Image Entertainment presents
The Doll Squad (1973)
"You've got a pigeon sitting in your office, and I'm afraid it doesn't have wings."- Sabrina (Francine York)
Stars: Michael Ansara, Francine York, Anthony Eisley
Other Stars: John Carter, Rafael Campos, Tura Satana
Director: Ted V. Mikels
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for violence
Run Time: 01h:31m:12s
Release Date: 2001-10-23
DVD ReviewTelevision producer Aaron Spelling gave the world Charlie's Angels in the mid-1970s, and introduced T&A programming into the vernacular. A trio of gorgeous, gun-toting special agents seemed like a refreshing and new idea, and television audiences gobbled it up, making the show a huge smash hit. A few years earlier, in 1973, notorious schlockmeister Ted V. Mikels, the man best known as the force behind the low budget epics Astro-Zombies (1969) and The Corpse Grinders (1972), unleashed The Doll Squad, featuring a bevy of weapons-savvy babes who have to save the world. While certainly not high-brow entertainment, Mikels' film had enough outlandish absurdity to make it immensely appealing. Spelling went on to cash the big paychecks for his mediocre trash, while Mikels wallowed in semi-obscurity. That just isn't fair, if you ask me.
Keep in mind we're not analyzing Brazil-caliber productions here. Women with guns is not exactly an example of film school subtlety, and Charlie's Angels and The Doll Squad supplied plenty of mindless eye candy. Spelling's television product was somewhat limited by the inconsistent guidelines of broadcast censors at the time, while Mikels had free reign to crank up the cartoony violence, the luridly trashy fashions, and plenty of big, busty babes.
Mikels merges a little of James Bond, with a healthy dose of big-haired women with fake eyelashes that resemble giant tarantulas. A crazed villain (is there any other kind?) has sabotaged an experimental U.S. space flight, and has threatened to destroy the world unless he gets his mitts on the secret plans for a new missile system. Even with all of our governmental and military resources, a super-computer nicknamed BERTHA decries that only The Doll Squad can save mankind! Massively-coiffed redhead Sabrina (Francine York) is the group's cocky leader, and she immediately recruits a handful of similarly endowed super agents, each with their own speciality.
It's not long before the girls learn that the identity of the arch villain is Eamon O'Riley (Michael Ansara), who just happens to be a former beau of Sabrina's. O'Riley, with his tight polyester pants and an implied impotence problem, has set up shop on a secure, heavily fortified island off the coast of Venezuela. For a villain, Eamon's trippy lair has quite a hip and groovy shag carpeted bachelor pad feel to it. Needless to say, Mikels introduces a steady stream of goofy plot points, including secret agents with implanted silver discs in their neck, gimmicky secret weapons like vodka that causes you to explode, bubonic plague, and bargain-basement Mission: Impossible latex masks.
This is an unbelievably silly movie, with not even a glimmer of reality factored into it. The Doll Squad is low-brow filmmaking, and Mikels was one of the masters of the genre. This is a B-movie, plain and simple. The acting is perfectly stiff and over the top at all times, and the film's shoestring budget is obviously stretched thin here. There's plenty of gunplay, with O'Riley's uniformed henchmen dropping like flies during the film's shoot-'em-up conclusion. While there isn't any actual nudity (though there is a brief scene with Tura Satana in pasties), there are plenty of low-cut tops, short skirts and swimsuits.
The Doll Squad may be mindless, but it's fun.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||1.78:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: This disc features a new 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer made from an original negative. For a low budget cheapie, this new release of the 1973 production looks as good as it's going to get. Daylight sequences look terrific, with a color field awash in a field of gaudy polyester. Colors don't bleed, and look fairly sharp. Flesh tones are somewhat unnatural, with a tendency to appear muted, especially during the interior shots. As expected, the night scenes don't have strong shadow delineation, and tend not to have significant edge detail. This is pretty typical of low budget films of that era, so I'm not too bothered by this transfer. Some minor graining was evident in spots, as well as a series of intermittent white spots and reel marks.
I don't imagine this film looked much better during it's original run, so I'd have to say all in all The Doll Squad has cleaned up nicely.
Image Transfer Grade: C+
Audio Transfer Review: Image wisely left the film's original mono track intact. The soundtrack's glorious mid-1970s' wah-wah guitars sound appropriately tacky and trashy. Minimal hiss does not prevent the dialogue from coming across completely clear, though a tad flat. In general, no complaints.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Worm Eaters, Girl In Gold Boots, Ten Violent Women, The Corpse Grinders, Blood Orgy Of the She Devils
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Ted V. Mikels
Extras Review: Blessed are the B-movies, and Image has bellied up to the altar for this DVD. Here's the tacky goodies:
Widescreen theatrical trailers for 6 Ted V. Mikels' films, (The Worm Eaters, Girl In Gold Boots, Ten Violent Women, The Corpse Grinders, Blood Orgy Of the She Devils, and The Doll Squad), are included here. Though most of the prints are a bit worn, that doesn't downplay their inherently joyful tackiness. The Worm Eaters is probably one of the more gross trailers I've seen in a while (WARNING: don't eat spaghetti while viewing).
A full-length scene-specific commentary from Ted V. Mikels is like having a friend sitting next to you as you watch the film, throwing out random interjections. He doesn't banter constantly about detailed production issues, but rather tosses out thoughts here and there, such as the fact that O'Riley's fortress was actually Zsa Zsa Gabor's home. Much of his comments are in the MST3K-vein, which made me chuckle a few times.
Doll Squad Memories With Tura Satana (07m:57s)
This brief segment is a collection of various scenes from the film, with Tura Satana's non-scene specific comments and reminiscences about the production. Some moderately interesting information, especialy concerning the Catalina location shooting, but tends to become rather fluffy. Satana only does a voice-over, and does not appear on camera.
16 chapter stops and a Ted V. Mikels filmography wrap up a nice batch of supplements.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsThe Doll Squad is what Charlie's Angels should have been. Tacky. Trashy. Violent.
Recommended for those who are nostalgic for a true B-movie, directed by one of the greats.
Rich Rosell 2001-11-01