Angel, Angel, Down We Go (1969)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Family Drama, Showbiz Drama  |   Run Time - 93 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Donald Guarisco

To call Angel, Angel, Down We Go "confrontational" would be an understatement. The story, which seems to be loosely inspired by Pier Paolo Pasolini's Teorema, is essentially an angry arthouse film disguised as a late-1960's teen exploitation flick. Robert Thom's script seethes with hostility, presenting a series of characters who constantly shoot verbal darts at each other or themselves as the story surrounding them grows ever more claustrophobic and surreal. Thom's direction has a similarly aggressive approach, using a fractured editing style and relentlessly fast pacing to jangle the nerves of the audience. He rarely lets up on his viewers but is capable of the occasional quietly haunting flourish when the mood strikes him: the best is a moment where the heroine slowly descends a staircase and passes through an oblivious group of partygoers, set to an ominous psychedelic drone. The performances live up to the hysteria of the material by taking an equally over-the-top approach: Holly Neardelivers a fearless turn as the self-destructive heroine, Jordan Christopher mounts an assault on the viewer's senses as the film's jive-talking dark messiah of a villain and Jennifer Jones unleashes a startling amount of venom as the self-absorbed, Joan Crawford-esque mother of the heroine. Also worthy of note is the song score by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, which mixes tuneful psychedelic pop with the darkest of lyrical sentiments. The end result is both kitschy and nihilistic, which ensures the only the hardiest of cult-film fanatics will be able to appreciate this film, but Angel, Angel, Down We Go is a trip worth taking for the cinematically adventurous.