• The Angel Collection (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: November 29th, 2019.
    Director: Robert Vincent O'Neil/Tom DeSimone
    Cast: Donna Wilkes, Susan Tyrrell, Cliff Gorman, Rory Calhoun, Dick Shawn, John Diehl, Betsy Russell, Ossie Davis, Mitzi Kapture, Mark Blankfield, Maud Adams, Richard Roundtree
    Year: 1984/1985/1988
    Purchase From Vinegar Syndrome

    The Angel Collection – Movie Review:

    While very much a product of the decade in which they were made, the three Angel films made between 1984 and 1988 have rightfully gained a sizable cult following over the years, thanks in no small part to some great casting choices and a fair amount of good old-fashioned sleaze! Vinegar Syndrome brings the three films (a fourth film was made in 1994 which is not included in this set) to Blu-ray for the first time anywhere in the universe and we’re all the better for it.


    The first film introduces us to fifteen-year-old Molly Stewart (Donna Wilkes), a book-smart high school student who gets great grades and seems to have every advantage in life. This makes it all the more perplexing that, by night, she chooses to walk the streets of Los Angeles as Angel, making some extra money in the world’s oldest profession. See, Molly has been left abandoned by her parents and she needs that money to survive. On the streets she meets quirky characters like transvestite hooker Mae (Dick Shawn), screwy lesbian apartment manager Solly (Susan Tryell), a former A-list western movie star turned street entertainer named Kit Carson (Rory Calhoun) and a guy with a yo-yo named Charlie (Steven M. Porter).

    Molly’s life comes crashing down around her when a serial killer (John Diehl) viciously murders two of her friends. The cops are called in to work the case, of course, and Detective Andrews (Cliff Gorman) starts to wonder what this Angel girl is all about. Soon enough, he’s convinced her to work with him to try and trap the killer, while hoping in his heart of hearts that he’ll soon be able to get her off of the streets for good.

    Angel works pretty well. It’s an entertaining picture highlighted by some colorful characters and some decent action. Those expecting gratuitous sex might be left wanting, as Angel never actually does the dirty deed with any of her johns – she’s always interrupted for some reason – but that doesn’t really matter much. There’s some decent, gritty atmosphere here, the movie does a nice job of capturing the L.A. scene of the era and the location photography is genuinely interesting as there’s just lot of neat ‘stuff’ in the backgrounds to take in. Plot-wise, the film doesn’t offer a whole lot of surprises. If it plays out pretty much exactly how you’d expect it to, that’s okay because it’s still a fun watch. Never mind the fact that there are some subplots that don’t really go anywhere (What happened to the school counsellor? Who cares, he was boring!).

    The cast here is great. Donna Wilkes, who was in her mid-twenties when she made this film, is a kick to watch in the lead role. She looks right and she’s does a really good job of portraying the duality of her character. John Diehl is a great choice to play the killer, he’s twitchy and sweaty and weird the way most good movie killers are. He’s got a sleazy, unclean vibe to him that works quite well. Frequently, however, the supporting characters steal the show. Dick Shawn is goofy and likeable as Mae and Susan Tyrell chews the scenery in the best possible way as butchy Solly. Steven M. Porter is okay as the yo-yo guy while Rory Calhoun is just flat out awesome as Kit and in many ways the best part of the movie.

    Robert Vincent O'Neil, who co-wrote with Joseph Michael Cala, directs with a keen eye for visuals and a knack for strong pacing. We get enough character development to matter but the movie is quick, no slow parts to bring things down at all. The cinematography is solid and the score is pretty boss. This one scores high marks all around!

    Avenging Angel:

    Made a year later and once again directed by O’Neil, this second film is set four years after the events in the first movie. Molly (Betsy Russell this time around) is no longer hooking and has finished college and hoping to get work as a lawyer. When Detective Andrews (now played by Robert F. Lyons) is shot dead in the line of duty, Angel decides to dig out her mini skirt and her heels to hit the streets and find out who killed the man she credits with helping her get her life in order.

