Brianna’s Reprisal, by David Wittlinger

Literary rating: starstarstarstarstar
Kick-butt quotient: action2action2action2

reprisalAlthough this book was just published on Jan. 3, I actually had the privilege of beta reading it last month, so this review is based on that read. (The final text has some minor additions, and a slight re-working of one incident.) This sequel to The Strong One is set about six months after the events of the first book, and our principal setting is Vineland, New Jersey (which is a real city, population 54,800).

Author Wittlinger didn’t originally intend to create a series character in Brianna, but he found her so captivating that he had to explore her story further. That’s an understandable reaction; I noted in my review of the first book that I was invested in her myself, and eager to see more of her personal growth. She’s one of the more interesting characters I’ve encountered in modern fiction, and the author brings her to well-rounded life with impressive skill. Despite her potty mouth, misguided sexual attitudes, and the emotional baggage she carries from a childhood and young womanhood that no human being should have had to suffer through, she has a basic core of kindness and honor, with a gritty pluck and will to better herself, that makes you naturally tend to root for her. The woman she was at the end of the first book had grown significantly from the person she was at the beginning. Her journey will continue in this volume, and it will take her to a crossroads where she has to make a crucial moral choice. How readers will feel about her decision will depend on the person –it’s a thought-provoking dilemma that forces us to put ourselves in her shoes and ponder how we’d react, or how we should. But whether you agree or disagree with her choice, you’re apt to continue to care about her.

The strengths of the first volume ate present here, too: lifelike characterization, well-handled prose, suspense, plotting that’s credible but that has some serious twists and surprises, good handling of action scenes, and considerable evocation of real emotion. While there are still a couple of sex scenes, there’s less explicit sexual content here than in the previous book –though this tale also explores another facet of the slimy underbelly of America’s illicit sexual culture, this time the horrors of human trafficking in sex slaves. (And yes, this goes on in real life in the good ol’ U.S.A.)

IMO, the series should be read in order. This book makes reference to events of the previous one that you won’t really be familiar with without having read it, and to fully understand who Brianna is, you have to follow her development and story arc from the beginning. (Both books are quick, compulsive reads –I read this one in three days.) Neither book ends with anything like a cliffhanger –there’s resolution of the particular events depicted– but both set the stage for a succeeding volume; Brianna’s adventures will be at least a trilogy. I’m committed to following them for the long haul; and if you read this far, I think you will be, too!

Author: David Wittlinger
Publisher: Self-published, available through Amazon, currently only as an e-book.

A version of this review previously appeared on Goodreads.

Battle of the Amazons

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“This world was made for hate, not love.”

amazonsIt’s startling to think that when this came out, this merited not only a theatrical release in the United States, but a review from perhaps the most respected critic of our time, the late Roger Ebert. Needless to say, it didn’t end well for the film, but Ebert tearing apart a film is still fun to read. I particularly liked the line, “There are spears and bows and arrows and swords, which suggests early times, but then again all of the women on both sides are fresh from the hair dryer. They also exhibit impressive technical advances in the art of brassiere-design.” Yeah, welcome to The Magnificent Seven – only set in a vaguely Greco-Roman era, with a tribe of rather vicious Amazons the antagonists.

They live by raiding and plundering local villages, under Queen Eraglia (Love), but after they kill her father, local lass Valeria (Tedesco) has had enough, and rents the service of conveniently-passing bandit Zeno (Tate), to teach the village farmers how to defend themselves. However, the sexual chemstry that flies between Valeria and Zeno fail to impress her betrothed, who convinces a group of village men, that their best chance of survival is to switch sides, reveal details of the defense plans to Eraglia, and hope she sees fit to give them mercy. It turns out though, that he may not be the only snitch present in the town camp, as things proceed towards the entirely expected finale, a lengthy battle pitting the raiding women against the defending agriculturalists.

