Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Lost Empire (1985)

Directed by Jim Wynorski
Starring Melanie Vincz, Raven De La Croix, Heather McClure Unrated

"I'm very popular with the chicks."
"So why don't you go back to the farm and be popular?"

Lost Empire was originally slated to be shot in 3D, but the budget suffered some deep slashes before filming, and the three-dimensional gag was dropped. This did not stop first-time director Jim Wynorksi from trying to poke your eyeballs out with pencil-eraser nipples. I've never seen a non-stroke flick open with a close-up of cleavage before, but Lost Empire does exactly that. Clearly, Jim Wynorski paid attention in Russ Meyer's 'Heaving Pulchritude 101' class before launching into this one.

Said cleavage belongs to Anita Merritt (Serpent Princess, the mud wrestler chick in Stripes), a dramatic-looking blonde in a Chinatown jewelry shop. She picks out a shiny, diamond-encrusted bracelet, and hands the old guy behind the counter (Peter Pan - really!) a wad of cash. It's actually about $37, but I don't think you're supposed to look that close. The jeweler runs the cash through his credit card machine, for some reason. That was weird. After she leaves, a bunch of dudes in black hoods show up. The old guy shoots at them, but they have wildly-spinning throwing stars on a string, one of which embeds itself in the old guy's head, causing him to smash through the store's glass front door.

Then a bunch of cops show up to fight the hooded guys, and one cop gets stabbed, but then stabs the guy back. I think they're trying to steal a statue with a glowing red eye. Hard to say. Cut to a narrative scroll, ala Star Wars:

"In t a time before history, there existed a forgotten civilization - a strange, mystical race ruled by fierce creatures of myth and magic. They were called the Lemurians. To protect their great power, they implanted their secrets of super-science into a pair of incredible jewels - the Eyes of Avatar - shimmering stones that possessed a life of their own. Then, during a cosmic battle that nearly destroyed the Earth, the Lemurians were vanquished and the eyes were separated. It was written that whoever brought the jewels together again would rule with absolute power.

Today, and unscrupulous evil genius seeks to do just that...letting nothing or no one disrupt his nefarious plan. And so it has been - until now..."

Cut to: A tense stand-off between cops and kidnappers outside an elementary school. Some punks have taken a bunch of kids hostage in a classroom, and have demanded a chopper for a quick getaway. Instead, they get Inspector Angel Wolfe (Melanie Vincz), who rides in on her motorcycle, and shoots them all. In slow motion.

Later on that evening, she has sex with Rick (Paul Coufus), her mustachioed FBI agent boyfriend, on a bearskin rug, with a roaring fire in the background. They are luxuriating in the afterglow of their 70's style lovemaking when Angel gets a phone call.

She finds out that her rookie cop brother, Rob, has been critically injured. So she puts on a skintight silver jumpsuit to go see him.

Rob (Bill Thornbury), it turns out, is the cop that got stabbed by the ninja at the beginning. It doesn't look like he's going to make it. Angel, naturally, wants some answers. Rick is already on the case. He tells her about Lee Chuck. Lee Chuck is the evil genius from the scroll. He has to kill once every 24 hours for Satan. There's clearly a new Lee Chuck in town.

Angel, now dressed in a halter top, goes to the jewelry store to investigate, and runs into Inspector Charles Chang (Art Hern), a white dude with a Fu Manchu mustache, dressed like Charlie Chan.
"You've got to be kidding me," says Wolfe. I was thinking the same thing.
The missing Eye of the Avatar jumps into Wolfe's purse. She doesn't notice, even though it's glowing red. She has lunch with Chang and Rick, who explains that Chuck has one Eye of the Avatar, and he's desperately seeking the other. Also, there's a guy named Sin Do who has his own island, and he is somehow linked to Chuck.

Rob dies, so Wolfe wants to get revenge by blowing the lid off of Sin Do's operation. Rick tells her he holds competitions of some sort on his island, but he'll only take trios. So first Wolfe gets a perm, and then she goes to an Indian reservation, where she holds a white feather and calls out for "White Star" over a crackling fire. After a couple minutes, a big-titted chick (Russ Meyer girl Raven De Le Croix) in a porno Indian costume materializes on a white horse.
"White Star!"
"Well, who'd you expect, Tonto?"

White Star and Angel head over to a local bar, where Angel tells the whole sordid story over beers. White Star agrees to help her, and then they beat up a couple asshole cowboys. Afterward, they head over to the women's penitentiary to pick up their third girl, Heather (Angela Aames, RIP) just as she's having a fight with a leather-clad dominatrix(Angelique Pettyjohn, RIP) wielding a whip.
Heather wins the fight, and later on, while she's taking a shower, Angel and White Star drop in to tell her she's getting paroled, as long as she goes with 'em to Sin Do's island.

She doesn't really like prison all that much, so she agrees. And so, our bosomy trio is complete.

