Tuesday, April 9, 2013

WONDER WOMAN

For fans of comic book superheroine Wonder Woman, there's pretty much only one live-action Amazon Princess, and that's the statuesque, raven-tressed Lynda Carter, who played the role on television between 1975 and 1979.

But before Carter inherited the golden tiara and star-spangled swimsuit, blonde ex-tennis star Cathy Lee Crosby portrayed a very different incarnation of the character in a failed 1974 TV pilot film. That unsuccessful attempt, simply called WONDER WOMAN, aired as a TV movie and showed up occasionally in syndication during the 70s and 80s, but never garnered a home video release until just recently, as a Warner Archive manufactured-on-demand DVD.

Diana Prince (Crosby, COACH) is secretary to U.S. government spymaster Steve Trevor (Kaz Garas). But she is also - secretly - super agent Wonder Woman, an Amazon princess from the mysterious, females only, Paradise Island. When top secret books containing lists of American undercover agents are stolen from several U.S. embassies, Wonder Woman goes into action, tracking the mastermind responsible, a suave International criminal named Abner Smith (Ricardo Montalban, STAR TREK II). In the course of her mission, she comes into conflict with Smith's henchman Calvin (Andrew Prine, GRIZZLY) and a renegade Amazon named Ahnjayla (Anitra Ford, INVASION OF THE BEE GIRLS). Can WW, in her star-spangled track suit, retrieve the secrets before they can be auctioned off to America's enemies?

Written and developed by John D.F. Black (STAR TREK, SHAFT, TROUBLE MAN) and directed by TV veteran Vincent McEveety, this WONDER WOMAN appears to be inspired by a then-recent run in the comics where the heroine had lost her powers and costume, and was portrayed as a Diana Rigg-inspired adventurer. The familiar, red, white & blue cleavage-baring costume, magic lasso and tiara are nowhere to be seen, although the famous bullet-deflecting bracelets do appear, tricked out with a variety of superspy gadgets. The pace of the film is relatively brisk, but the script is far too talky and coincidence-riddled, and the resolution of the case is an anticlimactic fizzle. The action - what little there is - is underwhelming as well, with the anticipated battle between WW and her Amazon "sister" ultimately consisting of a poorly-choreographed stick fight between obvious stunt doubles.

Despite its commercial & creative failure, the movie has long been desired by comic book buffs and superhero movie completists (and I count myself as both). The burned-to-order DVD from Warner Archive features a very bright and colorful transfer from a reasonably clean print, presented in its original 4x3 television aspect ratio. Audio is a clear Dolby Digital Mono. There are no extras or bonus features provided.

The Cathy Lee Crosby WONDER WOMAN is an amusing 70s curio, of interest really only to diehard fans of the character and the genre. That said, those fans should be quite satisfied with Warner Archive's disc.

BUYWonder Woman TV Movie Pilot (1974)