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Saturday, January 25, 2020

Films by Country: Indonesia



INDONESIAN HORROR [1950 - 1990]

There are many good reasons there were barely any horror films made in Indonesia prior to 1970. For starters, Indonesia as a country wasn't even Indonesia until they declared their independence in 1945. Before that, it was the Dutch East Indies and the Dutch refused to officially let go until 1949, so films produced prior to 1950 (the very first being the now-missing 1926 silent film Loetoeng Kasaroeng / "The Enchanted Monkey") aren't even technically Indonesian. Thus films like director The Teng Chun's Ouw Peh Tjoa (1934, "Two White Snake Ghosts") and the follow-up Anaknja Siloeman Oeler Poeti (1936, "Son of White Snake Ghost"), fantasy films that perhaps have some mild horror content, wouldn't count. This would also include director Tan Tjoie Hock's 1941 film Tengkorak Hidoep (aka "The Living Skull"), which definitely would count as horror as it was heavily influenced by western vampire films, involves a group of people encountering a 2000-year-old evil spirit on an island and is almost always listed as being Indonesia's very first horror film. Except it wasn't even Indonesia yet.

 

Second, once what-would-become Indonesia's film industry did start up, it was basically co-opted and controlled by Chinese film companies who set up shop there, owned most of the theaters and were essentially using it as a location. That lasted until the Great Depression, when their film industry virtually collapsed and local filmmakers found themselves unable to compete with more expensive Hollywood imports. The creative film industry then ceased after the Dutch lost control for a few years (1942-1945) during WWII when the Japanese invaded and seized all film resources / equipment to use in making propaganda films. Considering all Indonesia went through on its path to independence, finally achieved when the Dutch recognized them as such in December 1949, it's not surprising it took awhile for their film industry to grow and for them as a country to forge their own identity apart from Dutch, Chinese, Japanese and U.S. influences.

 

With one possible exception (seen on the list below) I couldn't find a single Indonesian horror film produced in the 1950s, though there were a few fantasy films drawing from local legends and myths in the same vein as those two ghost snake movies I mentioned above. The very first reference to a post WWII horror film that I've found is 1962's Badai-Selatan ("Southern Storm"), which played at the 12th Annual Berlin International Film Festival. Interestingly, it was directed by a woman; Sofia W.D. (below), which would make it one of only a few (as in you can count them all on two hands) horror films directed by a female the entire decade. Sofia would become one of the country's most prolific actresses and, fittingly enough, is best known internationally for a number of popular horror films she appeared in. I couldn't find a copy of Southern Storm. It may be forever lost just like most of the films that came before it.


From 1971 on, there was at least one horror produced per year in the country and it has stayed that way ever since. After a slow build-up, the VHS revolution of the 80s increased the product as it did in virtually every other country that had a film industry. Yet while several other Asian countries like Hong Kong and Japan managed to get at least some of their films out to a worldwide audience, Indonesian productions seldom left the Asian market. About the same fate befell older Indian, Thai and South Korean horror films.

One good reason very few of the Indonesian films were exported is because, in lieu of hiring a composer, many filmmakers simply used whatever music they liked from whatever film they liked. Getting permission and / or paying for its use? Meh! Who has time for all that? One can assume these directors probably thought the chances of the film actually leaving the country were slim to none, but they also probably didn't anticipate the internet either. This also explains why most of these were never subtitled or dubbed in English and never released on a home viewing format outside of cheap bargain VCDs with their typically dark and blurry picture and jacked up aspect ratio. It doesn't help that much of the stolen music is from very famous films like The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby and Poltergeist, and very famous composers like Jerry Goldsmith, Pino Donaggio and John Williams.

Not only was the music pilfered, but many filmmakers often plagiarized characters, dialogue and even entire scenes right down to the camera shots. I'm just starting to scratch the surface with these films and I've already seen scenes from Evil Dead II, A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Omen (and its first sequel) blatantly ripped off. In at least a few instances, entire plots were stolen. Leave it to Indonesia to make an unofficial remake of something like Ninja III: The Domination!


