Friday, June 10, 2011

Buddha Man Academy: Mission to Moscow!

Just when we thought the review war was over, leave it to this guy to heat it up again...

The Doll Squad (1973) People often ask me "Why do you watch all of those weird/awful/strange/bad movies?" Because every once in a while I see a movie as terrific as this one! This low budget action flick from producer/director Ted V. Mikels hits all the right notes and entertained me thoroughly from first frame to last. Bad guy Michael Ansara (Star Trek) is a renegade ex-CIA agent with delusions of Bond villain: he topples a rocket launch to get the US government's attention and then blackmails them with threat of a new super-bubonic plague he'll release everywhere. His price: to be made leader of the world! The US government's response? Agent Anthony Eisley (Dracula vs. Frankenstein) gives the word: send in the greatest counter espionage force in the world: The Doll Squad! Led by redhead Sabrina (Francine York), these women (including the notorious Tura Satana-Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) live by the three B's: bikinis, bullets, and bombs! They launch an all out assault on Ansara's island base and the bad guys don't stand a chance!




(Well, he's not going to get anywhere with her!)

This is the most entertaining movie I've seen from the ever eclectic Mikels, with lots of terrible 70's fashions, action, bikinis, machine guns, stunts and explosions, all set to a hip and happening 70's score. It's especially fun to notice not one explosion is done live, every one of them is instead superimposed in. (Safety first must be Ted's motto.) Strangely, there is no full nudity, though Tura does get in one scene with pasties. On the violence side though, we got kung fu, gun fu, knife fu, cigarette lighter flamethrower fu, bottle busted over head fu, bazooka fu, electric cord on wet guy fu, sword fu and explosive Mickey Finn fu! Awesome! Now, a lot has been said and written, starting with Ted V. Mikels himself, that this movie might have influenced producer Aaron Spelling into creating Charlie's Angels. It is interesting that the smart leader of the Doll Squad is named Sabrina, the same as the "smart one" of the Angels. I see the similiarities (women in sexy clothes battling bad guys) but there are differences too. The Angels usually went undercover in sexy outfits to get evidence to bring the bad guy down. The Doll Squad takes a boat out to the island and lays waste to everyone on it. I can see both sides, guess I'll stay on the fence for this one. But in any case, if you enjoy fast moving 70's style low budget action, you have got to check this one out!

Murder on Flight 502  (Spelling-Goldberg Productions, 1975)  Although there were a lot of original and entertaining TV movies made during the heyday of the 70's and 80's, the creators of these flicks also had a tendency to jump on any feature film bandwagons Hollywood was parading around in those decades. Sometimes it was a direct ripoff of one particular movie: Magnum Force comes out in 1973, pitting Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry Callahan against murderous vigilante cops. A few months later, the TV movie The Death Squad premieres, with Robert Forster pitted against murderous vigilante cops. Other times it was just a smaller scale movie in the same genre, like this flick. Hollywood was deep into its ten year long love affair with the disaster movie, which had kicked off in 1970 with the release of Airport. So here comes this potboiler from the same producers who gave the world Charlie's Angels (and this is the second review in the same blog post to mention that show...hmmm...) with one of the Angels in a supporting role. This one follows Airport's blueprint pretty closely, though on the required smaller TV budget, natch. Airport had bona fide movie stars (Dean Martin, Burt Lancaster, George Kennedy); MoF5 has bona fide TV stars (Robert Stack, Hugh O'Brian, George Maharis). Airport had aging supporting actors from Hollywood's Golden Age (Van Heflin, Helen Hayes, Lloyd Nolan); MoF5 has aging supporting actors from Hollywood's Golden Age (Ralph Bellamy, Laraine Day, Walter Pidgeon). The story here has airport security guy Maharis finding a letter after flight 502 takes off that advises murder will be done on the plane before it touches down at its destination. Amongst much personal drama on the plane (in a stroke of luck, every single person flying has it in for someone else on the plane) Captain Stack and off duty cop O'Brian investigate. They have lots of suspects, starting with pesky teen Danny Bonaduce, and continuing right on down the line; from mysterious foreigner Theodore Bikel to angry suburbanite Dane Clark; from spicy latin lover Fernando Lamas to the stewardesses - Farrah Fawcett and Brooke Adams. But they save their hairiest eyeballs for "rock star" Sonny Bono, which I'm sure you will agree was far and away the right choice.

Fernando Lamas and Polly Bergen converse
while sitting on giant Cheez-Its.
There's a lot of talking, and most of the production value budget went to the wall-to-wall recognizable faces in the cast, so there are only a couple of stock plane exteriors, Definitely no dynamic daredevilry or stunt work involved. Director George McCowan was mostly a TV director who did get in a couple of Zowies on the Big Screen - how about the back to back superflicks The Magnificent Seven Ride! and Frogs in 1972 alone? If that doesn't impress you, he also helmed the Canadian Star Wars ripoff The Shape of Things to Come in 1979!    
    But I digress.
    We're here to discuss Murder on Flight 502, and wrapping it up - it only runs 74 minutes, since in those days most TV movies were made to fit a 90 minute TV slot with commercials. Later, the standard became 100 minutes to fit a 2 hour slot, and then that was whittled down to around 90 minutes to fit a 2 hours slot before the TV movie went into semi-hibernation. So, those older TV movies tend to be fairly brisk, running an hour and change; this one moves along at a rather stately pace despite the shorter running time. Still, even though no one but Stack, O'Brian, and Maharis gets to do much, nearly every human body in front of the lens is a known entity, so this one gets a recommendation for those so inclined, especially if you find it in the $1 DVD bin like I did!

And that will wrap up this edition - and please always remember - zombies were never better described than "yeah, they're dead...they're all messed up..."

1 comment:

  1. Oh my God I vaguely remember this one. You had to love those old Airport style movies. The planes were like flying soap operas, a hundred little dramas all connected by one big one. My favorite trope was always the sick kid with the nurse or the kid traveling alone for the first time.