Hell’s Angels ’69

Now! Made with REAL Hell’s Angels!
★★★
☆☆☆
Released: 
1969
Director: 
Lee Madden
Starring: 
Sonny Barger, Tom Stern, Jeremy Slate, Conny Van Dyke
The Setup: 
Two rich guys set out to rob a Vegas casino by posing as bikers.
Discussion: 

The second movie I watched out of the Bikers From Hell boxed set [which also contained the charming Run, Angel, Run], I was expecting this movie to suck, based on the theory that if you get three movies in a cheap boxed set, one of them will be decent, and two of them will suck. I am happy to report that such was not the case! This movie was pretty decent… well, as these things go.

Here’s The Deele: two blondish rich guys are seen at this hip swingin’ 60s party [a hoot in itself]. Turns out they’re brothers, and they’re planning a heist. These two stars, Tom Stern and Jeremy Slate, were apparently veterans of biker movies and television, and they thought of this story as a vehicle for themselves. Anyway, so they leave the party and take off to the tune of this really hip, flute-based score by Tony Bruno.

So they change into biker gear and soon meet up with the Hell’s Angels. The Hell’s Angels here were played by the Oakland chapter of the real Hell’s Angels, and this movie features Sonny Barger, one of the most famous Hell’s Angels, who I think was also notoriously involved in the whole riot that was captured in Gimmie Shelter. Anyway, the HA’s don’t really like or trust the new guys, but they let them ride with them anyway. There’s a huge fight at the beginning which is kind of amusing, as it seems like you had different members of the HA’s just itching to show off how they can do a jump or stunt.

We are also introduced to Conny Van Dyke as Betsy, this biker moll who seems to be in an abusive relationship with one of the HA’s… it’s amazing how he grabs her hair and whips her around. We find out that she had a fight with her Dad once and left home, and the Angels gave her a ride, and she’s been with them ever since. Then there’s a bunch of hypnotic riding footage.

SPOILERS > > > Anyway, the Angels take the brother’s suggestion to go stay outside Vegas, their real destination. The Angels agree, and set up camp 18 miles from the city. Then one night the brothers go into town [refusing Betsy, who is dying to go with them], and get a hotel. Once there they change back into suits, and go downstairs to the casino. When one of them gets cold feet, the other encourages him by saying “If this isn’t the kickiest thing we’ve ever done, you’re doubling for a zombie.” One of them gets arrested, and taken down to the money-counting room. The other calls the Angels, and they come to Vegas to help the guys. Anyway, the guys get away with $600,000, walking out in their suits while the Angels create a distraction by their mere presence. “I’ve got a riot and a $600,000 robbery,” says the local police chief, “Now all I need is an Indian uprising.” Oh, I forgot to tell you that during all this there is a great deal of interesting views of Las Vegas in the late 60s. Oh yeah, and also that Betsy made her way to Vegas as a hitchhiker, and she recognized the brothers in their suits, and knows what’s going on.

Anyway, the guys get away with it, and spend one night with the Angels, then say they’re going to be on their way. Betsy insists on going with them, and threatens to expose them, so they take her. After they’ve gone, the police come and tell the Angels what happened, and they realize they’ve been used. They tell the police that the guys went one way, knowing they went the other, so they can mete out some Angel-justice before the law gets ahold of them.

Meanwhile the brother trade in their motorcycles for some off-road bikes, and take off straight through the desert. In here Betsy starts becoming a real whiny pain in the ass, going on and on about how she just wants to be with the guys. She’s shocked [as are we] to learn that they plan to mail all the money back once they get home, as they did it just for the kicks. She ain’t havin’ that for long, and a few minutes later gets pissed and starts tossing the money into the fire. This would get her left in the middle of the desert if it were me, but one of the guys likes her, and this leads to a fight between the brothers and their decision to split up.

Anyway, so the Angels, who place road flares in their handlebars at night, eventually find the guys. One of the brothers dies trying to make a daring jump, and the other brother and Betsy get left in the desert without any water. Such is the harsh justice meted out by the Hell’s Angels!
< < < SPOILERS END

I liked it! It is consistently entertaining, and constantly presents new stuff to see; the swingin’ 60s party, the lifestyle of the Hell’s Angels, Vegas in the 60s [so strangely barren] and stuff like that. And the story is fairly compelling; we side with our two main characters, even though they are ultimately the villains. The Angels are interesting, especially just to see how they dressed and acted, and the gusto with which they throw themselves into doing stunts [check out the majestic flying leap of the biker who runs his bike into a car]. And the character of Betsy was interesting and kind of moving; saying she had a fight with her dad and now she’s on the road, unhappy with the Angels but without anywhere to really go. Although I joked about how I would kill her if she started burning my money [and I would], it speaks to the desperation of her character. She ran off with these two fake biker criminals hoping to get away from the Angels and into a comfortable life, and will do anything not to get left behind by them. Isn’t it amazing that this crappy late 60’s biker flick has more in-depth character and psychology than over half of the new, big-budget movies that come out today?

The introduction by Joe Bob Briggs tells us that this was one of the last of the biker movies, as their heyday was in the 60s and pretty much hit the mainstream and fizzled out with Easy Rider. Which of course made me think: oh God, how awesome would it have been if the heyday of biker movies was during the 70s? But alas, as has been accurately noted, you can’t always get what you want.

Should you watch it: 

If you’re curious about biker movies and you want to see real 60s Hell’s Angels.