In the 80s, Indonesia also found their very first horror star. Instead of a campy Vincent Price type or a strange-looking Peter Lorre, they opted for a beautiful woman by the name of Suzanna Martha Frederika van Osch. A former child and teen actress, the then-middle-aged (but didn't look it) Suzanna added an extra "z" to her name (for a little pizzazz?) and started playing ghosts, witches, snake women, sea queens and even eventually what amounted to a female Freddy Krueger complete with a razor glove before all was said and done. She was so popular her films were often among the top-grossing films of the year in her homeland, she won major Best Actress awards (for horror films!) and her starring vehicles were typically more lavishly produced than most other Indonesian genre films of the time.

Best-known of all pre-1990 Indonesian horror films is probably director Lili(e)k Sudjio's Queen of Black Magic (1981), which was also one of the only Indonesian horror films to be English-dubbed and get a theatrical release here in the United States. The film also, not surprisingly, starred Suzzanna and had Sofia W.D. in a supporting role, along with her even more prolific husband W.D. Mochtar (below), who seemed to appear in around 75% of the films being shot in the country. Following a close second in fame is the pretty freakin' awesome Terminator rip-off Lady Terminator, which played in U.S. theaters in 1989. Both films were recipients of decent VHS and DVD distribution during the video era and beyond and are now seen as cult classics as a result.


Fairing less well but still better than most of their kin were Primitives (1978), Satan's Slave (1980), Special Silencers (1982), War Victims (1983), Revenge of the Ninja (1984; a misleading re-titling of Gadis berwajah seribu / "Girl with a Thousand Faces"), The Hungry Snake Woman (1986), Satan's Bed (1986) and Jungle Heat (1988); all of which were issued on home video in either Europe or the U.S. The witch-with-detachable-head opus Mystics in Bali (1981) eventually got deluxe DVD treatment from Mondo Macabro (as did Queen and Terminator) and its cult reputation soared as a result. Now it's probably the third most popular older Indonesian horror film worldwide from the list below, behind only the two films in the previous paragraph.


As for the other 100+ pre-1990 genre films, good luck finding them, even better luck finding them in good condition and expect a miracle to stumble upon them with English subtitles. A few on the list - Temptation of the Demon Woman (1978) and The Snake Queen (1982) among them - have been the recipients of fan-made English subs in recent years, which are usually attached to poor quality bootlegs. Still, if that's the best one can do, it's certainly better than nothing. I was just glad to finally be able to see them! Most of the titles on here were issued on video or VCD in Asia and have since been uploaded to Youtube but the quality is almost always terrible, sometimes unwatchable.

Another minor issue compiling this list is that many Indonesian horror efforts are defiant of being pigeonholed to just one genre and gleefully mix up the horror (whenever present) with action, fantasy, comedy and melodrama. Indonesia was particularly proficient with fantasy films, which are considered their own distinct genre called "Mistik." Even though these are often filled with horror elements (monsters, witches and witchcraft, gore, ghosts, black magic, zombies, etc.), they're seldom classified as horror on online film sites but we're going to do something about that right here. Indonesia's biggest all-around star from this time was Barry Prima. Prima, who is of mixed Dutch and Indonesian ancestry and trained in tae kwon do, became not only Indonesia's biggest film star of the 80s but also the undisputed king of these type of fantasy-adventure-horror "mistik" hybrids. Two of his vehicles in particular - Sisworo Gautama Putra's The Warrior (1981) and Ratno Timoer's The Devil's Sword (1984) - have also become big cult items in recent years thanks to remastered DVD releases from Mondo Macabro.


