Friday, June 11, 2010

Revenge of 3-D: WILDCAT WOMEN (1975)

Brother man, I really don’t dig comin’ down all heavy on this flick. Like, check it, it’s got pimps an’ ho’s, heavy dudes with nice threads and cool cats with lotsa bread. It’s all about classy rides and a crazy scene that’s bustin’ off of the screen. They threaten hot chicks with mice, but that ain’t nice. I could go on forever, but I ain’t that clever… Alright, alright, put away the tomatoes.

A piano-bar singer, Lolita (Yolanda Love), finds herself in a world of pissed-off (which disturbs the yoga exercises of her next door neighbor) the likes she has never known before when her uncle is gunned down in front of his liquor store by the goofiest collection of mob thugs you’ve ever seen. As if that wasn’t enough, one of her friends is stabbed to death by her pimp. The two events can’t possibly be a coincidence! So she gets her shit together, calls up some friends and sets out to take down the mob… who are in fact merely a handful of guys headed up by a short Japanese dude, called The Buddha (Joey Ginza), whose broken Engrish and pseudo-Asian accent often slips into a Southern California surfer drawl. The plan? Start stealin’ the dope and the bread from their drops and then… do it some more! Yeah! Lolita falls for chubby, out of shape Cleon (who is smoother than hot grease on a glass floor when he sees Lolita talking to her neighbor and says “I don’t know whether to be jealous or suggest a threesome!”). Could this be a set-up? The plot thins…

Released in three different versions including a hard-core X-rated cut titled BLACK LOLITA, WILDCAT WOMEN desperately wants to be a raw(er) sister of the tough-as-nails black female action flicks popularized by the cool and curvaceous Pam Grier. Except here we have Yolanda Love, who is credited as “Miss Exotic Galaxy” which I suspect is a contest that never existed, or if it did, was a one-shot deal for porno starlets. Oddly, she’s surprisingly prudish, refusing to show any skin except in a bikini and a brief and somewhat obscured love scene that could have been damn near anyone because of Love's penchant for wigs.
To paraphrase a famous film star manager, you can punch like Pam Grier, you can kick like Pam Grier, but you can never be Pam Grier. Nobody proves that more than Yolanda Love. Don’t get me wrong, she’s one of the best things about this movie, aside from her dime-store wigs, she is definitely a fine lookin' foxy mama and she don't take no shit from no man (a cop actually tries to help her only to get screams of “beat it pig!”). Unfortunately writer-director Stephen Gibson doesn't really give her a whole lot to do out side of a single action scene in the beginning of the film in which she throws down some badass kung fu moves after telling a trio of horny, racist bikers (is that redundant?) “in case you haven't heard, rape ain't a woman's idea of a good time!” Yeah, that should convince them. In spite of being the main character, a sizable portion of the film takes place without her doing really all that much in the way of ass kicking.

Director Stephen Gibson was the man responsible for a string of risible 3-D porn titles in the mid-‘70s, including the infamous John Holmes outing HARD CANDY (1976). Here he tries to make a mainstream black action movie and seemingly as an afterthought, added some hard-core inserts, most of which do not involve characters or settings from the main film. The hard-core inserts were then cut down to very soft-core to be released with an R-rating in "mainstream" theaters (I'm willing to bet this sucker was cranked so many times at some pit in the Duce that the print disintegrated on the projector). The third version is the version found on DVD that has slightly extended soft-core scenes. The inserts vary in quality, but as much as I enjoy gratuitous nudity in trashy movies, the scenes here range from “Hmmm… what time is it?” to “Oh my fucking christ, my eyes!” In every aspect of the movie, it appears the film was made in bits and pieces over a couple of years, as was the case with his first film THE PLAYMATES (released in 1975, but actually began production in 1973). Here random scenes and anachronistic porn inserts give the impressing that an editing room exploded and Gibson had to cram all the pieces together into a vaguely contiguous feature at the last minute.

