Saturday, September 19, 2015

AMAZONS (1984)

FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*

Of all the uncanny films I've examined here under the trope of "weird families and societies," AMAZONS is closest to THE OCTAGON, in that both films deal with an undercover martial-arts society. However, since the "Amazons of Helena," as I'll call them henceforth, claim to trace their lineage from an all-female society of archaic times, some compendia of fantasy-films have been more liberal in including this film, though otherwise there are no elements of magic or super-science in the story.

Two modern-day viewpoint characters, lady doctor Sharon and male cop Tony, stumble across a modern-day cult of Amazons who are seeking to insinuate themselves into the all-male halls of power. To this end they're willing to covertly assassinate certain men they consider obstructions, and one such killing involves falsifying the treatment of a hospital patient under Sharon's care. Tony makes Sharon's acquaintance, becomes romantically interested in her, and starts helping her investigate her malpractice case. Their detective work leads them to an organization called Helena Enterprises, maintained by a congresswoman-- but this is just a cover for a bunch of women who are trained in modern martial arts and the Greek tradition of archery. As a mark of their cult, all members wear bracelets adorned with bow-and-arrow sigils.

Aside from the congresswoman, only three Amazons are characters in their own right: the leader Diana and her two lieutenants Roselund and Vivian.  Roselund was one of the last roles of cult-actress Tamara "Cleopatra Jones" Dobson, but unfortunately she doesn't get to do much beside beat up a couple of unworthy males. A fan-rumor claims that the actress may have been suffering from one of the illnesses that later took her life, so it may be that her character was originally intended to play the role assigned to Vivian (Leslie Bevis): that of the hothead lieutenant who wants to resort to violence against the investigators. I offer this speculation simply because as the film is scripted there really isn't a crying need for two lieutenants.

There are a few strong scenes of the Amazon-cult reveling in their long history, and the story of female empowerment was given a contemporary air in that these martial maidens are also behind a female vice-presidential candidate (the telefilm came out the year Geraldine Ferraro served as running-mate to presidential hopeful Walter Mondale). Unfortunately the script and its director-- Paul-Michael ("Starksy") Glaser spend far too much time on the bland characters of Sharon and Tony. I could imagine the same basic concept being given much more verve had it been executed as one of Brian Clemens' many low-budget telefilms.


  1. Speaking of "unworthy males," as I said on the CHFB site, my biggest complaint is how Scalia's character gets rid of the Amazons with a gun, except when he uses a real fight scene cliché and pushes a bookcase down on one of them. I'm not sure exactly what it would be, but a story with modern-day Amazons should show them being defeated in a way that's more "worthy" of them.

  2. Neither the scripter nor the director seemed to allow much space for fight-scenes, though Dobson had certainly garnered her share of experience doing these in the CLEOPATRA JONES films.

    Why doesn't the Jack Scalia cop-character make a better showing, given that the script is all about uppity women trying to take over from men? After I looked at Scalia's IMDB record, I noticed that AMAZONS is pretty early in his career. By the 1990s he'd played a lot of toughguy roles, but he might not have had that much experience doing all the involved blocking necessary for a good fight. So maybe Glaser did the best he could with what he had, ending up with a pretty pedestrian fight-scene.