Two-Gun Lady

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“An old-school Western delivers a very pleasant surprise.”

Trick-shot artist Kate Masters (Castle) comes to a remote town with her show, raising suspicions among locals, who suspect she’s more than she seems. They are led by Jud Ivers (McDonald) and his family, who rule the area with an iron grip. This 1955 B-movie (in the original sense – it’s only 71 minutes long) crams plenty in, with almost everyone having secrets, good or bad. Castle makes a fine heroine, exuding strength but ultimately vulnerable, and is matched by the rest of the cast. Particular credit to McDonald, and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s mother, Barbara Turner, in her movie debut as Jenny Ivers; both bring depth to what could be one-dimensional characters.

This certainly has predictable elements (the fate of Jenny’s lamb is inevitable), yet punches surprisingly above its weight, with exchanges such as the following, on the nature of frontier justice:
    “You the sheriff?
    “No. Just the law…”
It does drag in the middle, thanks to a tedious subplot involving a US Marshal (Talman) out to get the Ivers clan, which reached its nadir in a very dull horse chase. There’s also a very odd part where Marie Windsor walks into a scene she’s not involved in, and leaps back, visibly startled – how that take stayed in the film beats me. But the finale, pitting Masters against the fastest gun in town, is very nicely staged, and will likely bring animal lovers everywhere to their feet.

Most remarkably of all, our 18-year old son, more used to Buffy and Alias, sat and watched this b&w Western, made three decades before he was born. And we weren’t even in the room. Praise, indeed.

Dir: Richard Bartlett
Star: Peggy Castle, William Talman, Ian McDonald, Marie Windsor

High-Heeled Punishers

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“All men are rapist scum. Now, once again, here are our titties.”

short0117This resembles an adult version of Cat’s Eye, an 80’s manga which became an anime series, and eventually (1997) also a live-action film. Both feature a trio of ladies with a fondness for tight costumes, who run a cafe by day, while engaging in unusual overtime work. In Cat’s Eye, it was robbery; here, it’s punishing rapists, lechers, etc. in painful, genital-related ways. And, of course, two local policemen patronise the cafe, blithely oblivious to the extra-curricular activities of the trio, who leave a calling-card of a stilletto on their victims, and are known as the “High-Heeled Cats”. [The title above, which it’s generally called, seems to be a Video Search of Miami invention.]

It’s strangely schizoid: largely light-hearted, yet including some downright nasty sexual assaults, and the anti-chauvinist message of the heroines is diluted by their dressing, undressing and showering at every opportunity. [I suspect this is the main purpose of the feature, especially since they can’t fight for toffee.] When they cross a Yakuza boss, he uncovers their secret identities and kidnaps one while on a delivery run. It’s up to her friends, aided by the cops, to save the day. After a brisk start, there are few surprises here – subtitles are largely superfluous – though some “vengeances” extracted by the girls are imaginative. This falls some way short of being enough to sustain a feature, and how much you get out of this is possibly linked to your interest in masochism.

Dir: Takashi Kodami
Star: Misuzu Saiki, Manami Morimura, Minori Sonoda (The D-Cats)

Bikini Bandits: Freeze, Motherfu***rs!

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“More is less. Much less.”

Bandits started as a hugely popular short – confusingly, titled Episode 7 – on Atomfilms.com. Its success led Grasse to churn out a number of extremely loosely-connected ‘sequels’ (also on this DVD), as well as 50-minute feature (sold separately) The Bikini Bandits Experience, featuring the late Dee Dee Ramone and Corey Feldman. The basic idea is grand, and is established in the original short, where bikini-clad, gun-toting babes rob a convenience store (which stocks some beautifully surreal imaginary products, not the least of which is ‘Beef Flaps’), kidnap a clerk, and lasciviously kill him. It is politically incorrect on almost every conceivable level, and on its own, is an undeniable guilty pleasure of the highest level.

Unfortunately, the rest of the series is no more than a sequence of tired rehashes, shuffling the Bandits into other settings (the desert, an Amish community, 1776), and there is no sense of development, progression or innovation at all. What was initially trashy fun becomes pointless through repetition – the final entry, Bikini Bandits Under the Big Top is just woeful. Grasse’s lurid directional style, which also packed a wallop for the first five-minute chunk, is one-note to the point of inducing a headache – I dread to think what the long version of Experience would do. It may be unique, but it’s still sad to see such a fine concept flushed down the tubes so relentlessly. And yes, that’s exactly how the title appears on the sleeve.

Dir: Steve Grasse
Star: Heather McDonnell, Heather-Victoria Ray, Cynthia Diaz, Betty San Luis

The Fabulous Moolah, by Mary Lillian Ellison

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“A living legend proves she’s capable of both kicking and kissing ass.”

It’s ironic that this runs some 90 pages shorter than Chyna’s bio, given that Moolah had almost 50 years of experience before Chyna ever stepped into a ring, and also outlasted the Ninth Wonder, fighting a bout in 2002, on her eightieth birthday. Indeed, Moolah’s upbringing alone – the sole girl among 13 children, whose first marriage was at age fourteen – likely has enough material for a thick volume. Yet, despite wrestling in seven different decades, and multiple reigns as women’s champion over forty-three years, this finally peters out into insignificant sycophancy.

Of course, you expect some of this in any “WWE authorised” book, but the McMahons comes across here as saints, devoid of failings. This is despite Vince reducing the women’s division to a T&A/freak show from its 1998 reappearance, until Lita won the crown in August 2000. It’d have been interesting to hear Moolah’s genuine views on these tawdry gimmicks – in defence, her involvement was never as bad as Mae Young’s – but there’s no chance of that in this book.

This is a shame: its earlier portions provide a real sense of personality, and as a role-model for growing old disgracefully, Moolah’s wonderful. Her apparent belief that she genuinely held the title from 1956-1984, through pure skill, is more touching than plausible (and ‘forgets’ numerous defeats, e.g. a 1968 loss to Yukiko Tomoe in Japan). But generally, this is the grandma every child wants. Her stories ramble and, in all likelihood, are of questionable accuracy, yet that doesn’t make them any less amusing.