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Detroit Free Press (MI) - April 11, 1986

Author: CATHARINE RAMBEAU Free Press Movie Critic

Every woman who has ever been raped has surely fantasized about getting even with her rapist.

That's the premise of "The Ladies Club," as it was of "Rape Squad" and " I Spit on Your Grave ," other films in which vigilantes punish their rapists with impunity.

So it's too bad that despite decent acting and the film's avoidance of the standard-issue nude scenes this 90-minute film seems to exploit women while giving lip service to their desire for justice. Too bad, too, that it looks like a TV movie-of-the- week.

Perhaps that's because almost everyone involved hails from TV and television's KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid) theory is more obvious on a large screen. Perhaps the problem was simply beyond the control of director and screenwriters. (On her first feature picture, director Janet Greek used the pseudonym A.K. Allen, reportedly because of problems with the film's editing and marketing.)

"LADIES CLUB" opens with the gang rape of policewoman Joan Taylor (Karen Austin), complete with a ruinous beating and endless anti-woman filth spewed by the trio of rapists. It continues stacking the deck, tossing the usual rape statistics and stereotypes -- men who blame women for being raped, the violated and now catatonic kid sister -- into this nasty stew of violence. Yes, these stereotypes exist; but reliance on them undermines the film.

During her recuperation, Taylor makes friends with obstetrician Constance Lewis (Christine Belford), whose own daughter was raped and murdered. When the jury pronounces Taylor's rapists not guilty, cop and doctor organize a ladies' club and begin locating, drugging and castrating career rapists.

P Not a bad idea, perhaps. But I have an ugly suspicion "The Ladies Club" (originally called "Violated") may appeal less to women who have been raped than to men who hate women and enjoy seeing them humiliated.

Any movie so thoroughly focused on gratuitous physical, psychological and verbal violence against one sex should be suspect. Since rape is an emotionally loaded issue on which hardly anyone one is neutral, and since the film's political attitudes are neither radical enough nor conservative enough to please either side, "The Ladies Club" fails.


Area Theaters

RATING: 3 out of 10

Joan Taylor-Karen Austin

Lucy Bricker-Diana Scarwid

Dr. Constance Lewis-Christine Belford

Richard Harrison-Bruce Davison

Directed by A.K. Allen. Screenplay by Paul Mason and Fran Lewis Ebeling from the novel "Sisterhood" by Betty Black and Casey Bishop. Music by Lalo Schifrin. Cinematography by Adam Greenburg. Edited by Marion Segal and Randall Torno. Production design by Stephen Myles Berger. Produced by Nick J. Mileti and Paul Mason. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.

PARENTS' GUIDE: R; extreme violence, intense subject matter, profanity, bad English.

MAD MAX (1979) U.S. release (1980)


Boston Globe - July 4, 1980

Author: Bruce McCabe Globe Staff

Directed by George Miller, co-written by Miller and James McCausland. Starring Mel Gibson. At the Beacon Hill and suburban theaters and drive-ins. Rated R.

When I was in Cannes last year, the chic film to see was this futuristically styled, gothic Australian motorcycle opera which also functions as an homage to the American B picture and its graphic concerns.

Ironically, the film is being distributed as an exploitation picture by the studio, American International, which has kept the B picture alive as a feature film even as television has appropriated the form.

The film is a compendium of references to the American films which have treated the outlaw of the modern Industrial Age, an outlaw who functions within the law (wearing the policeman's badge) as well as without. You can see references in "Mad Max" to everything from "The Wild One" and "A Clockwork Orange" to "Easy Rider," "Death Wish" and "In Cold Blood," not to mention a host of American International Pictures' motorcycle movies that sucked the life from the originals and left them as empty husks.

