Appellate Judge Mac McEntire's empire was in the last place he left it.
Our review of The Lost Empire, published June 19th, 2001, is also available.
Enter a world of mystery and imagination.
Few things make a cult movie fan more excited than the name Jim Wynorski. Having directed almost 100 exploitation B-movies, the man is a true trash titan. Most Wynorski films offer all the lurid thrills cult fans want, with oodles of sex, violence, and—best of all—low-budget cheese. Now, we get to see where all began, with Wynorski's debut film, The Lost Empire.
Facts of the Case
Angel Wolfe (Melanie Vincz, Hunk) is the toughest, sexiest policewoman in the city. When her brother is gunned down in a robbery, the clues lead to a mysterious, supernaturally-powered figure named Lee Chuck. He's after the Eyes of Avatar, which can provide their owner power to rule the world. Wolfe follows the trail to a private island owned by a cult leader and international terrorist, Dr. Sin Do (Angus Scrimm, Phantasm).
Sin Do is hosting a tournament for the world's toughest fighters to join his elite army of assassins. Angel plans to enter the tourney so she can infiltrate Sin Do's organization. To do this, she recruits two of her fellow lady warriors—the mystical White Star (Raven De La Croix, The Double-D Avenger) and mud-wrestling crook Heather McClure (Angela Aames, Chopping Mall).
Can Angel and her two kung fu fightin' BFFs battle their way through the tournament and survive long enough to uncover Sin Do's plot? Will the audience be able to follow any of this?
Wow…I mean, WOW. I'll attempt to review The Lost Empire, but really, this movie defies description. You have to see it for yourself. It's the absolute purest form of low-budget trash—the wooden acting, the groan-worthy humor, the gratuitous nudity, the lackluster fight choreography, the Casio keyboard soundtrack, and so much more. Best of all, there is no postmodern winking at the camera. Everyone involved commits to the film wholeheartedly, as if they're making Raiders of the Lost Ark with boobs.
Many first-time filmmakers attempt to craft a project that establishes their overall voice or style as a director, laying a foundation for future movies. Wynorski, on the other hand, takes the approach that he might never direct again, so he's making every movie he's ever wanted to make, and putting it all in this one. In addition to the ?women warriors in a fighting tournament? set-up, there are several other B-movies worked into this one. We open with ninjas fighting, then there's a cop versus crooks shootout, then a women-in-prison scene, and so on. In classic B-movie tradition, a guy in a gorilla suit even shows up at one point. That's the type of movie this is.
As noted above, the acting is wooden, barely at read-from-the-cue-cards level of quality, with the exception of Angus Scrimm, who seems to think he's playing King Lear. The characters are similarly thin. Angel is the serious one, Heather is the wisecracking tough girl, and White Star is…the Native American. Seriously, practically every one of her lines relates in some way to a Native American cliché. Don't worry, it's more dumb than it is offensive. Paul Cuofos (976-EVIL II) plays Angel's love interest, and he gets saddled with some of the goofiest dialogue, but somehow manages to deliver it with enthusiasm.
That's not to say that the filmmakers aren't in on the joke. Rather than attempting deadly seriousness or high drama, Wynorski wants you to have a good time. There is a lot of humor, but the jokes are so dreadfully unfunny that they circle back around and become funny again. You laugh because of how not funny it is. For another plus, the movie zips along at a fast pace, never overstaying its welcome in its brief 83 minutes. No matter what your tolerance for bad movies is, you certainly won't be bored.
Now the bad news: The video and audio on the DVD are hurting. The 2.35:1 widescreen transfer is so soft and washed out that it bothers the eyes after a while, and many scenes are riddled with flecks and scratches across the screen. The Dolby 2.0 audio is in bad shape as well, as it's often hard to make out what the actors are saying.
Jim Wynorski provides a commentary, which is hugely enjoyable. He remembers every detail about the movie as if he made it yesterday, and he spills all the dirt, with tons of great anecdotes from indie movie trenches. There's also a slideshow of images from the movie you can watch on screen, and an option to listen to the entire soundtrack, which would be really cool if it weren't this electro-screechy score.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The DVD's menus are hard to navigate. If there's a way to tell which menu item is highlighted, I couldn't see it. Sure, you could always just press "Play" on your remote, but where's the fun in that?
Whoever coined the phrase "so bad it's good" must have been talking about The Lost Empire.
Guilty, but you've got to see it!
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Studio: MVD Visual
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