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August 19, 2012

Movie Review: Lethal Ladies Collection: Volume 2 (Shout Factory)

Three cheesy Roger Corman 70‘s exploitation films in one neat little set- and although not all of the same caliber, each of them delivers in varying degrees the classic Corman trademarks. Here's a quick look at each:

The Arena (1974) -  Kidnapped by Roman soldiers, four beautiful women must battle for their lives in The Arena, while attempting to beat the Romans at their own game. This one stars Corman’s favorite ass-kicking temptress, Pam Grier and Margaret Markov (The Hot Box and Black Mama, White Mama). These two sexy exploitation icons alone have helped to give this film its well deserved cult status. Markov playing the role of Bodicia, the hot priestess who likes running around in lingerie, and Grier playing the role of Mamawi, the Nubian dancer with deadly sword-fighting skills.

Plenty of nudity, gladiator fights, sex, and of coarse that classic Corman theme of women being repressed and tortured only to rise up and take their revenge.  If your a fan of this kind of stuff, it doesn't get much better then The Arena. One of Corman’s best in the genre.

Fly Me (1973) - A group of martial arts assassins boards a passenger plane. Once in the air the group terrorizes the passengers and insists that the plane be re-routed  to another destination. But they picked the wrong plane to hijack, as these stewardesses  don't just serve drinks- their hands and feet are lethal weapons. Starring Pat Anderson (Cover Girl Models), Lenore Kasdorf (Missing in Action), and the always fun to watch, Vic Diaz (The Big Bird Cage).

Of the three films in this set, this is the one I was the least impressed with.  The film restoration was a bit dicey in places and the audio often sounded like something off of an old vinyl record. That coupled with the fact that the story was very lackluster made this one a bit tough to get through, (even for a rabid Corman fan like me). Granted, its got the boob’s, cheesy humor and hokey Kung Fu fight scenes you’d expect, but the three separate story-lines it was trying to tell simultaneously just made it a bit of a yawner. (Hey, even Corman swings and misses from time to time.)

Cover Girl Models (1975) - Their fast, their beautiful, their deadly- and they have to be (that's the tag-line anyway). A fashion photography assignment teams three American models and inadvertently plunges them into the mystery and danger of international espionage. When a priceless roll of microfilm is sewn into one of the girls fashion gowns,  they are drawn into the violence and intrigue of a spy-vs-counterspy conspiracy. Starring Tara Strohmeier (The Great Texas Dynamite Chase), Pat Anderson (TNT Jackson), Lindsay Bloom (H.O.T.S.), and once again, the incomparable Vic Diaz (who actually gets a prominent role in this film as the villain).

This one made almost no sense whatsoever but still managed to be good, goofy fun, with the whole spy-vs-spy theme really just being a back-story to what is really important- lots of topless photo-shoots, sex scenes and low-end martial arts hilarity.

For those with a keen enough eye, they will notice that many of the same stunt men are used in all three of these films, as well as other Corman features.  This three disc set is definitely a solid purchase for exploitation fans, with the films ranging from fair (Fly Me), to good (Cover Girl Models) to high-end, low-budget awesomeness (The Arena). With the great thing about this kind of stuff being- even the bad ones have their own ridiculous charm about them. You will laugh at the bad acting, cheer for the girls and marvel at Pam Grier's amazing chest (uh....I mean performance).

The extras are pretty decent but mostly revolve around just the first feature, The Arena. Overall, its definitely a thumbs-up & stacked to the rafters with old-school cheesy goodness.

*Audio Commentary with Director Steve Carver (The Arena)
*Featurette: In The Arena, with Roger Corman, Producer Mark Damon, Director Steve Carver   and actress Margaret Markov
*Trailers and TV Spots

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