Fans of the Resident Evil games may be less than enamored of their tranlation to the big-screen, but the series has been one of the most popular girls-with-guns franchises of the past decade. It has spawned two sequels, which is a damn sight more than most video-game films [or, indeed, action heroines] managed. Been a while since I watched the original, but if you have, you’ll likely get a kick out of this month’s Youtube offering, which condenses the entire movie into less than three minutes.
“So bad, it’s borderline painful – yet we will remember this, albeit for all the wrong reasons.”
Let me be perfectly clear: one of the above stars is purely for entertainment value, since this is one of those movies which is so bad as to become enjoyable, purely on that level. There is hardly an aspect of this film which is not badly-executed: the script is badly thought-out, the performances are almost without exception woeful, and the continuity has to be among the worst of all time. One actress goes from a colored top and no bra, to a bra, to a white top and no bra, in successive scenes, while another enters a pool in a bikini, comes out topless, and five second later has the top back on and is dry. We laughed like drains, I tell you. Oh, you want the plot? Mousy scientist Helen (Kitchen) is trying to find a brain chemical that will unleash humanity’s psychic powers, using imprisoned serial-killer Horn (Marks) as her source. Even though the resulting chemical is green and glowing, in a way not seen since Re-Animator, she decides to test it on herself. This unleashes her alter-ego, Cassandra, who embarks on a plot to enslave mankind to her will. It’s up to her assistant Gary (Klitzner), along with a homicide detective (Rivers) to stop her.
Where to start? Kitchen is about the least-appalling thing the film has to offer, struggling bravely with two roles so under-developed that an Oscar nominee would have problems making them watchable, and occasionally manages to look like something other than a low-rent Xena. We’re convinced Klitzner is gay, which makes his success with just about every one of the laideez in this film, utterly implausible. Meanwhile, Marks’ psychopath chews scenery at a fearsome rate, making the later works of Anthony Perkins a masterpiece of understated subtlety in comparison. Our son strolled in while we were watching this, and was quite taken with Rivers [right, bottom] and her breasts – at that moment, being unveiled for his pleasure. He gave the breasts two enthusiastic thumbs-up, but then, he didn’t stick around for the rest of the movie. Score one for the wisdom of youth there.
It should be entirely clear which series the distributors of Dark Queen are hoping you’ll mistake their film for an entry in. In reality, this is not fit to lick Natasha Henstridge’s boots; it’s really much closer to Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, yet as such, is still a dismal failure – that whirring sound you hear is Robert Louis Stevenson spinning in his grave. However, even as it fails on just about every cinematic level, fans of bad cinema may find this has its merits. However, even there, it may still divide opinions: I had rather more fun with this than Chris [she, on the other hand, liked the midget-vampire movie, Ankle Biters, which I found almost unwatchable]. You can certainly sense where they were aiming with this; however, the execution is, frankly, so awful as to drain any potential from it, almost entirely.
Dir: Ken LaVan
Star: Tian Kitchen, Sean Klitzner, Michael Marks, Sheyenne Rivers
“Despite the director, nothing memorable in this quickie.”
While Corman is better known now as a producer of schlock-horror, he has tried his hand at just about every genre in his time. This was his last stab at the Western, with Garland playing Rose Hood, who takes over as the marshal of Oracle, after her husband is gunned down. However, she incurs the wrath of local saloon-owner Erica Page (Hayes, best known for the title role in Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman), who is running a property-acquisition scheme, based on her hopes for the railroad to come to town. She brings hired killer Cane Miro (Ireland) up from Tombstone, only for him to fall for his intended victim, who is unaware of his mission. Which is surprising, since he is dressed from head to toe in black – even at age seven, when I used to watch The Virginian with my father, I knew this indicated an utterly irredeemable nature.
Garland and Hayes are generally decent enough, but the dialogue, especially between Rose and Cane, is painful to listen to. It’s clear the writers are aiming for wittily romantic banter, and fail miserably, on every level. Shot in seven days, Corman didn’t even let Hayes breaking her arm, falling off a horse, stop the shoot – he filmed some closeups while they waited for an ambulance. Hey, it’s not like the actress was going anywhere. While both Garland and Hayes are fine in their roles, none of the potentially transgressive elements here are exploited, and the poverty-row aspects are so painfully obvious as to be a distraction.
The film does finally get a certain momentum going in the final reel, where all the forces in the town end up gunning each other down; viewers, by that stage, may have resorted to looking for whatever entertainment can be found on their mobile phones. Cult favourite Dick Miller briefly appears as the Pony Express rider, and three years later, Garland would become one of the first TV action heroines, as undercover cop Casey Jones in Decoy. This film, however, would go on to get torn a new one by MST3K during their fifth season; that is likely a significantly better source of entertainment.
Dir: Roger Corman
Star: Beverly Garland, John Ireland, Allison Hayes, Jonathan Haze