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We all know it’s impossible to put a finger on what might be the greatest moment in exploitation film history. Was it Kroger Babb and his road show sex film flim flams like MOM AND DAD? H.G. Lewis and David Friedman’s swaree into blood and guts with BLOOD FEAST, King Corman and his b-grade schlock or the works of Ed Wood, Larry Buchanan or William Castle? Me, at the drive-in in the bed of my old man's '67 El Camino, my nubile young ass bobbing up and down in pre-orgasmic bliss while Jason Vorhees introduced his machete to a young man's crotch as he handwalked down the hallway? Absolutely, all of this qualifies, but there was something special going on in the decade of 1965 to 1975 for American Exploitation Cinema. The strangest thing was it wasn’t being created on our shores. Bubbling out of an underground “factory” of sorts, with incredible fervor and it was happening for pennies on the dollar in a rather unlikely place, the sweaty jungles and shantytowns of the Philippines.

THE WOMAN HUNT comes to us via quite possibly the strongest ensemble making films on minscule budgets in the BellyPains. (My pet name for the Philippines courtesy of a Philipino gal I knew who I swore was saying that every time she’d talk about her home. “I talked to my fren in the BellyPains today.”) Actors John Ashley, Sid Haig, Ed Garcia, Pat Woodell along with producer/director and sometimes writer Eddie Romeo cut a swath through the BellyPains jungles with classic b-fodder year after year, production after production during this all too brief, but explosively entertaining and profitable bit of anti-Hollywoodam.

Based on the 1930’s Richard Connell classic, THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, a plot that boasts at least a couple dozen retellings in one form or another. THE WOMAN HUNT ups the ante by including enough choice dialogue, jungle locales and nude flesh to warrant itself a standout, even amongst the handful of fun, fine films from the aforementioned band of moviemakers. The mysterious David Hoover pens his adaptation for the script. And Jack Hill gets co-writer’s credit for coming up with the story. No doubt Hoover is probably Eddie Romero and the idea for THE WOMAN HUNT came over a couple cheap San Miguel’s at a Philipino bar. Without getting too far ahead of myself, let’s just say Mr. Hoover’s script might be a bit derivative of Connell’s classic, but he more than makes up for it with an early 70s exploitation flair courtesy of mean spirited misogyny, bitingly filthy chatter and a couple real decent characterizations. Oh, and the soft female flesh parts don't hinder either.

The film starts with a beautiful henchwoman “shopping” for nubile young ladies at a small harbor holding place. Something we've all done at least once, right? Part bamboo prison, part local fishing squat, it seems the boys in charge, the hippy Carter and greasy Silas have been wrangling girls for the henchwoman’s boss Spiros. Spiros is picky, we find out the good way. The black clad henchwoman demands a girl strip so we, er, I mean she, can get a gander at the goods. Note to most of the non-male reading audience, any film that can find a way to introduce nudity within the first 60 seconds is known around these parts and a strong starter. The henchwoman looks rather longingly at the girl in what is an obvious reference to her possible lesbianism. She likes the merchandise and promptly hands over $500 for the one girl, shocking the hippy (as if she'd stole his stash box and handed him a bar of DialTM) with the large price given for only one girl. During the transaction the girl breaks and runs only to end up surrounded on both sides of a narrow path with no where to go but into the water. She is captured semi-conscious and dried-off shipped away. But that is not all, Carter and his boys have their orders, get Spiros, the bossman, four more girls matching the descriptions on a piece of paper handed over by the lesbo roughie and deliver them to him at his not so humble abode.

