Color, 1988, 82m.
Directed by Cirio H. Santiago
Starring Rebecca Holden, Chuck Wagner, Lynn-Holly Johnson, Barbra Hooper, Robert Dryer, Henry Strzalkowski
Code Red (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
Probably the weirdest of the trio of post nuke films directed by Filipino exploitation legend Cirio H. Santiago for Roger Corman, The Sisterhood often feels like sort of a female combat remake of Yor, the Hunter from the Future. Of course, for most trash film fans that can only be a good thing. The twist this time is that the story takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where bad guys drive around in Road Warrior-inspired cars and women attack everything in sight with bows and arrows.
In this strange environment we meet our pair of heroines belonging to the titular group: Alee (TV actress Holden), who can fire blue lasers from her eyes and knock over rocks, and Vera (Hooper), both of whom have escaped after the rest of their brethren were taken captive by the villainous Lord Barak (Dryer). The opening of them finds them tangling with a gang of rogue males led by Mikal (soap actor and Broadway vet Wagner), all of them bearing a grudge against the Sisterhood. Led by a mystical force called the Reverend Mother, the Sisterhood tries to right injustices against women across the land and soon picks up a new friend in the form of Marya (The Watcher in the Woods' Johnson), who can talk to her pet hawk and has a little brother who gets wiped out by Mikal during a battle. Naturally this leads to plenty of scuffles, chases, flaming arrows, improper use of car-mounted rockets, horseback pursuits, and a so-called forbidden zone containing mutants and a technological secret that will play a pivotal role in the big climax.
As you've probably gathered, this is pure '80s post-apocalyptic junk food in which the female cast manages to have an endless supply of makeup artists and hair stylists, and the men wear leather outfits presumably swiped from the set of Cruising including some truly awe-inspiring shoulder pads. Wagner easily takes acting honors with the most complex character in the film, which is odd considering how much it's about female independence and empowerment. That said, the three female leads are all fun to watch, with Johnson in particular always offering her sunny brand of earnest quirkiness.
The Sisterhood marked Corman and Santiago's final foray into post nuke action during the 1980s after such titles as Wheels of Fire and Equalizer 2000, though Corman would try to revive the formula again in the '90s with titles like Dune Warriors. Probably due to its generic title, this film is the least seen of the cycle despite its releases on VHS and laserdisc in the '80s in a drab open matte transfer. Also in typical Corman fashion at the time, he edited random bits of footage to get the film down to a 75-minute running time to fit on a shorter VHS cassette, a fate that also befell titles like The Arena.
The Blu-ray release from 2015, a limited edition from Code Red, marks the welcome availability of the complete, original uncut version of the film, offered as a single release or as part of a post nuke bundle with Wheels of Fire and Equalizer 2000. Image quality is the least of the three due to a combination of the way the film was shot (with a very drab, dry look including long scenes shot in very low lighting) and less pristine elements, with dirt and debris cropping up with regularity. It's still miles better than the ancient tape master and thankfully uncut, but definitely keep your expectations very modest. The DTS-HD MA two-channel track sounds passage if unexceptional, and the rinky dink music score by Jun Latonio will drive you insane. The film can also be played in a Katarina's Post Nuke Theater mode with hostess Katarina Leigh Waters firing arrows at everything and chatting about the film in a surprisingly appropriate, elaborate outfit. Also included is an 18-minute "Cat's Eyes" video interview with Holden, who looks very glamorous as she chats about how she wound up trekking over to the Philippines and got to do a lot of fun things like "shoot M-16s and ride horses." She also explains why Lynn-Holly Johnson's arm wound up in a sling for the film, too, and remembers all of the Marcos upheaval going on in the country at the time, with the army making use of the tanks seen in the film. Finally the disc winds up with the theatrical trailer and bonus ones for Wheels of Fire, Dune Warriors, and Equalizer 2000.
Reviewed on June 29, 2015.