It’s actually a little darker and possibly somewhat more well-thought out than I expected: the final line of dialogue being the one atop this review, which sprinkles a nice sense of doom and futility over things, and the multiple levels of betrayal are effectively handled. I started watching this on a plane flight to New York, but I think the second topless torture scene was about where I opted to save it for another day, though there really isn’t much else here worse than PG-13 rated. Tedesco makes a good impression as the feisty heroine, and it’s a nice touch to have women effectively leading both sides, though when it comes to the actual fighting, Valeria obviously steps aside for Zeno. Sadly, the Amazons also step aside when the action kicks off, largely being unconvincingly replaced by male stunt doubles in masks and wigs. Valeria acquits herself best there as well, indeed coming to the rescue of her employee in the final face-off. I can’t honestly say I minded the dubbing as much as Roger, and the time passed briskly enough on its way to an appropriately grandiose finale. Though I’m certainly agree with him on one point: I’m not quite sure why the local men made such a fuss about getting kidnapped…

Dir: Alfonso Brescia
Star: Lincoln Tate, Paola Tedesco, Lucretia Love, Mirta Miller

The Big Bad

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“What big eyes you have…”

bigbad1Few things are more irritating than a film where the characters clearly know what’s going on, they just refuse to let the audience in on it, jabbering away to each other in cryptic dialogue that obscures more than it reveals. Not that a movie’s script has to lay everything out from the start, or can’t be subtle. But if you are going to go for an understated approach, this has to be tempered with sufficient well-handled exposition, that the viewer can understand who the players are, and care about them and their role in proceedings as they unfold. It’s here where this falls down, repeatedly. There’s one conversation which ends with the heroine, Frankie Ducane (Gotta), being banged on the head and shoved into the trunk of a car. Who did this? Why? Where is he taking her? None of these questions are ever adequately answered, and I reached the end of the film, with only a vague idea of who Frankie was, or her situation.

As the title hints, and her fondness for swigging shots of liquid silver emphasizes, this is a werewolf movie, with Frankie on the bloody trail of Fenton Bailey (Reynolds), the man responsible for her current situation. There’s an apparent clock running – at one point, we see a notebook with “3 DAYS LEFT” written in important-sized letters, but like so many elements here, its significance is never explained, and there no sense of any particular impetus to the plot resulting from it. Mind you, this is a film which is happy to spend quite a bit of time with Frankie chatting to a girl in a bar – apparently populated entirely through a casting call at the local roller derby bout – in an effort to discover what she knows about Fenton. This probably goes on far longer than necessary, but you have to respect a film which is prepared to let things unfold at their own pace, even if the audience might be tapping pointedly on their wrists and making hurry-up sounds.

What does work, better than the plot, is the atmosphere, feeling like a modern-day version of a Grimm Fairy Tale, with Gotta making a decent enough Red Riding Hood – one more interested in vengeance, than visiting Grandma with a basket of goodies. Frankie’s dagger proves quite an effective equalizer, and proves much needed when she wakes up from her trip in the trunk, to find someone has an eye on her eyes, as it were. This sequence was probably the most effective, in terms of being a modernized legend, even though its relevance is dubious. It’s an infuriating failure as a whole, feeling too much like a short film needlessly stretched to feature length (though at 78 minutes, barely so), without enough thought given to whether it possesses sufficient meat to sustain its running-time.

Dir: Bryan Enk
Star: Jessi Gotta, Jessica Savage, Timothy McCown Reynolds, Alan Rowe Kelly

Bound To Vengeance

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“Bound to disappoint”

boundforvengeanceI’ve been watching horror movies for over 30 years now, and appreciate that a certain amount of idiotic behaviour is to be expected. People will go into cellars. They will stand right beside the apparently-dead body of a masked killer. They will trip over those pesky tree roots. They will split up. That goes with the territory. But this entire film is predicated on a terrible decision which the lead character makes early, then refuses to reconsider, though the results clearly indicate its wrongness and she could change her mind at any time. Eve (Ivlev) has been captured by the psychopathic Phil (Tyson), but lures him into a trap by feigning unconsciousness, bludgeoning him with a brick and chaining hum up in her place. Escaping the house, she finds herself in the middle of nowhere, but gets the keys to the truck. At this point, what absolutely any sensible person would do, is high-tail it out of there, notify the authorities and let them take over.

