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Plot: timid gamer must find Chile’s most feared hitwoman

Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman (released domestically as Tráiganme la Cabeza de la Mujer Metralleta) is one of those rare cases where a movie delivers exactly what the poster promises, but somehow still manages to not fully capitalize on that very same potential. What we hoped would be a Chilean Naked Killer (1992) is often bogged down by that other thing for which it’s famous. Ernesto Díaz Espinoza is good enough to mask budgetary constraints and limitations, but for an alleged exploitation film tribute Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman is not nearly gritty, and exploitative enough when push comes to shove. Much to our dismay it dances around the hot sauce exactly the way the Robert Rodriguez-Quentin Tarantino Grindhouse double-feature Planet Terror and Death Proof (2007) did. What exactly is the point of making an indie when you’re going to play by Hollywood rules, anyway? Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman had its world premiere at the Austin Film Festival (AFF) in Texas in 2012 and was released in Chile in 2013.

Since debuting in 2006 with Killtro director Ernesto Díaz Espinoza has helmed another 8 features, with Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman probably his only to gain any kind of international following. The Machine Gun Woman of Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman is as much his creation as it is that of Fernanda Urrejola. It never quite goes the Ginger (1971) or Stacey! (1973) route, and is far more faithful to being that long-overdue Grand Theft Auto video game adaptation the world still hasn’t gotten at this point. In fact at critical points the entire GTA thing gets in the way of the 1970s exploitation actioner that Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman is somewhere deep down inside. We’re convinced that Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman had been better served as two seperate stand-alone features: a 1970s exploitation actioner with Fernanda Urrejola as la Mujer Metralleta, and a Grand Theft Auto crime-comedy with Matías Oviedo. Taken for what it is Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman gets as much right as it gets wrong.

Santiago Fernández (Matías Oviedo) is a video game-obsessed layabout who lives with his mother (Francisca Castillo) in Santiago de Chile. He’s a bit naïve and too passive to have any kind of upward social mobility to improve his lot in life. Santiago works as a DJ in the Tango Club with his friend Israelito (Nicolás Ibieta). One day word reaches Argentinian crimelord Che Longana (Jorge Alís, as Jorge Alis) that the infamous bounty hunter la Mujer Metralleta (or The Machine Gun Woman) (Fernanda Urrejola) is out to collect the prize on his head. He offers a staggering amount of money to anyone who can, “tráiganme la cabeza de la Mujer Metralleta.” So much money in fact that would instantly rid him and his mother of their financial woes. Suddenly a fire erupts within Santiago.

What Che doesn’t know is that mild mannered Santiago has overheard his conversation, and when he does his right-hand man Bracoli (Jaime Omeñaca), with some help from Siberiano, threatens Santiago with bodily harm. The youth fast-talks his way out of the situation and vows to Che that he will kill the Machine Gun Woman. Duly impressed by the DJ don Longana gives Santiago exactly 24 hours to bring in The Machine Gun Woman. If he fails he and his mother will be killed instead. Unbeknownst to Santiago he’s being followed by Che’s gang of sicario (or hitmen) with intention to kill both him and la Mujer Metralleta. The Machine Gun Woman saves Santiago from harm several times, and there’s some obvious mutual attraction. The two gun up and confront Che Longana and in the explosive finale Santiago chases la Mujer Metralleta after they share a kiss, only to be flagged down by a group of patrolling police cars observing the mayhem.

It’s a given that not every indie film can be a pastiche/tribute as well-honed, lovingly detailed, and on-point as Ben Combes’ Commando Ninja (2018). Ernesto Díaz Espinoza’s Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman borrows the central conceit, and part of its title, from Sam Pekinpah’s Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) and frequently riffs on Luc Besson’s Léon: The Professional (1994). That is when it’s not paying tribute to Robert Rodriguez’ El Mariachi (1992), gritty 1970s exploitation from Russ Meyer and Don Schain, and Quentin Tarantino. Espinoza acknowledges the importance of Pekinpah’s seminal film when he has Santiago hand Israelito hand a fake PlayStation 2 game called Bring Me the Head Of Rene Garcia. What sets Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman apart is that the entire premise is overlaid with a well-developed Grand Theft Auto framing device that has Matías Oviedo as the player avatar, complete with mission titles, cash rewards, and sepia-toned plot-driving cutscenes. It’s sort of the GTA: Latin America that the world never got. Or a 70-minute Delinquent Habits music video/short film with Fernanda Urrejola sporting her oversized guns (both literal and figurative) and a stripper/dominatrix combo sure to get the pulse of any and every red-blooded male racing.

