Retromedia has really been cleaning out the public domain vaults to unleash a series of double-feature discs giving cult film fans more bang for their buck. The latest in this series of double features pairs two bizarre African safari-themed drive-in obscurities which will doubtless leave some viewers cold, but have some really kooky moments worth recommending.
A German expedition (looking for what? who knows!) is attacked by a tribe of spear-wielding natives but are saved by the appearance of a busty young white teenager who apparently is their leader. The carefree young lass wanders the jungle topless, with a G-string-like bikini drawing beaucoup attention to her posterior, and with a handy lion cub in her arms. Not to mention she climbs ropes in fast-motion and swings on vines before plunging into a giant lake for a dip. In a pretty stupid move, the explorers capture her in a net and must battle it out with her fire-tempered followers to whisk her back to civilization. It is revealed that she is the granddaughter of a German millionaire in Hamburg, whose nephew is scheming to inherit the man's millions, and he will stop at nothing to erase Liane from the picture.
This German production, shot in blazing "Agfacolor," was supposedly based on a book by Anne Day-Helveg (!). Yeah, maybe if Edgar Rice Burroughs' works were published under that pseudonym in the Rhineland, because this is yet another female version of the Tarzan story. The only difference is that no one goes looking for Liane, she comes across them instead, and there is a ludicrous love...well...quadrangle between the sole female explorer, her handsome beau and a greasy Hungarian lummox, with Liane naturally thrown into the trio. Teenage starlet Marion Michael plays the title role with a distinctly European attitude, meaning she has no problem prancing nearly naked through the film, even in the 50s! She also is pretty cute trying to learn the English language and playing with her pet lion. And fans of Eurocult masterworks like THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE and MARK OF THE DEVIL will enjoy seeing a very, very young Reggie Nalder, slick and oily, as the devious relative desperate to get rid of Liane. As a nice bonus, the film is preceded by a theatrical announcement proclaiming the following feature as "adults only." While the nudity here is pretty well-hidden by Marion's flowing blonde hair, there are enough cameos by her nipples and shots of African native girls shaking their moneymakers to make this a surefire hit for the roadshow circuit. Sprinkle in hilarious dubbed dialogue and that cute little lion cub and LIANE is transformed into an incredibly entertaining exploitation classic!
The fullscreen transfer of LIANE actually looks very good. Apparently culled from a 16mm print, there are plenty of vertical lines, dirt and speckling and a slight aura of brown hangs over the film. But for the most part, the transfer is bright and clear, skintones are OK, the greens of the jungle are rendered well and it's a pleasant viewing experience. The mono English dub is unfortunately quiet during dialogue, but the bombastic musical score comes across nicely.
Jerry Warren has never made a good film. There, I've said it and I doubt many people would disagree with me here. So venturing to the flip side of the double-sided disc might seem like a lost cause. I mean, did you see THE INCREDIBLE PETRIFIED WORLD?! TEENAGE ZOMBIES?! THE WILD WORLD OF BATWOMAN?! My God, man, they don't get any worse!! This one is no exception, so if you know what's in store for you when the name "Jerry Warren" is attached, just stick to LIANE. But if you're curious...God help you...
On Devil's Island, two guards talk about their job and trying to maintain control of the prison inmates while smoking. Then a flashback to a voodoo rite with a frantically dancing woman wielding what looks like a feather duster and a writhing Asian chick tied to a tree. So far, so pointless. Finally, the "heroes" of the film, two prisoners, are introduced and we follow their attempt to escape the island with a female love interest. Tons of stock footage is shown, including a thunderstorm and the requisite jungle animals, and strange newly-shot footage of white girls in leopard-skin bikinis dancing around a fire!
Talk talk talk talk talk... That's the name of the game in Jerry Warren films. And when a film spends all its time telling the audience things that the filmmakers can't afford to show, that's the worst kind of low-budget feature. Welcome to TERROR OF THE BLOODHUNTERS. It's boring, uneventful, stupid, has no terror or bloodhunters, and is a waste of time for everyone involved. I really can't say anymore....er...watch LIANE again. Strangely, the film's opening credits feature terrible newly created synthesizer music and the glaring "Special Edition Copyright Retromedia MMV" under the title. Why the company would go through all that trouble for such a waste of celluloid as this is beyond me. It's not as bad as Warren's genre pictures, but it's definitely not a film for the ages. At least there is a native village burning to the ground and some badly-made-up fake natives chasing the escapees through the jungle.
The letterboxed transfer of TERROR OF THE BLOODHUNTERS looks pretty ragged, with lots of grain and is permanently fuzzy. However, the film is so bad that you'd be pretty upset if it looked like a million bucks (Warren's INCREDIBLE PETRIFIED WORLD looked gorgeous on Something Weird's disc of the title). The mono audio is not as terrible as the film.
The extra features are limited to the enticing American trailer for LIANE THE JUNGLE GODDESS (which is strangely in black-and-white), a letterboxed trailer for TERROR OF THE BLOODHUNTERS (in pretty bad shape), and a really superb TV commercial for a real witch doctor toy kit to make your own shrunken heads!! I want one of these, imagine how much $$ they would cost now for collectors to nab!
A better co-feature for LIANE would have been its sequel, THE NATURE GIRL AND THE SLAVERS, but I don't think that one has appeared on U.S. home video yet (there are German DVD's of both flicks, in addition to the third film LIANE DIE TOCHTER DES DSCHUNGELS which was never released in the U.S.!). The original jungle girl cheapie is enough fun to invite a purchase from the curious. The low retail price and added feature (even if it's terrible) make this a no-brainer. Highly recommended! (Casey Scott)
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