Retro Film Report #47: The Lost Empire (1983)

Today, we're looking at The Lost Empire, the directorial debut of Jim Wynorski (Chopping Mall, Sorority House Massacre II, Return of Swamp Thing).  It's actually pretty low on nudity, but full of smoking hot ladies and enough fun-filled camp to keep most fans of 80s B-movies happy.

In The Lost Empire you'll find Anthony Kiedis' dad, disappearing eyebrows, a penis cannon, prison mud wrestling, ninjas, a King Sized Cracked magazine, and the Tall Man from Phantasm.  If this sounds intriguing to you, follow me as I take it scene by scene...

To start, let's take note of what happens in The Lost Empire before the credits even roll to get an idea what we're in for...

A large breasted woman is purchasing some jewelry from a Chinese shop.  Once she leaves, the proprietor closes up shop and a gang of ninjas with throwing star yo-yos appear...

They kill the poor shop owner with a star to the back of the head.  The police arrive, and all are starred-to-death save one cop who stabs a ninja in the throat.  Credits roll.

Let's take stock.  In the first 4 1/2 minutes we have (1) gratuitous cleavage, (2) ninjas, (3) a throwing star battle, (4) an ultra 80s synth soundtrack and (5) graphic violence.   This is going to be good.

Now we're at a hostage situation at a school.  The police chief (veteran actor Kenneth Tobey) and Officer Prager (father of Anthony Kiedis of The Red Hot Chili Peppers) are in an argument over how to handle this.

Not to worry, a mysterious cop named Officer Wolf on a badass motorcycle rolls up and has the situation well in hand.

Officer Wolf takes out all three "terrorists" with ease - storming in on the bike then gunning them down one by one.  Who is this masked hero?

Insert sultry music as Officer Wolf removes the helmet revealing that - IT'S A WOMAN! (Sultry music continues.)

Angel Wolf is played by Melanie Vincz who was on a shit ton of 70s/early 80s TV including: Fantasy Island, Dukes of Hazzard, Mork & Mindy, Simon & Simon, Small Wonder, and She's the Sheriff (you remember that one, right?).

Note: I really tried to read the full bulletin board behind her.  All I could make out was "... and Bugs are free".  WTF?

Angel hooks up with FBI agent Rick Stanton (actor Paul Coufos) who reminds me of Matt Houston.  I love the dialog in this movie:
Rick: "That was some bust last evening."
Angel: "Really, I thought you'd get used to it by now."
Rick: "I'm talking about the school."
The phone rings.  Angel is told her brother Rob is in critical condition. (He was the surviving officer from the Chinese throwing star battle at the beginning).

Angel shows up to his bedside in a silver lamé outfit with boobs busting out.  But it's too late - Rob lives just long enough to tell Angel to avenge his death (and he hands her one of those nifty stars).

Rick notices the star and instantly puts it all together: This is the work of the infamous Lee Chuck who's been at scene of every point of human tragedy in the last couple centuries: the Titanic, Hiroshima, Jonestown, the Chicago Fire...
"I'm talking about international terrorism and a legend of mass murder and supernatural horror that goes back over 200 years!"
Lee Chuck sold his soul to the devil for immortality, but must claim a soul in return every 24 hours. It's common knowledge at the FBI.

Angel has a brief run-in with Anthony Kiedis' dad, then heads inside the scene of the crime - Wong's Jewelry.  While there (1) a red glowing eye from a statue inexplicably floats into her purse unbeknownst to her and (2) she meets up with a Charlie Chan lookalike who's actually another FBI agent.

Charles Chang (yes, that's his name) and Rick meet for drinks where the backstory gets even more convoluted:

Lee Chuck is after the Eyes of the Avatar.  He already has one, but alone they hold little power. He who holds both Eyes will become The Dragon God and rule the world.

What the hell is this - Lord of the Rings?

It gets even more ridiculous: Lee Chuck inhabiting the body of a certain Dr. Sin Do and relocated to a deserted island where he built a fortress and rules as king.

Are you following all this?  Angel asks, "If Lee Chuck has one of the Eyes of Avatar, who has the other?"  The screen pans down to her purse.  (groan)

The next day at the gym, Angel is pissed.  Her brother is dead and she wants vengeance.  "What haven't you told me about Sin Do, Rick?"

Yes, there's even more exposition to be had:  Sin Do hold a martial arts competition every year.  The competitors must form groups of three.  The winners get to go to his island.... little do they know, they will become Sin Do's personal brainwashed guards.

The FBI sure knows a helluva lot of information that they apparently do nothing with.

It's time to go recruiting her personal Inglorious Bastards for the team of three for Dr. Sin Do's competition.  The first is a mystical Native American named Whitestar (the infamous Raven De La Croix).  Why Angel had to dress as a sexy cowgirl to do this is anyone's guess.

A couple rednecks give these two ladies some trouble in the parking lot.  Angel and Whitestar make quick work of them, beating their hillbilly asses and stuffing them in a trunk.

They're like two superheros. Who will make their third member, Wonder Woman?