But then, there’d be no film. Instead, she takes at face value Phil’s claim that he has a number of other houses, also containing kidnapped women [itself, a scenario that begs the question, “Why?” Wouldn’t it make more sense to have one large house with multiple rooms?]. Worse yet, she decides to make him lead her to them, so she can free the other captives. Even after neither the first nor the second go anything like as desired, Eve plunges on, apparently for no better reason than a touching belief that, hey, third time’s the charm. Of course, if she gave up, she (and we) would never find out the connection to her boyfriend (Kjornes), crudely telegraphed by the director through frequent inserts of shaky home-video footage of the two of them, interacting before her abduction. Mind you, nor would it allow for the moral to become “All men are bastards” rather than “This man is a bastard”; as is, there is not a single redeemable male character in the entire thing.

Credit is due for focusing almost entirely on the revenge side of the equation: we know Eve has been through hell by the point we meet her, and Cravioto doesn’t feel the need to have that aspect portrayed at length. Ivlev and Tyson are both decent in their roles, with the former demonstrating a steady growth in personal badassness that is adequately gratifying, and comes to a satisfactory conclusion with one final decision which actually does make sense. It is an enormous shame that everything leading up to the moment is based on a horrendously-flawed concept, which the film doesn’t attempt to acknowledge – hell, the worst genre film is still required to have a scene of someone waving their cellphone around and muttering, “No signal…” Even if some of the other aspects are laudable, as mentioned above, the overall result is irrevocably weakened, and won’t stick in your mind for any good reasons.

Dir: J. M. Cravioto
Star: Tina Ivlev, Richard Tyson. Kristoffer Kjornes
a.k.a. Reversal

Bait

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“Tea and no sympathy.”

baitBex (Smurfit) and Dawn (Mitchell) are partners in a market-stall selling coffee and cake, and have dreams of opening a “proper” coffee-shop, but lack the necessary funds to do so. Traditional sources of money, such as banks, turn them down, so when Dawn’s new boyfriend, Jeremy (Slinger) turns out to be an angel investor, it seems too good an opportunity to be true. Which, of course, is exactly what it is, because Jeremy turns out to be the acceptable face of a very brutal loan-sharking operation. Even though they actually refuse his money before accepting it, he insists on them paying for his time, an amount which rapidly escalates out of control. It’s clear Jeremy will stop at nothing to extract payment, and demonstrates exactly that savagery, on both women, as well as their loved ones. Gradually backed into a corner, there’s only one way out for Bex and Dawn; be every bit as ferocious and merciless.

It probably helps that Smurfit and Mitchell have been friends since their drama school days, and their easy relationship comes over as entirely natural – though non-native British speakers may occasionally want to opt for subtitles! [Hell, I found myself straining my ears on occasion, having clearly been out of the old country for too long…] It’s very much a long, slow descent into hell, with the women on the receiving end for more than 80% of the movie before – and I trust this isn’t much of a spoiler here, given the film opens with a blood-stained Dawn slumped by a bath – finally getting to unleash their fury in a gore-drenched finale.

While certainly satisfying on a visceral level, this comes over as somewhat far-fetched, with neither woman having demonstrated any real tendencies for aggression; the “defending the family” approach only goes so far, not least because it’s the child-less Bex who goes furthest. Not that Jeremy doesn’t deserve it; Slinger comes over as a psychotic version of Simon Pegg, and it’s crucial that the film creates a villain who is both monstrous and believable. Be sure to stick around after the credits for a spectacularly splattery bit of claymation from maverick film-maker Lee Hardcastle, which is just glorious; it almost suggests a sequel where Bex and Dawn turn into a hardcore, British vigilante version of Thelma & Louise.

