FEMALE MERCENARIES ON ZOMBIE ISLAND
1995, 111 mins. 41 secs.
Directed by Gary Whitson
Starring Tina Krause, Pamela Sutch, Laura Giglio, Deanna Demko
FEMALE MERCENARIES II: MAD DOCTOR OF ZOMBIE ISLAND
Color, 2008, 79 mins. 44 secs.
Directed by Gary Whitson
Starring Tina Krause, Pamela Sutch, Laura Giglio, Barbara Joyce
Camp Motion Pictures (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 NTSC)
For decades to come, film scholars will be studying the sudden fascination with W.A.V.E. Productions that's sprung up over the past year. Long an underground oddity, the decades-old company is now somewhat infamous for making custom-made, Z-grade genre films tailored to the whims of its customers (often with very peculiar fetishes). The whole saga and specialty market was recently covered in Mail Order Murder: The Story of W.A.V.E. Productions, their short work was featured on Limbo, and one of their more popular efforts, Psycho Sisters, has gotten the special edition treatment as well. To that list you can add Camp Motion Pictures' Female Mercenaries on Zombie Island Collection, a dual-format Blu-ray and DVD set spotlighting two features spread a couple of decades apart.
The original Female Mercenaries on Zombie Island from 1995 is an outlier in the history of W.A.V.E. as it actually earned a commercial VHS release outside of the direct mail order market of its peers -- in this case from E.I. Independent Cinema, now known as Pop Cinema (along with a slew of subsidiary brands including Camp Motion Pictures, who's behind this new deluxe edition). Chaos is erupting as an asteroid seemingly made of upholstery is about to collide with Earth in a few hours, which means Tracy (Krause) gets to enjoy what may be her final shower before heading underground into a bunker. Unfortunately some jerk busts into her room and ties her up before she can get to safety, but she manages to slip to safety just as disaster hits. Thus, as a text crawl informs us, verbatim: "The year is now 2008! The asteroid has killed most of the Earth's population and caused the remaining survivors to revert back to a more primitive lifestyle. A brilliant, female doctor and her warrior women are now out to rule what's left and put women in charge! The doctor has perfected brain transplant operations! And using that knowledge, she gives the old men in power, new, young bodies! But unknown to them, she implants an electronic device in each of their brains in order to control them when the time is right! And also under her control is a band of male mercenaries who must do her bidding or live forever as cannibal zombies!" That's pretty much it for plot as Tracy tromps into the woods to join rebel Karen (Giglio) stop the doctor (fellow W.A.V.E. regular Sutch) from carrying out her plan for world domination, complete with lots of running through underbrush, interrogations in basements, creek wrestling, and droning electronic music.
Then on we go to 2008's Female Mercenaries II: Mad Doctor of Blood Island, which pretty much remakes the first film with a much shorter running time. This time, as another crawl informs us, "After the meteor's impact, the earth fell into chaos! Some people retained the current technology and skills, while others were thrown back into a more primitive lifestyle! An evil doctor emerged, with world conquest her only goal! Using brain implants in some men, while turning others into flesh eating zombies, her plans almost succeeded! [Spoiler alert!] But she was stopped by the courageous efforts of two freedom fighters, Tracy and Karen, who led a revolt against the bogus doctor! Tracy and Karen returned the real doctor to her rightful place as leader! But all is not what it seems!" That means you get, yes, more women fighting in the woods as our two heroines return to stop the doctor from unleashing an army she's cloned from herself with a formula stolen from Alexis (Joyce). Meanwhile most of the male population is still in a state of zombi's, with a mole inside the rebels working for her own benefit. All of the mayhem eventually leads to a big multiple cliffhanger ending paving the way for the pending Female Mercenaries III, of course.
As with pretty much all of W.A.V.E.'s output until fairly recently, these productions were shot on S-VHS camcorders which means it's an "it is what it is" proposition here. Both films have been available as DVD-R or digital download titles separately from W.A.V.E. directly with a price point that'll set you back $27-30 each, so what you get here is a major bargain by comparison. It's still limited by the original format though as the Blu-ray features both of them in native standard def, 30fps, without any upscaling; that said, they're given more breathing room than the DVD option so you might as well go with that. Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, which is fine enough given how these were shot anyway. Also included are two Super 8 shorts by regular W.A.V.E. director (and founder) Gary Whitson, starting with the utterly nuts If God Should Fail (10m46s) from 1976 (with optional commentary by Whitson and Mike Raso). This one's quite a change of pace as you get an homage to sword and sandal films starting off on Mount Olympus as the toga-clad Zeus sends the mustachioed Hercules to stop a scientist from unleashing a cyborg he's developing in his basement. Lots of dubbed-in bird chirping and an utterly hilarious swimming pool fight are some of the highlights from this production that's a literal backyard labor of love. Then there's the 1981 Whitson short Misadventures of Fanny Starr (20m16s), in which the titular private eye is first seen tied to a tree as her narration and flashbacks explain how she took on the most challenging case of her career involving a plot to unleash literal hell on earth. More bird chirping and "Flight of the Bumblebee" stock music provide background for this homemade madness with more swimming pool tussling, black magic, and hints of the bondage fetishism that would become a label trademark down the road. Also included are a vintage 1995 video interview with the W.A.V.E. crew at Chiller (5m20s), a very short teaser for Female Mercenaries III: Cannibal Apocalypse, and a silent shot-on-film W.A.V.E. studio tour (2m38s) with Whitson and Psycho Sisters director Pete Jaceone.
Reviewed on September 28, 2021