Mild sexploitation starts right with the Bouncy Boobies of half-clad gals on horseback. Golden Temple Amazons (Les Amazones du temple d'or, 1986) is set in the here-&-now, in a part of the world where domesticated Indian elephants & wild African lions & chimps run wild in the same park or fenced enclosures posing as jungle.
Lianna the Jungle Girl (Analia Ivars credited as Joan Virly) wears furs & not many of those. She grew up feral after the Amazons of the Mysterious Blue Mountains killed her mother & father, the latter a purported missionary who got all giddy with greed when he found the Amazon's gold, so they quite rightly killed him.
Upon the mountain, life is untouched by modern ways. Busty beach babes stride around & fight their enemies with wobbly rubber weapons & force their male slaves to work in the gold mine. Instead of a menacing queen, however, they have a priest-king, because even warrior beach babes need a man to tell them what to do.
Each scene in the tale seems to be striving aggressively to be sillier than the previous scene. The jungle girl heads up a quest to find & destroy the killers of her parents, assisted by Rocky the chimp. The one-eyed amazon beach babe (Lina Romay with hardly more than a walk-on) gets the film's best line: "I'm Rina, captain of the Amazon honor squad. I will enjoy playing with you."
I watched Golden Temple Amazons one day when I was thinking foolishly, "It might be fun to write an article about some of those crummy amazon movies of the 1980s." But after watching this one, I just couldn't bare to watch any others for a great long while. And yet, there is one of these films which I had a small role in bringing into existence, yet I never bothered to see it. Twenty years later, I figured, what the hell, even though everyone was telling me what a crappy, crappy film was Amazons (1986), it was high time i found out for myself.
How well I remember that day when I got a phone call from a chap introducing himself as Roger Corman. I began to hyperventilate & stammered, "R-roger Corman! I-I've been watching your films since I was a little kid!" While I was acting like a complete nurd another part of my brain was saying to me, "Oh no, don't be such a dork."
Roger had gotten hold of an anthology I'd edited called Amazons (1979) which had won the World Fantasy Award & had a couple of editions & done quite well by me & all the contributors. Roger wanted to use my anthology's title & that was cool, there are no copyrights on just titles, he didn't have to tell me about that, but I'd certainly forever bask in the knowledge that I titled a Roger Corman film.
The story he was interested in adapting to the screen was "Agbewe's Sword" by Charles R. Saunders, so I got him in touch with Charles, & Charles ended up writing the script.
Now Charles is African American by birth, Canadian by adoption, as he'd been a Black Panther in his youth & escaped to Canada during the Viet Nam War era. I wouldn't call him a radical. I'd call him a fantasy writer. But certainly he was swept up in the times & his life was shaped more by American wars against Southeast Asians & against black America more than it was shaped by his own goodhearted decency.
There was another Charles Saunders out there, though, in England, a director active up until the 1960s, who died in his nineties a few years ago. The international movie data base thinks Charles R. Saunders is the same as Charles Saunders, & credits the crime film director of the 1950s & 1960s with having scripted Amazons (Amazonas, 1986) & a follow-up sword & sorcery film from the same Argentinian director & crew as produced by Roger Corman,Stormquest (El Ojo de la tormenta,1987) featuring Linda Lutz as the unintentionally comically deviant Stormqueen.
Stormquest has plenty of amazon babes (Kai Baker, Anne Marie Ricci, Monica Gonzaga, & other very nice-looking nobodies) trying to stop the revolt of the male slaves (Rocky Giordani, Brent Huff), or not stop it as the case may be, as some Amazons think holding men down is baaad.
Now Charles happens to be a very fine writer of pulp adventure in prose form. That doesn't necessarily translate into a good screenwriter, though I'm not willing to blame him for Amazons & Stormquest being so fantastically awful, the latter film much worse than the first.
Stormquest did manage a token inclusion of an African character played by Dudu Mchize, perhaps as a concession to Charles crabbing about the first film being all honkies all the time, but I'm guessing. Once he saw the finished film, however, it's no wonder he decided never to bother wasting his time on a third script for anyone, as his scripts had resulted in one film quite bad & a second film so absurdly bad as to make a Canadian author happy his spoilt work gets credited to a geezer in England, whose welcome to the blame.
That short story of Charles's was of the Conan school of barbarian heroics, but set uniquely in Africa, with a powerful female warrior at the center of the action. As adapted for Amazons, the all black African characters of the the original short story came out not merely white, but for the most part as blonde Nordic whites.
The classic pornikitsch poster was by the well known Boris Vallejo & in the original he took the Caucasian babes & bronzed them to look somewhat like black women, perhaps because he read the original short story. I've reproduced the original poster at the top of this page. By the time it made it to the film-poster layout & old vhs cartons, the bronzy-black hues were stripped out, so that the women Boris drew became more definitively the white gals who actually posed, & in keeping with the film.
I was expecting the film to be extremely miserably awful, but fact is, the 1980s genre of barbarian women films resulted mostly in movies as bad or worse than this one, so it's really only par for the course rather than agregious. There were moments I really liked, being a forgiving sort of viewer & a fan of shlock to start with.
