Wonder Women (1973)

Wonder_Women_(1973)‘Raise the brainwave cycles from theta to alpha and restore him to consciousness; I want him sent to me tonight.’

A brilliant scientist carries out experiments with immortality off the coast of Manila. She needs raw material for her work so her female army kidnap famous athletes. An insurance investigator tumbles to her plans and she tries to eliminate him…

Cheap exotic locations? Check. Imported American ‘stars’? Check. Plenty of topless women? Check. Lame, unconvincing Kung Fu sequences? Check. Funky Afro hairdo? Check. Lots of crash zooms and camera shots between the legs of women in short skirts and high heeled boots? Check. Yeah, it’s the 1970s, baby!

Typical sub-Bond/science fiction palaver that never pretends to be anything but cheap exploitation. Toplining are Nancy Kwan as the exotic villainess and Ross Hagen as this week’s (a bit middle aged) Bond. The plot’s fairly typical fayre and is not allowed to interfere too much with lingering close ups of Kwan’s good looking wrecking crew, who bitch a lot and have sex with the zombified athletes (off screen, it’s not a porno!)

Kwan was a classical trained ballet dancer who burst on to the big screen with William Holden in smash ‘The World of Suzie Wong‘ (1960) and followed up with hit musical ‘The Flower Drum Song’ (1961). After that, Hollywood didn’t know what to do with her and, by the late 1960s and early 70s, she’d been predictably relegated to ‘Dragon Lady’ roles in small budget independents like this. In some ways her career trajectory mirrored that of the first Asian-American film star Anna May Wong, who suffered from similar typecasting. Appropriately, Kwan narrated a documentary film about Wong in 2007. Male lead Ross Hagen also produced the film, and had turned his hand to directing within a few years, delivering vigilante revenge thriller ‘The Glove’ (1979) starring ex-football star Rosey ‘Roosevelt’ Grier and b-movie legend John Saxon.

There’s little plot development beyond the original premise, and the film bares an unfortunate resemblance to Jess Franco’s feeble ’Sumuru’ picture ‘The Girl From Rio’ (1970). A lengthy chase scene through the streets of Manila certainly has energy, but there’s a suspicion that at least some of it was ‘seat of the pants’ filmmaking as it’s hard to rehearse someone getting randomly hit by a van.

Wonder_Women_(1973)

Ha! I bet Steve Trevor never got to do this…

Once on Kwan’s secret island, though, things take a rather dull turn. Kwan and Hagen do have ’brainsex’ which he seems to enjoy quite a lot, but it’s not really a spectator‘s sport. Then a rebellious underling frees some of Kwan’s failed experiments and her plans go all ka-blooey (for some reason). One of these medical mishaps seems to have a blue police light strapped to his head, and the fact that it doesn’t work is presumably why he was in the discard pile.

Surprisingly, there a couple of familiar faces in the supporting cast. Sid Haig had appeared memorably as the bald psychopathic brother of ‘Spider Baby‘ (1968) and went on to become a familiar face on both US TV in the 1980s and in horror pictures, appearing as a regular for director Rob Zombie. He also worked for Quentin Tarantino on ‘Jackie Brown’ (1997) and ‘Kill Bill Vol.2’ (2004). One of Kwan’s ‘Wonder Women’ also looks kinda familiar. Yes, it’s Leslie McRay, fondly remembered by bad movie lovers everywhere as ‘The Girl In Gold Boots’ (1968).

This is adequate, low-budget exploitation; desperately average in every department. Still, although there’s not all that much to capture the interest, the early Seventies vibe still brings a smile to the face.

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