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June 17, 2012

Movie Review: Roger Corman's Cult Classics Triple Feature: The Lethal Ladies Collection (2011)

Starring Jeanne Bell, Jillian Kesner and Cheri Caffaro

Roger Corman fans, somebody out there loves you. And that somebody is the genius’s at Shoutfactory. They have restored and put together this awesome triple-feature just chalk-full of babes, boobs, sex and more karate chopping mayhem then you can shake a fighting staff at.

Welcome to the world of 70‘s-80‘s sexploitation at its finest, a world where everyone seems to be a martial arts expert and beautiful ladies are more then willing to make sweet love to you....right before killing you with a well placed roundhouse kick to the teeth.

TNT Jackson (1974)~ “They call me TNT”, martial arts expert Diana Jackson (Jeanne Bell) announces upon her arrival in Hong Kong to look for her missing brother, heading into the city’s worst area, a no-man’s-land that is a haven for drug dealers, thieves and killers. TNT does not know that her brother has been brutally murdered by Charlie (Stan Shaw), an American who is bent on inching his way to the top of the city’s drug-smuggling trade. But he has no idea what he’s up against when he tangles with dynamite in TNT Jackson.

Firecracker (1981)~ Female karate champion Susanne Carter (Jillian Kesner) goes to the Philippines to look for her sister who has disappeared. She stumbles upon a drug cartel and a tournament of no-holds-barred fights to the death in the action-packed Firecracker. Directed by genre specialist Cirio H. Santiago (TNT Jackson) and costarring Vic Diaz (The Big Bird Cage) and Darby Hilton (Malibu Express).

Too Hot To Handle (1977)~ Contract killer Samantha Fox (Cheri Caffaro) accepts a mission to kill a group of gangsters in the Philippines, but problems arise when she falls for the Manila detective investigating the murders. Director Don Schain, who was married to Caffaro, directed her in several films prior to Too Hot To Handle, including Ginger, Girls Are For Loving and The Abductors.

One of the things that always seems to be overlooked in these exploitation-era films is the amazing stunt work and absolutely top-level fight scene choreography that was done. Especially the fight scenes in Firecracker and TNT Jackson. The obviously limited fighting skills of the female stars are more then supplemented by literally hordes of kung-fu masters that keep these movies nearly on par with the action-packed pace of any Bruce Lee movie of the time.

Too Hot To Handle was a great addition to the other films as it was a nice contrast in style, not so much a kung-fu movie as it was a soft-core porno, heavy on sex scenes, nudity and assassin-style killings.

Sure, the acting is sketchy at best and the story-lines are completely ridiculous, but that in itself is part of the charm of these “classics”. Part of Roger Corman’s genius is the fact that he kept his movie-making formula very simple. Equal parts hot women and steamy sex scenes mixed with liberal amounts of gratuitous violence = Big Profits and enduring respect from fans of trash cinema. And in spite of the fact that all of these films were panned by critics during their time, the simple fact that nearly 40 years later people are still in love with them just proves one thing..... hot chicks, kung-fu and murder will never go out of style.

The restoration was very well done on these films, they were cleaned up without being too glossy, still maintaining that raw feel that is so integral to the genre. The audio wasn't all that great, but again, that's how we like it baby.

Kudos to Shout Factory for not trying to do too much as far as altering the feel of these films, they have kept their edginess while getting a tastefully done minor face lift.

This is popcorn munching fun on an epic scale.

8 out of 10

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