Pornography is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “the depiction of erotic behavior intended to cause sexual excitement”. There is nothing of that nature to be found here.

Inserts aside this is a bad, bad movie. And I don’t mean “bad” like I’m talkin’ about Shaft. Nuh-uh and hell no! We’re talkin’ petite-cute women who wear men’s clothing and are mistaken for guys, kinda bad; I’m talkin’ girls being “tortured” into divulging information by being threatened with a white mouse, kinda bad; I’m talkin’ mobsters so dumb that when they catch you planting a bug in their suburban tract house, they let you run right past them through the door to escape, kind bad! Bad like the dialogue, that falls to the ground like Dick Cheney's hunting buddies. For example, Lolita, travelling with two friends on bicycles for no reason whatsoever, is asked by one friend “why didn’t you plan this meeting on top of Mount Everest?” to which Lolita replies “I would have, but it’s still segregated!” Phew! I'm pretty sure that was supposed to get a laugh. Instead of making up their own catchy jive sayings, when “master of disguise” Tinker Jones (Larry Ellis) agrees to help Lolita take on the mob, she says “yeah! We’ll float like a butterfly and sting like a bee!” What?! You can’t just rip off Muhammad Ali’s world-famous line at the height of his popularity and walk away! No girl, uh-uh, I call bullshit on that! Bad like, the “Deep Vision 3-D” process that doesn’t freakin’ work, kinda bad! The polar opposite of the excitement of great 3-D effects occurs when the 3-D effects don't work because of sloppy production. No matter how much you mess with your TV or flat-panel monitor, you will not see the few cheap 3-D effects that this film (or from what I gather, any of Gibson’s efforts) have to offer, even when projected theatrically. You dig what I’m layin’ down sucka? Bad 3-D is what makes people not want to see 3-D movies at all.

One of the most boneheaded sequences has Jones adopting a cunning disguise as a homeless guy to plant a bug on one of the mobsters. He then throws off his disguise revealing his bright red and white aloha shirt and jumps in his woody to inconspicuously tail his quarry by driving 20 inches off his bumper. At one point he breaks down in the middle of an intersection, but it’s L.A. so nobody cares and everyone just drives around him. Speaking of scenes with motor vehicles, I defy anyone to find a lamer car chase in any ‘70s action movie. After Lolita snags a drop from a guy who lies wounded on the floor after she literally pushes him down, she hops in her car and races to the roof-top parking lot of a bowling alley with the mob clown-car right on her ass. There she drives in circles around the lot while the mobsters follow her until after several revolutions, she leaps from the car and a miniature version falls over the edge and explodes. Even the hilarious car "stunts" in the Terence Hill / Marvin Haggler epic VIRTUAL WEAPON (1997) weren't this lame!

While I can spend far too much time taking this movie apart for silly things like the would-be rapist bikers who travel on the quietest motorcycles ever, it’s still somewhat enjoyable. I’d rather sit through WILDCAT WOMEN any day of the week instead of Rudy Ray Moore's much-ballyhooed DOLEMITE (1975) films. Yeah, DOLEMITE is considered a camp classic, but it's always left me non-plussed and it always seems to be the film embraced by people who don't like the good stuff, such as SLAUGHTER (1972) or ACROSS 110th STREET (1972). At least WILDCAT WOMEN has a great '70s soul/jazz score, bloody shootings, amusingly inept acting, old Los Angeles locations and odd characters, some of whom appear and disappear in the film without any rhyme or reason – Tinker Jones is set up as the main male lead and is actually pretty entertaining, but half-way through the film Lolita falls in with marble-mouthed doughboy Cleon and we never see Tinker again! Hell, the climactic show-down is set in an abandoned amusement park, where it appears The Buddha is not tall enough for any of the rides, and that has to count for something. If only we could ditch the awful porn inserts and the worthless “Deep Vision 3-D” process, that by all accounts never worked in the first place, then we might actually be getting somewhere.

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