Flash forward to Carter showing up at Silas’ boat with a couple very attractive girls, they are customers for a little ocean tour Carter tells Silas and off the four go with Silas navigating right along, the girls flirting with the two gents and everything going, pardon the pun, swimmingly. Of course, the girls become aware that it’s time to be heading back, Silas pulls his gun, prompting Carter to loose his patience and strangle one of the girls. The second gal, beautiful Lori, is delivered to the makeshift bamboo big house on the bay where she meets three other captives, each a different flavor, there’s Billy, the Nubian princess, McGee, the leggy butch cut brunette, and Rita, the silent Asian. Lori is our resident hellaciously built dirty blond. Billy sums it up for Lori as Romeo’s camera catches Lori hitting the floor of the bamboo cage, “What do ya know, another visitor to the zoo!” Just like that, the girls are bound, blindfolded and loaded into a military style vehicle. But, not before tension mounts somewhere else in the holding camp between Tony, a handsome stick-out amongst these swarthy kidnappers, and the murderous hippy, Carter. Tony, more likely than not at this point, is our lead, John Ashley, Silas holds Tony back from the hippy. It seems Tony wants out of the skin trade but Carter is quick to remind him, he’s in it just as deep as the rest and the boss man ordered the girls and besides, they are getting paid a large amount to deliver. In other words, the boys have got to do what the boys have got to do.

And so with a couple pretty brief and peppy scenes, the basis for our romp into the jungle is set. Silas, the brilliant Sid Haig, is carrying the motion picture on his very able back up until this point. His Silas character utters all of his come-ons and warnings like a deranged, panty-chasing Mississippi river boat captain, Silas seems to have inhaled all of the Philippines in through his skinny olive ass and he exhales the sweat, stink and bloody mosquito spit back out of his forehead, armpits and chest. Haig in the 8 years prior to THE WOMAN HUNT had completed roles in 15 different films, including Jack Hill’s masterpiece of bizarreness SPIDER BABY and back-to-back Romeo works THE BIG DOLL HOUSE (Romeo produced for Jack Hill) and the classic BLACK MAMA, WHITE MAMA. It seems in actuality that Romeo was shooting two pictures at once when he made THE WOMAN HUNT. According to Haig’s PSYCHOTRONIC interview from many moons ago, Romeo had Haig Working on BLACK MAMA, WHITE MAMA during the night and BEYOND ATLANTIS during the day. But when you look at the timing of the roles more likely than not Haig meant THE WOMAN HUNT instead of BEYOND ATLANTIS, a film, as you peek at Eddie Romero’s filmography that was three pictures beyond BLACK MAMA, WHITE MAMA. Shit, Romeo was also lensing TWILIGHT PEOPLE at the same time which included THE WOMAN HUNT’s Ashley and Garcia and Woodell as well, so it’s quite possible they were somehow shooting 3 pictures at once or at the very least stacking them all together. And Jack Hill was beginning the shoot of another Women In Prison stalwart, THE BIG BIRD CAGE that also featured Haig as second unit director. Haig was a machine at this point in his still new career and obviously at the top of his game. "I was the longest-staying guest in the history of the Intercontinental Hotel...We did four pictures back to back, sometimes on top of each other...” Haig said of his 6-month stay in the Philippines. Haig had met Jack Hill at UCLA film school where Hill was studying under famed female director, Dorothy Arzner. Haig first worked with Hill on Roger’s Corman’s BLOOD BATH aka TRACK OF THE VAMPIRE. I should also note that in the Phillipines is where Hiag met coffee-skinned sexpot Pam Grier and carried on a behind the scenes love affair with for sometime according to rumor. If you can say anything about Sid’s performance in any film it’s that it’s fucking real, there’s an underlying comic genius that only makes his characters that much more effective. Sid’s Silas exudes that. Fucking real. Now on with the show.

