Schlock Value: Policewomen
From Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! to Foxy Brown, the exploitation scene in the 60s and 70s was loaded with flicks about badass babes kicking ass and taking names. This, of course, was all in direct contrast with the immensely popular James Bond franchise. In 1974, Crown International Pictures released something of a hybrid of the two genres. Policewomen, directed by Lee Frost (The Thing with Two Heads, Chain Gang Women), stars redhead bombshell Sondra Currie (The Hangover Trilogy) as Lacy Bond, a no-nonsense law enforcer looking to take down a local smuggling operation made up entirely of women.
The poster, I have to say, is absolutely fantastic. Beneath the title (which is in a bubbly 70s font with the O in “Police” changed to a badge, of course), it features a wonderful image of our heroine, Lacy Bond, in an action pose with her pistol held high, pointed at some unseen foe, with the tagline: “COLD STEEL ON THE OUTSIDE...ALL WOMAN ON THE INSIDE!” It kind of looks like Disco Dragnet. Now, as graceful as the poster is, the trailer is just the opposite. It’s chaotic, it’s gritty, and it really sets the tone, letting you know that these women are not to be trifled with. Boasting “the most daring caper since The French Connection,” it’s loaded with cars screeching, backyard brawls, and Lacy karate-ing the hell out of bikini-clad women. But it doesn’t neglect Lacy’s softer side. Because, just as James Bond is super smooth with the ladies, Lacy knows how to charm even the most hard-boiled men. Personally, as a fan of both exploitation AND Bond films, I couldn’t have been more excited for this.
The film opens with a exciting prison break inside a women’s prison. Lacy, using karate (pronounced “ka-ra-te”), manages to subdue all of the prisoners single-handed. Except for two. Realizing this, she takes off after them, sprinting up to the roof (in heels) where they make their escape down the side of the building, running to freedom. Despite being unable to stop them, her exemplary efforts in stopping the rest don’t go unnoticed. Lacy, who has been looking for a way out of the prison to pursue more challenging career opportunities, is considered for a job infiltrating a local women’s mafia who have been smuggling gold into the country. After putting her through a series of tests including marksmanship, driving, and hand-to-hand combat, (all of which she excels at) she gets the job, much to the chagrin of her ultra-misogynistic colleagues. But before being sent into the field, she meets with this movie’s version of Q, and is issued her fancy gadgets: a compact that works as a two-way radio, and a lighter that contains a micro-miniature transmitter.
Meanwhile, we get a look at this gold-smuggling gang of women. The gang is run by Maude, a mean 70-year-old woman, who is married to a 30-year-old beefcake named Doc. The gang itself is made up of a bunch of women who seem to be good at little more than lounging around in bikinis. Remember the two women who escaped before? Well, one of them was a member of the gang. That’s Janette. The other; a tall, fiery black women, is Pam, and she’s looking for employment. After picking a fight with one of the other girls and nearly killing her, Pam earns her spot in the gang.
After a series of bonehead moves from the fellas (and a car chase that’s thwarted by a couple of old Sundaydrivers), Lacy really shines in her new position, taking charge and proving she’s got what it takes. When the police discover a shipment of gold that’s supposed to arrive in Catalina, Lacy and the dreamy Inspector Martell are sent to intercept it. Once they arrive, they spend a ridiculous amount of time doing all manner of cutesy couple things: horseback riding, eating hot dogs on the boardwalk, sailing, etc. You know, blending in. Before long, things start getting hot and heavy as they confess their sexual desire for one another and ultimately consummate their new partnership. When the time comes to intercept the gold, Lacy’s back in action, taking down a yacht full of Maude’s girls in an impressive display of her martial arts prowess. With Maude’s smuggling operation confirmed, it’s finally time for Lacy to go undercover, and infiltrate the gang, but with Maude on high alert and the two escaped inmates with her, it takes every bit of determination Lacy’s got to keep from being exposed and bring the bad guys (or girls) to justice before the next shipment arrives.
Okay, the main issue with Policewomen is this: it really tries to be a female French Connection-meets-James Bond, but it’s not taut or realistic enough to be a great crime thriller, and there’s not enough spycraft to be a proper spy movie. Having said that, it’s still a lot of fun to watch. Sondra Currie brings an incredible amount of charm and ferocity to her performance, and Elizabeth Stuart is an absolute joy to watch as the tough-as-nails matriarch of the lady gang. The action set pieces are also noteworthy. The fight sequences, although not choreographed particularly well, are legitimately fun to watch and surprisingly brutal at times, and while the car chases are not quite up there with those in Vanishing Point or Bullitt, they still manage to be highly entertaining. The climactic car chase involving a train of military cargo trucks (a la Raiders of the Lost Ark) is particularly enjoyable. The one thing Policewomen really deserves praise for is its effort in telling the story of a strong and independent female character at a time when most other films of its ilk were more interested in the exploitation of women. Even the badass ones. Through every challenge, it’s Lacy’s own relentless determination, confidence and abundance of sheer talent that ultimately lead to her successes. She’s constantly taking the initiative, taking the risks, and doing all of the heavy lifting without the aid of, and frequently because of, her grossly incompetent and misogynistic male counterparts. For that alone, I’d say it’s worth your time. Sure, it’s no Foxy Brown, but really, what else is?
Policewomen can be found in Mill Creek Entertainment’s Big Screen Bombshells collection.