• Wonder Women (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: August 21st, 2018.
    Director: Bob O'Neil
    Cast: Ross Hagen, Nancy Kwan, Vic Diaz, Sid Haig
    Year: 1973
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    Wonder Women - Movie Review:

    Directed by Bob O’Neil in 1973 (the same man who gave us Blood Mania!), Wonder Women is not a deep film. The story follows Doctor Tsu (Nancy Kwan), a sort of rogue doctor who acts as a surgeon operating on her own island just off the coast of the Philippines. Tsu doesn’t work alone, however – not only does she have a flamboyant accountant on hand named Gregourious (Sid Haig) but she also has a small army of foxy ladies trained in the deadliest of the martial arts on hand to do her bidding. She uses these deadly women to kidnap various athletes from various countries who she then uses in diabolical experiments.

    Tsu’s surgical specialty is playing jigsaw puzzle with body parts. If you’re a rich guy and you wish you had a better body or you want your brain put into the body of a strapping young man, she’ll help you out… for a price, of course. That’s where those abducted athletes come into play – she needs stock. Enter Mike Harber (Ross Hagen), a coy insurance investigator who we’re told works for Lloyd's Of London. When a famous a Jai-alai player disappears, Mike is sent to Manila to find out what happened to him. If that means taking on some motorcycle thugs lead by a guy named Won Ton Charlie, so be it, he’s man enough for the job. With some help from a driver named Lapu-Lapu (Vic Diaz), Harber digs deep enough that he starts to uncover Tsu’s secret shenanigans but her army of killer kung-fu beauties and a few random mutants left over from random experiments are definitely going to make life difficult for our hero…

    From the opening shot of a topless woman swimming in red hued water (a very Bond-esque opening sequence) to the weird comedic relief with Vic Diaz through to the finale where we voyage deep into the heart of the mad doctor’s lair, Wonder Women is pretty nutty stuff. The whole thing is ridiculous, but really, what’s not to love here? Never mind the fact that the storyline more or less resolves itself without Harber’s direct involvement. When you’ve got fox after fox (Roberta Collins, Claire Polan, Maria De Aragon, Shirley Washington, Gail Hansen and Marilyn Joi all pop up here) running around in skimpy outfits kicking dudes and Russ Hagen slumming it in full on ‘lecherous white guy mode’ you really can’t lose. Add to that equation a whole bunch of awesome colored lights and weird machine in the end, Diaz playing a driver who wears a jacket that says ‘I’M A DRIVER’ on the back and a crazy brain transplant sequence and it becomes easy to forgive the fact that the movie really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

    The film moves at a good pace, it really hits the ground running and manages to keep things bizarre and crazy enough that its eighty-minute running time never lags. There’s loads and loads of crazy seventies style on display, that, along with the fuzzed-out score by Carson Whitsett, make this very much a product of its time, but most reading this will see that as the positive that it is and not a slam against the movie. Where else are you going to see Sid Haig decked out like a Purple Rain-era Prince and Ross Hagen bagging chicks and blasting away in a leisure suit with a sawed-off shotgun? A giant basketball player running around with part of his head missing, exposing his brain, which puzzlingly has had a flashing colored light attached to it? Bruno Punzalan, instantly recognizable from the Blood Island movies and Savage Sisters (made a year after this one and also starring Vic Diaz!), also pops up in this one. Cinematic craziness of the best kind and the highest order!

    Wonder Women – Blu-ray Review:

    Wonder Women arrives on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in a transfer that is ‘newly scanned and restored in 2k from 35mm camera negative’ and presented on a 50GB disc in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. This is quite a nice improvement over the Retro-Media DVD release of Wonder Women, it boasts much better detail and texture and features a far more natural looking color scheme (the DVD looks a bit dark and washed out by comparison). Vinegar Syndrome’s transfer is also noticeably cleaner and more film-like, showing natural grain but little damage. Skin tones look nice and natural, grain is well defined and the picture is free of obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement problems. There are no compression issues to note and all in all, this is a very film-like presentation.

    The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD Mono track. There’s a bit of hiss in some spots and some minor sibilance but overall the track is fine. Dialogue is easy to understand, the film’s excellent score sounds really good here and the levels are properly balanced. Optional English SDH subtitles are included and can be selected by using your remote (but not from the main men).

    Extras start off with a commentary track with director Robert Vincent O’Neill moderated by Vinegar Syndrome’s Joe Rubin. They start off by discussing the film’s opening montage, with O’Neill noting what was added by producer Arthur Marks (which comes up a few times during the talk). He then talks about how he wound up shooting a film in the Philippines in the first place thanks to the involvement of Ross Hagen, sightseeing in Manilla, working with Filipino producer Ronald Remy (and how his wife took issue with their hotel accommodations!), writing the story as quickly as possible to meet a rushed production schedule and how he did a lot of location scouting on his own, and how the locations that he saw informed his writing of the script. He talks about original titles for the film like The Chinese Puzzle and The Deadly And The Beautiful, about how they got injunctions over the Wonder Women title because of how close it was to a certain comic book, how they had to figure out how to hide the camera during shooting so that they didn’t get mobbed, working with the different cast and crew members he collaborated with on the picture, how funny Vic Diaz was to work with, how the cockfight footage used in the picture is in fact quite real, and the lighting in the film. O’Neill also talks about what he did before getting into film, how he got into filmmaking, and how someone’s ego is reflected at the end of the picture!

    From there, dig into a Q&A from a 2007 screening that took place at The New Beverly Cinema (double featured with The Female Bunch!) in Los Angeles with Robert Vincent O’Neill, Nancy Kwan, Ross Hagen, Roberta Collins and Sid Haig. There’s just under thirteen-minutes of material here and a title card warns us that some of the material has been lost and that what’s left isn’t in very good shape. Regardless, it’s still nice to have it on the disc. Seven minutes of the piece is basically introductions, but once that’s over with O’Neill starts things off by talking about how much fun it was to make the film, the themes of the film, and what it was like working on the picture. Ross Hagen chimes in next, hinting at the brain sex to come, while Nancy Kwan chimes in to make some quips about Ross being a bit of a motormouth. Roberta Collins talks about how much fun she and Nancy had in Hong Kong once the movie was over with, while Haig talks about how he was far more familiar with The Philippines than the rest of the cast and crew and how he came onboard to work on the film.

    The extended European version 1:30:10 compared to the feature version at 1:22:06. Quality is approximately the same as the feature attraction version.
    The added material includes footage with Vera and Tony, Tony dealing with the removal of his eyes and more footage with Gregorious and Dr. Tsu. Aside from that, look for a theatrical trailer, a few different TV spots, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection. It’s also worth noting that this is a combo pack release, so we get a DVD version of the movie included in the keepcase as well, and that it comes packaged with some cool reversible cover art.

    Wonder Women – The Final Word:

    Wonder Women is a lot of fun – inspired lunacy that moves at a fast pace performed by a great cast. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray is the one to beat, presenting the film in very nice shape and stacked with some impressive supplements that document its history in a lot of impressive detail.

    Click on the images below for full sized Wonder Women Blu-ray review screen captures!