The references are not obvious enough, however, to make "Mad Max" pretentious. It has been skillfully crafted to appeal to both the drive-in crowd and the cineaste. There is enough violence and retribution to satisfy the most pseudo-pathological sensibility. Simultaneously, there is enough restraint and taste to keep the film from sliding into the mire that so often covers the genre. There are also psychological and political overtones rarely dramatized in the conventional genre. Director George Miller suggests that the violence of the motorcycle outlaw and the lawman who pursues him is rooted in a repressed homosexuality that manifests itself in strange forms. What redeems the suggestion is Miller's irrepressible humor. He squeezes the ritual of the genre for all it's worth and then some with a sort of grinning-death's-head japery.

The scenario involves a war to the death between a sleek, bullet-headed, futuristic highway patrolman named Max (Mel Gibson) and a decadent motorcycle gang. The war begins when a member of the gang, a psychopath called The Night Rider, burns to death in a car crash concluding a wild police chase. The gang, led by another psychopathic personality called The Toe-Cutter, vows vengeance. Max's partner is burned to a crisp in a fiery crash precipitated by the gang. The piece de resistance, however, is the gang's pursuit of Max's wife and infant son. When they are both run down on the highway, Max snaps and methodically sets about exterminating the vermin that has made his life such a nightmare.

As directed by Miller, the film makes the genre's conventions almost congenial. Cars are always breaking down at the most inopportune times (the motorcycles don't). Max's wife and son persist in leaving him at the most hazardous moments. At one point they have to be rescued from the gang's clutches by a crippled old woman brandishing a rifle. The ideas aren't original but they're redeemed by Miller's consistently deft manipulation of them. He operates with surgical proficiency.

If punk is a sensibility as well as an adjective, "Mad Max" is a punk movie. Its Australian setting enhances it, authenticating its futuristic aura. The landscape is a bleak desert sliced by a highway under an impassive sky. Death and destruction are cleaned up quickly and effectively. It's hard to get involved with these accidents because the people who have them are as flat and colorless as their surroundings. These people almost need speed and violence to remind them they're alive. They're almost dead anyway.


A Bumper Crop of Movies On Smashed-Up Cars

Washington Post, The (DC) - September 6, 1977

Author: Tom Shales

America's love-hate relationship with the automobile has gotten awfully lopsided in favor of hate. As evidence we have a new race of movie that promises audiences they will see car upon car abused, tortured or demolished. Children, especially, seem driven to these vehicles.

"Thunder and Lightning" and "Grand Theft Auto," now separately dominating a large number of area screens, deliver the promised carnage in abundance. There are at least 15 smash-ups in "Thunder" and no fewer than 35 in "Auto - a bumper crop of four-wheeled corpses.

Auto wrecks have long been staples of movie comedy, and car chases are practically Essence du Cinema. But never before have collisions themselves been the whole point of so many popular films. Ads for "Auto" say, with anything but subtlety, "See the greatest cars in the world destroyed!"

Considering the rigidity of the form and the regularity with which the machines are thrown at one another, you almost get the feeling you're watching auto porno - a movie made for a drive-intheater full of unoccupied cars. Or maybe they're exploiting a widespread grudge against Detroit, and have been made to titillate the little Ralph Nader that lives within us all.

More likely, the films represent a rebellion against machines in general and a backlash against the materialist excesses of a time of plenty. "Auto" makes a point of smashing up not just cars, but expensive cars. A bronze Rolls-Royce is in fact the star of the film, with a yellow Porshe and two black Lincoln Continentals in supporting roles. A Cadillac Seville is spared only because it fails to start.

As a movie, "Grand Theft Auto," about a money-fueled chase from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, is pretty much a crashing bore, with a spoiled-brat mentality behind it. Ron Howard, who co-wrote, directed and plays the lead role in the film, completely lacks the ability to sustain a story between collisions. Aspects that are bluntly imitative of Stanley Kramer's "Its a Mad, Mad, Mad World" and Steven Spielberg's "The Sugarland Express" don't help; they just remind you how superior the originals were.

But "Thunder and Lightning" is not only in the new tradition of crash-'em-ups but also in the old American tradition of crackervilly humor. David Carradine, who is getting to be a pretty ingratiating rascal on screen, and Kate Jackson star as a moonshiner and honeybunch in the Florida Everglades. They zoom around protecting the small businessman against organized moonshining in a black '57 Chevy that survives somersaults, fenderbenders and leaps through the air.