Artwork and posters for 80s Indonesian horror films aren't always so easy to come by. In fact, some of these may have never even played in theaters so they never even had a poster to begin with. Oftentimes the best one can find are shitty VCD cover scans blotted with ugly stickers and with text added ("STOP PIRACY!!!!!!!") by whoever uploaded it. I've had to put my mediocre Photoshop skills to use trying to smudge some of that nonsense out and make my own posters for some of these titles by cropping, resizing, blurring, sharpening, etc. I already added some to sites like TMDB and Letterboxd and have since seen them circulating around on other movie sites, so at least my work wasn't in vain. (Warning: A few of my 'touch-up' jobs in situations where I had next to nothing to work with turned out so bad I wish I'd never posted them in the first place!)


Most of the English titles being used come from one of three invaluable Indonesian film sites (Film Indonesia being the most helpful of all). Few of these are even listed on other sites like IMDb and much of what is there is only there because I added it myself. Films are listed in chronological order by release date and then in alphabetical order (by English title) within their year.

As always, this is still very much a work in progress. Unlike with some other years, I feel this list is pretty damn complete. I'd say it's at least 90 percent there as it is, though you may see a title added (or possibly subtracted) depending on what I learn about some of these in the future.

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1950s


- Golden Queen (Ratu kentjana) (1955; Rd Ariffien) * Concerns a woman who is second wife to a rich man. She murders the first wife and then tries to do away with the stepdaughter. I'm not entirely sure this is horror but the poster certainly looks like it!


1960s

- Southern Storm (Badai-Selatan) (1962; Sofia W.D.)

- Lightning in the Night (Petir sepandjang malam) (1967; Syarifuddin, S. Waldy)


1970s

Lisa (1971; M. Sharieffudin A.)

Angry Man, The (Pemberang) (1972; Hasmanan)
Birth in the Tomb (Beranak Dalam Kubur) (1972; Awaludin, Ali Shahab)
Corpse Hunter (Pemburu Mayat) (1972; Kurnaen Suhardiman)
- Face of a Killer, The (Wajah Seorang Pembunuh) (1972; M. Sharieffudin A.)
- Ghostly Face, The (1972; Sai King Yang) [co-Hong Kong, Taiwan]
- Midnight Terror (Teror Tengah Malam) (1972; Willy Wilianto)
Snake Queen (Ratu Ular) (1972; Lilik Sudjio)


Bloody Ring, The (Cincin berdarah) (1973; S.A. Karim)
Crazy Desire (Napsu gila) (1973; Ali Shahab)
- Si Comel (1973; S.A. Karim)
- Sweet Girl at Ancol Bridge, The (Si manis jembatan ancol) (1973; Turino Junaidy)

Chased by Sin (Dikejar dosa) (1974; Lukman Hakim Nain)
- Drakula Mantu (1974; Nya Abbas Akup)
Kuntilanak (Female Ghost; The Miracle of Love) (1974; Ratno Timoer)
- Mystery in Hong Kong (Misteri in Hongkong) (1974; Iksan Lahardi) [co-Hong Kong]
Night Virgin (Perawan malam) (1974; Bay Isbahi)
- Satan in Her (Kemasukan setan) (1974; Lukman Hakim Nain)


Curious Spirit (Arwah penasaran (Delia)) (1975; S.A. Karim)
Old Building Tenant (Penghuni bangunan tua) (1975; M. Sharieffudin A.)
- Satan's Cemetery (Setan kuburan) (1975; Daeng Idris)

- Poisonous Kiss (Ciuman beracun) (1976; Ratno Timoer)
Wishing to Get Rich Quick (Ingin Cepat Kaya (Babi Jadi-Jadian)) (1976; B.Z. Kadaryono)

- Greedy Appetite (Napsu Serakah) (1977; Bay Isbahi)
Midwife: Praji Magic, The (Dukun Beranak) (1977; Bay Isbahi)
- Mystery of the Eight Fighters (Mistery 8 Pendekar) (1977; Ostian Mogalana)
Young Wife's Witchcraft, A (Guna-guna Istri Muda) (1977; B.Z. Kadaryono)


