cut, er, edited, we can't really tell what has happened. The way the scene ends, Sticks may sing soprano now. (And adding to the creepy vibe is that this is played for fun. Trish in particular seems to be enjoying all this a bit too much).

   The drop off is at the beach, where two men sit with a fishing line attached to a bouey (what, did one of them swim out and hook the line? Did they show up at the beach to find the rod already in place?), a boat will drop by the bouey and attach the line to a container holding unrefined drugs of some kind (I would guess heroine, but now that I reflect on the movie, I really can't recall any mention of a specific drug). The men waiting for the drop off are supposed to be comical if the wacky music is any indication. The actors seem to be nobodies, and we're left wondering how its possible Bill Daily and Russell Johnson didn't get this bit. 

   The Database can be great tool, though. Confirming one suspicion, Cody Palance is indeed the son of Jack Palance, but Cody never really went on to do much. The other guy, however, is Kenny Endoso. Admittedly, his name won't mean much to most of us, but in addition to being an occasional actor Endoso was a VERY busy stuntman in productions ranging from Lethal Weapon 2 to Daredevil. After racking up no less than 138 film credits for stuntwork, he died just a couple years ago at the age of 70. 

    Allowing for some prolonged bikini action, the girls (except for Trish, who still isn't allowed to go on field missions on a school night) lounge on the beach and wait to lure out the bad guys. There's no need to drag this stuff out. One guy tries to make the Angels leave this private beach but they seduce him into an ambush. Then Kako, Maria, and (I think) Pepper (she's too similar to Michelle until you notice Pepper is hotter) sneak up behind the other guy who watches for the drop off. He tries to stay at his post, but can only resist Maria and Pepper nibbling at his ears for so long before he lets them lead him away for some frolicking. Both men are tied and their clothes removed and worn by April and Pepper, who take their place on lookout.

   The drop off is made, but April knocks Pepper's hat off while hauling in the container, thus revealing Pepper's long hair to the drug-runners (who must have super-vision in order to notice this). The runners come ashore, the girls ambush them, and a very mild fight scene ensues. The Angels emerge victorious.

   The girls find a huge supply of drugs on the boats used by the runners. A jump-cut later and we're back in Miller's office as Pepper pours the contents of a container on the table. Then the other girls come in holding more containers. Miller is impressed and asks where the complex is. April refuses to tell, feeling the Angels are better equipped to handle this mission. Miller asks Pepper how she feels about this. Defying all logic, even movie logic as its used here, Pepper states that she would trust the Angels with her life more readily than she would her fellow uniformed officers! Miller then agrees to let Pepper go on the mission (!) but tells her the girls are strictly on their own (!!) and that the department will deny any of their actions!!! (Despite the sheer lunacy of this setup, however, it remains the best scene in the picture thanks in no small part to Neville Brand.)

   Back to the garage, I mean, headquarters, and how to deal with Sticks. To bleed further information from him, he's this time placed directly under a car-lift and the tire of an elevated car is sent moving down toward his face. He tells what the Angels want to hear and they have a meeting to decide what to do. They decide to take votes on weather to kill him or not! 

   This involves each girl taking a pair of 50 caliber shells, one containing a slug and the other an empty casing. Full round means death, empty means freedom. Even Trish votes, and the result is one kill vote, and six votes for freedom. Sticks is let go, told that he has little chance of surviving unless he stops pushing. He's also in trouble because he's been missing for two days, and his bosses will know he sold them out concerning the beach hit. 

(Come to think of it, how would a low-level pusher know the time and location of a drop off to provide supply for an isolated processing plant? And wouldn't there be more than one such plant? You know, just in case the authorities or a vigilante female commando unit shut one of them down? I started out thinking this movie was mildly entertaining and just a little stupid, now I'm noticing what a mess it really is!)

   On a side note, I think we're supposed to believe Trish threw in the single 'kill' vote. That's a weirdly realistic detail, unless I didn't follow everything in the scene properly. At the time I watched this, I was sure we could see she was holding an empty cartridge after the vote. Now, my memory is filling it in differently, and I recall she was holding a live round. True, we never get a real clear look. I would imagine this was more obvious on a big theater screen than my 18 inch television screen. If it was Trish who cast the 'kill' vote, it was a smart bit of scripting. 

   Farrell drives to a nice mansion located atop a hill, hearing a radio report that the police have in custody the bad guys from the beach, left there bound by the Angels. 

