La Femme Musketeer

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“The Four Musketeers: The Next Generation.”

While not the first film to give D’Artagnan a daughter – the fairly self-explanatory D’Artagnan’s Daughter got there a decade before, with Sophie Marceau in the role – this is still entertaining enough, though at 171 minutes, probably too long. Valentine (Amy) heads to Paris to join the King’s guards, only to find herself framed for murder after coming into possession of a letter that could bring down the monarch. Fortunately, the other Musketeers also had children who followed in their father’s footsteps, so she has help as she tries to thwart the evil plans of Cardinal Mazarin (Depardieu) and his henchman Villeroi (Pirae).

If its origins as a two-part TVM are largely apparent, there’s enough fun to be mined from the experience here to keep things going, not least Michael York reprising the role of D’Artagnan, which he played in the 70’s classic movies. Their offspring are similarly nicely-drawn caricatures, and Amy has a feisty quality about her that’s fitting, though quite how she is mistaken for a man escapes me. The film does try to do too much, plotwise; believing the letter isn’t enough to sustain it, the script also throws in a Spanish princess, travelling to Paris to meet with King Louis, and perhaps stop the war between the two countries. This requires much searching of the French countryside [actually, Croatia] and drags things out to no great purpose. On the other hand, the lack of any serious romance to bog things down any further, came as a pleasant surprise.

Amy holds her own in the swordfights, even if Boyum is overly fond of playing with the film speed, and often needs to move the camera back a bit further. We were looking forward to a nice catfight between her and Nastassja Kinski, who plays another one of Mazarin’s minions, with a nice line in poisoned hatpins. Don’t get your hopes up; instead, the climax pits Valentine against Villeroi. The accents on display are also all over the place: Depardieu is the only one who sounds French, obviously – except, his character is actually Italian! If you can cope with that, and the inherently nonsensical nature of the central concept, you should be okay with this.

Dir: Steve Boyum
Star: Susie Amy, Marcus Jean Pirae, GĂ©rard Depardieu, Casper Zafer

She-Wolves of the Wasteland

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“After the apocalypse, civilization will collapse. Fortunately, off-road vehicles and hair-care products will remain in abundant supply.”

I remember seeing this under its original title back in the 1990’s, and being unimpressed by it then. Fooled into acquiring it on DVD under its new name, time has not been kind to this distaff version of Mad Max. Phoenix (Kinmont) finds herself taking care of Keela (Sanders), who is pregnant with a male child – a rarity, in a world which, thanks to biological war, is populated almost entirely by women. Overseeing things is the Reverend Mother (Howard) and her sidekick Cobalt (Khambatta), who are intent on keeping control. And, boy, can they hold a grudge, since Keela goes from utterly flat, to giving birth, to being the mother of a kid at least four years old, in the space of about two minutes cinematically. Not quite sure what the villains are doing during this time: presumably ruling over an empire populated entirely by extras from a Duran Duran video,

This is feeble, in just about every way imaginable. The action is laughably inept, the script makes no sense at all, and the production values are entirely unconvincing. The actresses, bless their hearts, try to do the best they can, but Meryl Streep would be hard pushed to deliver the dialogue they’re given here. The makers throw in an entirely gratuitous waterfall sequence to provide the nudity the leads presumably wouldn’t do, and while there are occasional aspects that show imagination was not entirely absent [the tribe inspired by a cargo cult of television], these are few and far between. Despite one of the most inspired covers in recent history – almost worth the price of this budget DVD by itself – I struggled to remain conscious after the first 20 minutes. Even for devoted fans of badfilm such as ourselves, this is tough to handle.

Dir: Robert Hayes
Star: Kathleen Kinmont, Persis Khambatta, Peggy Sanders, Sheila Howard
a.k.a. Phoenix the Warrior

Princess of Thieves

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“The Middle Ages – sanitized, for your protection.”

Back before Pirates of the Caribbean made Knightley a household name, and even before Bend It Like Beckham made her an obscure name, as a fifteen-year old she shot this Disney TVM, which rewrites history wholesale from the very start. It begins in 1184, claiming this is the reign of Richard the Lionheart – this must come as a surprise to Henry II, since he didn’t die until 1189. It also introduces Philip, Richard’s supposed illegitimate son, out to replace the evil King John; in reality, Philip may not have existed and certainly left no mark on history. However, the film needs a romantic lead, so there you go. Of course, the whole Robin Hood mythology is more a block of clay, that writers and film-makers have seen fit to mould as they wish.

Here, when Robin is arrested trying to link up with Philip (Moyer), it’s his daughter, Gwyn (Knightley), who puts together her own band of merry men, with the aim of both rescuing her father and putting Philip in his rightful place on the throne. Archery contests and the Sheriff of Nottingham (McDowell) ensue, until Philip, under an assumed name, joins her posse, and the inevitable romantic attraction begins. This is much to the chagrin of Froderick (Synnott), Gwyn’s longtime companion from when she grew up in a monastery [her dad being off crusading with Dick]. However, since he has a crap haircut, it’s clear Frodork doesn’t have a chance with the perfectly-complexioned Gywn and her immaculate teeth.

It is largely bland, unthreatening and unsatisfying, yet not entirely unwatchable. Knightley – only 15 when she made it – clearly has star potential, and her archery experience must have come in handy for her later role in King Arthur. Early on, there is an almost Mulan-like feel, with Gwyn defying her father and dressing as a boy. However, the more the film proceeds, the more she is shuffled off to the side in favor of Philip, who is much less interesting a character, especially from this site’s point of view. McDowell is as reliably evil as ever, while Jonathan Hyde does his best Alan Rickman impression as King John, yet, inevitably, comes off as a poor imitation. If this isn’t worth paying money for, as a Saturday afternoon diversion on TV, it’s tolerable.

Dir: Peter Hewitt
Star: Keira Knightley, Stephen Moyer, Malcolm McDowell, Del Synnott