If there's one thing that annoys me about films that purportedly take place in a post-apocalyptic hellscape and/or wasteland, it's the one's that don't utilize punk and new wave fashions. I don't care if the end of the world was caused by nuclear or zombie-based means, I want to see lots of mohawk-sporting people–preferably hot chicks–wearing fingerless gloves while attempting to fire shotguns from moving dune buggies. What I don't want to see is a lot of pointless blather and self-absorbed navel gazing. And luckily the producers of She Wolves of the Wasteland (a.k.a. Phoenix the Warrior) don't engage in any of that nonsense. Probably because they don't know what "navel gazing" entails exactly (perhaps they think it involves watching ships sailing out to sea). But then again, the encounter with the Rezule warriors, a mutant race of TV worshiping nomads who live on the outskirts of the "badlands," during the film's third does a pretty decent job of mocking television, while, at the same time, reminding me of Current 93, particularly the stuff they made between 'Dogs Blood Rising' and 'Swastikas for Noddy.' And I'm not talking about your everyday, run-of-the-mill mocking, I'm talking about the subtle variety, the kind that causes you to look at something from a decidedly cockeyed point-of-view. When it's not skewering those who live a sedentary lifestyle or reminding me of the music of David Tibet, it's busy doing other things. Channeling films like, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (protective sports equipment worn in a non-athletic environment), Megaforce (dune buggies and Persis Khambatta), Golden Temple Amazons (scantily clad warrior women), The Women (with one or two exceptions, the cast is all female) and Hell Comes to Frogtown (sperm is a treasured commodity), the action-packed film, written and directed by Robert Hayes, is terribly acted yet immensely enjoyable slice of late '80s exploitation cheese.
Getting back to my original point for a second, the punk and new wave fashions seen throughout She Wolves of the Wasteland, all designed by Jill Conners, are what make the film work. The reason I'm looking forward to the apocalypse, besides the fact that I can carry my Steyr Aug around in public without having to worry about being constantly hassled by the man, is that I can wear pretty much anything I want. Sure, I can do that now, but I think the apocalypse will erode any nagging inhibitions I've been secretly harbouring, and allow me to fly my freak flag without shame. You see, I don't see the apocalypse as a negative, I see it as an opportunity; one that involves neon-coloured garter belts, buckled footwear for as far as Siouxsie Sioux can see, and automatic weapons.
The desert. The reason it's the go-to location for filmmakers working with a limited budget is because it manages to convey a sense of emptiness without costing the producers an arm and a leg. And one of those legs belongs to associate producer Persis Khambatta, who also stars as Colbalt, the primary henchwoman for the dictatorial Reverend Mother (Sheila Howard), a creepy-looking woman who manufactures sperm for a living. Well, at least she tries to. You see, the bacterial wars have wiped out all the men. Able to breed women, the Reverend Mother, called so because she is responsible for creating the majority of the world's women in her lab, is having trouble producing men.
Anyway, as you might expect, the Reverend Mother has developed a bit of a god complex. A woman (Michi, yeah, that's her name) tries to make off with some of her precious seed in a dune buggy, but is chased down by her band of warrior women, who are also driving dune buggies. Punishment for crossing the Reverend Mother usually involves death by absorption; her veins are coursing with estrogen and homemade sperm.
Outside on the streets of a desert shanty town, a so-called "breeder" is on the loose. Wearing a pair of aqua-coloured short shorts, so it's going to be hard for her to hide in a universe that's been soaking in taupe, Keela (Peggy McIntaggart) is not only with child, she's with male child. Luckily, just as Keela is about to be captured by a couple of bounty hunters, Phoenix (Kathleen Kinmont), a "sand trapper" with split ends, comes to her rescue by employing the old "toss an apple in the air, shoot your enemies in the chest with a shotgun as they stare at it falls through the air" trick. After engaging in a brief shoot-out with some of Reverend Mother's women, Phoenix ushers Keela to safety. Though, it should be said that Keela does save Phoenix from certain death at one point during the gun battle that ensues after the apple tossing incident.