(That was a private beach, supposedly belonging to the cartel. Why would you leave the bound henchmen on the beach? The Angels leave an anonymous tip with the authorities, but when someone did eventually show up before the men died of exposure or starvation, wouldn't it have been their boss? Or at least someone who worked for the boss? How is it possible those guys just didn't end up back in the ranks? Because of their failure at the beach, I'm sure their position in the syndicate would be reduced, but they'd still end up back in the organization, right?)

(The math is wrong too, according to the goof section at the Database, which notes the radio reports the finding of eight men when there should have been nine. I must admit, I didn't bother to count how many bodies were in the scene.) 

   Farrell checks in with the Top Man in this racket, Mr. Burke, played by Peter Lawford!!!!! Such a long way from Royal Wedding and Little Women (Keeping with the theme of former television stars, Mr. Lawford had done quite a bit more TV work than I had reckoned, including playing Nick Charles in a The Thin Man teleseries).

   Burke's real big on "control" and demonstrates to Farrell by showing how well-trained his Doberman Pincher 'Baby' is. Said dog is tossed a piece of food, but refuses to eat until Burke snaps his fingers. "Baby here, he loves me," Burke explains, "but if I lost control for only a second, he'd tear my throat out." 

   Burke continues. "What will you do to control this situation?" Farrell promises to handle things and leaves. He goes to check in on Sticks, who is making ready to drive out of town. The two men see each other and a little chase ensues. Farrell insists he only wants to talk, but Sticks is terrified (and really, who can blame him? I wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of Jack Palance either). 

   Farrell chases Sticks up to the roof of his apartment complex. Sticks slips and hangs on the edge, begging Farrell to pull him up. Farrell wants to know what Sticks has been up to before he'll help him. Sticks falls to his death. Farrell leaves, seemingly not aware that Sticks was the single pusher in the city. 

   But he's not the only one with problems. The Angels have arrived outside the drug plant and are horrified to discover the security has been beefed up since the beach hit. They quickly take a vote and decide to go through with the scheme as planned. First, Michelle (!) sneaks off to take out a guard in a lookout tower. Yes, I've often sent pop singers on delicate solo-missions while on a commando raid. Haven't we all?

   Said guard is astoundingly bad at his job, since Michelle is able to covertly climb the ladder into the tower box before he discovers her. A quiet struggle follows, one which drags on too long for the liking of the other Angels gathered below.

   Assuming Michelle to be dead, and that the guard will alert the camp any moment (one would figure), the others put their plan into action. Kako and April sneak across a dry river bed and to the far end of the compound. They cut the wires and slip in unnoticed, despite the fact that bright white jumpsuits don't really blend into the woods very well at all. 

   Maria wanders over to the main gate, telling the guards there that she has become lost. Both men drool at the lady-thing standing in front of them. Why has the War on Drugs lasted so long, again? 

   Michelle turns up again, and she doesn't have a scratch on her (just go with it, its groovy or something). April and Kako are just about in position. The Far-Out Van comes roaring into the scene, catching the attention of the guards away from Maria (yes, if anything can draw a man's eyes away from a woman's ample cleavage, it's a nice set of wheels), who takes them both out with mace and brass knuckles.

    This is the film's big action scene, and Clark tries for a big Hal Needham-type extravaganza. There's gunfire, explosions, and a few stunts, and the girls level the place. In retrospect, though, you're left reflecting on how well Needham knew his craft compared to the second rate work we see here. 

   There's some choice silliness too, including the machine gun equipped motorbike in action. Also, we learn that a bullet shot into a steel drum will cause huge fireballs no matter how many times such a thing has occurred. We see at least one guy get mowed down by the M16, by Michelle no less! April, for her part, really seems to be enjoying the carnage. I think she's supposed to be happy to see the plant going up in flames, but it doesn't come off like that. They keep cutting to close shots of her smiling and firing her gun, making it look like she's loving this chance to engage in some bloodshed. Maybe she's the one who voted to kill Sticks!

     The bomb, which is wrapped in a box and plain brown paper for some reason, is stuffed down the stove-pipe. and the girls climb back into the I'm Tired of Giving it Nicknames Van. They take off as the place blows sky high, doing so to a piece of music seemingly designed to invite lawsuit from Mr. Spelling. 

   The girls are all happy that their plan went well, as you might expect since they just destroyed all the drugs that flow into Los Angeles. 

   I must admit always being confused by the bit where Terry comes along side the Van on her bike and keeps pace, and one of the girls notes "Hey, look, its Terry!" as if they haven't seen Terry in a long time. The Angels start waving wildly and smiling and making me wonder if something got cut, maybe a scene where Terry gets cut off before the place explodes and the others think she didn't make it. It could be something like that was shot and dropped because the movie was already clocking in at 97 minutes! 

