DVD Review: Lethal Ladies Collection, Vol. 2

STUDIO: Shout! Factory | DIRECTOR: Steve Carver, Cirio H. Santiago | CAST: Pam Grier, Margaret Markov, Pat Anderson, Lenore Kasdorf, Tara Strohmeier, Lindsay Bloom, Vic Diaz
DVD RELEASE DATE: 1/24/2012 | PRICE: DVD $24.98
BONUSES: commentary, featurette
SPECS: R | 225 min. | Action thriller | widescreen | stereo

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movies | Audio | Video | Overall

Lethal Ladies Collection, Vol. 2., the latest group of 1970s grindhouse movies issued by Shout! Factory as part of their “Roger Corman’s Cult Classics” imprint, includes three films: Cover Girl Models (1975), Fly Me (1973) and The Arena (1974).

The Arena movie scene

Watch our Russell Crowe!: Pam Grier is a lethal lady gladiator in 1974's The Arena.

The Arena, directed by Steve Carver and starring the incomparable Pam Grier (Jackie Brown) and Margaret Markov (Pretty Maids All in a Row), is a sexy action-adventure movie about a female gladiator uprising in an ancient Roman city. It’s filled with lots of bloody if unimpressively staged fighting, some naughty sex and lots of nudity (led by an inevitable outdoor shower scene). Leading ladies Grier and Markov had teamed up together a couple of years earlier in the Corman-produced female prison break-out movie Black Mama, White Mama, which, not surprisingly, also included a shower sequence, albeit a more modern one.

Cover Girl Models and Fly Me are directed and produced by Cirio H. Santiago, a prolific Filipino exploitation filmmaker who cranked out more than a dozen films in the 1970s, including the irresistibly titled She-Devils in Chains.

Both films revolve around trios of shapely career gals — models Pat Anderson, Lindsay Bloom and Tara Strohmeier in Cover Girl Models and stewardesses Anderson, Lyllah Torena, and Lenore Kasdorf in Fly Me — who find themselves plunged into action, adventure and espionage while on the job. That they still find time to shed their garments and have some sex through it all is a tribute to their strong work ethic and their dedication to the demands of the genre. Neither of the films is all that great, even by exploitation standards, but Fly Me scores extra points for including kung-fu fights, a couple joining the Mile High Club and a white slavery ring all in the same movie.

The three films looks pretty good in their anamorphic widescreen presentation (The Arena and Cover Girl Models have been issued previously on DVD and VHS), though they all contain lots of scratches, flecks and sprocket holes. But the damage pays tribute to their grindhouse origins (they weren’t maintained in some state-of-the-art archive!) and is actually, in this case, part of their appeal.

The only film in the set that receives support via supplemental materials on this DVD is The Arena, which makes sense as it’s the best and most popular of the bunch. Director Carver contributes a solid, informative commentary on his directorial debut helming a Roger Corman (Sharktopus) production (which was shot at Italy’s legendary Cinecittà studios).

A new making-of featurette includes interviews with Corman, Carver, producer Mark Damon and star Markov, all of whom have pleasant memories of the production, which launched one-time actor Damon’s career as a producer. One thing that both he and Markov remember quite clearly is that they met while making The Arena, a first date of sorts that led to their marriage that is currently going on 40 years.


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.