Here on the cusp of the changeover of months - as we prepare to exit what Chris Magyar, in the Stomp Tokyo Weekly Newsletter dubbed "Sleazy Slut Month", and ease into a month of blaxploitation badness, it seemed somehow appropriate to watch a movie that sorta blended the two, babes and badness. The nod for this went to The Doll Squad, noted crapmeister Ted V. Mikel's film which is widely regarded as the inspiration for Charlie's Angels (especially by Mikels).
When the stock footage of manned space mission Starflight XII blows up, CIA bigwig Connolly (Anthony Eisley) swings into action. Dragging the embattled Senator Stockwell (John Carter) along with him, Connolly visits the nearby Computer Room, feeding into the computer "the punch cards of every active CIA agent", then playing the computer a tape recording of the voice of the criminal mastermind responsible for the sabotage. The computer spits out the only logical course of action: this is a job for... THE DOLL SQUAD!
Doll Squad leader Sabrina (Francine York) also swings into action, contacting the first two members of her team. We must wonder how Sabrina got to the be the leader of America's best hope, as she remains blissfully unaware of the tough-looking men following her. The first agent, a karate instructor, runs afoul of two of the thugs, and there is the standard chase down an alley to a wokka-chicka guitar soundtrack. The instructor turns and immediately opens a can of whoop-ass upon her attackers - all this according to bad movie law. Except that one of the attackers then pulls out a pistol and blows her brains out. Okay, score one for the filmmakers - I was surprised.
Finding her second agent similarly surprised and murdered - and these are the best people for the job, remember - Sabrina figures out that there is a mole in Stockwell's office. Turns out to be Stockwell's secretary (umů the only other person in the office beside Stockwell). After a suitable amount of hair-pulling, Sabrina convinces her to tell that the mastermind is Eamon O'Reilly (Michael Ansara), who is operating from a fake island off the coast of Venezuela. This could be trouble - not only is O'Reilly a former agent, he was also Sabrina's lover.
Nonetheless, Sabrina swings into action (again) and recruits four more deadly dolls: "Cat" ( Sherri Vernon), the World's Deadliest Librarian; Lavelle (Tura Satana), the World's Deadliest Exotic Dancer; Sharon (Leigh Christian), an Olympic swimmer who is also deadly; and Liz (Judy McConnell), a psych major, which is deadly enough.
Apparently, Eamon had more than one mole in Stockwell's office, as he knows his old flame is coming for him. He responds by capturing Kim, the girl who is to be the Squad's contact on the island (and who falls for a ruse that a five-year-old could see through - and once again I must remind you that these are the world's best hope) and substitutes his moll, Maria, for her. Supplying her with a rubber mask that makes her look just like Kim - and, miraculously, the same height. At last we're getting an idea of why Eamon is so dangerous - he took Mission: Impossible technology with him.
It is to be admitted that the rest of the Doll Squad make it to the island without getting killed - God only knows why these ladies were consigned to the second string. Sabrina immediately deduces that the fake Kim is a ringer ("You ask too many questions!"); Liz hypnotizes her and finds out the location of Eamon's stronghold and where the bad guys have sequestered Kim. The Doll Squad swings into action - they do that a lot - and rescue Kim, leaving the once-more disguised Maria in her place. Which is too bad for the hypnotized Maria, as immediately (and conveniently) afterward the call comes from Eamon to kill the prisoner. I think I would have a lot more respect for the Doll Squad (and their adversaries) if they would have had to do something a bit more strenuous to rescue their comrade than crawling through an unlocked window - right next to the captive!
The ladies proceed to approach the O'Reilly compound from two different directions - Liz and Cat by jeep from the land, and the other four by boat, disguised as beautiful vacationing rock hounds. Liz and Cat get through the perimeter by using their feminine wiles on the two guards, and giving them Vodka laced with a chemical that makes them explode. (When this was set up earlier, Eisley referred to it as "The highest explosive we've got outside the atom.") Once inside the stronghold's grounds, the women all change into the official Doll Squad uniform - white go-go boots and black jumpsuits with matching white gunbelts and a white line that goes up the left side of the suit, up the leg and over the shoulder, accentuating the curve of their.... well.... you know.
Unfortunately for our seaside team, their native guide, Rafael, also works for O'Reilly, and they soon find themselves captured. Then, this is probably why they split into two teams, and the duo that is still free includes Cat, the World's Deadliest Librarian. I am not kidding about this. Where Cat walks, men die. She manages to score head shots from hundreds of feet away using a silenced pistol. She bad.
