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  Angel, Angel, Down We Go It's Not The Fall That Kills You
Year: 1969
Director: Robert Thom
Stars: Jennifer Jones, Jordan Christopher, Holly Near, Lou Rawls, Charles Aidman, Davey Davison, Roddy McDowall, Marty Brill, Danielle Aubry
Genre: Drama, Trash, MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: No matter what anyone says, teenage heiress Tara Nicole Steele (Holly Near) simply cannot believe that her millionaire father is a homosexual, despite the fact she stumbled upon him in a shower with another man when she was a little girl. And neither can she accept that her mother made pornographic films when she was younger, but she does wonder if she has had a good enough upbringing and if it wasn't for all the money she is due whether anyone would give her the time of day. She is self-conscious about her weight, and sometimes makes halfhearted suicide attempts, but as her coming out party is happening soon, surely all that will change?

If you thought Lana Turner suffered indignities in The Big Cube, or that Joan Crawford was cinematically humiliated for most of the sixties, then that was nothing compared to what Jennifer Jones went through as the mother in Angel, Angel, Down We Go. The fading screen star mounted a comeback in this would-be vital and relevant movie which didn't even look too clever at the time it was released, notably failing to make many waves other than among those few who saw it and probably couldn't believe what they were seeing - and hearing, as Jen is given lines like "I made thirty stag movies and never faked an orgasm!"

Needless to say, nobody in this came out of it looking especially good, which was mildly surprising as the screenwriter and director Robert Thom had written a pretty good cult movie on a satirical note about the youth culture of the late sixties in Wild in the Streets, which goes to show how you can be ingenious one year, way out of it the next as far as creativity goes. Mind you, he had also written The Legend of Lylah Clare, a camp classic of farcical proportions just prior to making this, his only film as director, so it's not as if it arrived from out of the blue. Yet Lylah Clare is probably more enjoyable than Angel, Angel, even though it does the same thing in humiliating a big but past it movie star (Kim Novak in the previous film).

You could say this was of its time, and certainly there is nobody making stuff like this in the twenty-first century, but perhaps it wasn't quite as negligable in its day as some might have hoped because at the time it came out, the Manson Family murders hit the headlines which in an uncomfortable twist of fate had an echo here. So much so that when it flopped, it was rereleased under the title Cult of the Damned with an advertising campaign tastelessly playing up the similarities in the plot, which were not quite as obvious as the producers seemed to think: whatever, it flopped again. Yes, there is a charismatic cult leader in the film, but he's rock star Bogart Peter Stuyvesant (yes, that is his name, and he's played by Jordan Christopher), and he doesn't send his followers on a killing spree, although there is a death at the end of the movie.

What you get is a succession of would-be way out scenes which illustrate that taking too many drugs is a great way of ending up with a headache. Tara is introduced to Bogart at her party, and he whisks her away in his sports car to seduce her, though we can tell he has ulterior motives - you might think he's after her money, but he seems more intent on bringing her family to its knees. He introduces Tara to LSD, which puts her up on the ceiling in one bizarre part, and seduces Astrid, her mother, as well, the point being that it does not take much to tip wealthy America over the edge into chaos. There is also an emphasis on skydiving, seeing as how Tara is a pilot, but there are aims at trendy targets of the day, such as the civil rights movement (soul man Lou Rawls opines on the subject as one of the gang) and the Vietnam War (somehow they've avoided the draft - Roddy McDowall's character has a monologue about being too sexual for the army). You pretty much have the measure of this after half an hour, so it's the hardiest of viewers who makes it to the end, but that finale is crazy enough to be worth the wait, no matter how woozy the rest of it is. Music by Fred Karger.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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