As good as Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman is, there’s an obvious disconnect between the grimy 1970s exploitation aesthetic (the grains, dirt, and scratches on the “print”, over/under exposed lighting, etc), the cooler-than-you Quentin Tarantino dialogue, and the Grand Theft Auto bits. It has the production value and kenetic energy of Robert Rodriguez’ El Mariachi (1992) and the Grand Theft Auto framing device (complete with corresponding font and music) is original to say the least. The unfortunate thing is that the Santiago and la Mujer Metralleta plots often appear to be at odds with each other. The la Mujer Metralleta is an interesting enough character to base an entire stand-alone feature around, and the GTA framing device, while interesting and integrated good enough, doesn’t really offer any additional value. Fernanda Urrejola is la mujer of the title but even though this is clearly supposed to be an exploitation film she’s never seen sin ropas. The brief (1975-1983 ) Cine de Destape Español (Cine S) in Spain, the pornochanchada from Brazil, and the maple syrup porn from Canada, all soft erotica, were more explicit than this. Not that a production like this stands or falls by the amount of female nudity featured, but it’s hardly exploitative as such. There was clearly some degree of sanitizing involved to make this one accessible for a general audience.

The reason to see Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman is, of course, the titular woman herself, Fernanda Urrejola. These days Urrejola is known for Narcos: Mexico (2018) but prior to Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman she was a regular on television with Mujeres de Lujo (2010), and Diario secreto de una profesional (2012), or Chilean variants of The Client List (2012-2013) and Secret Diary of a Call Girl (2007-2011), respectively. Urrejola plays the Machine Gun Woman as a hypersexual(ized) gunwielding stripper-soldier and the character is something between what the late Russ Meyer and Andy Sidaris would dream up. It wouldn't be too far-fetched to think that Jing Wong's Naked Soldier (2012) with Jennifer Tse Ting-Ting (謝婷婷) took after la Mujer Metralleta.

Beneath her overt sexuality lies hidden enough conflicted pathos and melancholy that Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman simply has no time, or interest, in exploring. That look the Machine Gun Woman has in her eye when she corners Santiago at gunpoint after he managed to lure her out into the open just begs for a backstory. A backstory that Ernesto Díaz Espinoza never even alludes to, nor cares to explore. At its strongest this is a gender-swapped El Mariachi (1992) set in rural Chile instead of México. The Machine Gun Woman is both a feminist empowerment - and a male wish fulfillment fantasy at once. More puzzling and damning perhaps is that la Mujer Metralleta is something of a glorified side character in a production bearing her name. That it never spawned a sequel in tradition of Naked Killer (1992) is a question for the ages.

Who wouldn’t love to see a Chilean Hardboiled (1992) with la Mujer Metralleta as the lead? Naked Killer (1992) after all was nothing more than Hardboiled (1992) by way of Vampyros Lesbos (1971) with enough explosive setpieces, stiletto heels, stockings, pastel-colored dresses, and a penchant for getting Chingmy Yau Suk-Ching out of her clothes whenever possible. If anything, we sincerely hope that Ernesto Díaz Espinoza and Fernanda Urrejola eventually bring back la Mujer Metralleta for a second round, be it in a direct sequel or in a stand-alone feature with her as the centerpiece. Imagine what a sequel to Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman could be if Urrejola got to duke it out with voluptuous Bolivian sexbomb Stephanie Herala? It remains somewhat baffling that a character this poignant isn’t wider known, or that the usual suspects (Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and Eli Roth) haven’t remade it yet for the American market and the English-speaking world. Not that we want to give anybody any ideas. We’re somewhat baffled that the Machine Gun Woman apparently is hardly known outside of Latin America… and that’s a shame. Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman may not be cinematic art, but it’s damn entertaining…

Plot: Waldemar Daninsky becomes the subject of a mad scientist

The Mark Of the Wolfman (1968) made Paul Naschy the new promise of Spanish horror. Lucrative as the first El Hombre Lobo feature was follow-ups were bound to follow. The first of these was the Universal Monster/science fiction hybrid Assignment Terror (1969) with a cadaverous Michael Rennie and German import/erstwhile Bond girl Karin Dor. The alleged French co-production Nights Of the Werewolf (1968) (with a cast including Peter Beaumont, Monique Brainville, Helene Vatelle, and Beba Novak) is widely believed to be a fabrication on Naschy’s part to bolster his then-nascent career. According to statements by Naschy at the time he spent one week of a five-week production schedule in France shooting his scenes and director René Govar tragically died in car accident shortly after. There were no surviving prints, and historical information is practically non-existent and what little is known is nebulous at best. The history surrounding The Fury Of the Wolfman (1970) is extensively documented and reinstated the Waldemar Daninsky franchise to its gothic horror roots. The Fury Of the Wolfman is indeed infuriating mostly because it should have been a lot better than it ended up being.

