The Wild Angels (1966)

87 mins | Melodrama | 20 July 1966

Director:

Roger Corman

Producer:

Roger Corman

Cinematographer:

Richard Moore

Editor:

Monte Hellman

Production Designer:

Rick Beck-Meyer
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HISTORY

On 16 Mar 1966, Var production charts reported the 7 Mar 1966 start of principal photography in Palm Springs, CA. The film was listed by its working title, All the Fallen Angels. Director Roger Corman told the 13 Sep 1966 LAT that production was completed in three weeks, “entirely on location.” He revealed that the bizarre, often violent incidents depicted on screen were based on true stories from the history of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. He described club members as “all the stupid, ignorant people of the world” rebelling against modern society. In the article, actor Bruce Dern argued that his Hells Angels co-stars were “not a bunch of people with real low IQs,” noting seven of them were military veterans. According to Dern, he was chosen for the role of “Loser” based on a performance he gave years earlier with the Actors Studio. After meeting Dern’s wife, actress Diane Ladd, Corman hired her as well. The 10 Aug 1966 Var noted that the Hells Angels appearing in the film were eligible to join the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), under a provision of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, known as the Taft-Hartley Act.
       A news item in the 8 Jun 1966 Var reported that American International Pictures (AIP) was abandoning its series of youth-oriented fare, which began with Beach Party (1963, see entry), in favor of “protest” films. The first of these, The Wild Angels, formerly The Fallen Angels and All the Fallen Angels, was scheduled for media and ... More Less

