The Killing Club

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“Girl-power, through accidental death and penguins.”

When Jamie (Bowen) accidentally kills her unpleasant boyfriend, it seems her life is over. Luckily, the first person on the scene is Laura (Lords), a latent psychopath who seizes the chance to fulfill her lifelong ambition: killing men who treat women badly. As she says, “Ridding the world of irredeemable men is what I was born to do.” Neither Jamie nor the third initiate into their little secret, Arlene (Maxey), are quite as enthusiastic, but despite this, Laura sets to work with a vengeance, and things start spiralling out of control.

As a black comedy, this works pretty well, even if it’s more a mid-grey than true black; it tries to have its cake and still keep Jamie sympathetic. The necessary convolutions weaken things substantially, and you can’t go at the genre anything less than full-throttle. There is one glorious moment, involving penguins, which reaches the necessary level of dark absurdity; otherwise, Lords is the only one to grab onto her part and go for it with the necessary gusto. She delivers even the most banal lines, such as ordering food in a diner, with remarkable zest, though I leave readers to consider the irony inherent in a former underage porn starlet playing someone out to kill abusive men…

And, make no mistake: the men here are shallow and loathsome. I think writer Amy Kiehl (who cameos as a waitress) must have had some very bad experiences with the male sex; one character goes from his introduction, to us yelling, “Die! Die!” at the TV, to his demise in under five minutes. If why Jamie hasn’t genuinely murdered her boyfriend is never explained, a certain amount of comedic exaggeration is par for the course in this kind of film. It’s a pleasant diversion, rather than anything more or less satisfactory.

Dir: Antoni Stutz
Star: Julie Bowen, Traci Lords, Dawn Maxey, Neal McDonough
a.k.a. You’re Killing Me

Annie Oakley

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“One of the first TV action heroines; for 50 years old, better than you might expect.”

This TV series was Gene Autry’s idea; he wanted to give little girls a western star of their own, and created a show based on the character of Oakley, the most famous sharpshooter of all time. In his version, she lives in Diablo with her brother Tagg (Hawkins) and keeps the town safe along with deputy Lofty Craig (Johnson) – the sheriff, Annie’s uncle Luke, was somehow very rarely around… It ran for 81 episodes from January 1954 to February 1957; two DVDs, with five first season stories on each, have been released by Platinum –  you can get the box set of both for $5.99, which is a steal.

Given its age, it’s no surprise that this is certainly a little hokey, but is by no means unwatchable. The writers cram a lot into each 25-minute episode, and Oakley is a sharp-witted heroine, in most ways years ahead of the usual portrayal of women (though still afraid of mice!) – she’d probably be a better deputy than Lofty! It certainly helped that Davis, a mere 5’2″, was a skilled rider herself, and did most of her own stunts. However, this being a 50’s TV show, there are limits. Annie never kills anyone, preferring to shoot the gun from their hand, while fisticuffs are left to Lofty, though at least one ep (Annie and the Lily Maid) has an unexpected mini-catfight.

Perhaps the best episode on the DVDs is Justice Guns, where an ex-marshal with failing sight seeks revenge on the man who shot his brother. Annie has to try and solve the situation, and while you know she will survive, the lawman’s fate is much less certain as the four o’clock shootout approaches. In a series that is, even I will admit, often sugary and predictable, this has genuine tension, and that’s something which five decades haven’t changed one bit.

Star: Gail Davis, Brad Johnson, Jimmy Hawkins

Exorsister

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“Not so much ass-kicking, as ass-licking…”

exorsisterDo not, under any circumstances, confuse with the similarly-titled episode of The Simpsons where Lisa gets possessed by the spirit of Madonna. Because this is basically a live-action version of infamous tentacle-porn series, Legend of the Overfiend. Just what the world needs, you’re probably thinking, but compared to most of the genre, Overfiend had an epic sprawl to go along its obscene imagination, and with modern FX, there’s no reason it couldn’t be done. [Shouldn’t, perhaps…] They could make the heroine as cool as the one here: a motorbike-riding, cigarillo-smoking huntress with a wide-brimmed hat and a switchblade crucifix, taking on demons whose means of entry to Earth involves schoolgirls and sex.

Unfortunately, this fails on two counts. Firstly, the minor, largely forgivable matter of budget; instead of tentacles, for example, we get what appear to be vacuum-cleaner hoses on strings. If you can’t afford to stage interdimensional battles…don’t. Secondly, the lengthy sequences of hardcore (even with the pixillation of genitals required in Japan), for this is, first and foremost, a porn flick, make no mistake about that; I should perhaps mention, the schoolgirls are all clearly in their 20’s. This is simply dull, bringing the film to a grinding halt for about half the running-time, which is a shame; there’s enough imagination to suggest the idea has potential.

I believe four episodes were made. The second is supposed to be the best, and it’s in our unwatched pile, though I think part one has already tried Chris’s patience sufficiently for this week! Nakano also went on to make Sumo Vixens, starring Kei (Weather Woman) Mizutani, which (unlike the Exorsister series) has received an official American release, and would appear to be exactly what it sounds like.

Dir: Takao Nakano
Star: Karin Tsuji, Kaoru Nishida, Kazuki Taniguchi