The third chapter in the continuing saga of cursed Polish nobleman Waldemar Daninsky proved especially difficult. Once again based upon a screenplay by Paul Naschy (as Jacinto Molina Álvarez) and produced by Maximiliano Pérez-Flores and César Gallego, The Fury Of the Wolfman was fraught with trouble from the beginning. For undisclosed reasons Enrique López Eguiluz, director of the rustic The Mark Of the Wolfman (1968), was fired with only a minimum of footage in the can. Basque director José María Zabalza - whose reputation as a bon vivant bohemian and rank pulp specialist preceded him at that point - was hired. Zabalza spent the production in a state of constant inebriation leaving Naschy to direct the feature. Reportedly the on-set chaos that Zabalza left in his alcoholic state had Nashy bursting in fits of tears seeing how awful the production was turning out. Adding further insult to injury Zabalza’s 14-year old nephew was allowed to rewrite the script. Zabalza’s non-involvement in directing can be traced back to 1969 when he had commenced pre-production on Bullets over Dallas (1970), Twenty Thousand Dollars for a Corpse (1971), and The Arizona Rebels (1972), three spaghetti westerns that pooled the same cast and crew that the Irunés was slated to write/direct. The Fury Of the Wolfman is widely considered to be the worst in the Waldemar Daninsky El Hombre Lobo canon.

"When the heliotrope starts growing among rough rocks and the full moon shines at night,” the narrator booms, “in a certain area in the earth, a man turns into a wolf.” Not that any heliotropes will be seen or mentioned, or that they will have any major or minor significance in the plot, anywhere in the next 90 minutes. At least it’s a cool start. In The Fury Of the Wolfman Waldemar Daninsky (Jacinto Molina Álvarez, as Paul Naschy) is a professor at the university of Kingsburg, California. On an expedition in Himalayas his group is attacked by a Yeti who savages everybody of his party and leaves Daninsky with a gash on his chest. Always the scientist Daninsky discounts the possibility on a whim, despite the visible evidence. "It was a Yeti. But that's impossible. I'm a scientist and these things don't exist. It was a hallucination. That's all." Injured Waldemar wanders the frozen wasteland until he happens upon a Tibetan monastery. A monk takes him in and treats his injuries. “Pentagram, pentagram!” screams the sufficiently frightened monk while Daninsky’s wound is actually pentagonal shaped. Once recovered Daninsky returns to his home in the US. At home he greets his wife Erika Wilson (Pilar Zorrilla, as Diana) and retreats to the bedroom, his sleep haunted by the horrible Tibetan incident. At university he runs into an old colleague, and former lover, of his by the name of Dr. Ilona Ellman (Perla Cristal). Ellman has developed a revolutionary new brainwave theory and is set to test it in her laboratory. As a former associate and lover she inquires after Daninsky’s emotional state, all while harbouring an unspoken and unrequited love for the pint-sized professor.

As he’s leaving the faculty Waldemar is handed a letter that he goes to read in the comfort of his car. From across the street Neville Yates (Fabián Conde, as Fabian Conde) watches on as Daninsky becomes enraged as he reads that his wife was involved in an affair. With the brakes on his vehicle rigged he crashes violently in a nearby tree and struggles, wounded and bleeding, back to his home. Finding nobody there he waggles to Ellman’s opulent castle. He’s patched up by his old flame, and finds that Ilona has a live-in assistant called Karen (Verónica Luján, as Veronica Lujan), whose misplaced loyalty to her tutor almost borders on the fanatic. With his wounds cared for Waldemar returns to his home when a full moon starts to rise. Upon turning into a werewolf Daninsky attacks and graphically kills his duplicitious wife Erika and makes short work of her lover Neville only moments later. Still overcome with rage Waldemar hurries outside into a particularly wild thunderstorm. Somehow he becomes entangled in a severed electric cable and is electrocuted. Police detective Wilhelm Kaufmann (Miguel de la Riva, as Michael Rivers) is the first on the scene and discovers the cut brake line. An investigation is opened and some basic sleuthing leads him to the sudden disappearance and death of esteemed Kingsburg professor Waldemar Daninsky.

