Nick Cato’s Suburban Grindhouse Memories Column on CKF

Nick Cato’s current column “Suburban Grindhouse Memories” column at Cinema Knife Fight (www.cinemaknifefight.com).

June, 1989. I see an ad in the NY Daily News for what promises to be a real wild one. I venture out of the safety of my suburban neighborhood (alone) and hit the still-sleazy pre-Guiliani Times Square for what would be my final visit to the famed area before it was cleansed a few years later. Getting off the train around 36th Street, I see a huge billboard poster for “Lady Terminator,” and attempted to peel it off. No luck. I was offered weed and other substances at least five times during my eight-block trek uptown to the theater. One guy claimed to have switchblades. I kept walking, keeping my eyes straight ahead, hoping I made it to the theater in one piece.

Man, do I miss the old NYC.

“Lady Terminator” played solo, a rarity for a Times Square feature at that time. I attended an afternoon showing, and the place had at least a dozen people in attendance…yet I was thrilled about ten minutes into the film when screams and comments were flying as loudly as any midnight screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” could hope for.

Check out the plot of this Indonesian import: An anthropology student named Tania Wilson (played by the beautiful Barbara Ann Constable in her ONLY credited role) becomes possessed by some ancient queen—while exploring her underwater lair. In a surreal/dream-like sequence, Tania finds herself swimming one second then tied to a huge bed the next. An eel-like creature wiggles up the sheets and into her vagina, causing her to become possessed. She soon emerges on shore (stark naked) and interrupts a lame drinking party where she wastes a couple of losers. After taking one of their leather jackets (yeah, this follows “The Terminator” (1984) quite closely at this point), she begins an all-out attack that’d make Hurricane Irene green with envy. While it’s never clear why this ancient sea witch is bent on revenge, the audience (and I) really didn’t care. Tania (aka the Lady Terminator) goes Tottally Balistic, creating a body count ten miles high via machine guns and a couple of brutal sex scenes (Remember the tag line: “She mates…then she Terminates!” One blurb that lives up to its promise).

Why this woman is turned into a cyborg-type revenge creature by an ancient sea witch is anyone’s guess, but that’s not even a quarter of a quarter of the flaws in this insanely ridiculous action romp. And when Tania starts her killing spree, you’ll either overlook these flaws, ride with it and have the greatest time of your trash film life, or shut the DVD off and continue to be a dullard (This film is actually playing in NYC at a rare screening in a couple of weeks—I’m freaking out that I can’t attend— hence the inspiration for this week’s column).

What put the crowd into a screaming frenzy were several repeated scenes, especially one of Tania spraying a group of military men with machine gun fire: that had to be shown at least five times. I’m guessing this saved the film crew from having to shoot from different angles? Either way, this is the type of thing that makes “so-bad-they’re-good” movies memorable.

I’m a big fan of the original “Terminator.” But, I can sit through “Lady Terminator” a thousand more times without being bored, as it contains more car chases, explosions, gore, violence, nudity and sheer insanity than a dozen low budget rip-offs combined. (It should be noted that star Barbara Ann Constable is also credited as doing the make-up for the film, too).

The most amazing aspect of “Lady Terminator” is it’s ability to entertain to the core, despite a plot that’s all over the place (or not even there, depending on who you talk to), dialogue that’s beyond inept, and question after question after question and confusion on top of confusion. Somehow this pile of Indonesian trash works. It’s a true miracle of low-budget filmmaking that I’ve been contemplating for the past twenty-two years, made worse by my second viewing via a VHS screening in the early 90s.

I think I’m finally ready to seek this out on DVD…although when I do it’ll be hard not to toss it in the DVD player for weekly viewings.

“Lady Terminator” was one of the greatest exploitation films I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing on the big screen with my fellow Noo Yawk trash hounds at the near-end of the genuine grindhouse era.

I think I’m gonna go cry now…

© Copyright 2011 by Nick Cato

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