Goddess of Night (Dewi Malam) (1978; Eddy Sajoedie)
- Primitives (Primitif; Savage Terror) (1978; Sisworo Gautama Putra)
- Revenge of a Young Wife's Witchcraft (Pembalasan guna-guna istri muda) (1978; B.Z. Kadaryono)
- Temptation of the Demon Woman (Godaan Siluman Perempuan) (1978; Ackyl Anwari)
Tuyul (Little Devil) (1978; Bay Isbahi)

- Antidote for Witchcraft (Penangkal Ilmu Teluh) (1979; S.A. Karim)
- Curse of Nyai Roro Kidul, The (Kutukan Nyai Roro Kidul) (1979; B.Z. Kadaryono)



1980s

- Amazing Darna, The (Darna ajaib) (1980; Lilik Sudjio)
- Dangdut Dance (Goyang dangdut) (1980; A. Harris)
- Queen of the South Coast (Ratu pantai selatan) (1980; Ackyl Anwari)
- Satan's Slave (Pengabdi Setan) (1980; Sisworo Gautama Putra) ▼


- Black Magic Wizard (Dukun ilmu hitam) (1981; A. Harris)
- Fox, The (Lupo; Srigala; Wolf) (1981; Sisworo Gautama Putra)
- Haunted House, The (Gondoruwo) (1981; Ratno Timoer)
- Leech Wizard, The (Dukun Lintah) (1981; Ackyl Anwari, Fred Wardy)
- Magic Man, The (Manusia Berilmu Gaib) (1981; Lilik Sudjio)
- Mystics in Bali (Balinese Magic; Leak; Mistik) (1981; H. Tjut Djalil)
Night Screams (Jeritan Malam) (1981; M. Abnar Romli)
- Purple Fog at the Shore (Kabut ungu di bibir pantai) (1981; Dasri Yacob)
- Queen of Black Magic (Ratu Ilmu Hitam) (1981; Lilik Sudjio) [co-Japan, Philippines] ▼
- Sacrifice for Satan (Tumbal Iblis) (1981; B.Z. Kadaryono)
- Supernatural Human Knowledge (Manusia berilmu gaib) (1981; Lilik Sudjio)
- Warrior, The (Jaka Sembung) (1981; Sisworo Gautama Putra)


- Credit Devil (Setan Kredit) (1982; Iksan Lahardi)
- Fire of Vengeance (Perhitungan Terakhir) (1982; Danu Umbara)
- Galunggung Genie (Jin Galunggung) (1982; Ratno Timoer)
- Heat of the Night Blanket (Panasnya selimut malam) (1982; Wahab Abdi)
- Karma Punishment (Hukum karma) (1982; Jimmy Atmaja)
- Magic Stick (Tongkat Sakti) (1982; Willy Wilianto)
- Miracle Baby (Bayi ajaib) (1982; Tindra Rengat)
- Mystery of Ronggeng Jaipong, The (Misteri Ronggeng Jaipong) (1982; Mardali Syarief)
- Nenek Grondong (Grandmother Grondong) (1982; M. Sharieffudin A.)
Revenge of Nini Towok (Pembalasan Nini Towok) (1982; B.D. Kadaryono)
- Snake Queen, The (Nyi blorong) (1982; Sisworo Gautama Putra) [co-Japan]
- Special Silencers (Serbuan halilintar) (1982; Arizal) ▼
- Sundel Bolong (Ghost with Hole) (1982; Sisworo Gautama Putra) ▲
- White Crocodile, The (Buaya putih) (1982; Fritz G. Schadt)


- Crocodile Queen (Ratu buaya) (1983; M. Sharieffudin A.)
- Demon and the Magic Talisman (Siluman dan Tasbih Sakti) (1983; Wisjnu Mouradhy)
- War Victims (Kamp tawanan wanita) (1983; Jopi Burnama)

