The Lost Empire (1984) - A Film Even Corman Couldn't Love January 26, 2019 09:00
A trio of busty babes led by LAPD inspector Angel Wolfe (Melanie Vincz) infiltrate the island of a mysterious cultist Dr. Sin Do (Angus Scrimm) via an all female fighting competition, to seek vengeance for the murder of Wolfe's brother (also a police officer) and put an end to the murderous rampage that Sin Do has been plaguing the world with for generations.
The Lost Empire is the first film directed by former Roger Corman screenplay writer Jim Wynorski, who would go on to direct (and continues to) over one hundred films in the last 35 years. For his debut solo outing I'll give Wynorski credit, the set designs and overall style of the film are incredibly well done for a low budget 80's film, the casting of Melanie Vincz in the lead role of the hot LAPD officer was a great choice, and the first 20 to 25 minutes are highly entertaining... after that the film simply falls apart.
Things start to go a little overboard during the recruitment of the two supporting ladies who help Angel in her mission. Former Russ Meyer girl Raven De La Croix is the top heavy Whitestar (a girl from the Bronx playing an Indian with New York mannerisms), and Angela Aames as the whiny / ditsy reformed criminal Heather McClure.
Raven De La Croix seems to be the main reason behind most of the love for this film, but I found her neither attractive or talented and I think for the role they could of found someone with some actual talent. Someone like Tia Carrere who was starting her career around this time would have been a better route, she actually looks Native American and would have appealed to a broader audience in the looks department. Aames is easier on the eyes and at least had some prior TV and film experience but plays the annoying cookie cutter, high pitched, blonde bimbo character, chewing gum and all, and that seems to be the extent of her character.
From here on out the main issue with the film is there's too much thrown in that doesn't help the story, like the guy in a gorilla suit near the end of the film that fights La Croix, where did that come from! To his credit, if you listen to the director commentary, Wyonorski admits he threw everything he ever wanted to do in this film because he didn't know if he'd get to do another film. So in hindsight it sounded like even he admits he probably got carried away, and said in future films he learned to be more concerned about flow and editing. Even Roger Corman told him he hated the film, only conceding there was a few good camera shots and the actresses were attractive. When the king of cheese hates your cheesy film that says something.
For me the highlight of The Lost Empire is Melanie Vincz whose not only the hottest but also provides the best performance in the entire film. I was disappointed to discover she had very little film roles following this, except for a brief appearance in 1987's Hunk, which is almost as bad a film. Wyonorski admits she was hired (even though she didn't want to do nudity) because she was a good actress, and he wanted a solid actress in the lead role, so clearly in some regards he knew what he was doing. Why he only wanted a good actress for the lead and not the supporting roles is a mystery to me. Had Wyonorski done a better job in casting the two supporting characters, and not flown off the rails with the story there could have been something pretty amazing here, the concept definitely had some potential and reminded me of films like The Golden Child with Eddie Murphy or Big Trouble In Little China that would follow a few years later and manage to be a lot more successful.