Color, 1973, 82 mins. 11 secs. / 90 mins. 15 secs.
Directed by Robert Vincent O’Neill
Starring Nancy Kwan, Ross Hagen, Maria De Aragon, Roberta Collins, Tony Lorea, Sid Haig, Vic Diaz
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Retromedia (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

The Wonder Womenwonderfully lurid history of Wonder WomenU.S.-Filipino exploitation films is packed with any number of astounding movies, and way up near the top of the heap is this crackpot action outing helmed by none other than Robert Vincent O’Neill, the drive-in specialist behind such films as Blood Mania and Angel. The end result is memorable, lovable, rabid beast of a film that could cause a wee bit of permanent brain damage.

Someone is running around kidnapping top-rung athletes in the tropics, starting off with a group of skinny-dipping champion female swimmers and followed by some polo jockeys and a basketball player. Of course. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the person behind it all is the nefarious Dr. Tsu (Kwan), who’s conducting some highly unethical body transplants to appease wealthy clients in the Philippines. Enter U.S. insurance investigator Mike Harber (Hagen), who’s on a stopover en route to Australia and, hired by Lloyd’s of London, ends up investigating one of Tsu’s latest acquisitions, a big-time jai alai athlete. He’s soon facing off against the titular Wonder Wonder WomenWomen, a lady hit squad with martial arts skills that rival those seen in Dolemite. Fists fly, tires screech, random things blow up, bikinis bounce, and Wonder Womenbrains get sliced as time seems to be quickly running out to stop this transplant terror.

A film guaranteed to warm the heart of anyone familiar with other Filipino cinematic sugar rushes, this one cements its credibility early on with official mascot Vic Diaz as a driver sidekick and the great Sid Haig being, well, Sid Haig, as well as women-in-prison staple Roberta Collins along for the ride. Don’t be put off by the fact that his one slipped by with a PG rating; this is a ’73 PG, which means you get multiple topless nude shots over the opening credits and more violence than your average Bond film at the time. (There's also some indulgent slo-mo cockfighting footage, which should keep an uncut version of this out of circulation in the U.K. for a long time.) Artistically this is only a notch or two above what Ted V. Mikels was cranking out around the same time, which is either a recommendation or a warning depending on your sensibilities. Either way though, it’s a hell of a party movie.

After its VHS release from Media (under the title The Deadly and the Beautiful), Wonder Women fell into an odd rights situation with multiple companies either announcing it and scrapping plans or just putting Wonder Womenout iffy bootleg editions. A VHS and DVD-R option came out from Something Weird looking pretty tattered, and a slightly improved but still banged-up anamorphic Wonder WomenDVD turned up in 2013 from Retromedia with an O’Neill/Fred Olen Ray commentary track, a 10-minute interview with stunt coordinator-second unit director Erik Cord, a 3-minute snippet of production footage, the trailer, three TV spots, a radio spot, photo gallery, two scenes from an abandoned sequel (Warrior Women), and a 5-minute chunk of scenes (in so-so quality) from the longer, slightly more coherent European version.

In 2018, Vinegar Syndrome managed to give this very deserving title the red carpet HD treatment with a combo Blu-ray/DVD release featuring an impressive scan from the original negative, and it easily kicks the stuffing out of its predecessors. Fans of the film will be startled to see how fresh it looks here, with more vibrant, accurate colors than before and way, way more detail to study all those awesome go-go boots. A few scuffs pop up here and there, but the damage is fleeting and minor. The film can be played in either its standard U.S. release version or, at last, the extended European one in Wonder Womenits entirety, which features a more logical path to the big finale even if it’s also slightly slower paced. The LPCM English mono audio sounds fine on both, with optional English Wonder WomenSDH subtitles provided. (And that opening swimming pool music should sound very, very familiar to Vinegar Syndrome fans!) A new, different O'Neill commentary finds him chatting with the label's Joe Rubin about the whole production process including the tampering by Arthur Marks (who added the nudie opening and the entire, endless epilogue that rips off The Thomas Crown Affair), the origins of the production while he was scouting for the unflimed Isle of the Cannibal Women, the original shooting title of The Chinese Puzzle, the fling he had with one of the actresses, his past as a theater director, and much more. A very lo-fi Q&A from a New Beverly screening in 2007 (12m44s) features O'Neill, Kwan, Hagen, Collins, and Haig, who are tough to make out but chat about the film for about six minutes looking back on what all concur was a terrific time. Also included are the (crazy) theatrical trailer ("Maybe a kiss in the dark, maybe a knife in the back!"), a trio of TV spots, and a gallery (1m7s) of international posters and lobby cards. A limited slipcover edition is also available.

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Reviewed on September 10, 2018.