    Before long, Angel has reconnected with some of her old friends - kit Carson (Calhoun again), Solly (Tyrell again) and Yo-Yo Charlie (Porter again) – and started walking the streets she once spent so much time on looking for information. Angel also meets a new friend called Johnny Glitter (Barry Pearl). She winds up getting arrested when the vice cops launch a raid, but hey, that law stuff she was studying comes in handy and she’s quickly released. As they get closer to figuring out who killed Andrews, Angel and her team wind up kinda-sorta accidently killing the son of a powerful mobster named Arthur Gerrard (Paul Lambert), which leads into a goofy Weekend At Bernie’s style plot device before getting to a ridiculously awesome finale set atop the Bradbury Building involving…. a baby!

    While Betsey Russell wasn’t the world’s finest actress at this point in her career, she’s definitely got the right look to replace Wilkes. She’s more than a little wooden in terms of her delivery but she’s hot stuff as she struts about in her hooker clothes blasting away bad guys. Bringing back the supporting characters was also a smart move. Once again, Tyrell and Calhoun steal every scene that they’re in, really helping to create some memorable characters and fleshing out the cast in the best way possible. Lambert does a good enough job as the heavy in the picture and look out for Ossie Davis as L.A.P.D. Captain Harry Moradian.

    O’Neil and company up the action quotient a fair bit in this second film and if the movie isn’t quite as sleazy as its predecessor, it still offers up some welcome, and completely gratuitous, nudity and some top-notch violence. It’s quick with its pacing and offers up some humor, intentional and otherwise, that adds to the film’s already very high entertainment factor. This isn’t quite as good as the original but it comes very close.

    Fun Fact: This movie came out when my younger sister was eight years old. She saw the TV spots for it and really, really wanted to see it. She asked my parents and they were not having any of it and so she threw a hissy fit.

    Angel III – The Final Chapter:

    Last but not least, the third film in the collection is set fourteen years after the second picture. Molly (now played by Mitzi Kapture of Silk Stockings fame) appears to have tossed her dreams of being a lawyer out the window in favor of a new gig working as a photographer all the way on the other side of the country in New York City.

    Somehow, Molly spots a woman that she recognizes as her mother. This leads her to head back to Los Angeles where she learns that her mom, Gloria (Anna Navarro), has hit it big in the art world and, on top of that, has also popped out another kid – Michelle (Tawny Fere). Molly’s reunion with her mother goes unusually smooth given that she abandoned her and left her to turn tricks on the street to survive, but bygones are soon bygones and all is well… until Nadine (Maud Adams), a killer with ties to the modern day slave trade, plugs Gloria full of holes and runs off with poor Michelle.

    Angel, of course, bursts into action. Michelle is being held at Nadine’s massive home where she’s being pimped out to her wealthy associates. Angel, meanwhile, enlists the aid of a gay streetwalker named Spanky (Mark Blankfield), a film editor named Neal (Kin Shriner) and a cop named Dongier (Richard Roundtree), to find Michelle, get her back in one piece and put a stop to Nadine’s evil ways. How? By posing as a porn star to make her way into Nadine’s inner circle of course!

    Dick Miller pops up in this one, as does Tony Basil of all people. Also look out for Ashlyn Gere as one of the ‘video girls.’ Mitzi Kapture is obviously the real star of the film. She’s not going to take home any awards for her work here but she’s decent enough in the part, just as good as Russell was in the second film at least. She carries herself well and looks good doing it. Richard Roundtree is slumming it a bit here, but he brings his inimitable screen presence to the picture and the movie is better for having had him in it. He doesn’t ‘ooze cool’ here the way he did in the Shaft pictures but he’s still Richard Roundtree and he’s still cooler than you or I.

    O’Neil had nothing to do with this third film which was instead directed by Tom DeSimone who did Hell Night, Reform School Girls and a lot of gay hardcore features in the seventies. DeSimone does a fine job here. The movie is quick in its pacing and it hits the right balance of drama, action and sleaze. The film is nicely shot and rather polished looking, though it does make you appreciate the rougher looking style of the two earlier films in that regard. Still, this third film is, if not the best of the series, a perfectly entertaining picture. You kind of have to throw logic out the window in terms of how Angel’s character has developed from the first movie, continuity doesn’t matter much here, but there’s enough going on at any given time to keep you intrigued.

    The Angel Collection – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings The Angel Collection to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen on three 50GB discs.

    Angel is “newly scanned & restored in 4k from its 35mm interpositive.”
    Avenging Angel is “newly scanned & restored in 2k from its 35mm interpositive.”
    Angel III – The Final Chapter is “newly scanned & restored in 2k from its 35mm original camera negative.”

