“Violence is their god… and they hunt in a pack like rabid dogs!”, “Get out of their way… if you can.”, “Their god is violence. And lust is the law they live by!” 1967’s classic biker flick Devil’s Angels sure has some clichés well served but also some twists and turns that set it apart from other movies of the genre.
Films like Devil’s Angels have been around for decades. Most cinema lovers would call Marlon Brando’s The Wild One (1953) as the first great biker movie, but it wasn’t until the mid 60s and the release of Roger Corman’s The Wild Angels in 1966 that biker films really exploded. Legendary studio American International Pictures quickly realized that there were other companies cashing in on their biker films so they gathered Roger Corman (producer), Charles B. Griffith (writer) and Daniel Haller (director) to release one on their own.
The Devil’s Angels is about Cody (played by the late, great John Cassavetes) and his motorcycle gang called the Skulls, who hear the story of how Butch Cassidy and his outlaw gang lived in a secret hideaway called the Hole-in-the-Wall, where there was no police. Inspired by this, Cody tells the gang that they’re going there as well to live in peace forever after. After breaking their buddy Funky out of jail, they’re off in search of Hole-in-the-Wall. On their way they terrorize a store owner at a gas stop and destroy the mobile home of a couple who knocked over one of their motorcycles.
They arrive in the peaceful town of Brookville as it is celebreating its annual picnic. The mayor, sheriff and other townfolk immediately demand that the Skulls leave their town. However the sheriff agrees with Cody that the Skulls may camp on the beach if they agree to stay there and leave first thing in the morning. A local girl, fascinated by the outlaw look of the bikers, joins them. Meanwhile, the mayor and other residents decide that the sheriff is not doing a good enough joob to protect the town and that he should force the bikers to leave the area.
The gang gets the local girl high and starts to grope her. Frightened, she runs away. The mayor seizes on this as a pretext to falsely claim to the sheriff that she has been raped. The sheriff then arrests Cody and forces the rest of the gang to leave. The Skulls then decide to enlist the assistance of a larger motorcycle gang to help them. Meanwhile, the sheriff realizes that he’s been lied to and releases Cody. Reunited with his gang, he tries to convince them to continue their search for Hole-in-the-Wall, but the other members are commited to return to Brookville to find their revenge.
After arriving in town, they gather up the girl, her family, the mayor, sheriff and other citizens for a mock trial. The mayor and his companions are sentenced to being beaten up. Meanwhile, the other motorcycle gang begins to terrorize the town. Cody – still being convinced by the existence of Hole-in-the-Wall – tries to convince his girlfriend and other members to leave with him, but no one listens. Cody then tears of his Skulls jacket, throws it in the dirt and rides away. As he does, various police cars cross his way eventually making their way into town to stop the riot.
Technical / Production
Will only $4 million gross, Devil’s Angels might not have been a major hit for American International Pictures, but is still an interesting and well-done biker films which features several highly recognizable faces of 60s/70s cinema and television. The movie may not be as hard hitting as Al Adamson’s Satan’s Sadists, but it’s solidly made, quirky and enjoyable that benefits most from a wonderfully complex performance by John Cassavetes as Cody.
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