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Wednesday, September 14, 2016
In 1984, Sybil Danning led a group of female merceneries called THE PANTHER SQUAD, and in '86 a bevy of Las Vegas showgirls went commando as the HELL SQUAD. It was as though SCTV's Johnny LaRue (John Candy) had become a real person producing his own special brand of cheap exploitation flicks combining improbable action with generous amounts of T & A.
The pinnacle of this wonderful little distaff genre, in my opinion, is the 1987 anti-epic MANKILLERS. Not only does it have a cast that includes Edd "Kookie" Byrnes, "Mannix" co-star Gail Fisher, and eternal starlet Edy Williams of Russ Meyer fame--as well as beautiful HELL SQUAD star Bainbridge Scott and Andy Sidaris regular Julie K. Smith--but it also has the most kickass babes and badass bad guys (if you use your imagination a bit) as well as waves of exquisite unintentional hilarity.
Pretty blonde Lynda Aldon is intense as Rachael McKenna, a top government agent whose partner and boyfriend Mickland (William Zipp) betrayed her and left her for dead to become a South American drug kingpin. Years later, Rachael is offered the chance to put together her own commando squad to go down there and clean out Mickand's operation.
Rachael heads straight for Supermodel Prison and chooses an all-female attack force made up of hardened criminals in a sequence that blatantly borrows from THE DIRTY DOZEN, complete with a rebellious "Victor Franco" type in the form of sassy Maria Rosetti (Christine Lunde), who we just know will eventually get with the program and start being all heroic and stuff. But not before she tries to escape from the training camp and is forcibly restrained by two of her cohorts, who pull the old "she slipped on a bar of soap" routine with Sergeant Edy.
After we get to watch these uncoordinated big-haired bimbos jiggling through their accelerated training program for awhile, it's time to hit the jungle trail where they engage in the first gunfight with Mickland's men. This consists of Rachael's girls posing cutely behind trees and firing off hundreds of rounds while the guys stand around like idiots waiting for their squibs to go off. Rachael and Maria get in some cool hand-to-hand contact as well, and of course there's the obligatory kick to the groin here and there.
Meanwhile, Mickland's back at his compound doing dastardly stuff like raping and killing his female captives for fun while taking care of drug and sex-slavery business, which also involves killing people and generally being all scowly and evil. When he hears about his men being wiped out by a bunch of women, he takes matters into his own hands and leads a counterattack in which he and "Kookie" manage to capture Rachael.
With their leader in the hands of the bad guys, the now-repentant Maria gives the rest of the Mankillers a stirring pep talk and they invade the compound, using their feminine wiles to seduce and then overcome Mickland's men. This leads to a low-budget free-for-all with lots of gunfire and even some small-scale explosions, and finally a showdown between Rachael and Mickland in which he proves harder to kill than Chucky.
Several moments stand out during the film, such as the scene in which Rachael can't sleep and gets up to enjoy a cool bottle of brand-name seltzer water which she displays for the camera in a comically blatant case of product placement. In another memorable moment, one of the Mankillers comes on to Edd Byrnes' vile "Jack" character before pulling a knife and giving him an impromptu vasectomy that will have male viewers crossing their legs. And then there's the dialogue, which includes this deathless exchange:
MICKLAND: "Well, if it ain't Rachael McKenna. After all these years I thought you were dead."
RACHAEL: "I'll bet you did."
MICKLAND: "This time...you're gonna die."
RACHAEL: "No...YOU are."
The budget is so low that the Mankillers' training camp and Mickland's compound appear to be virtually the same set, consisting of nothing more than a small array of corrugated tin sheds. This is par for the course, however, when we learn that the writer-director of MANKILLERS is none other than David A. Prior (KILLER WORKOUT, DEADLY PREY), who gave us the early shot-on-video classic SLEDGEHAMMER (1983) and was used to creating something out of nothing.
The DVD from Martini Entertainment and Slasher Films (a division of Olive Films) has an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is window-boxed. Apparently the best available copy of the film for transfer is in PAL Beta SP format, which gives it quite an appropriate 80s videotape ambience that will stoke feelings of nostalgia in many viewers. There are even the usual videotape imperfections in the picture here and there.
The Blu-ray/DVD covers continue this theme by resembling videotape boxes right down to the "Action" label and "Please Be Kind--Rewind" tags. In addition to the trailer, a photo gallery also emphasizes the film's home video origins.
Whether you rented it when it first hit video stores way back when or happened to catch the edited version on "USA Up All Night", this is your chance to enjoy MANKILLERS again in all its sleazy, cheezy glory. Sure, it's junk--but it's a good junk.
Buy it at Amazon.com:
Buy it at OliveFilms.com:
NOTE: Stills shown are not taken from the DVD.