Director: Jim Wynorski Starring: Melanie Vincz, Raven De La Croix, Angela Aames, Paul Coufos, Robert Tessier Screenplay: Jim Wynorski Country: USA
As a teen I was constantly borrowing the B movies from my local video shop, and of those movies, I had a special place in my heart for Chopping Mall. Because of that, I saw the name Jim Wynorski as a sign of 'quality', and now, years later, if I see his name pop up I am still willing to cast my eyes over whatever the product is. Sometimes I am rewarded with B movie goodness, and sometimes my brain is poisoned, but nostalgia is a cruel mistress and I am willing to forgive this man whenever the film is less than good.
This film, The Lost Empire, (co-produced with Russ Meyer girl Raven De La Croix) is the first film that Wynorski wrote and directed, and it truly is a product of the eighties. The fashions, the special effects, the acting and the sets are perfect examples of that.
Our movie starts with evil, shuriken-yoyo wielding ninjas attempting to steal a mystical ruby eye from a pig idol that is on display in a jewellers. Several police arrive and foil the robbery, but not without there being several injuries and a few fatalities.
We are told in a text scrawl that this jewel is one of the two Eyes of Avatar and have the super science from the ancient Lemurians secreted inside them. They were separated many years ago, and if the two eyes are ever brought together the possessor will gain the power of superior ancient science.
Next, we are introduced to busty, big-haired, gun-happy sexpot police officer Angela Wolfe (Melanie Vincz) - imagine Dirty Harry with a squarer jaw and bigger tits - and her FBI boyfriend Rick (Paul Coufos) who are told, after a post hostage bust sex-session, that her brother Rob (Bill Thornbury) was shot in the jewellery store robbery but survived. She visits him in the hospital, and through his delusion brought on by pain, he hands her one of the shuriken from the robbery.
Rick sees the shuriken and tells Wolfe that it belongs to Lee Chuck, a man who sold his soul to the devil and needs to send him a soul a day to live forever. They investigate the robbery and the Eye of Avatar finds its way into Wolfe's purse, unbeknownst to her.
Rick and Wolfe then meet with Inspector Charles Chan (yep... Charlie Chan) who tells them that a religious nut named Dr Sin Do (Angus Scrimm) is linked to Lee Chuck and has an island, Golgatha, where he can practise his religion in peace.
Wolfe's brother goes to the big precinct in the sky, and very soon, Wolfe wants revenge so she presses Rick for more information. He tells her that Sin Do has competitions where women fight for his entertainment. Soon she finds herself teamed up with Native American White Star (Raven De La Croix) who spouts generic Indian-isms (Kemo Sabe is slung around like pies at a footy game) and ex-con Heather McClure (Angela Aames) and the three enter the Sin Do tournament to find out what's going on. Rick accidentally ends up with Wolfe's handbag and realises that he has the Eye of Avatar and makes his way to the island as well...
Is Golgatha just a religious retreat, or a hideout for gang of terrorists run by a man who has lived for two hundred years after a promise to Satan himself?
Well, what do you think?...
This film is most definitely a template for future Wynorski films, and honestly, for the market, there is nothing wrong with that. Essentially most of his films are adult male fantasy cartoons made real, with beautiful big-boobed babes, and testosterone fuelled dunderheads fighting against whatever evil may have reared its ugly head, with a peppering of toplessness, violence and terrible, almost Dad, jokes. It's what B cinema is all about, and I'd watch one of these over a big cinema release any day!
This film also has a cameo by The Thing from Another World's Kenneth Tobey.
Immediately I have to criticise the the actual physical DVD itself. The cover is a dreadfully painted pic that disrespects the female leads of the film as it is horribly distorted and really, not very good. The menus of the disc itself also need to receive some criticism as it is difficult ascertain when a menu item is selected. The disc image is presented in, quite an odd aspect ratio, of about 2.20:1 and the image is ok, but does have several scratches and other film artefacts on it. The soundtrack in presented in stereo and is satisfactory, well until Raven De La Croix throws one of her terrible jokes out.
There are three extras on this disc:
Director's Commentary by Jim Wynorski... Well that's what the menu option said, but what I received was... Nothing! I tried selecting it several times and not once did I receive the commentary. Disappointed.
The Stills gallery - which I shall point out is an extra on any disc I hate - is a 90 second slide show of stills from the film. Not behind the scenes photos or different shots, it is just freeze frames from the film. If I want to look a static images, I'll read a comic, not put on a DVD.
The last extra is the Soundtrack which I was pretty excited for as I like the 80s synth score... Except of the ten tracks available to listen, it repeated 30 seconds of the first track over and over. Maybe I just received a faulty disc, but definitely not happy.
I grew up loving Jim Wynorski films like Chopping Mall and it sure is nice to see his first attempt at 'big' budget filmmaking unearthed at last. I had a lot of nostalgic fun watching this film, and it has reinvigorated my love for Wynorski. I must track more of his films down. If you like the Corman films of the 80s, you'll get a kick out if this too.
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Originally born unto this world as Terror Australis.net back in March 2002, Digital Retribution is a proudly Australian website devoted to all things horror, cult, and exploitation that strives to promote Australian films and filmmakers while sharing its questionable taste in ultra-violent smut-laden local and international offerings with the rest of the world.