Saturday, June 3, 2017

Wonder Woman (1974)

Directed by Vincent McEveety.
1975. Not Rated, 75 minutes.
Cathy Lee Crosby
Ricardo Montalban
Andrew Prine
Kaz Garas
Anitra Ford
Richard X. Slattery
Charlene Holt
Beverly Gill

When most people think of the character of Wonder Woman as she was in the 1970s they think of Lynda Carter starring in the iconic TV series of the same name. That's the version I grew up with and she was the first woman I fell in love with. When she did her little twirl...sorry, I'm getting off track. The point is the show is not the first live-action version of the character. That honor belongs to this TV movie from 1974 with one Cathy Lee Crosby in the lead role. It's a pilot, but not the pilot for the Carter show. It was meant to be a series, but ratings were 'meh.' It was also a new interpretation of the character set in the present, rather than during World War II. I know I watched it way back when, but don't remember anything about it. Watching it now...sigh...I know why it didn't get to be a series.

Things kick off with several heists taking place simultaneously at different locations around the globe. All of them involve someone taking something from a safe. We then cut to a the hands of a guy holding a stopwatch who somehow knows all this was executed perfectly despite being in an entirely different place than any of the robberies and not communicating with the others at all. Okay, if that's how you want to start your movie, I guess I'll go with it. Anyhoo, we soon find out that the items stolen contain the true identities of 39 United States undercover agents stationed all over the world. And of course, the bad guy in charge threatens to expose them if yada, yada, yada. This plot has been done to death. It was most expertly handled in the 007 flick Skyfall. This ain't that, but it won't be the last time I mention 007, either.

With our suspenseful open out of the way, the movie shifts to a small group of Amazonian women as we're told that Diana Prince is leaving the island on a mission to "open closed eyes to the genuine value of women." Cool. We instantly cut to Diana working as a secretary in the office of some government agency we're not told the name of. If you're at all familiar with the character, you probably guessed that her boss is Steve Trevor (Garas). After they're told about the heists that opened the movie, Steve and Diana decide on a plan of action. That plan is rather simple, Diana will go to France to try and crack the case while he stays back at the office because he and everyone else on the planet knows that she is Wonder Woman. In case you think I'm lying, think this: the minute she shows up in France, dressed normally mind you, one of the henchmen gets on the phone and says to his boss, "Wonder Woman, she's here." Anyhoo, unintentional hijinks and shenanigans ensue.

There are lots of issues with the movie. The plot is a hack job, filled with plot holes and impossible occurrences. Lamenting the impossible might seem an odd thing to complain about while watching a superhero flick, but there's good reason this is more than valid. Mainly, our Wonder Woman isn't really so wonderful. While she was on the island, we were told she's got extraordinary skill, but there is no mention of superpowers, at all. There is no evidence of them, either. It appears our heroine is not so much superhero as she is a female version of James Bond. Told you I would slip 007 into this again. Fanboys and fangirls might be more than a bit confused by this. The issue is that this version of Wonder Woman was based on a time period in the character's history known as The Diana Prince Era. During this era, Diana had surrendered her powers for some reason. So no, there are no superhuman feats performed here.

Getting back to the Bond factor, our main baddie, Abner Smith, played by none other than Mr. Rourke KHAAAAAANNN!!! Ricardo Montalban, would have been right at home in a Bond movie. His top henchman, George (Pine) is an interesting character in that he's constantly trying to get into Diana's pants, but that's about it. The other two who work for Smith, presumably of set of twins of different genders are about the lamest henchmen in cinematic history. They mostly just stand around in their matching brown leather jackets and shades and take an ass-kicking whenever the plot needs them to. To add to the 007 factor, the only weapon our heroine has is her bracelets which do all sorts of things including explode. I could easily see Q dropping a pair of these bad boys on James.

The best thing about this version of Wonder Woman is how terrible the dialogue is. Much of it just exposition the film was too lazy didn't have a big enough budget to show us. The rest is either straightforward sexual advances or ridiculous innuendo. All of it comes off as creepy when spoken by the greasy dudes who get to deliver these lines. Most times, the dude is George. Lots and lots of goofy things happen, also. One of my favorite moments is when Steve receives a rather large and mysterious package back at the office. It's in a crate about twice his size with instructions for him to be alone when he opens it. Not an instruction I would've followed, but he does. Before he does, he at least gets someone to investigate what it could be, short of opening it. The guy in charge of that operation tells Steve "We've tried every method possible except probing and x-ray." Really? What the hell did you try, then? I imagine the guy putting the open end of a glass up to the side of it with his ear to the bottom of it and trying to figure it out. Luckily, it turns out to be a burro (or a donkey, depending on who you ask). Lots of other stupid things happen right on through to the closing credits.

As goofy as it is, I didn't have quite the blast watching it that I should have had. The problem is everything in the movie is handled in a decidedly ho-hum manner. Remember what I said about that dialogue? Hearing someone explain something just isn't as fun as watching it happen. This movie almost always chooses to explain it. This includes the out-of-nowhere mention of the famous invisible plane. It's totally a deus ex machina, in this case it's used to explain away all sorts of bad writing. When the movie does show us things, it's about as tame as it can get. What little action there is has no umph. One of our big battles is between Diana and Ahnjayla (pronounced Angela and played by Anitra Ford). This turns out to be a terrible stick fight that ends no blows landed and a long conversation about morals and what the future holds. Yawn. Aside from that, we don't even get to see Wonder Woman in costume until 42 minutes in. That can work if your heroine spends the rest of the movie kicking ass, but she does not. Props to Mrs. Dell right here, by the way. When the costume finally shows up, my wife gets a puzzled look on her face and says the following: "Lynda Carter's outfit was better even though she was naked." Me? I had one of those moments where I figured it best not to agree out loud, but still had trouble containing a cheese-eating grin from taking over my face. Mind you, this is long after she spent a couple minutes wondering aloud why a brunette wasn't chosen for the role. She's never read a comic book in her life, but she went full fangirl on this one. I was proud of her. I was even more proud when the movie ended and she uttered our favorite phrase for something crappy - "They could've kept that." They sure could've, babe. They sure could've.

No comments:

Post a Comment