   Or possibly someone noticed the girls happy to celebrate their little victory came off as cold if they we under the impression that their friend was dead? Either way, the line seems so out of place and you want to say "well, of course it's Terry! Who were you expecting? Red Skelton?"

   This joyous moment is interrupted when the Van's television camera (and this was established earlier, its connected to the rockets) spots a pursuing vehicle. It's a beat up station wagon, TV shorthand for 'Car That Will Be Crashed.' Rockets fire and the car is engulfed in smoke (rest assured, the vaguely similar and quite famous scene in Thunderball is in no danger of being eclipsed), but the bad guys manage to get clear before it goes up in a huge fireball (it is Movie Law!). 

   All things considered, this isn't a bad stunt, and they pull it off well, its just so silly (not the concept really, just the whole Female Commandos in their War-Van plot) that everything is undercut. In any case, our heroines escape.

   We next see them out in the woods by a waterfall. All but absent April are huddled in the pond, wearing only their undies, chatting about what a great job they did. This is the exploitation high point (or low point, I suppose) of the picture, making me think that this was an unsold TV movie and this sequence was shot to expand it for drive-in screens. It isn't explicit or anything, but it still seems a tiny bit much for late 70s television. It also has nothing really to do with anything else in the picture, hence my suspicions. 

   One of the girls asks "Where's April?" April is wandering around in the woods (since she neglected to do the swimming hole scene and earlier did her beach scenes with a towel wrapped around her waist, I suspect Cole may not have been eager to display her body. One might think she were lightly with child at this time, but her tights seem to fit okay). 

   She's also talking to herself, to the effect of deciding that this raid worked out well, so the team should stay together and continue to cripple the underworld's operations. (It took her two years to gather the information needed to break their first target, and keeping the gang together looks like something April just considered, so what will they hit next?) They probably should stay together, if for no other reason than to justify buying those matching jumpsuits. Really? They bought those uniforms just for this mission? Why? Why not at least get masks to hide your identities if you had planned this as a single event? They're all morons.

   Anyway, April is excited about keeping the group together and frolics away to tell the others. Meanwhile, hoods from the exploded drug plant have caught up to our girls (meaning they pulled over for a rest stop within walking distance of the compound they just blew up, so they're double morons) and have them marched into the water. There's talk the men intend to rape their captives. 

   One thug goes to use the radio in the Van, but April has arrived and scoped out the situation. She uses Terry's motorcycle helmet to knock out the one guy, then uses the M16 to intimidate the others. Being out-gunned, they surrender and are forced out into the pond. There, they are told to pull their heads under the water and...... I guess the Angels leave, for we move on to Farrell again meeting with Burke.

   There's a girl in Burke's swimming pool we never see again, but she's acting as Burke's model by holding a rose in her teeth. Blink and you miss her. But Burke is standing on the edge of the pool painting a picture of a woman's face in that Picasso style of multiple perspectives being combined. I'm not a fan of the style myself, but movie druglords are always cultured. 

   For some reason, he's dripping wet, so I guess Burke was in the pool, saw Farrell coming, and climbed out to do some painting while his stooge checks in. Okay, that seems odd to me, but I'm not a druglord who lives in a mansion and can indulge my every whim. I would like to have a swimming pool though. I wonder if I can get one this nice without selling drugs to school kids and top models.

  Okay, I'm dragging this out, sorry. 

   Farrell is nervous as he tries to cover his duff with Burke, who has already had the scene of the raid picked through. Farrell suggests going over there to look for clues and Burke shows him the wire cutters left at the scene. Farrell notes he can have the cutters dusted for prints, but he's a step behind again. Burke shows him a computer printout (?) photo of April. "Some dumb school teacher!" Burke chastises his underling for losing Control. Farrell takes off to make good, knowing it would be useless to say anything further. 

(And can anyone tell me why April's fingerprints are on file? And what file it would be that Burke would have instant access to?)

   Farrell shows up at the school where April works and approaches her pretending to have a nephew who is one of her students. April buys this and steps closer, when Farrell lets her know he's onto her. April fights back and lays Farrell out with some awkwardly staged karate or judo or something. Trish (who was told by another student that a man was looking for her teacher) checks in to see April placing Farrell in her car. 