Must admit, I’d probably have preferred to see that, with the set-up here taking longer than necessary – for example, is there any reason we need to see quite so many scenes of Jeremy and his sidekick extracting payment? Still, the final payback is fully deserved, and gleefully shot by Brunt, leading into a coda which suggests a new, steely determination and “take no shit” attitude as a result of the hell through which the heroines have gone. It suggests an almost Nietzschean fable is being told, that what does not destroy you, in the end will make you stronger and help you achieve your goals. Seems more than slightly morally questionable, although maybe it’s just me!

Dir: Dominic Brunt
Star: Victoria Smurfit, Joanna Mitchell, Jonathan Slinger, Rula Lenska
a.k.a. The Taking

Big Driver

starstarstarstarhalf
“Lady Vengeance”

bigdriverEasily punching above its weight for a Lifetime TVM, this is as disturbing as you’d expect from the director of the original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, working off a Stephen King short story. Crime writer Tess Thorne (Bello) is on her way back from a speaking engagement, when her car gets a puncture; the large gentleman (Harris) who stops to help, turns out to be a savage rapist, who brutalizes Tess repeatedly, before leaving her for dead in a storm-drain, beside his previous victims. Tess survives, but is traumatized by the experience, and won’t tell anyone what happened. Her mind begins to fracture, with the leading character in her book (Dukakis) coming to life and talking to her – as well as the GPS in her car (not credited, but reportedly the voice of King). Digging in, Tess finds that her accident may not have been quite as accidental as she thought, and her quest for vengeance, is going to require a broader net than she initially thought.

It’s the performances which make this work, though the concept is solid enough, containing a number of elements readily identifiable as King staples, e.g. dead people talking. The translation to screen does have its issues; never explained, for example, is how Tess’s disabled car shows up in the parking lot of a biker bar, fully intact and with her possessions inside. Much though the resulting cameo from 80’s rocker Joan Jett is welcome,, it’s a blatant plot hole which should have been addressed. That aside, it’s much grittier than I expected, with the assault in particular pulling so few punches, I have to wonder if the version which played on Lifetime was edited for content compared to this DVD release. Bello does a good job of taking the audience inside the disintegrating mind of Thorne, to the point where we genuinely wondered how much of what we were seeing had a basis in reality, or if it was just a psychological coping mechanism. Dukakis is also excellent, providing a restrained, yet sarcastic counterpoint of commentary to the heroine’s actions, as she falls apart, yet still proceeds with her mission.

Things proceed to a thoroughly adequate conclusion, even allowing for the vast difference in size and strength between Tess and her assailant; if nothing else, guns are certainly a great equalizer! But Tess’s smarts are just as important as her aggression or lust for vengeance, helping her both uncover the truth about what happened, and then ensure that the police don’t track her down after the event. The traumatic experience certainly leaves her a changed person, and probably only right it should; not a journey I’d want anyone I know to experience themselves, but it may indeed be a case of, what does not kill you, makes you stronger.

Dir: Mikael Salomon
Star: Maria Bello, Will Harris, Olympia Dukakis, Stephen King

The Bandit of Hell’s Bend, by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Literary rating: starstarstarstar
Kick-butt quotient: action2action2

banditBorn in 1875, as a youth Burroughs actually spent time working as a cowboy on a 19th-century Western ranch owned by his brother. Though that was in Idaho, while this novel is set in Arizona, his knowledge of basic ranch life and Western conditions in the frontier era was firsthand; and the descriptions here suggest that he had some personal familiarity with the landscape of the Southwest as well. So in this novel, he was following the axiomatic advice for authors, “Write about what you know.” His main weakness in much of his work, his disdain for research, is therefore largely moot here, while his main strengths –an ability to deliver adventurous plots and stirring depictions of action, creation of strong heroes who embody what are traditionally thought of as “masculine” virtues, moral clarity, and a masterful evocation of the theme of “primitivism” that can appeal to repressed and regimented readers– are undiminished. I’m not typically a Western fan, because I think modern examples of the genre too often degenerate into cliché.’ But the early Westerns produced by the writers of Burrough’s generation (which also included Zane Grey, whose influence I recognize here) preceded the modern cliches,’ and possess a more original quality –even if some of the tropes were beaten to death by later writers.

