Tuesday, September 18, 2012

FLICK PICK: She (1982)

Welcome to the first entry in our new feature, Flick Pick, where we cast an eye over a cult classic movie. And for our inaugural movie, we've picked an absolute doozy: 1982's She.

Plot Synopsis
Note that there are spoilers ahead.

Snap, Crackle and Hideous Mutation
The movie begins with our heroes Tom, Dick and Hari (yes, really) arriving to trade at the Heaven's Gate community. As you can see, breakfast cereals and soft drinks are clearly apocalypse proof - but only those from the 1980s, judging by the packaging. But now you know: if things are looking dodgy, build yourself a shelter from Corn Flake and Rice Krispies boxes. That way you'll be sure to survive any nuclear-related incidents.

All is well until suddenly a band of evildoers arrive and begin doing evil. Not only do they follow the ''fell into a laundry basket of random costumes'' school of fashion, their leader is none other than Terrance Stamp from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Hello Admiral!
So Bernadette - who is sporting a fabulous hat - and her boys push over some carts, kill a few people and - worst of all for our heroes - make off with their sister, Hari. You can probably tell where this is going...

So our two heroes head off to seek their sister, but, as they're idiots, they fail miserably to do anything but get themselves captured, with Dick being imprisoned in a pig sty and Tom being forced to do ''The Walk,'' which isn't some kind of brand new dance but rather is a torture involving punji sticks and a gang of angry women, commanded by Shamansha. Shushan is She's right-hand woman (and maybe it's just me but there seems to be some kind of implication that maybe they're more than just colleagues or even friends...) and so whenever the opportunity arises to do She's bidding - which usually involves humiliating a man - she's straight in there.

Angry Birds
Quite what the point of this scene is, I don't know. Maybe it's to highlight Shally and She's hatred of men (thus providing a character arc) or maybe director Avi Nesher had some left-over Kensington Gore he wanted to use up after they'd finished the actual movie, because Tom survives (much to the annoyance of the women) and promptly returns to not only rescue his brother Dick but the two also manage to capture She, she being the only one who knows where the Valley of the Norks lies. Yes, that's right, the bad guys are called ''The Norks,'' which is hilarious, as ''norks'' is another term for '''breasts'' in the UK.

But before we go on, it's worth mentioning that She is supposed to be the ''She'' of the H. Rider-Haggard novel. During an utterly baffling scene in which She must prove she is ''pure'' the warrior queen battles a number of men (or are they robots?) that leap out at her from an assortment of packing crates in a cave, best of which is the awesome Frankenstein seen below.

A Robot Frankenstein Zombie!
Thankfully she's able to defeat these opponents (a swift bite to Frankie's neck sees his head explode) whereupon an old woman allows her to take a bath, thus renewing... whatever power it is she has (and not at all so the movie can include some topless shots of Sandahl Bergman.) My guess is She is immortal but beyond that, there's no actual explanation as to why she takes these baths or what other - if any - power they bestow.

Anyway, the movie now takes on a very episodic nature, with the travelers encountering an assortment of weirdos and tripped-out characters, the first of which are a group of bandaged mutants and - I assume - fans of Doom Patrol's Negative Man, who capture She and the brothers.

Sponsored by Band-Aid
When She is unable to broker a deal with the mutants they place her - along with Tom and Dick - in a tiny room, whereupon the movie does the whole Star Wars trash compactor thing for about five minutes, although rather than being saved by a camp golden robot, our heroes are saved by Shindy and her warrior women.

Because she's ''curious'' She lets Tom and Dick go free, pointing them in the direction of the Nork Valley (teehee), much to the annoyance of Shophia, who suddenly starts talking like a great Valley Girl. She and Shabrina give Tom and Dick a head start and then follow, although given how much time elapses between them parting and catching up, my guess is they stopped off to have their horses re-pointed or their armor buffed.

Tra-la-la-la-la! Nothing suspicious at all about us!
The boys find themselves in the middle of a Bacchanalian romp so camp it that would make Star Trek proud and pretty soon they're drinking, eating and being flirted with by some of these odd hangovers from a more ''civilized'' time. However, all is not as it seems - although the only surprise about that is that they actually did go for such an obvious trope - and the revelers are in fact, werewolves! Luckily She and Shadie arrive just in time to rescue them. 

And then it's on to the next set piece!

What was his name again?
Our heroes find themselves traveling through the realm of GODAN. GODAN, whose name you just know is always spelled-out in capital letters, is the leader of a religious cult (of his own devising, which I'm sure is supposed to be some kind of MESSAGE.) When She refused to bow to GODAN, She and Shelina are taken away to be tortured, while Tom and Dick are given soup. Oh how the tables have turned!

