Friday, November 10, 2006


Amazons

(Argentina, 1986, 75 min.)

Starring Mindi Miller (as Windsor Taylor Randolph), Penelope Reed, Joseph Whipp, Danitza Kingsley, Wolfram Hoechst, Jacques Arndt, Charles Finch, Frank Costa (as Frank Cocza), Santiago Mallo, Anita Larronde (as Annie Larronde), Esther Velàzquez, Fabiana Smith.

Written by Charles Saunders.

Directed by Alex Sessa.

As the film opens, an evil tribe called the Betans (I think) are laying siege to the town of Imbisi (I think), the namesake town of the Imbisians (the Amazons of the title, although theirs is not an exclusively female clan), inhabitants of what they keep calling The Emerald Land. (I admit that so much of my viewing of this movie was in bits and pieces that certain dynamics of the story were a bit unclear to me. Either that or I’m being far too kind to the screenwriter.) The Betans, it turns out, have been trying to enslave the Imbisians for many years, only this time their king, Kalungo (Whipp, who kind of looks like Pernell Roberts), has an ace up his sleeve, having struck a deal with a demon named Balgur, gaining magic powers in exchange for human lives. During the attack, he unleashes these powers on the town. (Although, hilariously, when he chants the demon’s name, it often sounds like he’s saying “Al Gore!” Fourteen years before they stole the election and the Republicans were already muddying the waters.) The Imbisians have a magician too (Arndt, who kind of looks like Jack Klugman), only his power isn’t as great, and he asserts that the only way they can hope to defeat their aggressors is to reclaim the magic sword of Azundati that is secreted away in a cave.

Imbisi is the location of another of the tribe’s sacred objects, the Spirit Stone. When it becomes clear that Kalungo’s magic is too much for them, they sneak the spirit stone out to take it to their capital city of Shanar. There the Queen (Larronde, who kind of looks like Judi Dench dressed up like a playing card) sends two of her Amazon warriors, Dyala (Miller, who kind of looks like Michelle Bauer) and Tashi (Reed, who kind of looks like Cynthia Watros) to fetch it. Dyala is to go because she was chosen during a special ceremony during which she saw a vision of the sword in her own sacred tree. Tashi is chosen to go because, well, it adds conflict to the story. See, Tashi’s mother, Tshingi (Kingsley, who kind of looks like Nicolette Sheridan) and Dyala’s mother were bitter rivals for the attention of the same man, Dyala’s father, which led to a showdown during which the former lost a hand. Tshingi is really bitter over her prosthesis, and while it is intimated that she subsequently killed Dyala’s mother, apparently that isn’t enough. She tells her daughter that once Dyala has the sword, she is to off her and bring the sword to Tshingi. What she fails to mention is that she’s in bed with Kalungo (literally at one point) and plans to hand it over to him.

Dyala and Tashi make their way towards the cave, encountering assorted perils along the way, including two religious cults, one of which is composed of women dressed as vestal virgins and the other of men in ugly masks. The latter is in the habit of kidnapping members of the former and then sacrificing them against some sort of oozy tree monster, while they treat us to more chanting fun with their repeated cries of something that sounds like “En garde, Sullio!” Tashi gets caught up in one of their raids and is about to be skewered when Dyala comes to her rescue with a blowgun and some homemade booby traps, in what is probably the movie’s best scene.

Eventually the two women are led by a white horse to the shack of a seer (Velàzquez, who kind of looks like Kathy Najimy), who foretells that when they get to the cave, three will enter and only one will leave. The second part is understandably upsetting, but the first part is simply vexing, there only being two of them and all. What they don’t know is that Kalungo has had them followed by his own personal lioness (Smith, who kind of looks like Jane Leeves, except when she’s in animal form, when she kind of looks like Elsa). And so they trek on to fulfill their mission, while Tashi struggles to come to terms with her mother’s order to murder a woman who she has come increasingly to view as a friend.

Sigh. As you all know I am a big fucking softie when it comes to criticizing peoples’ efforts, but while I’ve seen worse, there is simply not a hell of a lot to recommend this. The story is clichéd, the fights are sloppily choreographed, and the special effects are laughable. (It’s a toss-up for cheesiest moment- the scratches on the film that represent magic, the “transformation” from lion to woman involving masks and stuffed animals, or the guys in grease paint and muslin dangling on ropes that pass for demons in the forest.) A decent amount of gratuitous gore might have livened things up, but even in this department the film skimps.

However, I’m guessing Beggar So’s Hat, the colleague that foisted this entertainment on me, giggled a little when I said ‘booby trap’ above, because if there’s one thing the movie doesn’t skimp on, it’s boobies. We don’t get anything for the first twenty minutes, but once the naked lion woman shows up, the floodgates have been opened and it’s boobs a’poppin’! Dyala and Tashi go skinny-dipping, there are a bunch of loving close-ups of Tshingi’s nude body while she’s rocking Kalungo’s world, plus there’s some unpleasant rough stuff both with the warriors and the vestal virgins that involves the ripping off of tops. (Nothing like watching a woman kicking ass with a bare chest…unless it’s watching a woman do a kung fu routine completely nude like in Blood Diner, but, then, that was just goofy.)

So nudie completists and those with a high tolerance for the detritus that surfaced in Conan the Barbarian’s wake might want to give this a look. To be fair, I did find myself liking it a little more the second time around, but then, as has been proven in the past, I am very easy to entertain (and immensely difficult to impress, but there was little danger of that happening here).

This review was yet another generated by the Pass the Turkey game at the B-Movie Message Board, where the karmic wheel of cinematic sadomasochism just keeps on a'spinnin'. This round generously provided and sadistically suggested by the curiously chapeau-like Beggar So's Hat.


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