Reviewed By Dodging Grunge
Genre: Bouffants + Lingerie + Machine Guns = Heaven
Director: J.M. "Sore Losers" McCarthy
Writers: see "Director"
Featuring: Kerine "Sore Losers" Elkins
Gina "Soulmate" Velour
Michèle "The Velvet Hammer Burlesque" Carr
Wow. Fucking wow. I have a new favorite movie. How often do you hear that in a review, huh? But seriously, Superstarlet A.D. is positively amazing. JMM has boiled cinema down to the bare essentials, plucking the best genetic traits from the corpses of Underground masterpieces past. I like to think of this film as the (magnificent) bastard child of Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville and Doris Wishman's Another Day, Another Man, with perhaps Russ Meyer's Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! as its godfather. With such a holy bloodline, it's no wonder you end up with evolutionary perfection: bouffants, lingerie, machine guns, cavemen. It goes like this: In the not so distant future, a Cataclysm wipes out modern civilization, destroying all magnetic media, records, data. Most of the world's population promptly dies off in the chaos. What few men survive quickly devolve into animalistic Neanderthal-like creatures, perhaps due to “los[ing] a chromosome” or two. Women, on the other hand, ascend to goddess-like states, attaining self-sufficiency, power.
But even without a penis-ridden population to contend with, all is not hunky dory for the busty bosses. “Because all gay men are dead,” there is nobody left to manufacture new dresses and clothing. Makeup is also in short supply, as the power struggles following the Cataclysm saw the rampant use of lipstick as war paint. Outside the decaying ruins of the town of Femphis, the women have formed violent gangs segregated by hair color. The Tempests (redheads), with Queen Jezebel at the helm, are the biggest force. The Satanas (bruenettes), led by luscious lush Verona, are also formidable. Ultramame's gang, the Phayrays (blondes), however, are nearly extinct, relegated to occupying the outlying country areas. And then there's the eponymous gang, the Superstarlets, a small democracy guided by Naomi, where all hair colors are believed equal.
While the other gangs mostly concern themselves with battles over territory and power, the Superstarlets are united by their ancestral quests to locate stag films featuring their grandmothers, proof of their glorious, burlesque birthrights. Naomi and her girlfriend Rachel tirelessly search rundown theatres for their treasured reels. Rachel has already found hers and proudly wears it strapped to her back, but without a projector to view the film, that is the extent of her connection. But fate joins the Superstarlets with Valentine, an actress from the past whom survived through the Cataclysm in a frozen state. She lives in a rundown theatre and used clothing store, making movies of herself and driving her hotrod. The post apocalyptic world of Naomi and Rachel is turned upside down, having never seen such wizardry before.
The Satanas and Phayrays team up to bring about the downfall of the Superstarlets. Ultramame meets with Naomi, presenting the much sought after nudie cutie film of Naomi's grandmother, Funny Pages. She offers to hand it over on the condition that Rachel, a natural blonde, be given to the Phayrays. Meanwhile, the Phayrays place a working projector in the theatre to be discovered by the Superstarlets. Any moral conflicts Naomi might have harbored are promptly brushed aside with the jealousy of seeing Rachel's grandmother stripping in glorious Technicolor. She decides to meet with Ultramame and get the film, one way or another, despite the Superstarlet's golden rule to never kill another woman. As with any magnum opus, the plots and toils of the battling characters end in much death, slaughter, mayhem, surprise. But as it is my wish to encourage all and sundry to see and worship this film, I won't divulge further.
Shot mostly in black and white on 16mm, Superstarlet A.D. is surprisingly stylish and well crafted. In fact, given its meager budget of $16,000, I would go even further and opine that this is by far the best made independent film of all time. Most people shoot black and white as they would color, failing to take advantage of the extreme contrast between light and dark. This is not at all the case here. Somehow, the setups of JMM's team were phenomenal. The lighting was perfect, the cinematography was dreamy, and the actresses hit all their marks. The starlets are, obviously, immensely visually appealing. The details of their wardrobes, makeup, hairdos, are tip-top. Post production dubbing of silly accents furthered the illusion. And by filming in rural Mississippi, JMM was able to achieve the genuine look and feel of Mad Max desolation without any special effects. Haha.
It was cinema heaven.
JMM's features are... strange. They are gritty, experimental, unique, smartly kitschy. They are certainly worthy additions to the Underground, though viewers would do well not to confuse them with the obscenely bizarre likes of John Waters. If anything, his films are much closer to the works of Doris Wishman, with sprinklings of sci-fi silliness for good measure. I tend to share his fascination with popular culture, so I've adored every feature he's put together. Others have been more, well, critical. But fuck the others. Even if you hated Sore Losers, his techniques and artistry have advanced significantly with this feature and warrant a viewing. And thanks to distribution with Troma, you should be able to rent or purchase it just about anywhere in the country. I'd highly recommend it.
The Moral of the Story: Men are doomed, women are goddesses, learn it, love it, live it.