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Ted V Mikels is a kitsch director whose best work rises above practical
efforts at criticism. He produced the films most highly regarded amongst a
coterie of fans over just few years: The Astro Zombies' (1969), The
Grinders' (1972), and Blood Orgy of The She Devils' (1972), each have
following and have endured on video. As the last of Mikel's trash
to appear, 'The Doll Squad' contains the least horror and fantasy and, in
comparison to it's predecessors, adheres more closely to a logical dramatic
structure. Since then, although he had remained active - most recently with
Dimension of Fear' (1998) - Mikels has produced nothing else regarded by
fans with such long-lived affection. Firmly in the realms of
so-bad-it's-good, the years have added an enjoyable sheen to The Doll
Squad', particularly now that it can be taken with the gloss of post-modern
This is the film whose central premise - Mikels allegedly claimed - was ripped off by producer Aron Spelling to become the television series Charlie's Angels'. No doubt the reissue of Doll Squad' has also been at least in part inspired by the commercial success and marketing of the big screen version of that programme. Comparison of Mikels' film with Spelling's work does reveal similarities. But nothing in the TV Charlie's Angels', or the recent Hollywood outing compares to Mikel's wide-eyed glance at the genre, the cheesy pulchritude on display and his disregard for dramatic standards.
The Doll Squad is selected for assignment by computer, after it picks up 'something in O'Riley's personality which means experienced women should do the job' of stopping him. 'Experience' in this context naturally implies more than just familiarity with tough assignments. The squad of Sabrina, Liz, Sharon, Lavelle and Kim hail from different backgrounds, including a librarian, a scientist, karate instructor and, most noticeably, erotic dancer (played by Tura Satana, the Apache-Japanese better known for her role in Russ Meyer's far more provocative 'Faster Pussy Cat, Kill Kill!' (1965)).
It might be argued that, as a group of strong assertive women, the Doll Squad is a model of feminine self-reliance. After all, they are empowered to find and stop the villainous O'Riley by a senator, and are allowed complete independence and licence for the duration of their mission. But their assertiveness is essentially apolitical and, except for their expected impact on the criminal community, always non-threatening and contained within fantasy. The choice of squad personnel, obviously intended as a cross section of female society, merely emphasises a common voluptuousness. In tandem with the women's physical stamina, Mikel creates through this all-too familiar trash archetypes
Leaving aside its relationship to 'Charlie's Angels', the most striking element of Mikels' film is its flat playfulness. Like most favourite cult trash directors, he is cheerfully oblivious to the handicaps of abilities and material. For the viewer, of course this is part of the fun. It would be pointless here to refer in detail to the fluffed lines, one-dimensional plot and rudimentary cutting and pacing. Instead, a viewer best engages with the film on a naïve level, such (presumably) as the director/producer/co writer did, or by assuming a knowing camp sophistication. There's more than a degree of that to be found in the flame-thrower cigarette lighter, for instance, the lame kung fu, or the exploding poison. These days The Doll Squad' is more likely to leave the knowing viewer with a wink than a grimace, as it plays its simple variation on the espionage thriller. As a z-grade auteur, Mikels, resolutely goes his own way in the film, immune to the strictures of any responsible' judgement, incidentally striking a chord with the modern viewer which he could hardly had anticipated at the time.
However one approaches the film, it still has the distinct straight-faced charm which has kept it a favourite down the years. Helped by a surprisingly strong musical score, and photographed competantly, The Doll Squad', beehive hair cuts and cheesy décor intact, has dated pleasantly and remains a guilty pleasure.
This highly entertaining action flick is from the legendary Ted V
Mikels, director of The Astro-Zombies and The Corpse Grinders. The Doll
Squad is a laugh-a-minute cheese-fest of the first order. Mikels
apparently sued Aron Spelling for nicking his idea and creating
Charlie's Angels. Well, I don't know about that, but what I do know is
that I would've been perfectly happy if there had been a series based
on this movie. The basic premise is one that really you cannot go wrong
with a group of sexy action chicks take on an evil genius and his
army of boneheads and save the day. It's a perfect recipe. What makes
it so much fun is that the cheese-factor is in hyper-drive.
