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DVD SAVANT

Lady Terminator


Lady Terminator
Mondo Macabro
1988 / Color / 1:78 anamorphic 16:9 / 82 min. / Pembalasan ratu pantai selatan / Street Date September 28, 2004 / 19.95
Starring Barbara Anne Constable, Christopher J. Hart, Claudia Angelique Rademaker
Original Music Ricky Brothers
Written by Karr Kruinowz
Directed by Jalil Jackson (H. Tjut Djalil.)

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Mondo Macabro is a serious DVD outfit that is bringing out obscure film fare from the exploitation corners of the world. This Indonesian production is psychotronic paydirt, the stuff cult movie magazines eat up. Its appeal is in its backstory, as the film itself is a garish and crude ripoff of James Cameron's The Terminator, skewed to the needs and tastes of the Indonesian home market. Thanks to the core research extras on this disc, what might be negligible trash is elevated to the stuff of scholarly papers - as a cross-cultural hybrid, this one takes the cake.

Synopsis:

A female reporter (Barbara Anne Constable) disappears while scuba diving for artifacts relating to a mythical goddess called the "South Seas Queen," a sexually voracious creature who destroys her lovers and supposedly lives in a palace at the bottom of the ocean. The reporter is resurrected as a leather-clad gun-toting female monster on a mission of revenge. A handsome police detective and a feisty rock star are thrown together in the wake of the seemingly unkillable 'Lady Terminator' and her machine-gun onslaught.

This review almost has to start with the extras first. The Indonesian film industry received a boost in the 1970s with protectionist laws that stimulated homegrown production, resulting in a slew of popular exploitation films, gory oversexed spectacles of martial arts, magic, violence, and gore that often carried a political slant. The Mondo Macabro docu here includes the information that one of the biggest Indonesian successes was a hero called 'the warrior' who battled Dutch conquerors - and makes the potent observation that our own 'Rambo' is a similar folk characterization designed to make Americans feel good about our defeat to the Viet Cong.

That said, the commercial melange that is Lady Terminator is sometimes more fun to describe than to watch. A prologue shows the voracious South Seas Queen - a supernatural diety reportedly alive and well in the Indonesian culture - killing lovers by the score. She issues some kind of demonic eel from her vagina (rather uninhibited, these Indonesians), a female-phallic threat that causes bloody death by biting off male privates. Banished to the bottom of the sea, she returns in the person of a female killing automaton who dresses and behaves very much like Arnold Schwarzenegger's T-whatever in James Cameron's first Terminator movie. Besides other copycat behavior, this female killer performs eye surgery on herself and walks through the fiery holocaust of a burning gasoline truck.

And that's the original content of the film. The characterizations are embarrassingly crude and the dialogue insipid to an extreme, faults that never hurt a movie of this ilk. The actual plot is a long and repetitive blur of gun battles and car chases where hundreds of cops die without figuring out that, you know, bullets aren't very effective against the supernatural undead. This movie must have 300 squib-hit physical effects, yet uses somebody blowing softly into a microphone to create the sound of a light wind for the audio track.

There are also plenty of terrible animation effects to illustrate the Lady Terminator's power to start earthquakes. After stumbling around shooting people for a half-hour, she eventually unleashes the ability to emit death rays from her eyes. They're effective at hitting everyone but the star players. Being a close buddy or girlfriend of a leading player in this kind of picture is a ticket to a bloody death.

The Indonesian twisting of traditional folklore into an exploitation crudity for an 'undemanding' local audience mirrors our own commercial culture, at an accelerated rate. Unrestrained by censors or western sensibilities, Lady Terminator does a no-nonsense beeline to the exploitation basics - sex, gore and violence. I didn't think much of the film, but as a cultural artifact it's quite a show.


Mondo Macabro's potent partnership ("The Wild Side of World Cinema") brings Lady Terminator to Region 1 DVD in a presentation that puts big studio efforts to shame. The packaging, menus and design carry the company's full commitment to the pulp trash that gives such joy to Quentin Tarantino. When it comes to extras, we get a documentary about Indonesian exploitation filmmaking with interviews with key stars and producers who explain the economic and historical source of all the nasty witches and gory avengers in their freaky movies. There's a trailer, text extras and some previews of other Mondo Macabro product - a thoroughly R-rated blend of blood and fantastic sexploitation. The feature is enhanced and in fine shape, as are all the extras. It may be a Pal conversion as some of the dialogue has the crispness of a 24 frame show upped to 25 fps., but it's generally hard to tell.

Lady Terminator is for cult fans looking for new horizons. I think DVD has caught up with the fan dreams of the late 1970s and early 1980s, as the fringe companies have been the ones to finally let us see all those bizarro films lauded in Incredibly Strange Films and Weldon's Psychotronic Movies.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Lady Terminator rates:
Movie: Uh good, uh terrible, uh ... well, it's unique
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: Docu on 'Indonesian Exploitica', production notes, alternate scenes, trailer
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: September 25, 2004





DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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