- Anita: Female Snakes (Anita: Ular betina) (1984; M. Sharieffudin A.)
- Devil's Sword, The (Golok setan) (1984; Ratno Timoer)
- Girl with a Thousand Faces, The (Gadis berwajah seribu) (1984; Ratno Timoer)
Keris Kalamujeng (1984; Lilik Sudjeno) [South Sea Queen]
- Lake Eerie (Haunted Lake; Telaga Angker) (1984; Sisworo Gautama Putra)
- Snake Princess (Putri ular) (1984; M. Sharieffudin A.)

- Awakening of the South Sea Queen (Bangunnya Nyi Roro Kidul) (1985; Sisworo G. Putra)
- Calon Arang, the Powerful Queen (Ratu sakti Calon Arang) (1985; Sisworo G. Putra)
- Satan's Whisper (Bisikan Setan) (1985; B.Z. Kadaryono)


- Cobra's Bite (Sengatan Kobra) (1986; Mardaly Sjarif)
- Hungry Snake Woman, The (Petualangan cinta nyi blorong) (1986; Sisworo Gautama Putra)
- Night of Kliwon Friday, The (Malam jumat kliwon) (1986; Sisworo Gautama Putra)
- Satan's Bed (Batas impian ranjang setan; Cauchemar) (1986; H. Tjut Djalil)
- Seven Tiger Man (Tujuh manusia harimau) (1986; Imam Tantowi)

- Eerie Cemetery (Kuburan Angker) (1987; B.Z. Kadaryono)
- Lowo ijo (1987; Dasri Yacob)
- Mystery of the Old House (Misteri rumah tua) (1987; Lilik Sudjio)
- Mystery of the Old Well (Misteri sumur tua) (1987; Ali Shahab)
- Night Woman (Perempuan Malam) (1987; Atok Suharto)
- Pelet (Seducing Witchcraft) (1988; Imam Tantowi)
- Possessed Grandmother, The (Nenek Lampir) (1987; Bachroem Halilintar) 
- Revenge of the Abandoned Child (Dendam Anak Buangan) (1987; Dasri Yacob)
- Revenge on Kliwon Friday (Dendam di Jumat Kliwon) (1987; Lilik Sudjio)
- Thousand Centipedes (Kelabang Seribu) (1987; Imam Tantowi)

- Because of Second Wife's Witchcraft (Akibat Guna-guna Istri Muda) (1988; Imam Putra Piliang)
- Bloodstained Painting (Lukisan Berlumur Darah) (1988; Torro Margens)
- Demon Monkey (Siluman Kera) (1988; Abnar Romli)
- Demon of Gonggo Gulf (Siluman Teluk Gongg) (1987; Lilik Sudjio)
- Demon with the Silver Sickle (Siluman Clurit Perak) (1988; Dasri Yacob)


- Jungle Heat (Rimba Panas) (1988; Ratno Timoer) [co-Philippines]
- Magic Amethyst (Kecubung Sakti) (1988; Wisjnu Mouradhy)
- Man Who Sits with the Dead, The (Manusia Penunggu Jenazah) (1988; Jopi Burnama)
Monkey Worship (Ngipri Monyet) (1988; Lilik Sudjio)
- Pocong Ghost (Setan Pocong) (1988; Bachroem Halilintar)
- Possessed Grandmother in the Eerie House (Nenek Lampir di Rumah Angker) (1988; Bachroem Halilintar)
- Resurrected from the Grave (Bangkit dari Kubur) (1988; Dasri Yacob)
- Santet (Witchcraft) (1988; Sisworo Gautama Putra)
- Satu Suro Night (Malam Satu Suro) (1988; Sisworo Gautama Putra)
- Soul of the Magical Child (Arwah Anak Ajaib) (1988; Tommy Burnama)
- Three Blood Demons and the Whip of Fire and Wind (Tiga setan darah dan cambuk api angin) (1988; Lilik Sudjio)
- Vanishing of Mystery Science, The (Lenyapnya Ilmu Misteri) (1988; B.Z. Kadaryono)
- Wewe Gombel (1988; B.Z. Kadaryono)
- Whisper of the Dead (Bisikin Arwah; Whispering Soul) (1988; Jopi Burnama)
- White Crocodile Queen (Ratu Buaya Puth; The White Crocodile) (1988; H. Tjut Djalil)
- Whoever Sows Hate Will Reap Disaster (Siapa menabur benci akan menuai bencana) (1988; Ackyl Anwari)
- Witch's Daughter, The (Putri Kunti'anak) (1988; Atok Suharto)


