Angel, Angel, Down We Go, also known as Cult of the Damned, is a doozy of a head trip. I can’t even describe the plot, and won’t even try since none of it makes any sense and none of it feels consequential, but I can say it’s worth a glance. Don’t let my low star rating fool you, this isn’t a “good” movie by any stretch, or an even liberally applied use of the word, but it is really something.
I mean, this is a film that gives us the chance to see the former Saint Bernadette declare, “I made 30 stag films and I never faked an orgasm!” Trust me, this is more than enough of a reason to sit back and watch this thing. Jones goes for broke as she disregards the craft of acting in favor of spitting out her bizarre lines with venom and a heavy slur. It’s a hysterical piece of acting, and a bit like watching Gloria Grahame (another Oscar winner who burned out fast) slumming it in Z-grade horror schlock.
Angel, Angel, Down We Go appears to be taking place within the id of its central character, Tara Nicole Street (Holly Near), the chubby teenage daughter of Jones’ grand lady and potently homosexual father (Charles Aidman). In-between narrative beats there are collages of old movie star faces, the characters, and paintings that provide bold underlines to the aggression on display, as if it needed more. It’s hard to know what exactly is true, what’s a hallucination, what’s just blatant fakery as we first meet Tara in voiceover giving a whitewashing and heavily-edited variation of her personal history. It’s just easy to see that all of it is provided at maximum volume to be confrontational.
Throw in weird diversions such psychedelic pop/rock songs from the Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil songwriting team, a strange obsession with skydiving, the sight and theme of Hollywood eating its own, generational conflict, and the presence of Lou Rawls and Roddy McDowall to express weird jargon about black identity and homosexuality for no reason, and you’ll get close to an approximation of what watching this is like. Maybe a large in-take of substances would make it all have some semblance of sanity, but I somehow doubt it. It’s a happening and a freak out, often in violent collision with each other, and appears to relish its own sense of camp throughout. This doesn’t mean it’s a good movie, but it’s a fascinatingly awful one.