Release Date: November 2nd, 1983 (Italy)
Directed by: Robert Vincent O’Neil
Written by: Joseph Michael Cala, Robert Vincent O’Neil
Music by: Craig Safan
Cast: Donna Wilkes, Cliff Gorman, Susan Tyrell, Dick Shawn, Rory Calhoun, John Diehl, Elaine Giftos
Adams Apple Film Company, Planet Productions, Angel Venture, New World Pictures, 94 Minutes
“High School Honor Student by Day. Hollywood Hooker by Night.” – tagline
This was a much more enjoyable movie than I had anticipated. It was actually in my queue to watch but I ended up seeing it because it was featured on the most recent Joe Bob Briggs The Last Drive-In special.
The story is about a fifteen year-old girl who is an honor student in a prestigious Los Angeles private school while being a street hooker on Hollywood Blvd. at night. It’s a pretty unsettling premise and it’s not something that would get made today.
That being said, the material is handled kind of classily, even if the film pushes the boundaries quite a bit. However, you never see this then twenty-two year-old actress performing sex or simulating sex as this fifteen year-old character.
The reason for her being a child turning tricks is that her mother ran off and left her behind with just $100 to survive on. So Angel decided to do what she had to do to make a life for herself, get an elite education and eventually leave her terrible life behind. She also entertains a fantasy about her father coming back for her and hangs a lot of her hopes on that.
However, Angel has found a family of societal misfits that actually is a better family than the one that abandoned her and that’s a really sweet thing in this movie. Like Angel, you find it hard not to care for these odd people and there’s something beautiful about seeing a group of friends, thrown away by “decent” society come together to support one another like a real family.
Beyond that, this story is about the danger surrounding Angel’s lifestyle. This doesn’t just show the regular threats she can run into on any given night but it also features a psychotic serial killer that is hiding in the shadows, murdering hookers.
The killer is played by John Diehl, just before he would go on to his most famous role in Miami Vice. I’ve always liked Diehl and in this, he’s just chilling and incredibly convincing as this psycho. Honestly, his performance and his demeanor come close to rivaling that of Tom Noonan in Manhunter.
I liked the supporting cast in this too from Dick Shawn, as the transvestite hooker, to Rory Calhoun, as an ex-cowboy movie star, to Susan Tyrell, as the artist landlady that is crass and badass but also has a heart of gold.
This is an edgy ’80s movie that borders on exploitation but reels it in just enough that it’s able to be a much better motion picture than it would have been if it fully embraced the exploitation.
Angel surprised me and I liked it quite a bit. It’s an interesting take on the ’70s-to-’80s action vigilante story and it has real heart and great, memorable characters.