Matty thinks Retromedia’s swanky new disc of Gary Graver’s salacious shocker is well worth picking up.
Having already revamped his award-winning hardcore epic Trinity Brown (1984) as the Cannon-distributed thriller Roots of Evil (1992), Gary Graver elected to retool his 1973 sexploitation flick And When She Was Bad… for more mainstream consumption, remaking it as ANGEL EYES (1993).
Of course, I say ‘mainstream’. As exec producer Fred Olen Ray describes it in the vintage Nite Owl Theatre segment housed on this welcome Blu-ray release, the lip-smackingly tacky Angel Eyes is a film about “big tits, gangsters, and, erm, big tits”, and an earthy fascination with sex and the female form occupies the bulk of its brisk eighty-two minute duration. Packed to the gills with numerous scenes of softcore hide the sausage, the mighty Monique Gabrielle stars as the titular Angel — a lethal Lolita who goes all Poison Ivy (1992) on her former step-dad (John Phillip Law) and his new squeeze (XXX goddess Rachel ‘Raven’ Vickers).
An even split between erotic domestic drama, crime potboiler, and scuzzy psycho horror, it’s the latter strokes that resound the most. Delivered with Graver’s patented hard-cut style and pitched with his usual sense of mounting, poker-faced hysteria, the scenes in which Gabrielle goes or is implied to go loco drip with a ragged yet brilliantly icky seaminess that really gets under your skin — specifically, a stalk n’ slash open on a rural estate and beautifully orchestrated among billowing bedsheets, and a lurid sex-murder that takes place by the fire. The rest of the eminently watchable Angel Eyes is a fun romp despite a few issues with Graver’s self-penned script. Compared to the dramatic complexities of And When She Was Bad…, the pre-existing tensions between Law and Raven’s characters don’t amount to much but the two of them make for an interesting chalk n’ cheese pairing, and a game Erik Estrada merrily gurns his way towards whatever pay packet Graver and producers Jeffrey B. Mallian and Steve Armogida were offering him as the film’s otherwise completely one-dimensional loan shark baddie. The standout performer, though, is Gabrielle. The Deathstalker II (1987) babe is the wild and wacky spirit of Angel Eyes in a nutshell, unleashing a bracing and truly oddball turn that swings from childlike kook to deranged nymphomaniac — often within the same breath, and frequently accompanied by Chuck Cirino’s creepy, nursery chime score. Several Graver and Ray stock players round out the cast, including: Hoke Howell, Suzanne Ager, Richard Harrison, and Robert Quarry, whose cameo seems to indicate that it was shot at the same time as his appearance in Ray’s Graver-lensed Inner Sanctum II (1994) (same location, different costume).
Originally issued on VHS by Atlantic Releasing in the U.S. and Colourbox here in the U.K., Angel Eyes first surfaced on DVD via Ray’s own Retromedia in July 2001. Retromedia’s new Blu-ray, which is available now through J.R. Bookwalter’s MakeFlix, is essentially a fancy-pants update and ports over remastered versions of the DVD’s extras: Angel Eyes’ nifty trailer; a minute long blooper reel; the aforementioned Nite Owl Theatre introduction; and a selection of genuinely funny Nite Owl Theatre gaffes that are basically Ray flubbing his lines and swearing his head off whenever he does so. Given how Ray is among the best talkers in the business, the absence of a commentary is a little disappointing, but the late, great Graver is represented by the inclusion of an archival ‘Gary Graver Remembers’ featurette. Previously available on Retromedia’s Lon Chaney Jr. Collection DVD from 2006, the eleven minute to-camera piece doesn’t pertain to Angel Eyes but who the hell cares? A charismatic and much-missed presence, it’s just an absolute joy seeing and hearing Graver reminisce about his work with Chaney and Al Adamson, and it offers a pleasing insight into the maestro’s infectious ‘get me to the set’ attitude.
Tech-wise, Angel Eyes is presented with a hearty 2.0 sound mix and, visually, it’s absolutely astounding. Vibrant, snazzy, and teeming with hitherto unseen detail, it’s tough to describe Retromedia’s stunning 4K tart-up without resorting to cliché. Quite simply, Angel Eyes has never looked better.