Friday, April 24, 2009

Lady Terminator Sings the Blues

I saw five of the six films that the Alamo Drafthouse screened last weekend as part of their Cinemapocalypse Tour. I skipped Escape From New York because I’ve seen it many times before. Jesse Hawthorne Ficks mentioned it was a new 35 mm print but that was not enough to entice me to stay.

Of the five films I watched, four were new for me. I had previously seen Chained Heat although I forgot most of it. Without a doubt the gem of the weekend was Lady Terminator. This Indonesian/Filipino production was a blatant knock-off of Terminator. Some scenes were laughable because of the lack of imagination shown in plagiarizing the original film. Among the scenes taken from the Schwarzenegger classic include the shootout in the dance club with the line “Come with me if you want to live,” the shootout in the police station and the eyeball in the sink. I’m surprised Lady Terminator didn’t say “I’ll be back.”

However, Lady Terminator had a misandrist and anti-Asian theme that was reflective of the period (mid 1980’s). The movie opens with the South Sea Queen having sex with an Asian man. The South Sea Queen looks like a Filipino drag queen to me. I don’t think she would be hired at AsiaSF. Appearances aside, the South Sea Queen has a snake or eel living in her vagina. If sufficiently satisfied by the sex, the snake harmlessly slithers out of her vagina. However, if her partner cannot meet her orgasmic standards, the snake bites off his penis.

South Sea Queen from Lady Terminator

In the first scene there is a money shot but instead of ejaculate in the woman’s face, it is blood (from his severed penis) in the man’s face! This squirting is repeated 3 more times in the movie. Here’s the kicker. Only one man can satisfy the South Sea Queen. It is her husband who just happens to be a white guy. Laying content after a satisfying coupling, the snake emerges from its cave where the man quickly grabs it. All this has eyebrow raising homoerotic imagery but before that can be explored the South Sea Queen demands her snake back (which has magically transformed into a dagger in a scabbard). The man refuses; he is her husband after all. The Queen casts a curse on his great-great-granddaughter and disappears into the sea.

That might sound like an appropriate setup for a film of this caliber but consider that there were six sex scenes in the film. Four resulted in castrations and all four were Asian men. The only scenes where the man kept his penis was when the white man satisfied the Asian woman. If not viewed symbolically as a metaphor for European and American colonization of Asia or latent white supremacy, it can be interpreted literally for the white guy/Asian girl phenomenon that inspires fetishists and standup comics to this day.

100 years later, the descendant of the snake charmer (a lithe brunette) is an anthropologist guessed it – the legend of the South Sea Queen. She goes scuba diving (in a skimpy bikini) for relics and has the snake of death implanted in her vagina. She walks ashore butt naked and starts her penis dismembering rampage.

Barbara Anne Constable in Lady Terminator

That would be a fine story in its own right but for some reason that is lost on me, Lady Terminator is after a jade pendant that a pop singer wears. It’s implied that the singer is the last descendant of the South Sea Queen but that doesn’t really make sense. Lady Terminator goes gunning for the girl and her pendant. The girl falls for a police officer (the only white guy in the police department) and he serves as her protector. Of course, Lady Terminator is impervious to bullets, flames, blows to the head, car crashes, bazookas, tanks and pretty much everything except the ancient magic an old Chinese guy can summon before he is dispatched by Lady Terminator (although not by her typically serpentine method). Did I mention Lady Terminator can shoot laser beams out of her eyes? She doesn’t display that talent until the last 10 minutes which made me wonder why she needed to have so many automatic rifles throughout the movie.

It’s only been a few days since I saw the film but I cannot remember how Lady Terminator is defeated. I think Pop Singer does something with the jade pendant and Lady Terminator implodes into a ball of energy and rockets to the sky.

Let’s count up the more offensive elements of the film. There is a lot of nudity. Barbara Ann Constable played Lady Terminator (her first and last credit on IMDB). Apparently, she wasn’t comfortable with full frontal nudity. I guess she had her artistic boundaries. It makes me wonder why they chose her for the role. You would think that the willingness to appear fully nude would be high on the list of skills casting agents would want for the actress that played Lady Terminator. Maybe there were censorship issues. It was filmed in Indonesia after all.

Nudity, four castrations, countless deaths by gunshot, Exacto knife to the eyeball, Lady Terminator gets her skin burned off her, mystical snake penetration and two white guy/Asian girl couplings. The only romantic interludes that did not end with death and emasculation were the two white guy/Asian girl scenes. The director used the nom de plume of Jalil Jackson but his real name was H. Tjut Djalil. You would think that an Asian director would be mindful of the stereotypes he is perpetuating but I guess he was too busy ripping off James Cameron or positioning this film for a US distribution that he didn’t notice. Even more cynical would be that he purposely inserted those storylines to appeal to American audiences in the 80’s.

Lest you think I didn’t enjoy the film, I lustily recommend it. I don’t know if it is on DVD. It gives credence to the saying “It’s so bad it’s good.” This would have been a Joe Bob Briggs Drive-In Hall of Fame film. It's surprising Ms. Constable didn't appear in any more films. I thought she had all the makings of a poor man's Sylvia Kristel.

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