In 1880s Arizona, the inhabitants of the Bar-Y Ranch and neighboring Hendersville have to contend with occasional lethal Apache attacks, and the stage carrying bullion from Elias Henders’ mine is being held up with disconcerting regularity. Local suspicion pegs the principal masked culprit as Bar-Y cowboy Bull –but is local suspicion correct? And the plot will soon thicken, because both ranch and mine will face a suave menace that fights with the machinery of the law rather than with guns and tomahawks. The storyline is genuinely exciting, with a strong narrative drive that kept me eagerly turning pages to see what would happen next, with an element of mystery. (I guessed the culprit’s identity before the denouement, but I didn’t foresee everything that would happen.) Burroughs also understood that romance doesn’t need to be sappy to be romantic. There’s a well-drawn theme of conflict here between the effete, over-civilized, arrogant East that fights through dishonesty and wants to take from others (and the West that Burroughs saw was in many ways an oppressed colony of the U.S.-European industrialized world, as much as the hapless peoples of Asia and Africa were) vs. the primal, strong, down-to-earth West whose people look you in the eye and fight for what’s theirs

Burroughs has created a hero and heroine that you strongly care about, and want to see come through their jeopardy. Bull is more flawed than some Burrough’s heroes, because he has to struggle with a bit of an alcohol addiction; but that doesn’t diminish him for me –he’s a human being, with some human weakness as well as strength. Diana Henders is not a weak hot-house flower who functions solely as a damsel in distress –like any of us, she may find herself in need of a rescue sometime, but not through any weakness or incompetence on her part; and she’s also ready to do some rescuing herself when it’s needed. Of any of the Burroughs heroines I’ve encountered –and that’s been several– she’s the one I like the best, and that I find to be the most sharply-drawn, and most possessed of leadership and heroic qualities. (She’s an intelligent, likeable girl who enjoys reading and playing her piano. If you’re attacked by an Apache war party bent on ending your life, you’d also find her a very capable and cool-headed ally to have at your side with her Colt.) Some of the secondary characters here also come across as more vivid and lifelike than is usual for this writer, IMO.

Like other regional writers of his day, Burroughs was careful to reproduce authentic dialect in the character’s speech, indicated by unconventional spellings that reflect the pronunciations, not only of Western cowboy patois, but of a thick Irish brogue and a Chinese accent as well. This isn’t done to ridicule anyone; indeed, some characters who exhibit each of these speech patterns prove to be very sympathetic.

There’s a bit of ethnic stereotyping, in that Wong the cook is knowledgeable about poisons, and an opium user (of course, a fair number of 19th-century Chinese were opium users –not very surprisingly, since the British promoted the opium trade, and forced it on China in two wars!) and there’s no real attempt to understand or present the Apache viewpoint. (Though even if their basic grievances are just and legitimate, when they’re attacking with the intention of killing you, fighting back IS your only short-range option.) But the only real villains here are white. And while Bull’s comment, “Thet greaser’s whiter’n some white men,” is phrased in racist terms, the insight he’s experiencing is subversive of racism. (“Greaser” is an ethnic slur some characters use for the Hispanic character, but he thinks of Anglos as “gringos” with just as little authorial censure; I think Burroughs here is only reflecting the common parlance of the day, as with his dialect speech. When Wong is referred to as an “insolent Chink,” it’s by a creep whom the reader readily recognizes as Wong’s inferior.)

My rating of four stars rather than five was for a very few logical slips in details, and for a few glossed-over points where plot developments were a tad dubious, IMO. But those are quibbles; this was a really good read, for any Western and/or action adventure fan!