Battle at Demon Cave (Pertarungan di goa siluman) (1989; Imam Putra Piliang)
- Black Magic Annihilation (Musnahkan ilmu santet) (1989; Maman Firmansyah)
- Bloody Love (Cinta berdarah) (1989; Torro Margens)
- Bloody Marriage (Pernikahan berdarah) (1990; Torro Margens)
- Glance of the Red Snake (Lirikan ular merah) (1989; Iksan Lahardi)
- Inheritance (Warisan) (1989; Hendrick Souhoka)
Karang Bolong: Demon's Revenge (Pembalasan Setan Karang Bolong) (1989; Ratno Timoer)


- Lady Terminator (Pembalasan ratu pantai selatan) (1989; H. Tjut Djalil) ▲
- Legacy of Reef Knowledge, The (Warisan ilmu karang) (1989; Dasri Yacob)
- Magical Dragon Flute (Seruling naga sakti) (1989; Dasri Yacob)
- Magic Fetus (Janin ajaib) (1989; Tonny Burnama)
- Magic Implants (Susuk) (1989; Imam Putra Piliang)
Midnight Guest (Tamu tengah malam) (1989; Atom Suharto)
Mystery of Mount Merapi (Misteri dari gunung merapi) (1989; Lilik Sudjio)
- Pair of Deadly Eyes, A (Eyes of Death; Sepasang mata maut) (1989; Torro Margens)
- Santet II (Female Tigers; Wanita harimau) (1989; Sisworo Gautama Putra)
- Snake Queen's Love Story (Kisah cinta Nyi Blorong) (1989; Norman Benny)
- Snap of Red Spider's Web (Putusnya Jaring Laba-Laba Merah) (1989; B.Z. Kadaryono)
- Spirit (Roh) (1989; Susilo S.W.D.)
Sting of the Red Spider (Sengatan Laba-Laba Merah) (1989; B.Z. Kadaryono)
- Tracking Revenge (Melacak dendam) (1989; Atok Suharto)
Treasure Mystery (Misteri harta karun) (1989; Abdi Wiyono)


- Baron Macan Terminal (1990; Sofyan Sharna)
- Charm Jewel (Mustika Pemikat) (1990; Iksan Lahardi)
- Death-Spreading Heirloom (1990; Pusaka Penyebar Maut) (1990; Sisworo Gautama Putra)
- Forbidden Inheritance (Warisan Terlarang) (1990; Abdul Kadir)
Incarnation of the Snake Goddess (Titisan Dewi Ular) (1990; Sisworo Gautama Putra)
- Midnight Thunder (Guntur Tengah Malam) (1990; A. Rachman)
Mystery of Mount Merapi II: Incarnation of the Nyai Kembang Spirit (Misteri Dari Gunung Merapi II: Titisan Roh Nyai Kembang) (1990; Lilik Sudjio)
- Mystery of Mount Merapi III: Flame-Haired Woman (Misteri Dari Gunung Merapi III: Perempuan Berambut Api) (1990; Lilik Sudjio)
Nyi Lamped (Melati Karang Hawu) (1990; Charles Anakotta)
- Woman's Tranformation (Wanita Jelmaan) (1990; Sofyan Sharna)