Perhaps because one may be expecting something a bit mor malicious, and cheerful high spirits of the fflm come as a breezy surprise, and Corey Allen's whizbang direction is masterful for a small-budget film. "Thunder and Lightning," except for its overly scatalogical dialogue, is good clean wanton destruction. The final scene of reunited lovers riding in a truck driven by sympathetic old geezers brings back a hundred bucolic-romantic movie memories.

In defense of both films, it should be noted that almost all the damage is done to property rather than people; mangled human bodies as a matinee diversion. Virtually every crash, no matter how devastating, is followed by a scene of the people in the cars walking or swimming away from the scene, dazed but unbloodied. Thus we have violent films striking a blow against violence.

To some extent, the movies also seem a reaction against television - even though both exploit TV names (Howard of "Happy Days," Jackson of "Charlie's Angels"), there is a comic reference to Carradine's old "Kung Fu" series, and an actor playing a hit man in "Thunder" complains about too much violence on the air.

Nevertheless, the films provide an alternative to television in that TV treats us as consumers first and people second and is regularly punctuated with homages and paeans to the glories of merchandise and conspicuous consumption. The auto wreck movies answer that with conspicuous destruction; they take symbols of American affluence and trash them to smithereens.

There is a therapeutic satisfaction to be gleaned from seeing cars killed on the screen (it would be nice if they threw in an electric typewriter now and then). And it may even be healthier in the long run than the sentimentalization of computers and machines in "Star Wars." We have to keep remembering - it's them or us. Autowreck movies give the victory to the people.



San Jose Mercury News (CA) - February 1, 1986

Author: GLENN LOVELL, Mercury News Film Writer

THE GoBots/transformer set should have a ball with "Eliminators," a comic-book action adventure that teams a reassembled man, a novice ninja, a resourceful woman scientist and a rowdy charter-boat skipper who is obviously patterned after Humphrey Bogart in "The African Queen."

A hybrid of "Terminator" and the classic western "The Magnificent Seven," this low-budget arrival was shot in Spain (the setting being Mexico) and comes from B-movie merchant Charles Band, whose sci-fi/ horror variations include last year's "Ghoulies" and the fun "Troll," which trundled into town last week.

Producer Band's production values, as always, range from neat-o to non-existent. He opens with a swirling-colors time- travel sequence that looks chintzy even by TV standards, but then he comes on strong with fun robot hardware and first- rate laser-gun effects (by John Buechler of "Ghoulies" and "Troll").

A nuts-and-bolts actor named Patrick Reynolds plays "John Doe," a pilot who crashed a year ago near the jungle lab of an evil, disfigured genius named Reeves (Roy Dotrice). Reeves collected what was left of the pilot and transformed him into a "mandroid" (half man, half robot), complete with one infrared eye and such interchangeable components as jet boots, torpedo-launcher arm and knockout-gas dispenser.

The joke is that most of these sophisticated accessories, including an attachable half-track mobile unit, keep misfiring, leaving our tin-man hero embarrassed and vulnerable.

Little wonder Reeves calls for his $6 man to be dismantled. John blows a fuse over this and flees the compound. On the road he teams with the pretty robotics technician Nora (Denise Crosby), a con man guide (veteran meanie Andrew Prine showing a real flair for comedy), and an uptight samurai (Conan Lee).

The kids should especially get a kick out of the klutzy bad guys and Crosby's whiz-bang reconnaissance robot, S.P.O.T., which is part Tinkerbell and part R2D2.

''Eliminator," in patches, is as campy and clever as the best "Superman" installments. We have director Peter Manoogian and especially writers Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo to thank for this. Their wacky touches and the amusing Tin Man/Dorothy banter between John and Miss Fix-It deserve a more interesting and charismatic hero. Batteries and lubricant were obviously not included with the lockjawed Reynolds.

ELIMINATORS. Directed by Peter Manoogian; scripted by Paul DeMeo, Danny Bilson. Rated PG. (star)(star)