ANGELS BRIGADE (1979)
IMDb rating: 1.8/10
Tagline: “Seven super sexy girls take on the bad guys in an explosion of wild action, crazy stunts, and loads of laughs!”
It is estimated that well over 50% percent of films fail the Bechdel test– the requirement that at least two female characters talk to each other about something other than a man. It’s a good rule of thumb regarding gender bias in contemporary culture.
Well, Angels Brigade grabs gender bias by the lapels, and knees its nuts back into their cavity.
It’s immediately apparent that Angels Brigade is a buxom, pert, tumescent feminist allegory.
The Plot: A demure high school teacher and a superstar Vegas lounge singer gather together a team of crack female agents to bring down LA’s most notorious drug kingpin. Using only their wits, their skills, and skin-tight jumpsuits that only zip up to the navel.
If you can’t look past the mountainous cleavages of the alluring, taut, young beauties, to recognise the profound messages about female solidarity and sororal empowerment, then you’re a rampant sexist and recently suspended UKIP councillor.
Angels Brigade seems to posit the theory that if only Gloria Steinem, Germaine Greer, and Andrea Dworkin had dressed a little more provocatively, they could have supercharged the Feminist movement. Apparently, if only women dressed more sluttily, there’s no bizarre, bloody, violent rampage they can’t accomplish.
The film is also definitive proof that female acting can be every bit as excruciating as that of any man. And we welcome this equality.
Almost certainly squatted out to cash in on the small screen success of Charlie’s Angels, Angels Brigade is completely bat-shit, Bad Film bonkers from first frame to last. It surely must have served, on some level, as inspiration to Quentin Tarantino for Fox Force Five – Uma Thurman’s all-girl action pilot from Pulp Fiction.
This is 70s exploitation at it’s most laughably potent- the heady mix of girls, guns and gak is palpable. There isn’t a single scene where at least half the cast doesn’t appear either completely coked up or utterly strung out.
Though almost certainly.
An early montage introduces each of the team one by one as the resolute, progressive radical feminists they clearly are. Alongside the aforementioned teacher and lounge singer, there’s a sexy cop, a seductive motorcycle stunt rider, limber martial artist, weird teenager, and a curvaceous underwear model who’s introduced during her trampolining session in a burger joint car park.
We have no idea exactly which specific fetish this section of the movie is designed to satisfy but there’s probably a specialist magazine on sale somewhere.
But it’s a second montage that reveals the qualities that will make them unstoppable as a group: physical exercise, pouting, welding, stretching…and …er…accountancy.
It is soon apparent that they hold no fear of danger or death- as with all the hairspray and synthetic clothing on show, a single naked flame would mean an instant inferno.
The action is littered with comedy sound effects to bolster every faked punch from each of the sassy septet. Though there’s a suspicious lack of cartoonish boings to be heard when bad guys are brutally disemboweled by samurai sword, shot point blank in the face, or thrown, literally, to the dogs.
Nevertheless, it’s really the audience who are getting the spike-heeled boot to the balls.
Impersonating low-level gang members on a freezing, foggy beach? Micro-bikinis seem an appropriate choice.
Infiltrating a Neo-Nazi stronghold to pilfer ammunition? No problem, just remember to pack your brass knuckles, pepper spray, and your décolletage-juggling ball gown. And to take a black chauffeur.
Celebrating the successful takedown of a narcotics production facility? Why this calls for a lingerie-strewn group bath in a nearby waterfall… splashing, bombing and heavy petting permitted. And indeed, encouraged.
As for the seven themselves we really can’t play favourites… which is handy as they’re all so utterly appalling. Every time one of them says anything, she clearly marks herself out as the worst actress in the history of cinema. But then one finishes her line, rams her hands on her hips, thrusts her chest towards the camera and it’s someone else’s turn to moisten her lips and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she is even less talented.
It’s as if the filmmakers have ensured that none of them is even vaguely proficient, for fear of an imbalance in the group dynamic or the mean average of acting ability. Either that or they’ve had a bet between themselves to see who can be the least convincing in the next take.
Only one of the Seven, the schoolteacher- and group’s de facto leader- manages to stay largely under cover while undercover. But then she was married to the film’s director at the time, so it’s probably no surprise that he wanted to keep her clad while he was busy trying to jam a film camera into her co-stars’ undergarments. It’s because he’s such a committed feminist, you see. He’s practically a suffragette.
In fact, given similar levels of film making competency, and access to high-powered weaponry, we’re pretty sure that Angels Brigade is exactly the kind of movie Emmeline Pankhurst would have made.