With the girls loaded and the boys with their shit straight, the journey to Spiro’s place in the jungle begins. Silas behind the wheel, Carter and Tony riding shotgun while the girls are riding bound in the back of the enclosed truck which has a handy little window area that connects to the truck’s cab. I say it’s handy cuz Silas gets to say wondrously nasty things when asked by the girls were they are being taken, like, “Oh it’s kind of a funhouse, you’ll like it, you’ll be able to spread your wings and other things…You want to sit up here? You can play with my gearshift!” Ashley plays it cool, like a leading man, matinee idol-type and does little to give you any insight to his character’s motives. Is it control or is it lake of real chutzpah? Who knows, but it works for him. Before long (a minute of dialogue) the truck breaks down and the crew unload the ladies for a five mile hike to Spiros’ place. Silas takes the opportunity to smack a little black ass and Billy returns the notion with a swift smack to his face. But Silas ain’t taking no shit and smacks her to the ground laughing and when Billy threatens to bite off his ugly nose, Silas reminds her “my nose ain’t the thing that grows…” Mr. Hoover, now that is dialogue I can appreciate. The hike ends rather abruptly when they come upon a group of Spiros’ soldiers and a water buffalo led bamboo cart on wheels as well as fresh horses. They load up and for some reason don’t make it the 5 miles before night fall and decide to camp. The girls devise a plan to separate Silas and Tony while Carter and the soldiers sleep by pretending to have to take a tinkle in the jungle. Tony escorts, Lori, McGee comes on to sexy Silas and Billy plants a shard of sharp bamboo under his chin. They unlock the box, Billy brazenly belittles Silas but neglects to go ahead and kill him. It’s all for naught though when Carter and the soldiers wake up and nab them before they can get away. Twisted–up sexuality plot display #2 for those keeping score (remember the henchwoman’s apparent lesbianism). Carter plants his rifle into McGee’s crotch and Sila’s chastises, “Damn, you’d rather do that than ball her wouldn’t ya?” Seems our hippy is a little light in the loafers, uh, I mean the Beatle boots. Romeo pulls out the classic b-movie day for night photography and soon the caravan is rolling towards big baddy Spiros’ mansion. “I’m gonna shit, shine, shower, shave, cut that fine looking black woman loose, take her for a long walk in the garden, rip off all her clothes, lay her down in the tall grass…then stomp the shit right out of her.” Silas takes us right into act 2.

Oh, this Spiros character. Bad guy, he is. Likes to beat women, fuck women, beat and fuck women. He has the jack to buy what he wants, fill them with drugs if he wants, and of course, do whatever he wants while they are sedated. His crib is that of the opulent Philipino style with lesbo henchwomen, guards, chefs and those beautiful tailored shirts. He has a big dinner party (actually I only recall a table lined with bananas) planned the four girls and four international playas. His guests have all been here before, they’ve all partied with Spiro’s girls that he has supplied but each one has also been set up, each one, had a tragedy of some sort during their stays. This dinner party will be different (not just because bananas seem to be the main course). It is going to be tweaked up a notch…Silas delivers the line that sums up the middle part of Romeo’s work quite aptly “There sure is a lot of pussy going to waste over there.” Silas does have a point but it seems Spiros wants his gentlemen to get all the pussy they want…as long as it is dead first. Yeah, that’s right, Spiros wants to change the rules of the little prostitution game to involve a little game hunting. The girls. Load up on potassium gentlemen, it's going to be a long evening.

Spiros is brought to the screen very ably by Philipino actor extraordinaire Eddie Garcia, no doubt a nom de ploom of this Philippine’s born actor who not only sparked every Philipino Romeo production, but also still acts and even directs and has close to 150 films to his credit. To say Garcia is good is an slight fucking understatement. He speaks great English (always a plus, you acting wannabes!) and plays the swarthy Spiros to the hilt. Remember how great he was as Dr. Lorca in BEAST OF BLOOD? Okay, nevermind.

As this little plotline plays out, the girls are remarkably well adjusted. As they await their fates. McGee almost masturbates (I know after being kidnapped and taken into the jungle the first I'd do when I got a moment alone would be to punish the Bishop a bit) before trying to get it on with weirdo Carter to free herself but remember it very possible he’s a queen. Billy takes on Silas in the sack even though he’s too drunk to fuck and then there’s Lori and Tony, they have the eyes for each other and Tony, well, Tony is tired of Spiro’s bullshit even though Spiros thinks of Tony as the son he never had. Spiros has went beyond just plain old druggin 'em and fucking 'em and pimping 'em out and into killing 'em. Enough is fucking enough, so one must put their foot donw. Oh, and there’s the silent Asian, Rita, I think her name is…well, Rita it’s safe to say is some Philipino “extra” she never gets a line or a scene. I'd bet they used her boyfriend's mansion or Spiros' place.

