Shitty Movie Sundays: The Lost Empire

This flick is for the chest men, the boob guys, the fellas that love nothing more than doing a little motorboating or some light mountain climbing. In short, this movie has breasts. Many, many, female breasts, of the bolted-on variety that is so integral to the economy of southern California. It’s not the most breasts one will see in a b-movie, and the majority of them keep nipples hidden away like some rare commodity, but there is a theme to this flick, and it is breasts. And taxes, as it turns out.

From 1984, The Lost Empire is the first, as of this writing, of 106 directing credits from prolific shitty filmmaker Jim Wynorski, and it was never meant to see the light of day. According to the internet, so it must be true, the film was financed by Henry Plitt, owner of Plitt Theatres, who wanted a tax loss. He hired Wynorski, who, besides directing, also wrote and produced. He never bothered telling Wynorksi of his intentions for the movie until after the film was in the can, when Plitt decided the final product was actually good enough to give a release and recoup some cash.

And what a film Wynorski delivered. It’s an exploitation flick that cribs from all sorts of genres. There are elements of a Dirty Harry movie, some bits taken from James Bond, a helping of Charlie’s Angels, some Enter the Dragon, a whole bunch of Roger Corman (Wynorski made his bones under Corman), and a pinch here and there of Herschel Gordon Lewis. At no point does Wynorski get serious or heavy handed. Rather, his script is about as tongue-in-cheek as a story can get without being pure satire. Just a little more unrestrained irreverence and this movie could have fallen into that blackhole of comedic subgenres known as spoof flicks. We have been spared that, but only to an extent.

The Lost Empire follows Melanie Vincz as tough LA cop Angel Wolfe, who specializes in kicking ass while wearing skin tight outfits. She gets wind of an evil terrorist organization run by the immortal Lee Chuck (Angus Scrimm), who owes the devil at least one soul The Lost Empire movie posterevery 24 hours, or he gets dragged down to hell. Chuck owns an island somewhere in the Pacific and is hosting some kind of big breasts Olympics to rope in newcomers to his dungeons, from where he selects his sacrifices. He must be stopped!

Wolfe enlists the help of two other ladies in taking down Lee Chuck. There is Whitestar (Raven De La Croix), an American Indian savior or goddess of some sort, whose contribution to the theme of the film is obvious; and Heather McClure (Angela Aames), a convict on prison release, à la Reggie Hammond, whose contribution to the theme is less obvious than De La Croix’s. Do you get it? They all have boobs.

The trio infiltrate the island, there are clumsy gags, some stuff happens, and then the end. Oh, and prolific That Guy Robert Tessier gets some screen time. The scantily-clad women are the point. While it is exploitative, and some of the humor falls very flat today, Wynorski is laughing at films like his as much as he is laughing with them. I don’t want to ascribe any sort of profundity to this trash, but we’ve all seen big time Hollywood flicks that had less self-awareness or less depth.

What this film really has going for it is Wynorski’s sense of fun. He’s known for being something of an asshole behind the camera, yet none of that comes through in the movie. The Lost Empire is silly and almost burlesque. What keeps it from being shitty gold are the endless jokes that don’t hit, and the complete and total lack of eroticism, despite ample opportunity. It still lands in the top half of the Index, displacing Martial Law at #202. I’d be hard-pressed to think of a movie in the Index that better appeals to the 13-year-old in me.

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