The film is ram-packed with action from start to finish. Lots of machine-gun toting babes, girls high-kicking men in the face, amazingly fake looking explosions and an array of ludicrous gadgetry. We have bad guys who blow up after drinking explosive vodka, an evil character who has his face set on fire by a cigarette lighter flame thrower and an undercover agent with fake face who is unmasked in a hilarious Scooby Doo style fashion. And for some reason the bad guys travel around in cars sitting on the bonnets, while the Doll Squad navigate the rough terrain of the island in high-heeled boots. Everything is accompanied by the most 70's soundtrack ever recorded. The film is just an endless succession of seriously silly events.
The only member of the cast I recognized was Tura Satana from Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! fame. She is strangely subdued it has to be said but it's always nice to see her. The rest of the Dolls are completely unfamiliar to me but they all just get stuck in and kick butt at every opportunity. There is a perhaps surprising lack of nudity but it doesn't really matter. The Doll Squad is a blast from start to finish and I strongly disagree with the view held by some that it is boring at all. It's loads of fun.
This film was paid refrence to in PULP FICTION, when one of the characters was talking about being in a tv pilot called FOX FORCE FIVE. The story is about a group of female commandos in hip hugger bell bottoms, who try to stop a madman villian, played by everyone's favorite villian character actor MICHAEL ANASARA. The bad guy is running around blowing up NASA moon rockets and then has the nerve to send a congressman a taped confession to the crime in which he sinisterly laughs for a long period of time....the nerve! So this government guy, organizes a female strike force to bring justice to the flamboyant villian and his overly flamboyant scheme....which coincidently involves....well, er, WORLD CONQUEST. Fear not lovers of lame 1970's movie cheese, the women save the day...however, there won't be a sequel to this one. If you love to sit down with a group of friends and mock movies, then this one is worth a laugh.
One of schlock film master Ted Mikels' best bad films. Not as famous or fun as the Astro Zombies, but certainly worth checking out. Mikels is said to have sued TV Mogul Aron Spelling over Doll Squad, claiming Spelling created "Charlie's Angels" based on this film! That gives Spelling way too much credit. Don't know what ever came of the law suit, but I would like to listen to Mikels' legal arguments! Typical Grade Z government actor types program a big secret super computer to choose the ideal squad of secret agents to save the world, and it comes up with 4 fighting bimbos for the job. They use their sex appeal and unconvincing martial art skills to get the bad guy and titilate the audience. Everything in the movie has a very brown-orange shag carpet 1970's look. I'm sure Mikels was the first on his block to get a leisure suit.
'The Doll Squad' is testimony to Ted V. Mikel's complete lack of talent, in that he can take the idea of a team of beautiful assassins who must save the world from an evil mastermind intent on infecting us all with bubonic plague, and make it COMPLETELY BORING. On paper this looks like it could be a wonderfully trashy and camp 1970s experience, the kind of movie parodied with such skill and fun in the Austin Powers series. Actually trying to sit through it and stay awake is another matter! Mikel's woeful direction, the no-budget special effects, and the awful acting throughout make it almost painful to endure. Even the semi-naked appearance of the legendary Tura Satana ( from Russ Meyer's classic 'Faster Pussycat!') can't save this turkey!
MASTER PLAN: blow up rockets, get a microfilm and spread a bubonic
plague - whew, the villain is busy in this one. Though a fan of
seventies cinema, I've missed seeing this film until now and it really
does seem like an earlier version of "Charlie's Angels," beating the TV
series to the screen by a few years. But, this is much more violent
compared to that safe TV style; in fact, there's also more of that
seventies brutality here when comparing this to the James Bond films,
the other franchise this movie sort of emulates. Neither side in this
film, meaning the good gals and the bad guys, messes around. In an
early sequence of scenes, the villain (Ansara) sends some assassins for
a preemptive strike against the squad; one assassin shoots a squad
member twice in the head at point blank range and still checks to make
sure she's dead. Meanwhile, the Dolls deal with the villain's guards by
having them swallow pills which literally make them explode. The
squad's leader avoids her own assassination in a particularly heated
fashion. These babes are brutal, in that cheap thrill sort of way, and
terming them as a 'Doll Squad' is actually a bit insulting.
