“Almost 30 years later – despite binders full of women – this is still politically advanced for its day.
This made for TV movie first aired in January 1984, and was likely fairly topical at the time, with Geraldine Ferraro then on her way to becoming the VP behind Walter Mondale. It’s still just her and Sarah Palin as far as major party tickets in American history go. Her candidacy is foreshadowed by this piece of masculine paranoia. Stowe plays Dr. Sharon Fields, a doctor who is sued for malpractice after her hospital patient, a leading Congressman, had an unexpected psychotic episode, which leads to him playing in traffic. She finds a series of similar deaths linked by trace elements found in autopsies, all of men, whose deaths benefit women, in general or specifically. Turns out they are assassinations, carried out to the orders of an ancient, matriarchal cult: they now have their eye set on the leading presidential candidate – who just happens to have picked a woman as his running mate.
It’s an impressive cast. As well as Stowe (now lording it over the rich and famous as the matriarch in guilty pleasure Revenge), there’s Stevens as cult member Kathryn Lundquist, and Dobson as Rosalund Joseph, another hospital worker – the two faced off previously, in Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold – while Scalia plays the cop whom Fields has to try to convince. Behind the cameras, the cinematography is by Dean Cundey, who did the Back to the Future trilogy, The Thing and, er, Ilsa, Harem-Keeper of the Oil Sheiks; the music is from Basil Poledouris (Robocop); and it’s the directorial debut, outside the series, of Starsky [as in “…and Hutch”], three years before he did The Running Man. Solid stuff, and from a technical level, this makes for a pretty decent TVM, both in performances and production values.
However, the concept and the script appear nothing more than a Robin Cook medi-thriller laced with a large helping of delusional male chauvinist nonsense, portraying women – and, in particular, those who want to achieve political, social or economic power – as literal man-haters, who have absolutely no qualms about poisoning or killing by other means, any man unfortunate enough to get in their way. Admittedly, it’s not carried out with the level of hysteria one might think; in some ways, it’s fairly sympathetic to the Amazons. But it makes little or no sense (I mean, this cult has been around for thousands of years and has achieved exactly what?), and there’s no detectable irony, despite the absolute daftness of the central concept. Surely the eighties weren’t as naive as all that? Actually, looking at the hairstyles and fashions on view here, I think they were.
Dir: Paul Michael Glaser
Star: Madeleine Stowe, Jack Scalia, Stella Stevens, Tamara Dobson