Angel and Whitestar head to a maximum security women's prison (of course) to complete their team with an inmate named Heather McClure (Angela Aames).  As luck would have it, they arrive just in time to witness a prison fight between Heather and another inmate....

... dear God.  They allow that in prison?  Her name's Whiplash and, yes, she has a whip.  This is insane.

By the way, Whiplash is played by none other than Angelique Pettyjohn.  If you don't know her, you need a lesson in the Babes of Star Trek.

I shouldn't have to tell you the fight turns into a mud wrestling match.  Heather wins and naturally must take a shower, where she is confronted by Angel and Whitestar.  They offer her release if she'll agree to join their team.

A bizarre version of Charlie's Angels has just been formed.

The girls register for Dr. Sin Do's competition, but not without acting extremely cocky and publicly humiliating the clerk.

Now it's time to fly to Dr. Sin Do's island aboard his private jet.  And look who's in charge of this flight...

It's stuntman/actor Robert Tessier as Koro, wearing the silliest fake eyebrows I've ever seen.

"Embark in good faith... and arrive in peace and tranquility."

The girls board; but Rick discovers too late that Angel has left without her purse.  You'll recall that her purse contains a glowing red Eye of the Avatar (which she somehow never noticed).

At the Island Empire, the competitors (all smoking hot females) must wear skimpy 80s clothing and submit to a physical inspection.  Koro reveals himself to be a world class dick, but thankfully he's abandoned the bushy fake eyebrows.

At Rick's apartment, the Eye of the Avatar starts acting nuts in Angel's purse.  Rick finally gets a clue... but what really caught my attention was Rick's end table by his recliner.   This has to be the coolest collection of stuff to ever grace a frame of celluloid: a revolver, Playboy magazine, MAD magazine, a King Sized Cracked magazine, a bottle of Wild Turkey, a Converse duffle bag, an old school TV remote and a pack of cigarettes (but I can't tell the brand).  Freaking awesome.

That night, Angel is attacked by a robot spider.  During the day, the girls must pass various tests of skill and endurance.  "Cheesy" doesn't even come close to describing it.

Note that there is actually precious little nudity in this film.  Lots of sweet outfits, but you take away a few gratuitous frames and The Lost Empire could pass for a late night TV movie.

Nice perm, Angel.

Angel and Heather scout around the premises and discover a prison full of women.... and there's Anthony Kiedis' dad!  What's he doing here?  He apparently is the tyrannical warden of this dungeon - along with his pet gorilla (yes, you read that correctly).

But where's Whitestar?

Dr. Sin Do invited her dinner only to make her his captive.  It took about an hour into the movie, but finally Raven De La Croix is topless.  It was bound to happen eventually.

Finally, Dr. Sin Do reveals himself to the island guests.  It's The Tall Man from Phantasm, Angus Scrimm.

More bad news, he's got both of the Eyes of the Avatar because dumbass Rick came to the island with his.  What an idiot.

Chaos erupts.  Whitestar escapes and kills Koro, and the whole island becomes embroiled in fighting (in the most unrealistic manner imaginable).  Meanwhile, Angel rips Dr. Sin Do's face off to reveal he looks like an emaciated Sleestak.

Dr. Sin Do reveals his secret weapon to a captive Angel.  Do you think they realized it looks a lot like a cock and balls?

The penis cannon is aimed at a helpless Angel, but Rick arrives just in time to chop his head off, and look utterly confused and disgusted.

Next, Anthony Kiedis' dad attacks Angel, but accidently hits the penis cannon, which shoots him in the ass - a mortal blow.

And so it ends.  The gang get aboard the plane and get the hell out.  The menacing words of Dr. Sin Do can be heard saying "I shall return"... and then Angel's cocky reply: "Is that a fact."

What I didn't like:

(1) It's like two movies - there's over forty minutes before the island that plays like a crime drama. Then, it starts to remind me of the Buck Rogers TV show, which just doesn't jive.
(2) Melanie Vincz never gets naked.  But she does develop a hideous perm.
(3) Heather is smacking her gum and making awful wisecracks throughout.  I prayed for her death.
(4) Whitestar makes terrible, borderline racist Native American jokes with nearly every line.

But, the fun campiness and sexy outfits outweigh the negative by a longshot.  Overall, I recommend it.  Cheers.


  1. OUTSTANDING review Ko0L Dude

    This post will be leading my next issue, Far Out Sci-Fi #6

    I post the Sci-fi stuff on Wednesday afternoons, Thailand

  2. "Land bugs are free" "Grand bugs for free." "Buy two frogs and the bugs are free"

  3. AnonymousJune 30, 2015

    Congrats Gilligan, you are on fire! Retrospace is back!

  4. I think I actually saw this once on Showtime Friday Night. I only remember the Indian gal in white, nothing else about the movie what so ever. I must have fallen asleep or something.

    Thanks for the memory.

  5. This sort of looks familiar! May have seen it many years ago. Looks like I may have to see this again!

  6. The pack of cigarettes is Dunhill menthol! I smoked them back in the day when someone else would pay for a pack!