Wednesday, November 17, 2010

POSITIVELY NO REFUNDS DOUBLE FEATURE VOL. 2: CUBAN REBEL GIRLS / UNTAMED WOMEN

It's been several years since VCI Entertainment's first "Positively No Refunds Double Feature" disc of horribly fascinating (or, more accurately, fascinatingly horrible) films, but this belated follow up easily lives up - or, rather, down - to the promise of the label, with two astoundingly bad movies: CUBAN REBEL GIRLS (1960) and UNTAMED WOMEN (1952).

The first feature on this DVD double bill, CUBAN REBEL GIRLS, was the final film of one-time Hollywood megastar Errol Flynn. A pseudo-documentary, it follows "correspondent" Flynn - as himself - on a visit to Cuba, where he follows a band of teen-aged girls fighting in the name of Fidel Castro. The female lead is a young woman named Beverly, a bored American from New York, who joins the rebel girls to be near her boyfriend, one of Fidel's fighters.

Frankly dull and depressing, the only interest that CUBAN REBEL GIRLS holds is as a historical novelty: it's Errol Flynn's last film and it's one of the few (only?) American movies to "document" Castro's overthrow Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Reportedly, the film was actually made with Castro's cooperation, while he was still fighting Batista. The character of Beverly is played by the cute, but utterly talentless, 16 year-old Beverly Aadland, who was Flynn's girlfriend at the time. The whole production is shoddy; poorly shot, under-lit and just unpleasant to watch. Most distressing is the sad degeneration of the once-virile movie hero Flynn, who looks as if he might fall over dead from alcohol poisoning at any moment.

The second feature, UNTAMED WOMEN, is a by-the-numbers "lost island of monsters and hot chicks" flick, and despite the impoverished production values and cliched script, it's actually kinda endearing. In this case, the crew of an Air Force bomber is marooned on an uncharted Pacific island inhabited by dinosaurs (stock footage of photographically-enlarged lizards lifted from 1940's ONE MILLION B.C.), hairy cavemen, and a tribe of beautiful women descended from wayward Celtic druids. Seriously.

UNTAMED WOMEN includes virtually every trope of "lost world" adventures, including a climactic volcano eruption, but it has its low-budget charms. I was actually impressed by some of the effects work - the integration of stock footage is very well-done, and there are even a few surprisingly accomplished composite shots combining characters from the film with the recycled "dinosaur" effects footage. It's a reminder that back in the day, even crappy C-movies exhibited a bit more craft and filmmaking skill than most of today's no-budget, shot-on-video equivalents.

VCI presents CUBAN REBEL GIRLS and UNTAMED WOMEN in their original 1.33:1 "full-frame" aspect ratios and black & white. While both films are watchable, neither transfer looks particularly great. However, WOMEN looks much better than GIRLS, which has apparently never looked good. Audio is Dolby digital mono. The only extras are the theatrical trailers for various other "bad" movies also available on DVD from the company.

If you're the sort of bad movie fan who's likely to take pride in owning a copy of CUBAN REBEL GIRLS or UNTAMED WOMEN - and I am - then the disc is worth picking up. VCI's presentation is about as good as you're likely to find, and the price is agreeable.

BUYPositively No Refunds Double Feature: Cuban Rebel Girls & Untamed Women