Sunday, November 18, 2012

Superstarlet A.D. (John Michael McCarthy, 2000)

I've often wondered, if given the opportunity to direct a feature length movie, how would I justify the fact that the entire cast is wearing nothing but lingerie from start to finish. As we have seen in the past, some movies have used ingenious methods to get their female cast members to wear nothing but their underclothes. Take, for example, the ladies of Hard to Die. They simultaneously ruin their regular clothes. But luckily, they work at a lingerie factory, giving them no choice when it came time to decide what to change into while their regular clothes dried. And, of course, the cast of Stripped to Kill and Stripped to Kill II: Live Girls are strippers. Meaning, there's practically lingerie everywhere. Do you think that John Michael McCarthy, the immensely sane individual behind such classics as Teenage Tupelo and The Sore Losers, will be able to justify the lingerie extravaganza that is Superstarlet A.D., a film where every frame is literally bathed in old-timey garter belts and bras? I don't know, but this post-apocalyptic tale about a world run by a succulent succession of shapely redheads sure has its fully-fashioned nylon stockings on straight. What am I talking about? The lingerie justification this film bandied about with shameless abandon was probably one of  the most clever things I've come across in years. Are you sitting comfortably? The reason the women who populate this girdle ensnared universe are always in their underwear is because all the gay men are dead. Uh, I don't get it. I mean, what's so clever about that? Don't you see, without gay men, there's no fashion. And without fashion, you guessed it, there are no clothes. In other words, the women are forced to wear lingerie at all times. I don't think I even have to see the film. Why is that? I think it's safe to say that this might be the greatest film of all-time. You're totally right. On paper, this film does sound like a masterpiece. But don't you think you should watch it first? I guess. You got to admit, though, as far as premises go, this film can't lose. Or can it?
Remember that episode of Star Trek that featured the planet whose culture was based solely on 1920s Chicago-style gangsterism? Well, the scantily clad ladies of Superstarlet A.D. seem to have modeled their society exclusively on the nudie cutie and stag films of  the late 1950s/early '60s.
Without electricity, there's no way to watch television, and without literacy, there's no way to read books, the only connection to their past are  films. Hold on.  How do they watch films without electricity? Why, they use hand-crank projectors. Duh. Well, they can, if they can find one. In the meantime, the women, or, I should say, the "superstarlets," carry their ancestral stag films on their backs.
Ancestral what? You see, the superstarlets are all descendants of women who appeared in stag films, and in order to be a true superstarlet, you must find your grandmother's reel and wear it with pride...on your back.
We met two of these so-called "superstarlets" at the beginning of the film. Which makes sense, as I have found that the beginning is the best period to introduce your characters when telling a story. And Superstarlet A.D. does not deviate from that storytelling principle. Don't get me wrong, there's a whole lot of deviating going on in this film, but not when it comes to introducing its characters. Anyway, we're introduced to the gorgeous Naomi (Gina Velour), a brunette, sten gun wielding Superstarlet in black lingerie, and Rachel (Alicia Trout, Jodie Brewer, Dagmar O'Doom, and others), a blonde, sten gun wielding Superstarlet in white lingerie, just as they're about to start searching the rubble strewn streets for Naomi's missing ancestral stag film. Um, excuse me, but isn't Naomi already carrying a reel of film on her back? Very observant, my obtuse friend. But that reel of film contains the ancestral stag film of a redheaded Superstarlet who's either missing or dead, and Naomi is carrying it on her behalf.
As Naomi and Rachel, whose voice sounds like Isabella Rossellini, if she was from Düsseldorf ("My name is Rachel and I'm a blonde"), are poking around the ruins of an old movie theatre, they come across a caveman (Hugh Brooks); which happens from time to time. After filling him with lead, Naomi and Rachel mark the occasion with celebratory gunfire and a lesbian kiss. Which is odd since lipstick and ammo are apparently in short supply; my logic being that celebratory gunfire wastes ammo and lesbian kisses smudge valuable lipstick. Either way, I'm happy both activities were implemented as it gives us our first gasp-worthy moment; the sight of Naomi and Rachel kissing while firing their sten guns in the air is the kind of image you'll find floating around inside my subconscious on most days.
We soon learn that the Superstarlets are a bit of rarity, in that, they're only the only girl gang in town that allows brunettes, blondes, and redheads to co-exist within the same Beauty Cult, after we met the luscious Verona (Michèle Carr), the wide-eyed Lois (Lydia Martini from The Sore Losers), and the rest of the Satanas, a Beauty Cult known for its brunette hair, black stockings, robust thighs, and affinity for leopard print bras and headbands.
If there's a Beauty Cult made up entirely of brunettes, shouldn't there be...I'm way ahead of you, muchacho. As soon as I was thinking that thought, we're presented with the Phayrays, a gang of blondes who ride horses and carry M2 machine guns. Wait. They "carry" M2 machine guns? Yep, they totally walk around with them. Lead by Ultramame (Rita D'Albert), the Phayrays are, like, the Satanas, the main antagonists of the Superstarlets. But make no mistake, the Phayrays and the Satanas don't get along either. If you need proof of this, look no further than the scene where Verona and Lois are trying to teach the dead caveman's brother (Jim Townsend) to hate blondes by tormenting him with a blow-up doll that is wearing a, you guessed it, blonde wig.  
In other words, to quote Rachel, "It's not a good time to be blonde."
As most people know by now, my favourite part of a John Michael McCarthy flick is when D'Lana Tunnell shows up. Unfortunately, she's not in Superstarlet A..D. However, don't fret fans of curvy chicks who melt the hearts of discerning reprobates the world over, Kerine Elkins is hear to alleviate your heterosexual suffering. Hey, isn't Kerine Elskins a redhead? She sure is. Where do redheads fit in in this hair colour important microcosm? Where do you think? They rule over the lipstick-adorned wastelands that make up this eyeliner-smeared universe with a lacy-gloved fist.
If cinematic heaven is a film where stocking-covered knees appear in every frame, Superstarlet A.D. earns its angel wings and then some as we enter the Replay Lounge, the headquarters and main hangout for The Tempests, a gang of unruly redheads. Lead by the insanely attractive Jezabel (Kerine Elskin), the 13th redhead to govern The Tempests, their world is literally saturated with red hair, obviously, but also stockings, garter belts, and leather. Grabbing her feather boa and a stag film reel, Kerine, her tasty thighs encased in black hole-covered hold-up stockings, performs a musical number that could best be described as campy. Actually, after watching her coo and gyrate for what seemed like an eternity, the word "campy" doesn't seem to do the musical number justice, as it seems to go beyond camp.
If the stag film reel is the sacred object of the Superstarlets, the sewing machine is what Jezabel and The Tempests prefer to worship. Sadly, the leather clad Velvet (Katherine Greenwood), the only member of The Tempests who knows how to sew, refuses to do so; I guess she doesn't like Jezabel. Hell, even their in-house dominatrix, Cathy X (Kitty Diggins), can't seem to force Velvet to sew.
After a weird caveman interlude, another redhead is added to the mix. Her name is Valentine (Katherine St. Valentine), she lives in an abandoned movie theatre, thinks subversive thoughts, drives a hot rod, and, get this, wears clothes. Since she's not affiliated with The Tempests, or any other Beauty Cult, for that matter, Naomi and Rachel find themselves drawn to the unusual redhead. I mean, it's not everyday you come across a clothed redhead who knows how to drive and doesn't hate men.
Meanwhile, back at Tempest HQ, Kerine is begging Velvet to make her some clothes. In a world without gay men (oh, and don't bother looking for a gay caveman, they don't exist), even the queen of the toughest gang of shapely redhead chicks has no clothes.
Hearing plenty of  talk about ancestral stag films over the course of this perversely sophisticated enterprise, it only makes sense that we eventually see a couple of stag films for ourselves. The first we see is the stag film Naomi was carrying on her back, and it features a redhead (Susie Hendrix) performing an upright striptease in matching lingerie. And the second is the stag film of Rachel's grandmother, and boasts a blonde (Jodi Brewer), with the juiciest behind, writhing in black lingerie on a bed with red sheets.
Will Naomi ever find her ancestral stag film? And if she does, will it bring her closer to understanding where she came from? Who knows? Nevertheless, the film itself manages to examine the importance of the physical objects that connect us to the past. With nothing being built to last anymore, will there be any evidence of our existence in coming years? It's hard to say. All it would take is a world wide electromagnetic pulse to wipe out the digital realm.  
Coursing with the exaggerated dialogue that I crave, and featuring an approach to costume design that every film should strive to emulate, Superstarlet A.D. is feminist cinema at its finest. Made from the perspective of a gay man, the film proves once and for all that unchecked flamboyance is only form of entertainment worth watching. Apocalypse Meow.