So in no time the Doll Squad is free, and committing all sorts of mayhem in the compound. Well, except for Kim, who gets shot before she can do anything to possibly redeem herself - which also rather surprised me. Usually the Useless One gets to do something heroic and redeeming before the end of the flick. At any rate, the Battle Plan for the Doll Squad seems to be composed of running randomly about the compound and killing the cannon fodder in various ways while Sabrina sneaks around to find out Eamon's plan.
Ah, Eamon's Master Plan. Which is to release a new strain of the bubonic plague on the world. What does this have to do with blowing up space missions and his earlier demands for the plans to an ICBM missile? Who knows? Liz has already assured us the guy's mad! Meantime, out in Action Land, Sharon has received the mandatory shoulder wound and has been taken back to the jeep by Liz, Tura has placed enough explosives around to vaporize the complex, and Cat just keeps on a-killin'. Sabrina splits back to the lab to get some proof.... of what, we don't know, as the Doll Squad seems to be licensed to terminate with not a whole lot of prejudice, but this does set her up for getting captured... again.... (did we mention that she is our best hope against the crazed madman and his legion of plague-ridden rats?)... and her final fight with her ex-lover. If you are expecting the alcohol-chemical-make-you-blow-up-real-good stuff to come into play again, sorry - she nails him with a broadsword to the gut. With great regret, it seems.
So the Doll Squad rolls out into the dark night, their well-placed and timed explosives putting paid to all O'Reilly's plans, except that one last roadblock that lies between them and safety. This is one last oddball event, as one of the soldiers here has a flamethrower. Now, we are supposed to believe that the thrower has jammed (or whatever it is that flamethrowers do), but the wily crap movie watcher simply assumes that Mikels could either not afford a functional one or couldn't afford the fuel for this one. No, what matters is the Doll Squad's response to this impotent menace. Not simply content to put a few bullets through the guy while he futzes with the hardware, they haul out a bazooka (where they were hiding it is beyond me - that jeep is pretty crowded) and proceed to blast everyone to kingdom come.
The movie ends with the Doll Squad rendezvousing with their chartered boat and heading for a week of R and R. The ship's captain asks what happened to the other girl... although, actually he should be asking where the extra girl came from. Or maybe asking what happened to the guide, since Sabrina put some .32 whistlers through his weasel brain. But no, the captain is obviously of a piece with everyone in this picture.... i.e., stoopid ... so he simply shrugs at the woman with an obvious bullet wound gained from "falling off a rock" and pilots the ship to "someplace pretty". The end.
It would be best to be in a tolerant mood when watching The Doll Squad; though it's certainly the best-looking Ted V. Mikels film I've seen, the budget peeks through rather too often. The abundant explosions are all done optically, with the possible exception of the compound blowing up, which seemed to have some actual pyrotechnics - though filmed at an extremely safe distance, where it would be impossible to discern just what was blowing up. The run-and-shoot battle at the compound is entertaining enough, if not ideally grand in scope or exciting; the girls have no organized strategy and the bad guys have no idea how to conduct a grid search - they sort of deserve each other. And, just to make our bad movie experience complete, this nightime battle is a hodge-podge of actual night shots, day-for-night, and outright daytime shots.
Having now seen Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, I can only feel even more strongly (than I would have normally) that what we have here is a waste of a perfectly good Tura Satana. Sure, this cult icon is the only Squadster we get to see in any form of undress (not much, given the movie's PG rating!), but she's relegated to an almost less-than-secondary character. With all my misgivings about the leadership ability of Sabrina, it is only natural that I felt Tura - or more appropriately Lavelle - should have been the leader, and the compound would have been a smoldering scorch mark before Michael Ansara got to embarrass himself further.
The Doll Squad does get pretty outrageous at times, but past the Explosive Vodka and the Magic Bazooka, it's simply not outrageous enough. Though Mikels has what appears to be (for him) a larger than normal budget, there's not enough to really set up and execute the exciting segments necessary for its success as an action movie. Lacking a properly campy element, the movie falters as anything but a mildly painful time-waster. As for this movie providing the inspiration for Charlie's Angels, I just can't see it. Unless I missed the episode where the Angels put on kicky Emma Peel jumpsuits and wantonly slaughtered dozens of exceptionally stupid paramilitary types. But, then, I don't watch much TV, so anything is possible.
An action flick for the easily excitable.
- February 27, 2000