    It’s hard to find much to complain about here in terms of the video quality, all three of the transfers here look quite nice. There’s the expected amount of film grain but little in the way of print damage. There’s a lot of nice detail here and good depth and texture present throughout each of the three pictures. Colors are nicely reproduced and the black levels are strong and deep. Skin tones appear lifelike and realistic in each of the three features, and the transfers are devoid of edge enhancement, noise reduction and compression artifacts.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 tracks are provided for each film. English SDH subtitles are included for each of the three features. Audio quality is solid. Dialogue is easy to understand and to follow, it’s quite clear and it sounds very natural. The music used throughout the three films has good bounce to it, the scores do a nice job of accentuating things as they should. There are no noticeable problems with any hiss or distortion to note. No problems here at all, the movies sound very good.

    Extras are spread across the three discs in the set as follows:


    There’s plenty of extras on the first disc. Discovering an Angel is an interview with co-writer/director Robert Vincent O’Neil that runs half an hour in length. He speaks about his background working on sets and in photography that led into his becoming a filmmaker. He tells an odd story about designing a spider-web out of beads and how it got him into framing things through a lens, working with and learning from Richard Rush, how directing a feature requires ‘incredible arrogance,’ working with different camera gear, bringing things from the page of a script to the screen and how as a director you have to know in your head exactly what you want. He then gets into the specifics of shooting Angel and tells some great stories from the shoot and about working with Sandy Howard, where he got the idea for the character of Angel from, the marketing and promotion that was rolled out for the film, working with Donna Wilkes (who he wasn’t responsible for casting) on the film, being intimidated by the producers on the first day of shooting, his thoughts on some of the characters in the film, how a ‘four-man steady cam’ was created on the set, taking inspiration for characters in the film from real-life denizens of Hollywood Boulevard, getting with and directing the other cast members and more.

    Playing Both Sides is a twelve-minute interview with actress Donna Wilkes where she speaks about how she was doing Days Of Our Lives at the time she got Angel, which led to her getting written out of the soap opera. She got the part through her agent after reading for the role. She then talks about what she liked about the role and how the ‘double life’ appealed to her, what it was like working alongside some of the more established cast members, the film’s low budget, her thoughts on the nudity in the film and her insistence on a body double, doing some character research on Sunset Boulevard and the ‘real’ Angel that she heard about, how rushed the four-week shoot was, how said it is that so many of the older cast members featured in the picture have passed away, how the experience of making the film shaped the career that she would have afterwards and then leaving the industry in the nineties to raise her daughter.

    In the seventeen-minute A Chance Meeting we get an interview with co-writer Joseph Cala who talks about how he got interested in movies as a kid after seeing Frankenstein. He then talks about getting into radio and then meeting O’Neil by chance and connecting with him. They then developed a friendship and how when he talked to him about the idea of Angel, Cala came on board and they wound up writing the picture together. He then talks about the film’s quick production and how much fun he had working on it, the film’s relation to The Wizard Of Oz, how much he appreciates the performances in the film and quite a bit more.

    Angel’s Theme is a ten-minute interview with composer Craig Safan that covers how he started writing and playing music at the age of seven. He then talks about types of music that inspired him, going to school for art rather than music, how he started composing for film when a friend called him up and asked him to compose for her husband’s film and how he came on board to compose for Angel. He talks about dealing with the producers, how he had five days to compose and deliver the score, how he did much of the work using electronic instruments and how the synths brought out the darker side of the movie really well. He then talks about some of the other scores he’s been involved with over the years, like The Last Starfighter and a fair bit more.

    The disc also contains just under seven-minutes of deleted scenes and outtakes (no audio exists for this material so they’re presented with selections from the score overtop). There’s some neat footage in here, including shots of Angel getting ready to hit the streets, a bit where she and Dick Shawn’s character get into a tiff with some guys in a dice game, a bit with Angel and some hookers hanging out at a diner, a quick bit in a church and more, including some bonus nudity!

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are theatrical trailers for Angel, Avenging Angel and Angel III, menus and chapter selection.

