The Doll Squad

Certificate: 15
Running time: 101 mins
Director: Ted V. Mikels
Starring: Francine York, Michael Ansara, John Carter
Genre: Action
Country: USA

When a US space mission is sabotaged threatening the future of the planet the government have but one option…call in the Doll Squad!  Leading the team is Sabrina Kincaid but when the Doll Squad becomes targeted for assassination it's clear that the mission to save the planet is almost as difficult as the mission to stay alive.

What I love about Exploitation cinema, what sets it apart from mainstream Hollywood cinema, back in the 70s, and even now is how it effortlessly manages to subvert genre expectations and in doing so empowers performers who aren’t white males.  Ted V. Mikel’s is a director who has walked that Exploitation path trail time and time again and in The Doll Squad not only does he deliver an action movie on a budget but an influential genre piece that would see Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts repackage and sell it to the ABC as Charlie’s Angels some three years later.

Anthony Salinas does a magnificent job behind the lens as cinematographer as not only does he create a canvas that still looks incredibly trendy but at the same time matches the documentary footage of a Cape Kennedy space launch and F-15s to give the film the feel of a greater budget.  In actuality the film was probably shot for less than what it would take to hire the helicopter to track the military planes for five minutes.  Jack Richesin and Pam Eddy have done some good work on the screenplay.  The secret agent action thriller is a well saturated genre in Exploitation terms and some of them have terrible dialogue that’s clipped and chopped from either movies that the screenwriter has watched or things that they think sound plausible executed to a standard that’s not entirely believable.  Agente 077: Mission Bloody Mary is a fine example of this and though (somehow) Ken Clark manages to make a lot of the hokey dialogue work it’s a constant threat, but not here.  Richesin and Eddy’s script is restrained, smart(ish) and their performers are not only confident of their ability to deliver the exposition but in the case of Francine York have a confidence and screen presence that’s addictive and contagious in equal measures.

York is a really good piece of casting and though she’s flirting with the upper decks of age to be sexy she certainly has a MILF quality that makes her believable as the sexy but deadly Sabrina and the driving force of the Doll Squad.  Michael Ansara (as the incredibly Irish named Eamon O’Reilly) has a relaxed approach to his performance that is…odd.  It’s welcoming and easy to watch and he’s a natural on screen but surely the head of the US government’s secret agency running the Doll Squad should be a little more uptight about the forthcoming apocalypse.  Then again perhaps he’s just supremely confident in his ladies.  Mikel’s direction is magnificent in parts, frustrating in others.  His auteur-like sensibilities are well documented in The Corpse Grinders and he does have a strong eye for visual devices and in doing so creates some seriously good looking set pieces but the curse continues.  Just when you think the film is on a roll it hits a wall of pacing issues that detract and frustrates the audience and this happens throughout the film spoiling what was threatening to be an truly amazing movie.

The Doll Squad’s legacy is enormous.  Beyond enormous.  It’s difficult to put into words just how important this film is and though it’s far from perfect it will stand toe-to-toe with any action thriller coming out of Hollywood or over the past forty years and will certainly best most of them.


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