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  Alley Cat Here Kitty
Year: 1984
Director: Victor M. Ordonez, Ed Palmos, Al Valletta
Stars: Karin Mani, Robert Torti, Britt Helfer, Michael Wayne, Jon Greene, Jay Fisher, Claudia Decea, Tim Cutt, Jay Walker, Moriah Shannon, Marla Stone, Kevin Velligan, Tony Oliver, Victoria Shea, Bob Baisa, Tom Bismark, Dennis Edwards, Peter Furman, Rose Dreifus
Genre: Action, Thriller, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Billie Clark (Karen Mani) is lying in bed one night when she receives a telephone call from her next door neighbour who has noticed a couple of criminals trying to steal the wheels from her car. Not bothering to call the police, she pulls on her clothes and rushes outside to confront them; not everyone would be so brave, but Billie has an arsenal to back up her bravado since she is an expert martial artist on the brink of achieving her black belt. She makes quick work of the thieves, beating them up until her grandfather (Jay Fisher) appears with a gun and sees them off, but they are ones to bear grudges and return to their boss Scarface (Michael Wayne) with their tails between their legs. Less than impressed, he vows revenge...

One of the running themes in American action movies was the vigilante plotline where a member of the public was pushed too far and wound up fighting back against the lowlife scum who insisted on harrassing them. Most often these were male characters taking the law into their own hands, but every so often a woman would take the lead, quite often after riding up on a motorcycle and whipping off her helmet to reveal her long hair tumbling about her shoulders for the men to gasp and so forth. Toothy Karen Mani didn't get up to such clich├ęs in this case, as she was a fitness fanatic in this tale whose preferred mode of transport was Shanks's Pony, this being the era when jogging was a big thing.

When she wasn't jogging around the streets in the dead of night, she was training for that black belt, and Mani, according to her publicity anyway, was the real deal in that respect, a half-Asian, half-American Indian dynamo well versed in the art of the boot to the head; some compared her to an eighties Tura Satana, though she made far less of an impression on the movie landscape and this turned out to be her penultimate role, after which she retired to raise a family with a wealthy music video producer. If she'd stuck with the movie career, who knows, perhaps we would be talking of her in the same breath as Cynthia Rothrock? As it was, it was largely Alley Cat, made piecemeal fashion hence the three credited directors, which won her a minor status as a cult screen siren.

Yet for a cult to flourish, it helps if people have seen your movies, and Alley Cat was one of the most obscure of the eighties action flicks though to her credit Mani carried herself like a star, doing her own stunts and combat sequences with a touch of speeded up camerawork to make her look as fast as Bruce Lee. She also had a habit of stripping off like Bruce, for possibly different motives as the audience were here for not only the fisticuffs (and er, footicuffs) but also to admire the female form, so she was awarded not one but two gratuitous shower scenes and other instances of her whipping off her top, including in the first couple of minutes. For a film where the females seemed to be in danger of rape by various thugs roaming the streets, you could accuse this of conveying a confused view of femininity.

That said, other than Billie's grandfather and her cop boyfriend Johnny (Robert Torti) the men in this film were far from people anyone would want in their neighbourhood, with a habit of indulging in criminality from the hoodlums on the street to the judge who is open to bribery and sends Billie to jail for saving a woman from sexual assault, which is where this briefly turns into a W.I.P. movie seemingly for the hell of it. So odious are the blokes that you could ponder whether the filmmakers were making a statement that was pro-female and anti-male all the way, with really only Johnny standing up for his gender as an example that we're not all slavering sex maniacs and petty thieves. That said, perhaps the biggest criminal here was the costume designer who put Mani in a remarkable ensemble in the early stages, a rainbow tartan puff sleeve blouse, brown waistcoat, pleated banana yellow culottes and knee length Argyle socks, I know it was the eighties but no wonder our heroine took her clothes off so often if that was the alternative. Overall, fair enough for grindhouse. Music by Quito Colayco.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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