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  Lovely But Deadly She Can Handle Herself, Thank You Very MuchBuy this film here.
Year: 1981
Director: David Sheldon
Stars: Lucinda Dooling, John Randolph, Mel Novak, Marie Windsor, Mark Holden, Susan Mechsner, Michael O’Leary, Rick Moser, Mary Beth McDonough, Richard Herd, Pamela Jean Bryant, Irwin Keyes, Judd Omen, Wendell Wright, Marvin Katzoff, Linda Shayne, Billy Warlock
Genre: Drama, Action, Thriller
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: There has been a tragedy at this Californian high school, where one of the students was on the nearby beach and out of his mind on drugs which led to him drowning in the sea. There is a problem with substance abuse there that nobody wishes to tackle, that is until one student decides enough is enough. One evening, at a school disco, a photographer who attends the establishment is snapping away when Lovely (Lucinda Dooling) - real name Mary Ann Lovitt - is pointed out to him. They go back to his place, where he starts to seduce her until she turns on him and beats him up, for he is one of the dealers and she is the sister of the deceased!

Lovely But Deadly was a little-seen item of eighties exploitation based on a far better known item of seventies exploitation, that being Jack Hill's Pam Grier vehicle Coffy. It took the same premise, a bereaved and angry sister taking violent revenge on those who killed her brother, and turned it into something that would have been more appropriate for a television episode, with Dooling a protagonist not too far removed from what you would see on a typical instalment of Charlie's Angels. Only there was one of her and three of them, but her Lovely character was capable enough within her means to take on the bad guys - with help and assistance.

Basically this was one of the intermittent examples of the high school action genre, as opposed to the high school horror genre which was more prevalent but involved a similar approach, though it was on a fairly low budget, no matter the familiar cast of "recognise the face if not the name" performers filling out the older roles who presumably were not present for the entire shoot. Our lead was the appealing, athletic Dooling, an actress with a dancer's build who never made the front ranks of stardom, not even in the cheapo actioner market, though she was partly convincing when getting up to the more physical demands of her role, doling out punches and kicks.

No matter how serious it was intended to be about its "Just Say No" premise, there was something distinctly camp about the way it went about it. The problem of drugs has infiltrated every strata of the school, with the Principal (John Randolph) well aware of what was going down, and even the cheerleaders snorting coke in the locker room, but who is profiting from this outrage is what our heroine must discover. She goes about this by using her schoolgirl pose to get into places where the drugs and the drug barons will be, getting up to energetic kung fu when confronted, or at one point brawling in a catfight on the dining room table of the local businessman (Richard Herd) who has orchestrated the narcotics' distribution, complete with a very messy load of posh food being mashed into hairdos.

If anything, there could have been a lot more action, as for some reason director David Sheldon appeared to believe we wanted a lot of earnest drama with our hijinks, which we didn't, particularly. So Lovely gets a nice boyfriend, but there's a sort of triangle with a local who is trying to be a singer-songwriter though she is unaware he is up to no good in the drugs trade (and we are aware his songs are no good after being subjected to them). If most of Lovely But Deadly was inescapably naff, there was an breezy quality that contributed to a mid-level enjoyment, and such inclusions as the victim who is steamed to death in a cardboard box, or the way the lead's all-female martial arts class shows up to assist in the finale, or even the most underwhelming motorboat chase ever with the most over the top, yet least convincing conclusion ever, were amusing in their shabby, "will this do?" manner. All that and a James Bond lite orchestral theme tune that must have eaten up most of their funds - music by Robert O'Ragland.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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