Most of the complaints about this film have to do with it being dull and, yes, there are a few slow spots, but, despite the obviously cheap quality of this Bond-wannabe, it's surprisingly entertaining. Just as in the first Flint film "Our Man Flint," a computer selects the ideal agents for the mission, requested by a senator & intelligence supervisor (Eisley); this also reminded me of the "Mission:Impossible" TV series. There had been other female Bond films, such as "Modesty Blaise;" this one presents a whole team. Most of the plot involves their plans to raid the villain's stronghold where, in the tradition of villains with unlimited funds, he employs his own private army. The last third is the actual attack, and there's much gunplay and karate chopping, not to mention explosions matted in optically (real explosions were probably too expensive, but there's a certain charm to these FX). The squad leader (York) has a personal history with the villain, who delays killing her because of this. York is pretty good in the role, not just a talentless bimbo, while Ansara excelled in these melodramatic larger-than-life roles. This also features a unique film appearance by Satana, who became a cult star in "Faster Pussycat..Kill!Kill!" but appeared in very few movies afterward. The climax even resembled the climactic action of "The Dirty Dozen" - femme fatale style, of course. Heroines:6 Villain:6 Male Fatales:5 Henchmen:5 Fights:5 Stunts/Chases:4 Gadgets:3 Auto:3 Locations:3 Pace:4 overall:4+
Perhaps it would take a trained psychotherapist to figure out why I persist in renting out movies by director/producer Ted V. Mikels, after so many repeated disappointments. From bad ("Blood Orgy of the She Devils") to worse ("The Corpse Grinders"), from rock bottom ("The Astro-Zombies") to repugnant ("The Worm Eaters"), the man has let me down time and again. Yet I had to go take a look at his 1973 offering, "The Doll Squad," despite all that, AND despite the fact that I've never been a fan of the overrated '70s TV phenomenon "Charlie's Angels," which this flick supposedly served as inspiration for. Well, the good news is that this Mikels effort may be marginally better than those others; the bad news is that, well, this is still a Mikels film, to which he brings his patented...what's the opposite of "touch of gold"? Touch of crap? The story here concerns an ex-government agent, played by Michael Ansara, who's been blowing up U.S. rockets and is threatening the world with bubonic plague, and the efforts of Doll Squad leader Sabrina (Kincaid, not Duncan) and her kick-ass babes to stop him cold. Though the film's first 15 minutes or so, featuring the gruesome murders of two of the Dolls, are promising, the picture quickly deteriorates into the typical Mikels mishmash of lousy direction, poor editing and awful FX. Though the Dolls are pretty fierce in action, more than willing to shoot their foes in the back or when they're already unconscious, most of that action is confined to murky, hard-to-follow gunplay. Francine York, it must be allowed, is pretty good as the head Doll, and quite a package to look at, as is everyone's favorite pussycat, Tura Satana. A larger budget and a more accomplished filmmaker might have been able to salvage what on paper must have seemed a pretty reasonable entertainment. As it is, if I ever rent out another Ted V. Mikels movie, someone, please, institutionalize me!!!
The only other Ted V. Mikels film I had seen before this is "Blood Orgy of the She-Devils". And the only thing I remember about it is that it was completely awful. Thankfully, "The Doll Squad" is considerably better. It is crudely directed, with often poor continuity and laughable "special effects" (low points: the fake explosions). But it is also ahead of its time: how many films do you suppose had been made before 1973 featuring female commandos using guns, explosives and martial arts to wipe out small armies of bad men? Not many, that's for sure. Whether dressed in their bikinis or in their tight, form-fitting uniforms, the women in this film look good, and handle their basic action scenes fairly well. So "The Doll Squad" may not be art (far from it, in fact), but from a female action cinema fan's perspective, it delivers where it counts. (**)
Ted V. Mikels the man himself is more interesting and bizarre than
anyone of his films. Hes a bodybuilder with a goatee and ten wives who
used to reside in a castle. Judging from an interview in Re/Search's
indispensable "Incredibly Strange Films" volume, he seems quite proud
of his film work and seems very enthusiastic about them. He shouldn't
be. "The Corpse Grinders" and "The AstroZombies" were reasonably fun
trash pictures that at least were never dull. On the other hand, "Girl
In the Gold Boots", "Blood Orgy of the She-Devils", and "The Doll
Squad" are largely unbearable.