The inevitable comes to pass, Tony escapes, girls in tow and Spiros and his gang of mismatched followers and customers are in pursuit. I don’t want to tell you how it all plays out once they hit the jungle but I’ll tell you this, most die, others, show their true colors and over all Romeo delivers a taught little jungle drama complete with twisted characters, cheap gore and overt sexuality, even of the closted homo kind.

If I had to say something about the best parts of THE WOMAN HUNT it would probably be Sid Haig, as I've already mentioned, John Ashley, Pat Woodell, Lisa Todd and Ken Metcalfe. That’s right, this batch of dime store actors, they transcend the story to bring this White Castle budget drama to near upper tier thriller. Well, please remember my upper tiers rarely leave the first floor of a rented duplex.

A 1950s icon that never really exceled much above his Frankie and Annette co-superstardom who moved into a different element of filmdom as times changed, John Ashley never once talked down about his projects seeing them not only as what they were but as special little things meant to be judged on a different plane. Brilliant, as a hunky Matt Stevens in HIGH SCHOOL CEASER and equally as bad in YOUNG DILLINGER as baby Face Nelson, Ashle rarely met a script that wasn't appropriate. tI love him in Larry Buchanan’s much-maligned THE-THE EYE CREATURES and of course, the Blood Trilogy, THE MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND, BRIDES OF BLOOD and BEAST OF BLOOD, the films he starred in for Romeo that will forever be part of bad moviedom. As Tony, he commands the screen when he’s on, but does little more than raise an eyebrow, flash a little smile and play THE WOMAN HUNT’s typical hero.

Pat Woodell, what is the best you can say about a beautiful exploitation actress. Pat got naked, Pat got bloody, Pat got groped by various sweaty actors and Pat performed. Pat was in her late 20s when she flew off to the Philippines to “star” in a film with John Ashley, Although I can’t really confirm it, they were an item during the filming of THE WOMAN HUNT and THE TWILIGHT PEOPLE. It shows. Pat is the forgotten “Jo” From Petticoat Junction; she played the original Bobby Jo from 63-65, the black and white years, when Bobby Jo (Roberta Josephine) was a nebbish nerd girl with glasses. When the show went color they dropped Pat and the nerd act…after 8 years of no gigs Pat decided showing a sweaty tit would be just fine and she took the role of Bodine for Hill and Romeo in THE BIG DOLL HOUSE. She makes exploi-history when she grabs two machine gun and guns down a few men before taking a barrage of bullets, zero dollar Peckinpah–style. THE BIG DOLL HOUSE is the granddaddy and still the best of the WIP epics and Woodell helps make it so. She's no less fun in THE WOMAN HUNT but Romeo doesn't use her as ably as he should have.

Spiros black clad lesbo henchwoman is brought to life by leggy exploitation gal, Lisa Todd. Lisa was a sort of regular as a Hee Haw honey for a while and playing this role was quite a switch for the usually blond “sunshine” character she portrayed on Hee Haw. Todd was also part of Ted V. Mikel’s DOLL SQUAD post this film and with measurements 40-24-38 and standing nearly 6 feet tall, she can be a rather impressive bit of eye candy. Sadly she doesn’t get nude here but she is still no less sleazy and scores the films best death scene. If there is a oversight on Romero’s part it’s not amping Todd’s character up a bit because I’m very sure she could have been thought of as and Ilsa, Olga or Tura Satana archetype with a little push towards the extreme. Hindsight may be 20/20, but Lisa exudes a quiet, edgy confidence on screen and had she been given the chance to shine might have made a little grindhouse history herself.

