= Highest Rating
V. Mikels, director of such epics as Girl
in Gold Boots, Astro-Zombies,
and The Corpse Grinders, churns
out pretty much the same thing with 1973's The
Doll Squad — badly
written, poorly acted and ineptly edited Z-budget fare that's
stuffed to the gills with padding. Touted by Mikels himself
as the (stolen) blueprint for the TV jigglefest Charlie's
Angels, the comparison is more apropos to the films of Andy
Sidaris... only without the tits.
less-smarmy-than-usual Anthony Eisley (Dracula
vs. Frankenstein) plays Vic Connelly, CIA security expert
in charge of protecting U.S. space missions. Only moments before
a top secret rocket launch is sabotaged, an
influential senator (John Carter) receives a pirate broadcast.
It's message: Hand over America's classified missile plans or
else face further calamity. Vic
runs some punch cards through supercomputer "Bertha"
to determine the best team to track down and take out the culprit.
Thus Agent SQ-1, Sabrina Kincaid (Francine York), is called
As head of the crack all-gal commando unit The Doll Squad, she's
to assemble her team and uncover the criminal mastermind behind
the sabotage. Sabrina thinks the voice sounds familiar, but
she's not sure.
does know the villain —
used to boink him, in fact
only she doesn't realize
it yet. After some 40 minutes of convoluted stupidity, including
the assassinations of two of the Doll Squad,
the good guys finally deduce that the evil mastermind was once
among their own ranks. Former agent Eamon O'Reilly ('60s TV
staple Michael Ansara) has gone bad, with his own private agenda
for world domination. Blofeld this guy ain't, however. He commands
his private army of machinegun-toting thugs from a palatial
compound (the interiors of which were shot in a hideously-decored
suburban home) on a remote island off the coast of Venezuela.
(Actually the Southern California desert.) His soldiers are
loyal unto death; twin evil scientists have surgically installed
radio control disks in their necks. O'Reilly plans to unleash
plague-infected rats upon America and the rest of the Free World
if his blackmail demands aren't met. Okay...
Sabrina finally assembles her surviving teammates
— who include a psychiatrist,
a librarian, an Olympic swimmer,
a carnival ticket clerk (!) and a
stripper — and sneak onto the island. She and some of the gals
get captured, of course, but are rescued by the others. Then
Sabrina gets captured again. The rest of the squad kill about
150 guards and blow everything up while Sabrina gets the best
of the amorous (and downright stupid) O'Reilly. That's about
it. And none of the ladies get naked, either. Tura Satana in
pasties doesn't count. So the movie's chief
assets aren't to be found among any profuse displays of female
flesh. Most of the good stuff comes in the form of ineptly staged
action scenes barely a step up from the silly chop-socky shenanigans
of Dolemite — all set to classic
'70s wah-wah pedal guitar riffs. I certainly got a few chuckles
out of seeing these "tough" female commandos gamboling about
in skintight jumpsuits, vainly attempting to run in their high-heeled
go-go boots and
involuntarily flinching whenever they fire their weapons. (These
dames are cold-blooded, though. Just about every bad guy who
gets Kirk-chopped/fu-kicked into unconsciousness is given the
coup de gras with a round or two from a silenced pistol.)
The sequence in which the karate instructor member of the
assassinated by O'Reilly's hitmen proved as hilarious as it
was surprising; there should've been a "Most Overwrought Death
Scene" Oscar for the actress that year. Watch in amazement as
Sabrina fries a guy's face off with a cigarette lighter flamethrower
in a crowded restaurant — the other patrons barely take notice
of the three-foot jet of fire or the man's screams. Then there's
the exploding vodka the Dolls trick some of O'Reilly's
guards into drinking...
Yet the ladies of the Squad are courteous
enough not to hog all the glory. (Or is it infamy?) Supervillain
Eamon O'Reilly is one of the most pathetically dumb Dr. No-wannabes
ever. And not just because his master plan is both stupid
and incoherent. Most of his expenses apparently go to a huge
payroll of totally incompetent bodyguards, some of whom patrol
their master's island by clinging for dear life to the hood
of a slow-moving Land Rover. Justifiably, Michael Ansara seems
very embarrassed to be in a movie by crapmeister Mikels. So
worried was he that someone might actually see this thing that,
in his first appearance in the film, Ansara is visibly drenched
in sweat, sporting huge armpit stains — though the other
actors in the scene are calm, cool and collected. He gives a
terrible performance, best exemplified by the laughably stupid
manner in which O'Reilly is tricked and done in by Sabrina.
("So you want to drown me with martinis, eh? Oh, ho ho ho
ho!") We don't really blame the guy... not too much, anyway.
He made a great Klingon commander on classic Star Trek
and he didn't write Doll Squad's
script. (He could have told Mikels "I'm not gonna say
this shit!" though.) I suppose Ansara's effort was in direct
proportion to the size of his paycheck.
A thoroughly bungled attempt at a campy action-adventure
film, The Doll Squad has its share
of mirth-inducing scenes but it's just not as fun as Mikels'
Astro-Zombies. Its lack of goofy
monsters or the presence of a cult star with the cachet of cranky
ol' John Carradine relegates it to the "close, but no cigar"
ranks of "So Bad They're Good" flicks.
with Astro-Zombies, The
Doll Squad has been released by Image as part of its Cult
Cinema Collection, only this time complimented by extras.
(The former disc was a bare-bones edition with only a ragged trailer
as a bonus.) Squad fares a bit better
than Astro-Zombies in the visual
department. Colors are vibrant and print damage minimal; the anamophic
transfer was struck from the original negative in relatively good
condition. Night scenes are still too dark (at times the only
thing visible of Sabrina and company are their white go-go boots)
and there's noticeable grain, but we'd bet the flick hardly looked
any better when first released. Don't be thrown by the super-grainy
stock footage (military jets, rocket launch) that opens the movie
— the rest of the film looks substantially better. The Digital
Mono audio track gets the job done without any noticeable dropouts,
distractions or distortion.
A 9-minute "mini" audio commentary, Memories
of The Doll Squad, features co-star Tura Satana's recollections
of the production as voice-over narration for a selection of scenes
from the movie. Director Ted V. Mikels provides a full-fledged
commentary to the film itself. From what he heard (we just couldn't
get through the whole thing), a great deal of it consists of long
lapses of silence punctuated here and there with really bad puns.
The most enjoyable Extras here are the typically
inconsequential ones. The animated main menu screen, with its
'70s kitsch design and wocka-chicka wocka-chicka score
snippet, is a nice touch. And theatrical trailers to five films
either directed and/or produced by Mikels — in addition to the
one for Doll Squad — are included:
Girl in Gold Boots, Blood
Orgy of the She-Devils, The
Corpse Grinders, Ten Violent Women,
and the very revolting The Worm Eaters.
(The title of that one is quite literal... Don't be eating anything
when you see it!) Besides giving away virtually their entire plots,
the trailers to Mikels' flicks are always much better than
the actual films themselves.