But... it's all a ruse. Tom and Dick simply pretend to like GODAN so they can remain at large and - when the time is right - spring a rescue plan. So the two eat their soup and listen as their female friends are tortured before GODAN demands that She be taken to his chambers, where no doubt he plans to use his telekinetic powers to... well, that's best left to the imagination.

Death by red Magic Marker!
Our heroes swiftly defeat GODAN - with the help of his lieutenant (who seemed angry that he kept taking women to his chambers), She demands the worshipers now worship her and then... we're off again!

After wandering around in the forest for a while, they come across a giant. In a pink tutu. This chap - named Rudolph - captures Dick, She and Shandy (Tom manages to escape) and brings them to the lair of an insane scientist, who promptly puts them in bags so he can do some science on them.

Come on in! My pants are nice and warm.
I'm doing SCIENCE!
Again, our heroes escape (destroying the lab in the process) before attempting to catch up with the missing Tom, who has now had a run-in with this guy.

Uck uck uck...
Imagine Robin Williams on speed and you'll get an idea as to just how annoying this guy is. But it gets worse. You see, every time he loses a limb, he replicates and pretty soon we're greeted with this awful sight:

Navy Cake for All!
Now, keep in mind what I just said: every time he loses a limb, he replicates. Yes, that's right. Our ''hero'' - when faced with a guard who never instigates violence toward him - resorts to simply hacking off at least six limbs to make his way across the bridge...

Anyway, we switch from Tom's progress (rather awkwardly, I might add) to that of Dick and She (Shcarlet having vanished for the moment) , who also encounter bridge keeper Xenon, only this time they deal with him in a more sensible manner: they pitch him over the bridge to his death, before sneaking into the Nork City.

She and Dick then cleverly disguise themselves as what turn out to be potential Nork recruits and are treated as revered guests. At first. You see, in order to join this awesome gang they have to appease the Nork Leader in - what else but - a trial by combat!

No, they really are my ears. It's a custom fit.
And so our heroes enter the fray, fighting against an assortment of costumed buffoons and Hollywood punks until - in a huge plot twist we never saw coming - one of their rivals reveals himself to be the disguised Tom! Defeating their remaining opponents and grabbing Hari (while everybody simply stands around and watches) the heroic trio escape Nork captivity (fnar) with the Norks giving chase.

''I'm gonna kill my agent...''
And so comes the final, climactic battle of She, with the warrior goddess, Tom, Dick and the newly-rescued Hari having plenty of time to improvise a series of traps and weapons, await the Norks' attack. Despite their best efforts, though, the battle is not going their way until....

Go get him, girls!
She's army arrives to save the day!

And thus with the evil Nork army defeated (although their leader still safely behind his walls, hopefully returning in the sequel!) She, Tom, Dick, Hari and Shandra head home, with the latter finally admitting her true feelings for Dick (haha!), who elects to remain as Tom and Hari return home, leaving She heartbroken. Or maybe she just has gas.

Bad... taco...
Cue the bad rock music as the credits roll.

Final Thoughts
Imagine if Zardoz bred with Barbarella and A Clockwork Orange acted as the child's nanny and you'll  get an idea about the utter insanity of She. In all honesty it's a fragmented, episodic mess but the sheer verve of its surrealism and the fact that they just seem to have thrown everything in there in the hopes of something sticking give it a kind of weird, amateur charm that actually works in an odd, retro manner. The fights are hokey, the special effects are terrible and the script is a mess, yet for all that - once the movie gets underway - it's actually pretty entertaining (in a cheesy way)  and I never once felt that it was dragging.

There's also the fact that the movie seems laden with symbolism and messages. I'm sure the writers are trying to make a point about... something... but in all honesty, I've no idea what that point is, unless it's that women in leather armor look kind of cool and that in the future hats will be awesome. Because whatever the socio-political messages are, they're either so buried under the camp look or just so badly developed that either way, you're really just left wondering what the point of all the Swastikas and Hammer & Sickles was.

Still, if you're a fan of 80s cheese movies and fancy seeing Sandahl Bergman fighting a Frankenstein or a legion of Robin Williams impersonators, then you should give She a go. I can't guarantee you'll enjoy it as a piece of cinema but as an exercise in sheer 1970s WTFery (despite being release in 1982!), it's pretty awesome.

She is currently available on Netflix's Watch Instantly play list and from the dusty backroom of a number of Mom & Pop video rental stores in the Midwest (VHS only.)

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