Its odd how Mikels could take a dynamite cult concept such as the one this film has and make it so dull. The film is entertaining for the first half hour, but quickly goes downhill when one realizes just how monotonous it all is. There's some unintentional laughs, but not enough to endure the film. The special effects are goofy, and like every other aspect fun at first but less so as the film progresses. The whole cast is wooden, even the legendary Tura Sartana. Special mention must go to Anthony Eisley, whose character is possibly the most uninteresting maniac intent on world domination in all of cinema (now that takes talent to create).
Mikels has claimed "Charlie's Angels" ripped him off, and he actually has a point (theres even a character named Sabrina). If so, some network executives were pretty desperate for a concept. However, this note of curiosity doesn't make "The Doll Squad" worth watching. Imagine an Andy Sidaris film without the tits, and you're beginning to get an idea of the pointlessness of this. (2/10)
Being an avid moviegoer and a frequent renter and buyer of DVDs,
there's always something intriguing about DVDs of low-budget films made
in the 1970's that I've never heard of. Does this film deserve a bigger
release? Could this DVD have benefited from more special features? Is
it a hidden gem over which the big studios just passed? Above all,
though, is the movie worth watching? Sadly, in regards to "The Doll
Squad", the answer to all these questions is "No".
The DVD copy of "The Doll Squad" is one I found while browsing through a discount outlet, and it only cost me $0.50 to purchase. It was labeled as a "Cinema Cult Favorite", which is a label that can be unfair to quality cult classics. To me, the term "cult favorite" describes a film that, while underrated at the time of its release, has since developed a following of devoted fans that watch the film again and again, and take real meaning out of it. Unfortunately, to some DVD distributors, the term means a film that just hasn't been seen very many times.
There are some qualities of this film that, at first glance, make it a potential cult favorite. After all, the film has heroines, not heroes, who kick ass and take names. However, women as action stars means nothing if you don't make the characters interesting, and you don't care about the mission they are pursuing.
Such is the case of this movie, which has a plot that is very run-of-the-mill, half-baked characters, horrible actors playing them, and cheap special effects that look cheaper because the foundation of a story makes the house crumble and fall.
Watching this film in 2010, the film will lose you in the opening sequence when Senator Stockwell is watching a space shuttle launch. The space shuttle launches successfully off the ground, but once it reaches the stratosphere, it explodes. When this actually happened to the Challenger in 1986, there was a public outcry. In this movie, Senator Stockwell says in a monotonous voice, "Oh no. All those men."
Sadly, the explosion comes as no surprise because of a threatening recorded message to the Senator from Eamon O'Reilly (Michael Ansara, who is perhaps the most interesting character in this film), an American terrorist whose quest for world domination also includes injecting the rest of the world with a bubonic plague. Only one team of agents can stop them, primarily because the leader of the group, red-headed Sabrina Kincaid (Francine York), had a prior relationship with O'Reilly.
Sabrina works to bring the team together as they work during their day jobs. One woman works as a stripper, another one is a champion swimmer, another works in an amusement park, and there are two more who have different jobs I can't recall. Even though they have different hair colors and occupations, once they put on uniforms and tote guns, they may be a force with which to be reckoned, but their personalities are pretty much all the same. As a result, there's no one about whom you really care.
There is a lot of shooting and a lot of explosions. In fact, it's strange how the fire resulting from the explosions looks perfectly round and doesn't completely cover the person or thing that is exploding. It's almost as if the editor just put a match to a frame and printed it that way. There's also a scene early in the movie where a blond woman gets shot through the head, and when she turns afterwords towards the camera, the wound looks more like a bug bite.
The writer and director Ted Mikels had something here with women who have power and do justice. The problem is that Mikels focused more on the shooting and killing these women did than the reason why they did it. Action is exciting, but action without a story is like horse legs without the horse.
I hate ripping on Mikels for this film because he has made a number of low-budget films up to 2009, and there's something to say about someone being that committed. He's like Russ Meyer with a little less street credibility. If Mikels had collaborated with someone else on this script (perhaps a woman), he would have had something here, and the cheapness of the physical effects would be forgiven. A female writer probably could have told him, for starters, that if you want to make a movie about strong protagonists with two X chromosomes, don't have the men in this movie call them the DOLL squad. It could be why Gloria Steinam stayed away from this film.
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