- Pact with the Forces of Darkness (Perjanjian dimalam keremat) (1991 [filmed in 1990]; Sisworo Gautama Putra) ▲

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TOTAL FILMS:
150

NOTES:

- The Angry Man (1972) is an unauthorized remake of Cape Fear (1962). It won three Citra Awards at the Indonesian Film Festival.
- Satan in Her (1974) was Indonesia's answer to the worldwide phenomenon The Exorcist (1973). Every country seems to have their own version!
- Actually, many of the above films are either rip-offs or remakes. Satan's Slave (1980) is heavily "inspired by" Phantasm. Satan's Bed (1986) and Pact with the Forces of Darkness copied the Nightmare on Elm Street series. Tracking Revenge (1989) is an almost scene-for-scene copy of Ninja III: The Domination. Lady Terminator (1989) goes without saying. And there are numerous others I could mention.
- Tuyul (1979) was followed by two back-to-back sequels in 1979: Tuyul Eee Ketemu Lagi ("Meeting the Imp Again") and Tuyul Perempuan ("Female Imp"). However, these are more like fantasy comedies and have been left off for the time being. I may choose to include these once I see them.
- Though never given credit for it, Indonesian filmmakers account for some of the most prolific genre directors of this era. Sisworo Gautama Putra and Lilik Sudjio are Top 10 material for the entire 40 year span we cover here while others like Ratno Timoer, B.Z. Kadaryono and Dasri Yacob managed to amass more credits than most others.
- The same goes for the actors. Suzzanna likely had more starring roles in 80s horror films than any other actress in the world, while W.D. Mochtar, who had lead and supporting roles in about equal measure, is certainly one of the most prolific men.

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Any comments or corrections are always more than welcome so please drop a message down below if you've got anything to add.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Lost Empire, The (1984)

... aka: Drei Engel auf der Todesinsel (Three Angels on the Island of Death)
... aka: Kauhun valtakunta (Kingdom of Horror)

Directed by:
Jim Wynorski

After a botched attempt at getting a film school education, Long Island native Jim Wynorski spent much of the 1970s working for publisher Doubleday (who'd later release the Wynorski-edited sci-fi compilation They Came from Outer Space in 1981), but his desire to work in film never went away. Quitting his job in New York, Wynorski relocated to Los Angeles and promptly went to work for legendary low budget producer Roger Corman. At Corman's New World Pictures, Wynorski cut his teeth editing trailers and helping to devise outrageous ad campaigns for a variety of exploitation flicks like SCREAMERS (1980). From there, he got to write several Corman-produced films like the Alien cash-in Forbidden World (1982) and the fantasy Sorceress (1982) before finally making his feature debut with The Lost Empire. Empire however was not made for New World but instead for a wealthy theater owner who was, unbeknownst to Wynorski at the time he was making this, actually looking for a tax write-off!

Few would have guessed it back in the early 80s, but this low budget exploiter would be the first of over 100 movies from a director who'd go on to make films in pretty much every popular genre over the next few decades. Though he spent most of his time making sci-fi, horror and action flicks (usually with heavy doses of meta humor) and then erotic thrillers and soft-core porn "spoofs," he also ventured into teen comedies, westerns, TV movies and even the occasional PG-rated kid's film. He was, in fact, the first person to cast a pre-star Jennifer Love Hewitt in a leading role.





What's especially interesting about Empire is that this is a virtual sampler of everything Wynorski would later offer up. Not only are the tongue-in-cheek tone and cup-size-casting established right out of the gate (a lingering close-up of a well-endowed blonde's cleavage is fittingly the very first thing we even see), but this merrily skips along touching base with nearly every exploitation subgenre known to man. Here you get action, horror, sci-fi, fantasy and comedy all rolled up into one, plus some Charlie's Angels-style girl power, some Conan the Barbarian, some Enter the Dragon, a pinch of creature feature, a bit of a buddy cop flick and even a mini women-in-prison spoof thrown in. This is Wynorski basically overflowing the kitchen sink, but the results are pleasantly silly and always entertaining.