Author: Edgar Rice Burroughs
Publisher: Both Ace Books and CreateSpace, available through Amazon, both for Kindle and as a printed book.

A version of this review previously appeared on Goodreads.

Blood Soaked

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“Zombie Women of the S.S.”

bloodsoakedIt’s nice to see a horror movie which has women on both sides: not just the “final girl” trope, but as the entirely deranged pair of antagonists. This is equality at work, folks! In this case, the villains are sisters Sadie (Grendle) and Katie (Derryberry), who were apparently left orphaned by the unexpected death of their father who was… Well, if I’d to guess, I’d say he was trying to continue the work of Nazi scientists, with the aim of creating an army of undead slaves through the use of a resurrection serum, who can then be used to bring about the Fourth Reich. I’m kinda assuming this, from the use of copious public-domain Nazi footage during the opening credits, and the swastikas hanging around their desert bunker. Meanwhile, peppy student Piper (Wilder) is starting at college, and before long is exploring her sexuality with fellow student, Ashley (Corona). The pair head out into the desert, but a roadside encounter with our psycho sisters kicks off the horror part of proceedings, with Piper in particular being stalked, captured and dragged into the Naziettes lair where even worse things await.

There are two main problems here: one stylistic, and the other an issue of pacing. The former is the decision to switch into high-contrast black and white, when it first becomes clear to Piper, the trouble she’s in. While it certainly adds impact to the that moment, the film-makers apparently forgot to flip the switch back on their camcorder, and any impact is lost. You give your film a title like Blood Soaked, and we expect to see… well, blood. Here, however, it might as well be chocolate sauce, as used by Alfred Hitchcock in Psycho. That’s when you can see it at all, as the high-contrast mentioned tends to wash everything into the two ends of the spectrum: all or nothing.

Equally problematic, is the film taking too long to get to a point where it is even attempting to justify the title. It barely runs an hour between opening and the end credits rolling, which should be an incentive to get cracking and have things moving on at a fast pace. We do not need to see Piper showing up to college with her mom. We do not need to see Piper and Ashley meeting and building their relationship. We do not care. I’d have been a lot more interested to see what Sadie and Katie were up to over the decade after their father died, though quite how such a pair of certifiable loony tunes were able, not just to survive but flourish, escapes me. In the end, it commits the single, unforgivable sin of both original grindhouse cinema and modern films which attempt to reproduce its philosophy: it’s mostly dull. By the time the mayhem eventually showed, I was already trying to figure out if I could do household chores, while leaving this on in the background. Never a good sign…

Dir: Peter Grendle
Star: Heather Wilder, Rachel Corona, Hayley Derryberry, Laina Grendle

Barely Lethal

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“Barely entertaining.”

barelylethalI could hear Chris’s eyebrows raising when the title here rolled: what kind of film was this? Fortunately, the arrival of Samuel L. Jackson reassured her ruffled eyebrows – and is that Sansa Stark as well? Alright, then: if you insist… It turns out to be a mash-up of two genres: the ‘teenage killing machine’ and the ‘high-school drama’, and is every bit as awkward as that sounds. Since being orphaned, Megan Walsh (Steinfeld) has been brought up as an assassin in a remote location, under the tutelage of the appropriately-named Hardman (Jackson), and with another trainee, Heather (Turner), a fractious rival. However, Megan begins to wonder what she’s missing in “real life”; after a mission to capture evil nemesis Victoria Knox (Jessica Alba), ends with Megan plummeting into a river, and presumed lost by her employers, she opts to start a new life. She becomes an ‘exchange student’, falls for the local hot kid (Mann), ignores the AV geek (Cameron) who falls for her – the usual sort of drama. After an incident at school goes viral, Hardman realizes his top agent is not as dead as he thought, and worse still, Knox has broken out of custody, and has revenge on her mind. Can Megan handle all that and still make it to Homecoming?

