Director: Jack Starrett
Media Blasters/Guilty Pleasures

For those of you who don't keep tabs on biker movies, 1969's RUN ANGEL RUN is the first cycle picture to star Hollywood tough guy William Smith, the actor most associated with the genre. Other Smith cycle pics include ANGELS DIE HARD, THE LOSERS, C.C. AND COMPANY and CHROME AND HOT LEATHER, all released between 1970 and 1971. Producer Joe Solomon also did HELL'S ANGELS ON WHEELS and other subsequent films in the genre, and director Jack Starrett (an actor often seen as the fuzz in the 60s biker flicks) here directs for the first time and would continue to helm drive-in fare and episodic TV until his untimely death in 1989.

Reportedly shot in 13 days for under $100,000 (and making $13 million at the box office), RUN ANGEL RUN stars Smith as Angel (short for Angelo) who sells out his fellow bikers by exposing tales of the lifestyle to Like magazine for $10,000. Since his mug is featured on the cover of the tabloid, everyone on two wheels is after his ass. He and his woman (Valerie Starrett, the director's wife), who is a part-time prostitute and go-go dancer, want to make a decent life for themselves, so they end up escaping from San Francisco and hiding out in northern California.

Making their way onto a train's boxcar, where some would-be hobo rapists are subdued by the intimidating Angel, the couple wind up in a small secluded house, are constantly bickering while trying to grasp domesticated bliss, and Angel gets a job as a handyman at a nearby sheep farm. The older man he works for, Dan Fenton (Dan Kemp), is a former cycle enthusiast who becomes a sort of father figure for Angel. But soon a quartet of outlaw riders (led by Gene Shane from THE VELVET VAMPIRE) are hot on Angel's tail, and when Kemp's teenage daughter comes home bloodied, raped and comatose, all hell breaks loose.

This may seem like routine stuff, and Starrett gets caught up with some of the hokier, melodramatic aspects (his drive-in efforts would become increasingly more over-the-top), but this is essential viewing for biker film collectors. The theme of the biker exiting his gang was previously explored in THE MINI-SKIRT MOB, and later in ANGEL UNCHAINED, and the rape angle (there are actually two here, basically shown offscreen) was seen in such cycle films as THE BORN LOSERS and Solomon's own ANGELS FROM HELL. The awesome presence of Smith as well as the lovely Valerie Starrett keep things enjoyable, and blonde Margaret Markov (BLACK MAMA, WHITE MAMA) plays the teenage daughter in a very early role. Her cult appeal is undeniable, though she seems to have dropped off the face of the earth after the mid 70s. Country legend Tammy Wynette provides the inappropriate but melodic theme song, and the upbeat soundtrack is by the ever popular Stu Phillips (BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS).

Media Blasters' DVD of RUN ANGEL RUN apparently utilizes an old transfer seen on previous VHS releases. If they had gone back to the original elements, this would've looked as good as the biker titles in MGM's "Midnite Movies" series, but no cigar here. The full frame transfer is passable with some grain, OK colors and a number of scenes that appear too dark. To make matters worse, the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio can be witnessed in the hard-matted split screen and multi-screen segments (some the film's highlights), and the rest of the show of course is open matte and full frame and looks out of wack. The mono audio is a bit old-sounding but serviceable.

Joe Bob Briggs introduces the film (optional) and also provides a commentary track. Briggs' commentary is actually very entertaining, giving a lot of information about the lead star, the director and the others involved, while humorously pointing out the film's shortcomings, including Smith's ridiculously phony moustache (which disappears midway), a dangerous stunt that reveals two totally different motorcycles acting as one, and a sappy beachside love scene. There also a number of U.S. TV spots and trailers for the film, as well as French and German release trailers. Rounding out the extras are trailers for other titles in Media Blasters' "Guilty Pleasures" DVD line. (George R. Reis)