On top of being female, it would seem that headbands are mandatory in this universe. It's just something that I noticed as the women fired automatic weapons at one another. Speaking of noticing stuff, I couldn't help but notice that the shanty town's prerequisite Asian prostitute (Marta May) isn't wearing one. Yeah, that's right. She might love you long time, but she will do so without the aid of a headband. I guess she felt that her spiky hairdo didn't need the fabric-based security that only a finely woven headband can provide. If one of her spiky hairs does wind up getting in her face as she mock laps up the contents of a tricks' sweltering cooze, than so be it.
As Phoenix and Keela are making their getaway, it dawned on me that Peggy McIntaggart is a horrible actress. To be fair, she does get better as the film progresses. But, oh my, those initial scenes with Kathleen Kinmont were pretty grim. Bad actress or not, a visibly upset Cobalt vows to hunt down Keela if it's the last thing she does. As she's making this vow, two of her underlings, a long-haired brunette and a short-haired blonde with kung-fu skills, decide to fight one another. Finding temporary refuge with a tribe of Eluz warriors, the kind of women who bath in waterfalls with the beige bikini bottoms on (a society that is afraid of unclothed vaginas is a sick society), Leela, utilizing the muscles of her vaginal wall, eventually gives birth to her male child, which she names "Skyler."
Somehow able to sense where Skyler is, the Reverend Mother sends Cobalt to steal Skyler away from her mother. Well, actually, she doesn't really see it as stealing, as she views Skyler as her property. Either way, Cobalt and her forces attack the Eluz camp, resulting in a massive firefight. As the two sides are battling it out, Keela, Phoenix, and baby Skyler manage to slip away.
Five years have pasted, or maybe it was six, and Keela and Phoenix are still wandering the desert. There's no doubt in my mind that raising a boy in such a hostile environment is hard work, but they seem to be managing. Stumbling upon a rundown shack, they decide to crash there for awhile. Heading into town to pick up some supplies, Phoenix encounters the shanty town Asian prostitute, who asks her, "Wanna date"? The look of annoyance on Phoenix's face when the Asian prostitute asks her for a date rubbed me the wrong way. Mainly because she seemed shocked that lesbianism would flourish in a world populated entirely by women. Nonetheless, I was happy to see the Asian prostitute, as her spiky hair, suspender pantyhose, and humourless expression managed to fill my heart with an unexpected amount of joy.
Replete with chicks carrying guns while wearing torn clothing, you wouldn't think that She Wolves of the Wasteland needed a man to spruce things up, but that's exactly what happens. Remember the shack I mentioned? It turns out it belongs to Guy (James Emery), a "seed tank" escapee who is the last man on earth, well, he was the last one, that is, until Skyler came along. After feeling his junk ("It's real!"), Leela and Phoenix are just about to take him for a test drive, when–you guessed it–Cobalt and her merry band of torn fishnet enthusiasts show up to cause trouble.
Unable to getaway in time (Keela, Guy and Skyler are able to escape via an underground pipe), Phoenix is captured and forced to fight in Cobalt's gladiator arena (keep an eye out for the Asian prostitute, as she makes her third and final appearance as an audience member). Taking on women with names like, Mohawk (Karen Russell), Blondie (Susan Overman), Orange Hair (Ginger Justin), and Neon (Laurie de Nuccio), Phoenix's skills as a warrior are put to the test.
Will Keela be able to convince Guy to help her mount a rescue attempt? Promising him a free dune buggy is a start. What did Keela do with those aqua short shorts? Why do they keep mentioning that they're about to enter "the badlands," when everywhere they went looked like "the badlands." I mean, there was nothing to differentiate the badlands from the areas that were supposedly not badlands. What was the deal with that translucent goo that was going through the tubes connected to the Reverend Mother's head and neck? And how come Kathleen Kinmont and Peggy McIntaggart don't appear topless? Some of these questions are answered at the end of She Wolves of the Wasteland, but most, sadly, are not.
Oh, and if anyone knows the name of the "actress" who plays the tall blonde in the torn black pantyhose who works for Cobalt, please let me know.
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