One from the rewatch pile…
The Lost Empire (1984)
Film: As a teen, I was constantly borrowing the B movies from my local video shop, and of those movies, I had a special place in my heart for Chopping Mall, and because of that, I saw the name Jim Wynorski as a sign of ‘quality’, and still today, if I see his name pop up I am willing to cast my eyes over whatever the product is.
Sometimes, I am rewarded with B movie goodness, and sometimes, my brain is poisoned, but nostalgia is a cruel mistress and I am willing to forgive this man whenever the film is less than good.
This film, The Lost Empire, is the first film that Wynorski wrote and directed, and co-produced with Russ Meyer girl Raven De La Croix, and is truly a film firmly dropped in the eighties. The fashions, the special effects, the acting and the sets are perfect examples of that.
Our movie starts with evil, shuriken-yoyo wielding ninjas attempting to steal a mystical ruby eye from a pig idol, that is on display in a jewellers. Several police arrive and foil the robbery, but not without there being several injuries and a few fatalities.
We are told in a text scrawl that this jewel is one of the two Eyes of Avatar and have the super science from the ancient Lemurians secreted inside them. They were separated many years ago and if the two eyes are ever brought together the weirder will gain the power of superior ancient science.
Next we are introduced to busty, big-haired, gun-happy sexpot police officer Angela Wolfe (Melanie Vincz), imagine Dirty Harry with a squarer jaw and bigger tits and her FBI boyfriend Rick (Paul Coufos) who are told, after a post hostage bust sex-session, that her brother Rob (Bill Thornbury)was shot in the jeweller robbery but survived and so she visits him in the hospital. Through his delusion bought on by pain, he hands her one of the shuriken from the robbery.
Rick sees the shuriken and tells Wolfe that it belongs to Lee Chuck, a man who sold his soul to the devil and needs to send him a soul a day to live forever. They investigate the robbery and the Eye of Avatar finds its way into Wolfe’s purse, unbeknownst to her.
Rick and Wolfe meet with Inspector Charles Chan, yep… Charlie Chan… who tells them that a religious nut named Dr Sin Do (Angus Scrimm) is linked to Lee Chuck and has an island, Golgatha, where he can practise his religion in peace.
Wolfe’s brother goes to the big precinct in the sky, and very soon, Wolfe wants revenge so she presses Rick for more information. He tells her that Sin Do has competitions where women fight for his entertainment. Soon she finds herself teamed up with Native American White Star (Raven De La Croix) who spouts generic Indian-isms (Kemo Sabe is slung around like pies at a footy game) and ex-con Heather McClure (Angela Aames) and the three enter the Sin Do tournament to find out what’s going on. Rick accidentally ends up with Wolfe’s handbag and realises that he has the Eye of Avatar and makes his way to the island as well…
Is Golgatha just a religious retreat, or a hideout for gang of terrorists run by a man who has lived for two hundred years after a promise to Satan himself…
Well, what do you think?
This film is most definitely a template for future Wynorski films, and honestly, for the market, there is nothing wrong with that. Essentially most if his films are adult male fantasy cartoons made real, with beautiful big-boobed babes, and testosterone fuelled dunderheads fighting against whatever evil may have reared its ugly head, with a peppering of toplessness, violence and terrible, almost Dad, jokes. It’s what B cinema is all about, and I’d watch one of these over a big cinema release any day!
This film also has a cameo by The Thing from Another World’s Kenneth Tobey.
I grew up loving Jim Wynorski films like Chopping Mall and it sure is nice to see his first attempt at ‘big’ budget filmmaking. I had a lot of nostalgic fun watching this film, and it has reinvigorated my love for Wynorski. I must track more of his films down. If you like the Corman films of the 80s, you’ll get a kick out if this too. Shame on my copy, the two interesting extras didn’t work.
Format: Immediately I have to criticise the the actual physical DVD itself. The cover is a horribly painted pic that disrespects the female leads of the film as it is horribly distorted and really, not very good. The menus of the disc itself needs also to received some criticism as it is difficult ascertain when a menu item is selected.
The disc image is presented in, quite an odd aspect ratio, of about 2.20:1 and the image is ok, but does have several scratches and other artefacts on it. The soundtrack in presented in stereo and is satisfactory, well until Raven De La Croix throws one of her terrible jokes out.
Extras: There are three extras on this disc:
Director’s Commentary by Jim Wynorski… Well that’s what the menu option said, but what I received was… Nothing! I tried selecting it several times and not once did I receive the commentary. Disappointed.
The Stills gallery, which I shall point out is an extra on any disc I hate, is a 90 second slide show of stills from the film. Not behind the scenes photos or different shots, it is just freeze frames from the film. If I want to look a static images, I’ll read a comic, not put on a DVD.
The last extra is the Soundtrack which I was pretty excited for as I like the 80s synth track… Except of the ten tracks available to listen, it repeated 30 seconds of the first track over and over. Maybe I just received a faulty disc, but definitely not happy.
WISIA: It’s an irresistible, quaint throwback, so I’ll definitely watch it again.
Tell Me About Kenneth Tobey?
Tobey played Captain Hendry in the original Howard Hawks version of the novella Who Goes There called The Thing from Outer Space, and was in Gremlins and The Howling amongst many other films. He also guest starred on many TV shows. He passed away in 2002 at age 85.
Tell me more?
I’m no expert on Tobey, but here’s a link to the Wiki about him which may be able to inform you further: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Tobey
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