It’s an interesting idea, not least because Megan bases her knowledge and understanding of the world on the likes of Mean Girls and 10 Things I Hate About You. A satirical skewering of the difference between those and reality would be welcome, or even something darker in tone, along the lines of Heathers, with Megan’s lack of moral compass letting her clean out the dregs of the school with no qualms. However, the film seems less interested in satire, than going through the same cliches: it doesn’t help that Mann resembles a cross between Justin Beiber and Robert Pattinson. There’s nothing new or remotely interesting about this aspect, and it brings the film to a grinding halt. That’s something of a shame, as the action plot is nicely-handled, with some decent set-pieces. Jackson and Alba are old hands at this kind of thing, and I’d far rather have seen a film concentrating entirely on their struggles with each other, using the likes of Steinfeld and Turner as proxies.

It’s hard to say who the target audience is for this, or at least find one which would be satisfied by both aspects. Those who enjoy the school drama are likely to be uninterested in high-jinks out the back of a plane. Certainly, those who are looking for action – raises hand – will find themselves bored to tedium in the middle of this. At the end, Chris turned to me and said, “I didn’t think this would be your sort of film.” I think she has a point. I’m perhaps three decades or more, and a sex-change, from being able to appreciate this.

Dir: Kyle Newman
Star: Hailee Steinfeld, Thomas Mann, Dove Cameron, Sophie Turner

The Bod Squad

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“Several virgins short of a six-pack.”

7seasIn the 1970’s legendary Hong Kong studio Shaw Brothers sought to broaden their market with a series of co-productions. The results included the likes of Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, from a partnership with Britain’s Hammer Studios, plus Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold. But perhaps the most bizarre such product is this, which crosses martial arts with the softcore sex films from the time, the best-known of which is probably Hofbauer’s Schulmadchen Report (Schoolgirl Report). The results are… Well, I’d be hard-pushed to call them great cinema, but I would have to confess to being rather more entertained than I expected.

Contrary to one of the alternate titles, Enter the Seven Virgins, there are actually only five women here, and some of those aren’t exactly virgins. They are captured by pirates, and brought to their island lair, where buccaneer boss Chao (Hsieh) leers at them and puts them through a training course designed to get them ready to be sold into white slavery. Except, he doesn’t know that one of his minions, Ko Mei Me (Liu), is actually working, along with her brother, to take him down, and trains the captives in martial arts, as well as the ancient Chinese art of spitting olive pits at such high-velocity, they can punch a hole through a vase. After copious amounts of gratuitous nudity, the women eventually break free, get recaptured, escape again, and take on Chao and the rest of his henchmen in a battle which makes up for in duration, what it may lack in quality.

Actually, that’s a little unfair: considering the Western cast were more used to films with titles such as Campus Pussycats, they perform credibly enough. There’s not as much stunt doubling as I expected, and they’re clearly giving it all they have, occasionally impressively. Bray stands out in particular – and I mean that literally, since it seems she’s taller than most of the men in the cast. Liu, however, clearly has the most experience, and its understandable why she gets given most of the action. In some ways, this can be seen as a primitive ancestor of Category III films such as Naked Killer: while lacking quite the same lurid insanity, and featuring a degree of casual racism that’s fairly off-putting [apparently, the sight of Western flesh is enough to send most Chinese men into drooling imbeciles], it’s still fun for the undemandingly open-minded. Admittedly, a fondness for Benny Hill may help, and providing you can get past hearing Chinese people dubbed into German, as well as subtitles that may have lost their way a bit in translation. I’m still trying to figure out the meaning of, “It’s a bank holiday, it’s Mothers’ Day in Africa.”

Dir: Kuei Chih-Hung + Ernst Hofbauer
Star: Liu Hui-Ling, Wang Hsieh, Sonja Jeannine, Gillian Bray
a.k.a. Virgins of the Seven Seas
a.k.a. Enter the Seven Virgins
a.k.a. Karate, Küsse, blonde Katze [Karate, kisses, blonde cats]