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 www.jabootu.net


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.'

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