   Trish is told to round up the others and meet at HQ to sweat the details out of Farrell. "Just like we did Sticks!" Trish blurts out, needing to learn a lot about being a spy. Farrell rouses in time to hear this, knocks April unconscious, and instead drives her off to see Burke. Trish sees this and jumps onto the back bumper of Farrell's car.

   Trish manages to hang on long enough to know where Farrell is heading before falling off and rolling down the hillside. When she collects her bearings, she runs to a pay phone to alert the Angels. 

   April, meanwhile, has had a chafing dish (?) tied to her feet and thrown into the swimming pool. One flunky periodically pulls a rope which brings April to the surface just long enough to get a breath and be interrogated personally by Burke. (Not a bad means of extracting information, really, but I though LA crimelords went to abandoned warehouses to do this kind of thing!) April insists she acted alone.

   The Angels drive to the foot of the hill and pick up Trish, then the Van waits there while Kako and either Michelle or Pepper (those two tend to blur at times) run half way up the hill and kill the guards (I thought the Van was bulletproof and able to burst through gates, so don't know why they're dragging this out). The 'all clear' signal is given and the Van drives off, leaving Trish behind. Worried, Trish takes off on foot and follows.

   Now we get our big climax, as the Van roars into view and Burke's men open fire. Kako jumps out and heads for Burke, who orders Baby to attack. Kako intimidates Baby with her drawn katana and the dog runs away, right past the angered Burke. He and Farrell retreat, leaving a healthy number of extras on hand for the Angels to kill. Terry takes off on her motorcycle (and we again notice how slowly the door of the van moves) and drives into the pool. There, she dismounts and frees April. I wouldn't think this was the best system to do this, but I'm not a professional stuntwoman who's sticking it to The Man by driving around in a modified van with her girlfriends.

   With the body count rising, the movie is almost over. And I'm having trouble remembering which Angel was where when Farrell walks up holding one of them at gunpoint and tells the others to throw down their weapons. Farrell almost has the upper hand, but Trish comes running into the scene and Farrell spins around and shoots. Trish goes down, the other Angels jump him, and Farrell is placed in handcuffs and moved to another area of the grounds 

(why? I couldn't say. They may be saving him for the actual police to deal with, although with the number of dead bodies piling up I'd say the police would be more interested in the Angels than they would be in Farrell). 

   Pepper and Michelle are the ones escorting Farrell away. They connect Baby's leash to the handcuffs and toss Farrell into a gated area of the house. This just happens to be where Baby is hiding, and the dog promptly mauls Farrell to death. I can't describe the reaction to all this by Michelle and Pepper any better than Tom Servo already did. "They're overcome with mild concern."

   When Michelle and Pepper return, Burke holds everyone at gunpoint. He begins a lecture about Control, but is shot by the wounded Trish, who quickly passes out after plugging the bad guy. Burke, confused as much as he is mortally wounded, falls into the pool and dies. The Angels rush over to Trish and rouse her. Trish asks if she's an official member of the group now. "Yes, little Trish" April rather comically replies. Seeing the concern of the others, Trish grins. "Don't worry," the teen says, "a bullet can't kill one of the Seven." Another seven-shaped segue wipe zooms at the camera.

   And, cue end credits!

   Okay, I guess we're to assume Trish made it, but talk about having to clean up a huge mess! 

    Trish will have to go to the hospital (unless first aid is on the list of abilities in this group), where the gunshot wound will have to be reported. This will implicate all the Angels, who will presumably stay near Trish while she'd worked on. Even if they lie about how Trish was shot, her parents are likely to sue at the very least her teacher who was on hand. 

   Meanwhile, the police will find a huge number of bodies at Burke's mansion. Even if Terry finds a place to hide the Van, it seems unlikely that she would take time to remove her bike from the pool when Trish needs immediate care. 

   Then there's the issue of fingerprints, which will be all over the place. Trish's prints will be on the gun that shot Burke, and the bullet striations will link the bullet in Trish's body to Farrell's gun. Farrell's body still wears Pepper's handcuffs. I haven't seen an action movie end on such a sloppy note since Lethal Weapon 2!

   All the same, this scene seems to set up a sequel, or a subsequent series that never came. As for the feature itself, as noted, the scripting is just awful. However, the production is slick enough (on par with a TV movie of the same period) to be entertaining provided one can put their brain firmly in neutral. It plays sort of like an action movie written by a ten year old.

   It will never happen, but I would love to see a special edition DVD of Angels Brigade get released for which all the Angel actresses are reunited to talk about the film on a commentary track.

   By the way, at no point in the film do any of 'The Seven' call themselves 'Angels.'