On 16 Mar 1966, Var production charts reported the 7 Mar 1966 start of principal photography in Palm Springs, CA. The film was listed by its working title, All the Fallen Angels. Director Roger Corman told the 13 Sep 1966 LAT that production was completed in three weeks, “entirely on location.” He revealed that the bizarre, often violent incidents depicted on screen were based on true stories from the history of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. He described club members as “all the stupid, ignorant people of the world” rebelling against modern society. In the article, actor Bruce Dern argued that his Hells Angels co-stars were “not a bunch of people with real low IQs,” noting seven of them were military veterans. According to Dern, he was chosen for the role of “Loser” based on a performance he gave years earlier with the Actors Studio. After meeting Dern’s wife, actress Diane Ladd, Corman hired her as well. The 10 Aug 1966 Var noted that the Hells Angels appearing in the film were eligible to join the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), under a provision of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, known as the Taft-Hartley Act.
       A news item in the 8 Jun 1966 Var reported that American International Pictures (AIP) was abandoning its series of youth-oriented fare, which began with Beach Party (1963, see entry), in favor of “protest” films. The first of these, The Wild Angels, formerly The Fallen Angels and All the Fallen Angels, was scheduled for media and exhibitor screenings the following week. An “invitational preview” was also planned for the New York Studio Theatre, hosted by AIP chief executives James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff, and stars Nancy Sinatra and Peter Fonda, with a dinner reception at the Lincoln Center Philharmonic Hall.
       The 20 Aug 1966 NYT noted that several edits were made to the version released in the U.S., particularly in the “orgy” scene, to avoid condemnation by the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures (NCOMP), which declared the film “morally objectionable in part for all,” as reported in the 20 Jul 1966 Var. Corman disapproved, saying the cuts rendered his film “less meaningful.” The picture was already in limited release in several U.S. cities, and was beginning its second New York City engagement, with no advance advertising or press reviews.
       The unabridged version of The Wild Angels was chosen to open the 1966 Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy. An article in the 29 Aug 1966 LAT reported that the American representative to the festival did not attend the screening “as an expression of U.S. government disapproval of the film.” One day later, the 30 Aug 1966 LAT described audience reaction as lukewarm, while critics were offended by the picture’s “pointless brutality.” A news item in the 7 Sep 1966 Var reported that Arkoff, Nicholson, Corman, and Fonda attended the festival, during which all of The Wild Angels publicity materials were stolen.
       The Wild Angels opened 28 Sep 1966 in Los Angeles, CA, followed by a 21 Dec 1966 re-release in New York City. Reviews were mixed. While the 22 Dec 1966 NYT described the picture as “an embarrassment,” the 1 Jan 1967 LAT listed it among the previous year’s best releases. The 18 Sep 1966 LAT reported an enthusiastic public response, with anticipated earnings of $6 million, approximately fifteen time its production cost. Prompted by the film’s success, Nicholson and Arkoff told the 22 Nov 1966 NYT of their plans for a similarly-themed production, titled Satan’s Angels, released in 1967 as Devil’s Angels (see entry). The film’s notoriety also benefited Roger Corman, who was hired by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. to direct The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967, see entry).
       Controversy over the picture continued, as the 20 Dec 1966 LAT reported that twenty-two members of the Hells Angels were suing Corman and AIP for depicting the club “in a false and derogatory manner,” making it unsafe for them to wear their uniforms in public. One month later, Corman and Nicholson told the 18 Jan 1967 Var that neither had yet received a court summons. Meanwhile, Corman announced plans to meet with British and Danish censors to explain the presence of swastikas and other Nazi symbolism in the picture. Both countries suffered under German aggression during World War II. Despite Corman’s efforts, Denmark’s minister of justice banned The Wild Angels, as reported in the 3 Feb 1967 LAT. It was only the fifth picture to be banned by that office. However, on 29 Mar 1967, Var revealed that censorship boards in Austria, France, Israel and Greece were relenting in their resistance to admitting the film. A U.S. Senate committee investigating juvenile delinquency subpoenaed Corman to discuss the causes of crime among the nation’s youth. The filmmaker claimed he was “delighted” by the opportunity.
       A news item in the 8 Mar 1967 Var reported that singer-actress Nancy Sinatra was suing Tower Records, a subsidiary of Capitol Records, for using her image on the film’s soundtrack album. Because Sinatra’s voice did not appear on the album, she charged “unfair competition” and “misappropriation of name and likeness,” demanding $100,000 in punitive damages, along with an accounting of profits. She was under contract to Reprise Records at the time.
       According to the 2 Aug 1967 DV, AIP planned to capitalize on the success of The Wild Angels soundtrack albums by creating a band of the same name. While selection of band members was still underway, AIP had already arranged a recording contract with Tower Records, a management contract with broadcast personality Casey Kasem, and public appearances through Associated Booking Corporation. There were also plans for a sequel to the 1966 film, and a television series, both starring the band. Although the project was ultimately aborted, a rockabilly band called “The Wild Angels” was formed in England that same year, and continued to perform into the early twenty-first century.
Although the picture was registered for copyright at 85 minutes, varies reviews cite running times of 82, 83, and 93 min. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
2 Aug 1967
p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
29 Aug 1966
p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
30 Aug 1966
Section C, p. 15.
Los Angeles Times
13 Sep 1966
Section C, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
14 Sep 1966
Section D, p. 17.
Los Angeles Times
25 Sep 1966
Section M, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
29 Sep 1966
Section D, p. 19.
Los Angeles Times
20 Dec 1966
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
1 Jan 1967
Section C, pp. 11-12.
Los Angeles Times
3 Feb 1967
Section D, p. 9.
New York Times
20 Aug 1966
p. 10.
New York Times
28 Aug 1966
p. 109.
New York Times
2 Sep 1966
p. 29.
New York Times
18 Sep 1966
p. 127.
New York Times
22 Nov 1966
p. 32.
New York Times
22 Dec 1966
p. 39.
New York Times
16 Jul 1967
p. 77.
Variety
16 Mar 1966
p. 26.
Variety
13 Apr 1966
p. 25.
Variety
8 Jun 1966
p. 4.
Variety
22 Jun 1966
p. 24.
Variety
20 Jul 1966
p. 28.
Variety
10 Aug 1966
p. 17.
Variety
31 Aug 1966
p. 4, 14.
Variety
7 Sep 1966
p. 5.
Variety
14 Sep 1966
p. 20.
Variety
23 Nov 1966
p. 16, 17.
Variety
7 Dec 1966
p. 52.
Variety
14 Dec 1966
p. 15.
Variety
4 Jan 1967
p. 9.
Variety
18 Jan 1967
p. 1, 23, 78.
Variety
1 Feb 1967
p. 76.
Variety
8 Feb 1967
p. 4, 20.
Variety
8 Mar 1967
p. 47.
Variety
29 Mar 1967
p. 3, 21.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
All the Fallen Angels
The Fallen Angels
Release Date:
20 July 1966
Premiere Information:
New York City opening: 20 July 1966
Venice Film Festival: 28 August 1966
Los Angeles opening: 28 September 1966
Production Date:
7 March--early April 1966
Copyright Claimant:
American International Pictures
Copyright Date:
20 July 1966
Copyright Number:
LP32873
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Pathé
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
87
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Heavenly Blues is the leader of the Hell's Angels, a group of California motorcyclists intent on living lives free of all social responsibility. Trouble begins when the motorcycle of one member, Loser, is stolen by another gang. Loser then loses his construction job because of the Nazi emblems he wears. His group retaliates by raiding a rival Mexican club, inciting a rumble, and stealing one of the rivals' motorcycles. But as Loser is making his getaway, he is seriously wounded by a policeman and taken to a hospital. At the height of one of their orgies, Loser's friends decide to "rescue" him. They raid the hospital, pause long enough for one member to assault a Negro nurse, and kidnap their buddy. When Loser eventually dies from his wounds, his body is sent home for burial. His friends get drunk at the funeral service, attack and tie up the minister, rape Loser's young widow in church, and remove his body from its coffin and wrap it in a Nazi flag. The outraged local citizens break up the funeral procession and engage the cyclists in a graveside brawl. As the police arrive, the gang ride off on their motorcycles. But Heavenly Blues remains behind, throwing dirt on Loser's grave and muttering "There's nowhere to ... +


Heavenly Blues is the leader of the Hell's Angels, a group of California motorcyclists intent on living lives free of all social responsibility. Trouble begins when the motorcycle of one member, Loser, is stolen by another gang. Loser then loses his construction job because of the Nazi emblems he wears. His group retaliates by raiding a rival Mexican club, inciting a rumble, and stealing one of the rivals' motorcycles. But as Loser is making his getaway, he is seriously wounded by a policeman and taken to a hospital. At the height of one of their orgies, Loser's friends decide to "rescue" him. They raid the hospital, pause long enough for one member to assault a Negro nurse, and kidnap their buddy. When Loser eventually dies from his wounds, his body is sent home for burial. His friends get drunk at the funeral service, attack and tie up the minister, rape Loser's young widow in church, and remove his body from its coffin and wrap it in a Nazi flag. The outraged local citizens break up the funeral procession and engage the cyclists in a graveside brawl. As the police arrive, the gang ride off on their motorcycles. But Heavenly Blues remains behind, throwing dirt on Loser's grave and muttering "There's nowhere to go." +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.