Kung Fu Women in Blood Island Prison: A Review of MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED! (2010)

Kung Fu Women in Blood Island Prison: A Review of MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED! (2010)

Greetings, Brothers and Sisters of the Psychotronic Video World.  One might think that my last foray into reviewing documentaries might lead me to shy away from doing so again, but MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED! is no cheapo piece of shit public domain clipart slideshow with stuttering narration.  MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED!, written and directed by Mark Hartley of NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD fame, is a suave, slick, stylish piece of informative documentary filmmaking showcasing the weird, wild, woolly and wet world of Exploitation Cinema, as produced in the Philippines in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

MACHETE MAIDENS starts off with a brief history of the Filipino Film Industry, beginning immediately after World War II, leading up to the first Filipino-lensed horror films — the Blood Island Trilogy: BRIDES OF BLOOD, THE MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND, and BEAST OF BLOOD.

Scenting money like a shark scents blood, it wasn’t long before Roger Corman arrived in Manila with a couple of fine foxy ladies and a camera, ready to make some money — I mean some films.  And thus, THE BIG DOLL HOUSE was born, revitalizing the Women-in-Prison subgenre with a hefty dose of tropical honey.  Then came WOMEN IN CAGES and THE BIG BIRD CAGE.  Tiring of WIP flicks, Corman then traded in the prison jumpsuits for military uniforms, producing a series of subversive “revolutionary” pictures like THE HOT BOX, BLACK MAMA WHITE MAMA, and SAVAGE SISTERS.  Then came the Filipino Blaxploitation flicks, SAVAGE! and T.N.T. JACKSON.

Along the way we’re treated to stories of Filipino exploitation filmmakers such as Eddie Romero, Cirio H. Santiago and Bobby Suarez, as well as the personal reminisces of R. Lee Ermey (and his commentary on APOCALYPSE NOW is a riot), Sid Haig, Roger Corman, Joe Dante, John Landis (oh, how I want to hang out on his couch and watch movies with him…), Andrea Cagan, Gloria Hendry, Margaret Markov, Pete Tombs, Patrick Wayne, Joseph Zucchero and many more.

Some highlights of the documentary (besides R. Lee Ermey’s blasting of APOCALYPSE NOW) include…

  • Weng Weng.  If you aren’t familiar with this three-foot tall disco-dancing midget Filipino James Bond, go get your greasy paws on FOR Y’UR HEIGHT ONLY and THE IMPOSSIBLE KID right freaking now.
  • Tits.  There is a ton of deliciously prurient T & A in a lot of the films shot in the Philippines, and MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED! does not shy away from showing you them in all their luscious bouncy glory.
  • Sid Haig complaining that his chemistry with Pam Grier was so good, the filmmakers just kept heaping naked women on him.
  • Feminist Context and Deeper Meaning.  A lot of the women who acted in these sleazy Filipino WIP flicks walked about how they were seen as icons of feminine empowerment because Hollywood sure as hell wasn’t making action movies with female leads during this time.  Also check out John Landis’ commentary on people who seek meaningful themes and messages in the black, greasy hearts of exploitation films.
  • The whole freaking thing.  Seriously, go see MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED! You owe it to yourself.

And now, I leave you with Weng Weng.

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Bill Adcock likes long walks off short piers and eating endangered species. In addition to his work for the Blood Sprayer, his writing can also be found at his personal site, Radiation-Scarred Reviews, which he's maintained since 2008. Bill has also contributed, as of this writing, to GRINDHOUSE PURGATORY issues 2 and 3, and CINEMA SEWER issue 27.

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