Avenging Angel (1985)

avengingangelWhereas Betsy Russell (co-star of 71.43 percent of the Saw films) makes an improvement over Donna Wilkes in pure sex appeal, Avenging Angel makes a massively disappointing sequel compared to its 1984 big sis. This is all the more baffling when one considers that director and co-writer Robert Vincent O’Neill remains in those roles; therefore, blame cannot be ascribed to a case of franchise takeover.

A year after the original Angel, the honor student by day has given up being a Hollywood hooker by night. Having slept with “hundreds of men,” Molly (Russell) now opts for running the 100-yard dash as a track star at college. Inspired by her L.A.-cop guardian, Lt. Andrews (Dark Night of the Scarecrow’s Robert E. Lyons, replacing Cliff Gorman), she is studying to be a lawyer. But when the police lieutenant is murdered in the line of duty in Chinatown, Molly teases her hair, whores up and drags out her Angel alter ego to get answers … and revenge. Forget it, Molly; it’s Chinatown.

avengingangel1There is nothing wrong with pursuing that setup. There is something very wrong with following our heroine’s intensely personal tragedy with about 20 minutes of screwball comedy, as Angel and friends try to bust ol’ pal Kit Carson (returning Rory Calhoun, Motel Hell) out of the sanitarium in which he clearly belongs. With dopey music and all, the prolonged sequence feels like a deliberate stalling tactic to reach feature-length as O’Neill attempts to navigate between the emotional tones of oil and water. Neither works.

As a result, Avenging Angel hastily becomes a sad parody of itself, one franchise entry earlier than the standard. This is best exemplified in saddling Angel’s lesbian former landlord (Susan Tyrrell, Forbidden Zone) with an infant that is not hers, and then involving that child in a hysterically edited climax that sends the tearful tot plummeting from a rooftop at half-speed. Photographed in extreme close-up so we don’t see the hands of whoever is holding him, the baby falls upright, then upside down, then upright again before — spoiler — being caught by Kit. Wouldn’t a true piece of ’80s sleaze give the old man a curious case of the butterfingers?

What, too dark? —Rod Lott

Get it at Amazon.

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