After bullying their way into the competition, this bald guy with a crazy fake nose and eyebrows in a robe named Koro (Robert Tessier, RIP) picks our heroines and a bunch of other girls up in a tiny propeller plane and tells them he's taking them to the island of Golgotha.

"You will now surrender all alcohol, drugs, and stimulants of any kind," he says.
"I wonder if that includes vibrators?" Asks Heather.
Angel accidentally leaves her purse on top of Rick's car, and the plane takes off before he can give it to her. This will be important later.

After the girls get off the plane, they walk up a dirt road to a sci-fi matte painting. After a quick trip through a cave, they end up in what looks like an old Roger Corman spaceship set. They're given blue bathing suits with white belts to wear, and then they all get screwy medical exams.

One girl has to get naked in a big clear tube, and Angel gets her mouth shot full of white light. I think another girl got fisted, too. Can't be sure. One girl gets busted for being a spy, so Koro strangles her, just so everybody knows who's boss.
By the way, sometimes Koro has fake eyebrows, sometimes not. From one shot to another, I mean.

Meanwhile, back home, Rick is relaxing and watching TV when he hears a weird beeping sound. Instinctively, he grabs his gun (it's on an end-table next to a bottle of Wild Turkey and a pile of magazines - Playboy, Mad, and Cracked), and when he turns around, he sees a pink light emanating from his girlfriend's purse.
"Angel, I know now," he murmurs, "And I'm on my way."

Back at the island, Angel tries to sleep (in her bra), but somebody lets a tarantula loose in her bed. She smashes it, and it turns out to be robotic.
"I hate robot spiders," she says to the camera.

After a hard day of jumping jacks and archery, the girls sneak out to finds out what's really going on. They beat up some guards and take their robes, but the alarm goes up, and Sin Do sends a gorilla (!) out to look for them. White Star runs into a former competitor named Cindy (Linda Shayne, Screwballs) who was sent to the slave pit, where they sell the losers off to Arabs. Luckily, she escaped. Unluckily, the gorilla snatches her up. Bye, Cindy.

Some indeterminate time later, the girls are forced into gladiator fights while Sin Do sits in his office, watching on a black and white TV, stroking his snake. During a break in the action, White Star gets a message that she is to meet him for dinner. White Star wears a white fur bra for the occasion.

While she's dining with the boss, Angel and Heather are Scooby Dooing around the joint. They head down a dark hallway and end up in front of a giant iron gate where a bunch of girls are being held captive.

They eye all the horrors and vow to free the girls and kill the bad guys.
"What about the gorilla?" asks Heather.
"White Star gets dibs on the gorilla," says Angel.

Sin Do, meanwhile, tells White Star he wants her as his bride. Then he says, "Behold the Gorgon," and opens his robe. I guess his penis is called Gorgon? Anyway, a bunch of smoke pours out and White Star passes out. When she wakes up, she's naked, and a python is crawling around on her.

The next day, Sin Do decides to address the girls directly. No one's actually seen him yet. The girls are all assembled, and he comes out. He takes off his hood and reveals himself. He's the Tall Man, Angus Scrimm! He tells them an intruder has arrived, and although he was at first pissed, he's happy about it now, since said intruder brought the other Eye of the Avatar. It's Rick, that dummy. He's forced to fight Angel to the death, but they're clearly faking it, so Sin Do orders Koro to shoot them with his machine gun. Luckily, White star shows up with her bow and arrow, and mayhem ensues.

Angel chases down Sin Do and finds out his terrible secret. When she sees what it is, she does one of the greatest 'what-the-fuck' faces ever. It's a pretty awesome secret, but he takes an awfully long time explaining it, and if he doesn't kill Angel in five minutes, Satan will reclaim him. That's not really a spoiler, by the way, since Wynorski didn't offer any other characters for Lee Chuck to be. Ok, I guess this part is a spoiler: it turns out that he's only wearing an Angus Scrimm mask. He's actually a charred skeleton, and he's got an amazing laser weapon that looks just like a penis and balls.

The ending is incredible and ridiculous in, like, 17 different ways.

The climactic explosion, by the way (again, not a spoiler; all of Wynorski's movies end with explosions) is gigantic. I can only assume it was borrowed from some other movie.

In summation: Not only is this clearly Wynorski's finest work, it's probably one of the greatest movies ever made. Filled with hot girls, preposterous bad-guys, ridiculous dialogue, shoddy sets, cheap-o special effects, and a cast of cult favorites and weirdoes, there's really no way you can watch this without falling deeply and madly in love with it. It's junkfilm Nirvana, and well-worth the dig to find it. Next time you're in town, Mr. Wynorski, the drinks are on me.

Availability: The Lost Empire is available on (out of print) VHS. Also on Region 2 DVD. If somebody would get it together and release this on a proper Region 1 DVD, I'd appreciate it. Thank you in advance.

- Ken McIntyre

1 comment:

  1. You can get this on dvd-r at super strange video dot com...


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