In an attempt to remove a precious jewel from an ancient statue, three ninjas break into a Chinatown jewelry store and kill the owner. A face-off with police follows and everyone ends up dead. Among those killed is Rob Wolfe (Bill Thornbury), the brother of tough female policewoman Angel Wolfe (Melanie Vincz). Vowing to avenge his death, Angel is given a throwing star that clues her lover, FBI Agent Rick Stanton (Paul Coufos), in on just what they're dealing with. According to legend, two hundred years ago a man named Lee Chuck sold his sold to the devil for immortality but, in order to stay alive, he must send Satan at least one soul every 24 hours. That has linked him to nearly every major disaster of the past century. From the Titanic sinking to the Chicago fires, from Hiroshima to Jonestown, he's been directly involved. Lee Chuck's main priority however is acquiring the second of a pair of "Eyes of Avatar" jewels, which will grant him absolute power. Unbeknownst to Angel, the missing one happens to be hiding out in her purse.








Clues eventually point in the general direction of reclusive religious guru / wacko Dr. Sin Do (Angus Scrimm), who has relocated to an isolated island where he's rumored to be transforming cult members into an army of trained assassins. Dr. Sin Do holds frequent tournaments there and invites those he deems "perfect specimens" to compete for cash prizes... only no one seems to return. Since the tournament only accepts teams of three, Angel has a little recruiting work to do. She first selects Native American ghost Whitestar, who's played by voluptuous Russ Meyer film graduate and former stripper Raven De La Croix, who was also an associate producer and designed her own costumes. Her second choice is bosomy tough cookie prison inmate Heather McClure (the late Angela Aames), who is first seen winning a catfight against a sadistic dominatrix named Whiplash, who HAS to be the inspiration behind Wendy O. Williams' character in Reform School Girls and is hilariously played by Angelique Pettyjohn, another veteran exploitation actress who passed away at a young age.








Our spirited heroines, plus a half dozen other female competitors, are whisked away to the island in a jet by Koro (Robert Tessier), the bald and bushy-eyebrowed second-in-command to the guru. They're immediately dressed in skimpy outfits, thoroughly checked with lasers to make sure they aren't spies and then put on an obstacle course where they jog around orange cones and do jumping jacks, shoot arrows and practice spear throwing. It's all in preparation for the "games," which include a swordfight-to-the-death between Angel and a masked muscle man. Two guesses as to who comes out on top there. In between, the girls try to figure out just what's going on. There's an attack by a robot tarantula, a gorilla on a leash that's eventually kicked in the balls, a hilarious phallic laser weapon, a blood-drinking megalomaniac skeleton man, lots of sarcastic-girls-kicking-butt action and much more fun stuff crammed into every nook and cranny. I enjoyed myself.








The pace is fast, sets and costumes are surprisingly good and frequent John Carpenter film composer Alan Howarth contributes a fine electronic score to the works. The cast also includes Blackie Dammett (the father of Red Hot Chili Pepper lead singer Anthony Kiedis) as a corrupt cop, Linda Shayne (who co-wrote the T&A comedy Screwballs with Wynorski) as one of the island prisoners, Kenneth Tobey as a police captain (named in reference to his character from THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD), Anne Gaybis and Garry Goodrow. This was also the film debut of Debbie Blaisdell, who later became prolific 80s adult film actress Tracey Adams.

Even though Empire debuted in theaters in limited release in 1984, it wasn't given its wider theatrical release until the following year almost in coordination with the Lightning Video VHS release. Afterward, the film was caught up in ownership limbo and went unseen for three long decades. After Wynorski reclaimed the rights, it was finally given a restored DVD release in 2014.

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