Angel of H.E.A.T.

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“That whirring sound you hear is Andy Sidaris, spinning in his grave.”

After some hi-tech computer chips go missing, government agents Samantha (Woronov) and Mark (Johnson) are assigned to go undercover at the electronics plant. But also investigating is Angel Harmony (porn star Chambers), with whom Samatha has crossed swords before, and #1 agent one of a group called The Protectors, “international vigilantes, outlaws in the service of peace and freedom” as the introductory title card calls them. Eventually teaming up, they discover the missing chips were only the tip of an iceberg created by a thoroughly-mad scientist (Jesse), who is planning to use high-pitched sound and his army of androids (which have, charitably, been given sex drives!) to take over the world and… Oh, y’know: the usual mad scientist stuff, I guess.

This is, to be charitable, total bollocks, right from a title sequence, which features Chambers doing nekkid kung-fu in fluorescent strobing, while a lounge singer warbles a song that gives a bad name to elevator music. However, it just about manages to skate by on the charisma of the two leading ladies and, when he eventually shows up, Jesse, who chews the scenery to such an extent that it’s actually fun. However, there’s neither enough thought put into the thin script, nor effort put into the execution, to make it successful: instead, you’ll be rolling your eyes at some aspects, such as the really bad post-production explosion, when a speedboat inexplicably blows up after running into a buoy. Intended as the first in a series – it’s introduced as “Book #1” – you can see exactly why it was one and done instead.

Obviously, it’s not intended to be taken seriously. That’s made clear by the ninja, played by another porn star, the obviously Caucasian Randy West, who speaks badly-accented English captioned in English, written in a Japanese font; while an actual Asian plays kung-fu master “Hans Zeisel”, who sounds exactly like his name suggests. But the gulf between “funny” and “trying way too hard to be funny, and failing miserably,” is largely where this resides, along with clunkily obvious product placement for a casino location and, for no readily apparent reason, lengthy mud-wrestling footage. However, as noted, Woronov and Chambers keep it just about watchable: if you’ve seen David Cronenberg’s Rabid, you’ll know Chambers can hold her own as an actress, and Woronov could do this kind of thing in her sleep. And, apparently, did here. A curio, of interest only if your sensibilities are feeling in a fairly generous mood.

Joan the Woman

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“The first action heroine?”

I don’t watch many silent films: it’s such an entirely different experience, obviously, much less driven by dialogue and more by gestures, leading to a style that can look extremely over-theatrical to the modern viewer. My efforts to enjoy the likes of Nosferatu, for example, have usually ended in my providing an accompaniment of snoring, to be honest. This was much better. Despite a running time of over two hours, this 1916 DeMille epic successfully held my interest, as it told the story of Joan of Arc. The framing device uses the then-contemporary World War I, and an English soldier (Reid) finds Joan’s sword in the trenches, the night before a dangerous mission [Interesting how the English are the enemy in the back-story, but the good guys “now” – at the time of release, America was still several months from entering the war, on the British side]. He then experiences a flashback vision, taking him to medieval France, where he is an English soldier saved by Joan (Farrar) in her milkmaid days. We follow her for the story you know, becoming the inspiration for the French army to defeat the English, before her capture, trial for heresy and – I trust I’m not spoiling this – burning at the stake.

Now, don’t expect Joan to go hand-to-hand with the English army here. Still, she’s no nominal figurehead, instead leading her forces from the absolute front, as they break the siege at Orleans. She’s first into the breach, waving the standard to encourage them on, until she takes an arrow in the shoulder. Certainly, there’s no denying her heroic credentials: she’s portrayed as brave and committed to doing the right thing. The film probably does a better job of establishing her as a credible leader than the Luc Besson adaptation: you can see why people would follow her, and it plays the religious elements relatively soft. And the action sequences demonstrate why DeMille’s reputation for epics is well-deserved, with the battle for Orleans impressively-staged, capturing the chaos of war, without needing to resort the the blender-style editing or shaky camerawork, too often seen in modern war movies.

It’s a shame there isn’t more of that. Instead, after Orleans, the rest of her war campaign is covered in a caption, and the film is, understandably, less successful, when it comes to the more talky aspects of her life. In particular, Joan’s trial and incarceration becomes a lengthy sequence of meaningful stares and dramatic flailing. Still, I liked the way it all wrapped around, Joan’s story giving the soldier the courage to go on his mission, though the ending is more mournful than I expected. All told, for something approaching its one-hundredth birthday, this certainly didn’t feel like it, and DeMille deserves credit for laying some foundations for film-makers to come.

Dir: Cecil B. DeMille
Star: Geraldine Farrar, Wallace Reid, Raymond Hatton, Theodore Roberts

Wildcat Women

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“In 3-D! If only the script or characters were…”

This was also released in a hardcore version as Black Lolita, but I’m not sure if that was 3D or not. Certainly, the DVD delivers about the worst such attempt I’ve ever seen. It’s in color, but also attempts the red/green method (glasses very early, and the only thing to be said for them is, they stop you seeing the film, which on the whole, is probably no bad thing. Lolita (Love) decides to team up with an air-stewardess and a yoga instructress to take down the local Mr. Big, who goes by the name Buddha – even though about all he shares with the Enlightened One is being Asian, since he’s neither fat nor pacifist.

This is all merely an excuse for some bad action scenes (despite some very enthusiastic blood-squibbing), and even worse sex scenes – these reach their nadir during a coupling between a scientist and a sexpot who’s only after his bugging device. [Which is about the size of a brick; we thought that was the receiver, until Lolita subsequently tried to place it “inconspicuously” on a table leg!] But it’s clear than none of the ‘actresses’ – and rarely have quotes been used more deliberately – were chosen for their thespian abilities.

It all ends in a fairground, with a shootout that probably doesn’t make much logical sense, but manages to kill off almost everyone in the film. Although, I can’t believe I just used the words “logical sense” in connection with three-dimensional, blaxploitation porn. Oh, well… Our tolerance for bad movies is significant here, but even we found this taxing to sit through. There’s better 3D, better blaxploitation, and better porn out there.

Dir: Eddie Romero
Stars: Yolanda Love, Sandi Carey, Suzi Adams, Joey Ginza