    Avenging Angel:

    Extras for the second film include an interview with co-writer/director Robert Vincent O’Neil and co-writer Joseph Cala called Chasing An Angel that runs nine-minutes. In this piece, they cover how O’Neil wound up signing a contract for a sequel without realizing it, Cala’s opinion that doing a sequel made sense given the success of the first picture, O’Neil’s displeasure with the way that this second film turned out, different ideas that Cala had for where the story could go, their thoughts on casting Russell in the role versus Wilkes (O’Neil had been speaking to Wilkes on the phone about getting her back and is clearly pissed off that the producers went with Russell), how Russell was ‘on a learning curve’ when she made the picture which effected O’Neil’s directing style, how Rory Calhoun taught Russell how to use a gun on the set, their thoughts on the third and fourth films in the series and the law suit that they launched when they weren’t credited properly in those films. This interview is fascinating – these guys do not hold back.

    The second disc also includes an interview with actress Betsy Russell entitled Street Smarts. Here she speaks for ten-minutes about getting into acting when she was sixteen after getting a part in a commercial and then moving to Los Angeles. She talks about taking acting classes and getting an agent, landing small parts and then getting a break with Private School and Tomboy before doing Avenging Angel. She then talks about getting the lead in Avenging Angel, learning her craft in front of the camera and doing the best she could, given the training that she had. She then talks about O’Neil, describing him as ‘the nicest guy in the world,’ how she get along with her co-stars, how it was terrifying to use guns on the set and how she’s grateful to have had the part. She then talks about having her children and got out of the business for a while, getting back into the business with a small part in Saw III, what she’s done since then and how much she appreciates her fans.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are theatrical trailers for Angel, Avenging Angel and Angel III, menus and chapter selection.

    Angel III – The Final Chapter:

    Extras for the third film start off with an audio commentary with writer/director Tom DeSimone, moderated by filmmaker David Decoteau of RapidHeart.tv. They start off by talking about Prison Girls 3-D before then talking about his background doing adult films in the seventies, the difficulties of getting work in the exploitation film business as a gay man, how Decoteau met Frank Darrabont who had worked with DeSimone on Hell Night and how most of the people working behind the scenes on that picture were gay. They then go into some detail about DeSimone’s directing style, the type of blocking that is done is his movies, and what DeSimone feels are the most difficult aspects of being a director. He then talks about doing Reform School Girls as a send up of the women in prison genre, how the porno director in Angel III is kind of based on his own career, the work that he did on Savage Streets before Danny Steinmann (neither commentator can remember his name but it’s clear that they’re talking about him) took over, how DeSimone wound up working in Barcelona for a while and how he also shot in Mexico for a while too. They eventually get into how DeSimone wound up directing this third Angel film, what it was like shooting on location, how the film was made in about four weeks and what was shot in New York versus what was shot in California, but then we get his thoughts on filming sex scenes, working with Steve Scott on adult pictures in his early days, going into the big New York City movie palaces when he was younger, his experiences in UCLA, how he got into the adult business after the success of Deep Throat which led to doing Chatterbox and what it was like working on that picture and much, much more. This is much more of a career overview of DeSimone and his work rather than a specific talk about Angel III, but given that DeSimone has had his finger in so many odd pies over the years, it makes for a very interesting listen. There isn’t a second of dead air here!

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are a still gallery, theatrical trailers for Angel, Avenging Angel and Angel III, menus and chapter selection.

    Reversible cover art is also provided for each of the three releases. It’s also worth mentioning how nice the packaging is for this set. The three Blu-ray cases fit very nicely inside a thick, embossed cardboard box that opens from the side. It slides open to reveal some artwork from the movies underneath, and when assembled it features the original poster art for the first film and a variation on the art for the two sequels on the reverse. It’s a very classy way to present some very sleazy movies!

    The Angel Collection – The Final Word:

    Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray release of The Angel Collection is a winner! The three films are all entertaining in their own ways, with the first a bit of a trash classic and the two sequels worth follow ups. The transfers are all very strong here and the audio is just fine. On top of that, we get a nice selection of extra features as well – and some beautiful packaging too! Highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Angel Collection Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I always saw the boxes in the video store and wanted to watch them; my mom would never let me.
    1. SuperDevilDoctor's Avatar
      SuperDevilDoctor -
      A couple of great lines in Part III (FINAL CHAPTER)...

      Porn producer: But I thought you said she was the girl-next-door type.
      Spanky: Next door to the Boom Boom Room.

      Maud Adams' dragon lady: By this time next week you'll be flat on your back in a whorehouse in Calcutta... fucking the locals for fishheads and rice.

      And Mitzi Kapture is cute as a button.