Ken Metcalfe plays the “faggot” Carter; I think he even sports a wig and fake nose as Carter, probably to cover up and not ruin his tough guy reputation. Let me sate right here that Metcalfe is far from “good” as the closeted homosexual Carter (he just doesn’t pretend “gay” enough) but what he is as an actor is made up for with what he is as a character. Carter is a dumb shit with a bad job who may or may not like to fuck the women he captures for Spiros and I sort of believe that. He was just cutting his teeth with exploitationer Romeo in the late 60s because he’d go on to work for such near brilliant hacks as crazy Bellypaino Cirio H. Santiago, who brought us TNT JACKSON, THE MUTHERS and HELLHOLE (written by Metcalfe) in the 70s and even nuttier features like STRYKER and NAM ANGELS in the 80s, all of which feature Metcalfe. Basically there wasn’t an American made exploitation film shot in the Philippines for over a decade that Metcalfe wasn’t involved with. He cast every Vietnam epic that used the Philippines as a locale that was worth a shit, from APOCALYPSE NOW to HAMBURGER HILL to BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY. If you made a film in the Philippines you needed Ken Metcalfe. But with all that “clout” Ken Metcalfe’s biggest claim to fame might be 1985’s WARRIORS OF THE APOCALYPSE in which he wrote for director Bobby Suarez, who also helmed DYNAMITE JOHNSON, a film which also Metcalfe acted in. Suarez was also behind the highly recommended rarity CLEOPATRA WONG. Metcalfe starred in WARRIORS, as well as, playing screenwriter and I have to say in the world of post-apocalyptic shit that was brought to the screen after MAD MAX, this one is one of the ones that bad movie fans must see. Seeing Metcalfe as Carter some 7 years before the fact is worth its weight in poop.

All said and done THE WOMAN HUNT delivers, violence against women, lower level “stars” and great locales and capable direction. Eddie Romeo is no fluke nor is Mr. Haig nor Mr.Ashley and while Something Weird and Retromedia deliver all the “other” Romeo flickage to you as classics, this one continues to be neglected…but Shocking Video will find the way to give you the hook up. You shoud get one, I did.

Tony seems touched.

Now I see why.

And so does Spiros...what's next?

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Chris Wayne
Lisa Todd and Ken Metcalfe as the 2 sexually confused "heavies."

Introducing Laurie Rose and just a couple of her prime resume points. So far so good, we're barely in.

That's Carter catching a gander at Ms. Rose.

King of all exploitation actors? Just maybe, Sid Haig as Silas.

We get a nice first view of Lori as Carter leads on to Silas' boat for a 3 hour cruise or some shit.

Tony, MR. Jon Ashley. Yeah, I know he still looked like he was stuck in the 50s and it was 1972. No one left those beach movies unscathed.

Billy tases a little of Silas' hand as he returns the favor for her thwack acorss his jowls.

Silas then reminds Billy that he likes a little spunk in his gals as well as a little Mocha flavoring wrapped around his undie sausage.

The beautiful shirt of Eddie Garcia, he's Spiros.

Pat Woodell gets woeful as Lori.

Sedcution seems to the order of the evening once our crew gets to Spiros' place. McGee tries to love Carter...

Spiros throws a "feast" made up mostly of bananas.

Oh, yeah, back to the seduciton. Billy shows Silas a thing or two.

Silas shows BIlly an upper plate that rivals that of The Talking Mule.

Billy helps the inibriated Silas get out of his shirt...

Geez, I'm sort of speechless. Billy don't be a hero...

One of Spiros' "customers...and some bananas.

The same customer decides he wants out of The Woman Hunt, Carter says, "NO!" At least he died full of potassium.

Tony fashions one of those handy jungle bendy spike things that gets tripped and impales the unlucky trippee. Now that is fine jungle craftmanship.

Lori looks on trying to control her incredible impulse to whistle.

And Spiros' lesbian cum love interest gets her implament...no, not that kind. Hee Hee Hee Haw Haw Haw...

She must be put out of her misery...

While she dies...love lives.

Oww, my brain hurts.

A long walk back to civilization as a man washes his ox's ass.
Brains On Film 2003