Ellman, Karen, and her bevy of white-clad bosomy, mini-skirted science belles (Victoria Hernández and Diana Montes) waste no time in disinterring Daninsky’s remains. As the doctor and her vixens drag the professor’s cadaver to a cellar dungeon a caped, white masked figure (Francisco Amorós, as Francisco Almoros) stalks the shadowed hallways observing what happens in the castle’s bowels. As it turns out the deepest dungeons are filled with subjects of Ellman’s failed past experiments, male and female alike. Karen’s reporter beau Bill Williams (Mark Stevens) takes note of her sudden absence and he and the police detective smell something is afoot with the recent spate of mutilated bodies that seem to turn up everywhere. Ellman entrusts in Karen that her she can bring Waldemar back from the dead with the help of science. According to her most recent findings she’ll be able to mind control the subjects of her experiments. After a wolven Daninsky has slain several more innocent townspeople Karen reveals to Daninsky that Ellman has power over his lycanthropic form thanks to her mind control. After some more back and forth in the castle’s deeper reaches Karen and Waldemar discover that the masked and disfgured figure is Helmut Wolfstein, a neurologist infamous for his experiments on unwilling subjects, and that Ilona is his daughter Eva.

A cursory read through Ilona’s personal journal does indeed confirm these findings. Putting one and one together Daninsky deduces that Erika was a subject in Ellman’s mind control schemes and that the entire thing was just a ruse to have her reunited with her former flame. Ilona returns to the château and with Waldemar and Karen right where she wants them, the doctor unveils her diabolical plans. While the two of them were putting the pieces together Ellman resurrected Erika, now too a lycanthrope due to Daninsky’s earlier savaging, and Ilona forces both werewolves to fight each other. Daninsky slays his former wife and is instructed by Ilona to kill Karen, who she has now bound in chains. Waldemar, finally able to surpass Ilona’s mind control, attacks the doctor gashing her across the face and throat. Ellman is able to reach for her Luger firing two silver bullets into the wolven Waldemar, then crawls on him and kisses him goodbye. By this point Williams and the detective have made their way into the castle and free Karen from her chains. The body of the vertically-challenged Polish nobleman is carted off to the coroner’s office. Supposedly to be examined and be given a final restingplace.

While the existence of French co-production Nights Of the Werewolf (1968) and the veracity of Naschy’s claims surrounding it remain dubious at best, the main plot was deemed good enough for The Fury Of the Wolfman. Compared to the more rustic The Mark Of the Wolfman (1968), The Fury Of the Wolfman suffers from both appalling direction and cinematography from Leopoldo Villaseñor. Under the circumstances Naschy did well enough, but the colourless second unit direction by Rodolfo Medina – whose only other credit of note would be Juan Piquer Simón’s Jules Verne adaptation Journey to the Center of the Earth (1977) – doesn’t help. The castle interior scenes are frequently underlit and the entire colour scheme lacks the vivacity of The Mark Of the Wolfman (1968). Surprisingly Villaseñor would redeem himself with The Wolfman vs the Vampire Woman (1971).

The score by Ángel Arteaga and Zabalza’s wife Ana Satrova comprises of recycled stings and cues from The Mark Of the Wolfman (1968) and original new music, all of which are more often than not unsuitable for the scenes in which they appear. The production went overbudget and as a cost-cutting measure stock footage from The Mark Of the Wolfman (1968), along with additional scenes with a wolfman stunt double that didn’t match any of the existing footage, were inserted. It wasn’t clear who was going to edit the production and at one point the master print disappeared. The Fury Of the Wolfman had a hard time finding a distributor and at one pre-release screening for a potential distributor Zabalza was found urinating in a gutter in front of the theater. It was finally picked up for release by AVCO Embassy Pictures in 1973 before gigantic losses nearly bankrupted the company and Robert Rehme took over as president.

Even for Naschy standards the cast were relative nobodies and the most recognizable names were reliable second-tiers at best. Perla Cristal was in The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962) and The Secret Of Dr. Orloff (1964) from back in the days when Jess Franco actually showed some mild promise as a filmmaker and when appearing in one of his productions wasn’t a potential career killer. Cristal had figured in the amiable Arabian Nights adventure 1001 Nights (1968) (with Luciana Paluzzi), and was a regular in spaghetti westerns. Victoria Hernández would play another supporting part in Amando de Ossorio’s The Loreley’s Grasp (1974). The only credits of note for Verónica Luján were León Klimovsky’s Commando Attack (1968) and Feast Of Satan (1971). Javier de Rivera was a regular in Spanish cinema, often playing figures of authority or law enforcement. Mark Stevens was the obligatory faded American star making a living in European exploitation. As always a domestic and international version were shot, with the Spanish version eschewing all the gratuitous nudity and gore of the international version. No wonder Paul Naschy all but denounced The Fury Of the Wolfman as it wasn’t exactly the finest hour for Waldemar Daninsky, his El Hombre Lobo. Thankfully the series would find a second lease on life with The Wolfman vs the Vampire Woman (1971).