Mike Nelson and his robot pals Gypsy (Jim Mallon), Crow (Trace) and Tom Servo (Kevin Murphy) suffer through patchwork filmmaker Jerry Warren’s penultimate feature THE WILD WORLD OF BAT WOMAN, back on DVD from Shout! Factory’s “Select” line.
Before the main “attraction” however, we start with an educational short CHEATING, which tells the sad story of unpopular high schooler John Taylor who cheats off nice girl Mary and gets a high grade on his math test. The feeling of having put one over on his teacher gives him a sense of confidence, and he becomes student council president and a star athlete. Feeling even more pressure to keep up his grades, he leans on Mary to continue helping him. When he gets caught in class cheating, he and Mary are given failing grades; and then his downward spiral really begins…
The acolytes of the Bat Woman (Katherine Victor, THE CAPE CANAVERAL MONSTERS) are synthetic vampires: they don’t drink blood, they drink strawberry yogurt smoothies. They don’t really fight crime either. They witness it, report it, and then frug their asses – and those are “forty pound asses in thirty pound hot pants” – off to the music of The Young Giants; but they do it “with all sincerity.” Super villain Rat Fink has his goons Tiger (Mel Oshins, ATTACK OF THE MAYAN MUMMY) and Bruno (Steve Conte, THE KINDRED) nab one of the Bat Girls and douse her with Dr. Neon’s (George Andre, HOUSE OF THE BLACK DEATH) happy pills in order to secure Bat Woman’s assistance in stealing an atomic hearing aid developed by the Ayjax Corporation (which would allow the listening-in of phone calls from miles away). Bat Woman is taken to Dr. Neon’s lab to video conference with Rat Fink. When Neon tries to dose her with happy pills, she escapes with her kidnapped Bat Girl and warns Ayjax’s president J.B. Christians (Richard Banks, FRANKENSTEIN ISLAND) of Rat Fink’s plan to steal the device. J.B.’s assistant Flanagan (Steve Brodie, THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION) approaches Bat Woman to help foil the theft. Neon, Tiger and Bruno manage to douse the Bat Girls with the happy drug again and snatch the atomic hearing aid. Bat Woman sends her girls out to find Neon’s lab (which she visited a couple scenes ago) and appeals to her spirit guide to tell her the location of the atomic hearing aid (which we now learn is also highly unstable and very explosive).
Written, produced, edited and directed by Jerry Warren, THE WILD WORLD OF BAT WOMAN was the second-to-last film of the director best known for reworking Rafael Portillo’s LA MOMIA AZTECA into ATTACK OF THE MAYAN MUMMY, Frederic Corte’s Mexican horror film LA MARCA DEL MUERTE into CREATURE OF THE WALKING DEAD, and the 1940s Chilean horror films LA CASA ESTA VACA and LA DAMA DEL MUERTE into THE CURSE OF THE STONE HAND. Warren also selected the library music under the name “Erich Bromberg” (I’m guessing art director “Jerry Syphers” is another pseudonym). Warren would not direct another feature until 1981’s FRANKENSTEIN ISLAND. As far as a BATMAN TV series cash-in goes, he’s got the tilted angles and groovy dancing, but the fight scenes are few and far between and the Bat Girls are utterly useless (other than as eye candy dullards). The humor is so odd that it feels more like Warren gave up trying to do a parody and just threw in any lame joke; for instance the politically-incorrect bouts of “Chinese” spoken by the spirit guide Bat Woman contacts to help her find Dr. Neon’s hideout (which she had just visited a couple scenes ago). Cinematographer William Troiano’s photography is mostly flat and listless with some exceptions. The opening three-shot long take of two Bat Girls inducting a third looks like it could have come out of a Joseph Sarno cheapie, and the post-credits stalking and mugging sequence has some lovely film noir lighting. Troiano also worked with Herbert L. Strock on THE DEVIL’S MESSENGER, Byron Mabe on SHE FREAK, Al Adamson on HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS, and he and Ray Dennis Steckler contributed additional photography on SCREAM OF THE BUTTERFLY. He would also shoot the equally odd flicks MUMMY AND THE CURSE OF THE JACKALS and DRACULA, THE DIRTY OLD MAN.
Busty Bat Woman has a strange but not unflattering fur headpiece, black sheer stockings, black spandex, and a dark fur collar. She would be hot if not for the bat mask with its snub rodent nose. She’s also more boring than stoic. Victor was best known to film fans for her appearances in several Warren features, appearing in them all the way up to the end, including his patchwork reworkings of Mexican horror films (with the exception of FACE OF THE SCREAMING WEREWOLF). Other than a single appearance on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, Victor would also take a long sabbatical from filmmaking before appearing in FRANKENSTEIN ISLAND. After Warren’s final feature, she appeared in the sex comedy BIKINI SUMMER, Fred Olen Ray’s FUGITIVE RAGE, and SUPERGUY: BEHIND THE CAPE. Throughout the 1990s, she worked behind the scenes as a continuity supervisor on a number of Disney animated series until her death in 2004. Andre and Banks worked exclusively with Warren. Conte – who gave Jimmy Stewart a case of VERTIGO during the opening chase sequence – had a more well-rounded TV and film career, as did Lloyd Nelson – who plays Dr. Neon’s hunchbacked assistant Heathcliff – became a favorite of Clint Eastwood, working as script supervisor on several of his 1970s and 1980s acting and directorial efforts (as well as Sandra Locke’s RATBOY, although his continuity on Ovidio G. Assonitis’ LAURE/FOREVER EMANUELLE may top that one as the strangest credit in his filmography). Brodie was a prolific film and TV actor, working regularly throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s (he also reunited with Warren for FRANKENSTEIN ISLAND). Character actor Bruno VeSota (THE HAUNTED PALACE) pops up late in the film as a representative of the Patent Office.
The comic antics of Nelson and his robots are better this time around. One of the robots pokes fun at CHEATING’s pretentious expressionist noir aesthetics by asking, “Is this Ingmar Bergman’s first American film?” As THE WILD WORLD OF BAT WOMAN opens with a non-optical fade-in by having a character walking away from the camera, one of them replies, “Maybe it’s ROPE” (referring to the way Alfred Hitchcock and Joseph Valentine tried to maintain the illusion of unbroken long takes by zooming in and out of the backs of actors when the camera had to change rolls of film). They remark a couple times at scene changes that it seems like an entirely different movie; although I’m not sure whether this is a reference to Warren’s earlier patchwork films or just a reaction to what is onscreen. The film really is too ridiculous on its own and Shout! would have been better off releasing the original version (or at least including it as an extra). The pre-commercial MST interludes throughout the feature all reference CHEATING rather than the Warren film. Comedian Frank Conniff also appears as a mad scientist during these sequences.
Despite the interlacing of the MST 3000 program, the source print for THE WILD WORLD OF BAT WOMAN appears to be a TV print going by the Medallion TV logo and the mismatched title card. The picture looks cropped (although it might just be lousy framing) and softish. Audio would be fine (if Nelson and the robots weren’t talking over much of it). CHEATING probably looks as good as it can, being a 16mm print that probably had quite a few runs through projectors before being forgotten. The graininess probably owes as much to the low-key lighting and optical superimpositions probably than the film gauge. There are no extras. (Eric Cotenas)
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