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  1. Thank you for your posts on JMM and Juraj Herz!!

    As to JMM... look for the short film ELVIS MEETS THE BEATLES.

  2. I hope everyone enjoyed JMM Week.

    @ido und L Rob Hubb: You're welcome. :)

  3. "Weird caveman interlude."

    Hee hee. Hee hee.

    And where was D'Lana Tunnell?!?

    Happy Thanksgiving. We Americans celebrate late. :/

  4. That's a good question. Where was D'Lana Tunnell? I guess she was off being fabulous somewhere else.

    Happy American Thanksgiving!!!

    Are you going to see the Red Dawn remake? It stars one of the guys from The Hunger Games. ;)

  5. Yum-Yum,

    The following message is from the Director his ownself, Mike McCarthy. He was having some trouble posting here, so I'm passing it along:

    "Thank you Yum Yum for the extremely kind words about my three films SUPERSTARLET A.D., SORE LOSERS and TEENAGE TUPELO...I am considering a kickstarter program to make these 3 into a boxed set and more accessible to mankind. If you are interested in purchasing such a boxed set, please write me directly at - (or buying the dvds individually) and also bookmark as more news will pop up there from time to time. My latest CIGARETTE GIRL is about to released and I'm working on 3 screenplays right now that I'm sure you will enjoy. JMM"

  6. @JMM: Hey, JMM. I like your aesthetic; it oozes the right kind of saneness.

    I discovered your films at a local Toronto shop called Eyesore Cinema. After selecting The Sore Losers on one of them whim thingies, and watching it closely with my eyeballs, I knew I needed to see more. So, yeah. I'm pleased to hear to there's more JMM material gestating out there.

    I've been to several times already, and found it to be a valuable resource for all my JMM needs.