The pseudo-Amazon babes in Amazons have costumes I wouldn't entirely fault. Even the women warriors of the Danes, according to Saxo Grammaticus, liked to show their tits so that men would know it was women killing them. And I thought the film costumes were delightful enough, sometimes mere barbarian bikinis, sure, but look at the women's costumes collectively, some of them almost look like clothing that might've really been worn by women into battle, rather than exclusively by pornie-kitsch starlets.
The women themselves are beauties. The two main amazons are played by Penelope Reed who is the only person in the whole cast who can act, & Mindi Miller (credited as Windor Taylor Randolph; in later films she goes by Ty Randolph) as the primary heroic amazon.
I knew nothing of these gals beforehand & was watching to see if any of them showed any inkling of martial skill to indicate they at least took two or three classes to be semi-convincing in their roles. I noticed "Windsor Taylor Randolph" as Dyala could do some really good kickboxing moves. But the more I watched her moves overall, the more certain I became that she learned to kick as a dancer, because her sword & fist action was totally wussy.
Turns out, though, that she really was more than the perfect T & A candidate, as she was additionally the daughter of a Hollywood stuntman, personally studied kempo & shotokan karate, & required no stunt doubles to do her action work.
So if she looked less than completely proficient, it was due to poor choreography or opponents so afraid of getting hurt that all action had to be performed as though everyone was scared they might actually get poked with a swordlike prop, as most of the moves were tentative, clumsy, excessively "careful," or slow -- very bad approximations of battle.
As the film opens we see a group of women in cool barbarian get-ups practicing martial skills. It looked good enough I immediately thought I'd been misled that this was a terrible movie. Then someone finally had a speaking line & I realized acting competence wasn't on the list of qualifications at central casting.
Mindi/Ty is gorgeous but Penelope Reed is even more gorgeous. She's the only character played with complete conviction & it's too damned bad she was all by herself with acting chops. Her role seems to be the best written but probably this is just an illusion from her own ability to sell the character of Tashi.
Tashi's mother Tashingi (Danitza Kingsley who gets the lion's share of the sexploitation work) is the amazon general, but lacks her daughter's noble spirit. General Tashingi is a traitor to fellow amazons, working with the evil wizard Kalungo (Joseph Whipp) to conquer the Emerald Queen (Anita Larrande). Tashingi has one artificial hand due to a duel she had long before with Dyala's mother. Tashingi raised Tashi to be an avenger, & put her own agendas far ahead of duty & honor.
When Tashi & Dyala are chosen by the Emerald Queen to fetch the Sword of Azundati from a distant cavern, Tashingi gives her daughter secret orders to assassinate Dyala. The angst Tashi feels in having to choose between filial obedience to her mom, & her own warrior's honor & growing friendship with Dyala, is the only part of this film that is played out correctly & well. And that's enough in the film's favor that i can say I actually liked it, though finding fault with the majority of the production is certainly easier than finding well done moments.
The film descends into laughableness when the evil Kalungo is making lightning to kill the amazons & their allies, & the lightning bolts are the worst cartoon lightning ever drawn directly onto a negative. When the High Priest (Jacques Ardnt) comes forth with the Spirit Stone to negate the power of the lightning, it's one of the worst FX sequences ever concocted, & the film would've been stronger to have left on the cutting room floor every scene with lightning in it.
It's possible to detect a higher potential in several scenes that must've looked okay in the script but just didn't come out right on the screen. On Dyala's quest for the sword, she's attacked by a skeleton scarecrow that seems to be swinging back & forth on a string overhead. The sorcerer's lioness can turn into a beautiful girl with a lioness's disposition, but transformations occur for the most part off-stage, & the lion itself looks like a very friendly adolescent who just wants to be petted.
The character called Halfhead (Santiago Mallo) was Lord Halfhead in the short story & quite an interesting fellow. In the film he becomes an idle background player whose unusual make-up design keeps us waiting for him to do something interesting but he never does.
An amazon given a noble death is brought back to life in the film's coda because, hey, we can't have sad stuff in a ridiculous movie. And the pivitol magic sword turns out to be valuable mainly as a lightning rod so no more spectacular than the spectacularly silly Spirit Stone which served the same purpose.
Scene by scene it doesn't take a mere nitpicker to find fault heaped on fault. Yet in the final assessment, anyone who liked any of the shlocky girl barbarian films of the 1980s would have every reason to like this one as well. Despite that it's a bad movie, it really isn't any worse than its pitiful little sub-genre tended to be.
The purpose of these films was never one of telling a good heroic fantasy story (much as the scriptwriter may have wished it so) but to produce a "moving picture" version of a sexy pin-up girl calendar, or to give motion & life to fetishistic paintings by Boris Vallejo or Frank Frazetta. Those of us who would more appreciate a rousing adventure story needn't bother exercising our expectations.
For films that respect both storytelling art & the woman warrior as protagonist, we need to look in other directions at films like The Lady Hermit (1971), or Kriemhild's Revenge (1924), or Red Peony Gambler (1968).
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl