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Plot: prominent scientists are targeted by assassins. LETHAL Ladies are on the case.

Get ready for another round of gun-toting, wisecracking babes baring breasts and arms, usually in that order, with The Dallas Connection. As the second (and last) of the Christian Drew Sidaris two-episode expanded universe it functions as both an ending and a continuation and before anything else it has boobs on the brain. Just like Fit to Kill (1993) was a throwback to the earlier LETHAL Ladies episodes The Dallas Connection too is an extended homage to some his father’s earliest drive-in work. Of course, it has nothing to do with either The French Connection (1971) or even The Italian Connection (1972) but a familiar sounding title always helps. Just like Enemy Gold (1993) was a thinly-veiled retread of Savage Beach (1989) Christian Drew’s final episode is also a homage to what his father did much earlier (and, well, better). Break out the candy-colored bikinis, polish the big guns and charge the remote-controlled models because some stuff is going to be blown up real good. The Dallas Connection is hardly the worst send-off but it (thankfully) was not the series’ final goodbye.

Try finding the right pair. Whether it’s a pair of shoes, the right combination of clothes, or the leads in your ongoing spy-action franchise. Dona Speir bowed out after Fit to Kill (1993) and Hope Marie Carlton had bade the series farewell four years earlier with Savage Beach (1989). Roberta Vasquez was a suitable replacement and Cynthia Brimhall should have been promoted to field operative at least two episodes earlier than she was. However you choose to spin it, they were not part of the Christian Drew Sidaris parallel universe. Regardless, Christian Drew had some big bras to fill and to reiterate what we said last time, you can’t replace an iconic duo like that with just any random pair of boobs and expect the same results. Suzi Simpson and Tai Collins chose not to return after Enemy Gold (1993) necessitating him to find replacements once again. In other words, The Dallas Connection is that awkward, uneasy transitional chapter that was bound to retroactively act as the connective tissue between the expanded universe of Christian Drew Sidaris and old Andy’s original canon.

Christian Drew Sidaris looked in the same Playboy and Penthouse pool as his father and tried his darndest to recreate that spark. Alas, while his choices were admirable, he did not gloriously rise to the occassion. Not that Suzi Simpson and Tanquil Lisa Collins were bad. Here it's sometime model, music video girl and Penthouse Pet for June 1993 Samantha Phillips. Phillips was a veteran of real movies as Phantasm II (1988), and Weekend at Bernie's II (1993) and here she got to wield her 34D chest. The other is Playboy Playmate of the Month (December 1991) Wendy Hamilton whose single other credit of note was a bit part in Warlock: The Armageddon (1993). All things considered the two of them did well enough with the material they were given. They had a far bigger problem to contend with, one that literally towered above the both of them. Exactly, by this point all-around showstopper Julie Strain had become - whether by choice, design, or plain circumstance - the de facto face and mascot of the series.

No platinum blonde beach bunny was ever going to eclipse miss Strain. Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true. The Dallas Connection is historic for introducing Penthouse Pet of the Month (February 1993) Julie K. Smith. Smith was a muse and longtime associate of Jim Wynorski, that pre-eminent master of massive mounds, that god of gigantic globes, that prospector of plastic pleasuredomes. No one else has come close to matching, let alone surpassing, good old Jim in his unwavering adoration and adulation of big boobs. Unbelievable has it may sound, he somehow has managed to spin a three decades (and counting) career and industry (even if it’s sometimes a one-man operation) out of it. Compared to him Andy Sidaris was a man of sophistication, restraint, and finesse. Julie had played a minor role of no particular importance in The Last Boy Scout (1991) and with her 36D boobs Julie K. Smith was lovingly dubbed Little Julie. Mostly because Julie Strain was vertically and proportionally bigger than her, making her Big Julie. Between the two Julies (the youngest a blonde, the eldest a brunette) there was no competition and the dynamic duo in no time became the series’ new bra-busting figureheads. To say that Christian Drew broke out the big guns, both literal and figurative, for his swansong offering is putting it mildly. There’s no such thing as too big, or is there?

In a meticulously co-ordinated operation a number of prominent scientists around the world are systematically eliminated by a clandestine group of covert assassins. The scheme is masterminded by Amazonesque master-killer Black Widow (Julie Strain) and when we first lay eyes upon her she’s assassinating man of science Jean Pierre (Alan Krier) in Paris, France (yes, there’s travelogue footage of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe on the Place Charles de Gaulle). First she bares her own big guns to make him more accomodating before grabbing a silenced pistol out of her bag and killing him with it. Meanwhile in Cape Town, South Africa on the Vandermeer ranch scientist Peter Vandermeer (William Fain), carrying a cowskin suitcase with him, bids his wife (Betty Jo LeBrun) and ranch hand Hans (Don Primrose Jr.) goodbye. The scientist’s vehicle is followed by horseback riding Cobra (Julie K. Smith) who blows up the scientist and his transport with a remote-controlled model car. In Hong Kong (see the Victoria Harbour in the travelogue montage), China Dr. Sun Hee Wang (Phil Wang) and Dr. Joe (Jimmy Joe) are enjoying a well-deserved break at the country club golf course. There they play a game of golf with a leggy, micro-skirted, flirtatious brunette called Scorpion (Wendy Hamilton). Everything seems perfectly normal until Scorpion blows up Dr. Wang with a remote-controlled golfball. Once the designated targets have been neutralized Black Widow and her aide Platter Puss (Cassidy Phillips) rendez-vous with associate Fu (Gerald Okamura) and head to Dallas, Texas.

The Agency top brass Nicholas Lang (Roland Marcus) gets wind of the three scientists having been killed in a window of mere 12 hours. He summons Samantha Maxx (Samantha Phillips, as Sam Phillips) as well as Texas operatives Chris Cannon (Bruce Penhall) and Mark Austin (Mark Barriere) to company headquarters. In headquarters they meet up with Agency aides Ron (Ron Browning) and Tom (Tom Abbott). The four agents will intercept famed South American scientist Antonio Morales (Rodrigo Obregón, as Rodrigo Obregon) at Dallas International Airport and safeguard him for an attempt on his life, which duly transpires. Once back at HQ Lang explains to the federal agents that Morales and his late colleagues were working on a highly-classified government surveillance program involving a state-of-the-art satellite weapon-tracking system. The project is an operation of the I/WAR department, or the International World Arms Removal, and the four were to meet at a major scientific convention in Dallas. Each of the scientists was custodian to a micro-chip and they were to make a connection in Dallas, hence the operation was referred to simply as The Dallas Connection. Sam, Chris, Mark and Ron are given a micro-chip each to protect. Maxx is assigned to keep a very close watch on Morales and ordered to protect him with her life and body.

In Dallas, Texas Black Widow and her goon squad have taken up residence at the Cowboy’s club and restaurant, a property which she “inherited” from late Bolivian druglord Carlos Santiago. Black Widow orders Cobra and Scorpion to get the four micro-chips by any means necessary while her and Fu infiltrate the offices of the I/WAR department. In the kerfuffle that follows Nicholas Lang and Ron are killed whereas Sam is kidnapped. Cobra and Scorpion seduce and sedate Chris and Mark, respectively. When the two regain consciousness they trace their steps and deduce that Morales was working with Black Widow all along. Not only that, Cobra is double agent from the European branch of The Agency, planted as a moll and a deep cover operative, working from the inside to sabotage Black Widow’s illicit operation. In an explosive finale the LETHAL Ladies duke it out with Black Widow and Fu in a confrontation involving rocket launchers and a remote-controlled model boat. Once the dust has settled the team toasts over a glass of champagne to all things ending well.

No LETHAL Ladies episode is complete without at least a few callbacks to past episodes and The Dallas Connection lays it on thick and lovingly. For example, the first anyone will pay attention to is that the South African scientist carries a cowskin suitcase like Travis Abilene in Picasso Trigger (1988). In her seduction scene Cobra wears the same green-black wetsuit as Hope Marie Carlton did in Picasso Trigger (1988). In the finale Fu is blown up with a rocket launcher just like the enemies in Enemy Gold (1993), Guns (1990), Picasso Trigger (1988), and Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987). Cobra blows up Black Widow with a remote-controlled model boat just like in Picasso Trigger (1988) and Guns (1990). Bruce Penhall and Mark Barriere outrun an explosion just like Dona Speir and Roberta Vazquez in Fit to Kill (1993). Making a special appearance (call it a glorified cameo) once again is Kym Malin. She was no stranger to that sort of thing having had similar largely decorative parts in Picasso Trigger (1988), Guns (1990), and Enemy Gold (1993).

For what it’s worth Julie Strain gets to wear her signature dominatrix outfit once again (no wonder Luis Royo took a liking to her and it’s a wonder Boris Vallejo never dedicated an entire canvas to her and her figure). Samantha Phillips is another blonde beach bunny and about as interchangable as Suzi Simpson and Tanquil Lisa Collins before her. The shadow of Dona Speir and Hope Marie Carlton loom dangerously over her (and them). She had the bust but that was just about it too. Sadly, this time around no enemy operative is neutralized by a well-placed bullet between the breasts, there’s no hot tub scene, and Ava Cadell’s “I’m gonna blow their tits off!” has not been dethroned as most memorable one-liner. It’s amazing the kind of things you start to miss once they are absent for an episode or two.

Take a good hard look at those drab Shreveport and Bossier City, Louisiana locales standing in for Texas as we are now in linea recta back to the sun-baked beaches of Hawaii. The Dallas Connection offers an abundance of spies, thighs and possibly even more buxom bikini babes than you could shake a stick at. The gadgets, the ridiculous explosions, and the all too familiar plot all make a welcome return. Nevertheless, it makes you long for the simpler days of bright, sunny Hawaii locations and beach bunnies in skimpy candy-colored bikinis baring breasts and arms, usually in that order. When the explosions matched the breasts in size and frequency, and Ava Cadell and Lynda Wiesmeier were the only of preposterously proportioned outliers. The fixation on proportion that was already a problem in Enemy Gold (1993) is further compounded here, and Sidaris the elder would push things even further.

Apparently around the time the Sidaris were throwing around ideas for a boobs, babes, and bombs feature that was going to be called Battle Zone Hawaii . It was allegedly slated to star Nicki Fritz, Victoria Zdrok, and Julie’s little sister Lizzy Strain. Whatever the case, it must never have gotten beyond the pre-production phase as neither Sidaris ended up directing said feature. Neither did someone else, for that matter. For the next two years the Sidaris took a well-deserved break. The Dallas Connection had all the spies, thighs, bikinis and bullets you could want. Samantha Phillips and Julie K. Smith are singlehandedly responsible for putting fun back in funbags. For all intents and purposes, The Dallas Connection raised a concerted effort to bring the series back to its humble beginnings. And, against all odds and expectations, it succeeded.

Plot: disgraced janitor is the only one who can thwart a terrorist plot.

There was more to Hawaiian low budget trash specialist Albert Pyun than cyberpunk, chop sockey martial arts, and post-apocalyptic nonsense. He never shied away from occasionally trying to do something topical and timey. He was early to the virtual reality craze of the early 1990s with Arcade (1993) and, for example, the 1997 Handover of Hong Kong in Hong Kong 97 (1994). Blast was his woefully underwhelming contribution to the cycle of Die Hard (1988) plagiates that was winding down by that point. To give on idea of just how dour and dire the American low budget action filmmaking scene was around this time Andy Sidaris was making far better, or least nominally more fun, romps with Day Of the Warrior (1996) and Return to Savage Beach (1998), respectively. Old Andy could always be counted upon to hire a spate of beautiful women and his movies were set on sunny Hawaii, also not important. We have spilled a lot of blood on Pyun’s most enduring properties and some select titles here and there over the years but we were nevertheless saddened to hear of his passing on November 26, 2022, age 69, after many years of suffering from dementia and multiple sclerosis. While Pyun actively stopped filming in 2018 due to debilitating health the throne he vacated was usurped by Rene Perez and Neil Johnson, specialists in the kind of stuff he used to excel at.

There are those things that are better avoided. Like things that could potentially damage or ruin your career. One of these things was Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997). When offered the role Bridgette Wilson kindly declined to return and played a supporting role in I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) instead. Linden Ashby and Christopher Lambert were given copies of the script as well and they too refused to return. While Wilson actually went up a rung on the Hollywood ladder Ashby and Lambert found themselves in a different kind of hell, the one called Albert Pyun. Of the two Christopher Lambert ended up in the much better Mean Guns (1997) whereas Linden Ashby supposedly landed here to consolidate his status as upcoming action star. Unbelievable as it may sound, Ashby was at one point during the latter half of the nineties primed as the next big action star. Admittedly, he was very good in Mortal Kombat (1995) and Pyun used a torn-from-the-headlines real-life event as the basis of his script for Blast.

Which event? The 1996 Centennial Olympic Park terrorist bombing. To call something as unabashedly drab as this speculative fiction is far too generous. Besides the always charming Ashby regular Pyun warm bodies Andrew Divoff, Tim Thomerson, Thom Matthews, Norbert Weisser, and Yuji Okumoto do their usual spiel, which is really filling up space. Divoff, to his credit, would play a similar role in Air Force One (1997) later that year. Kimberly Warren, Jill Pierce, and Tina Cote were put to much better use, and actually given something to do, in the thriller Mean Guns (1997). Oh yeah, and 23-year-old Shannon Elizabeth – just two years before her big break in American Pie (1999) – stars as one of the hostages. Blast was filmed over a quick twelve days in April 1996 at the state-of-the-art Twin Towers Correctional Facility for around $700,000 and it looks like it too. Famous former and current inmates of Twin Towers include The Game, Paris Hilton, Steve-O, adult performer Ron Jeremy, and predatory film producer Harvey Weinstein. Mean Guns (1997) definitely is the better of the two. Which, while saying not much, unfortunately, says more than enough.

The 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. At a pre-Olympic event which the President is scheduled to attend the women’s swimming team is preparing. A group of terrorist headed up Kalal Omodo (Andrew Divoff) infiltrate and seize control of the Aquatic Center with help from a mole and Omodo’s head of security Moses (Jill Pierce). The cell sends a broadcast across the globe that bombs have been planted all over the Olympic buildings, that they hold the US swim team hostage at gunpoint and, in an ultimatum, they vow to start killing hostages one by one if their demands aren’t met. Remaining somehow out of bounds is Jack Bryant (Linden Ashby). Since sustaining debilitating injuries the former Olympic Taekwondo champion has fallen on hard times and is now a recovering alcoholic. He’s currently slumming it up as a janitor but is hired as a last-minute staffer. Once informed of the hostage situation the Mayor (Barbara Roberts) throws together an improved crisis management meeting with help of an FBI agent (Yuji Okumoto), the police commissioner (Tim Thomerson) and a city aide (Tina Cote). Also sitting in is paraplegic wheelchair-bound Native American Interpol counter-terrorist specialist Leo (Rutger Hauer). From a distance the panel tries to assess and diffuse the situation. Only after his black co-worker Bena (Sonya Eddy) is killed and team trainer Bill (Thom Mathews) tries to strike a deal with terrorist leader Omodo does Bryant realize the building has been taken over by hostile armed forces. Things take a turn for the personal when he learns that his ex-wife Diane Colton (Kimberly Warren) is among the hostages. Will Bryant be able to thwart the terrorist plot?

With Chad Stahelski only netting a “special thanks” credit the action direction and choreography is nothing to get particularly excited about. Linden Ashby acquits himself well enough, but imagine what this could have been with an actual action director on board. In recent years Stahelski has risen to fame as a director on his own with the very lucrative (and ongoing) John Wick (2014-) franchise. Not only is the action direction and choreography on the lame side of terrible, none of the kills really mean anything. In Die Hard (1988) every character had a function, was given enough background, and every kill represented a milestone in the trajectory of the main character. Here none of the goons can be told apart and since the villains wear the same blue uniform as the main character at times it’s hard to tell exactly who did what to whom. Divoff plays the bad guy well enough, Ashby has charisma to spare, and the women are uniformly beautiful – but Pyun’s script (under his usual Hannah Blue alias) is skeletal, to say the least. None of the emergency committee members are given so much as a name (“the mayor”, “the police commissioner”, “FBI agent”, “city aide”, etc) which seems pretty… basic?

Pyun always had a bunch of pretty women in his stock company and here Jill Pierce, Tina Cote, and Kimberly Warren embody the 90s definition of hot. Only Warren has a role with some weight whereas Pierce and Cote are stuck in thankless decorative parts. You’d imagine that Pyun would put more focus on either Jill Pierce or Tina Cote but no such thing ever really materializes. For shame, Al, for shame. Tina Cote, whose presence usually lights up any of Pyun's more banal output, has a part so insignificant that it's easy to forget that she's in this at all. Kimberly Warren was the greatest Pyun babe to never go anywhere. Warren is given little more to do than standing around, and occasionally looking misty-eyed. At least Pyun was wise enough to get her white T-shirt wet. Jill Pierce was the reason to see Mean Guns (1997) even if she was only in there for a brief second or two here she has a slightly bigger role. Why Pyun never made her, Cote, or Pierce into his action muse as he did with Kristie Phillips in Spitfire (1995) is a question for the ages. Why we never got a The Doll Squad (1973) or Charlie's Angels (1976-1981) imitation with these three ladies boggles the mind. In retrospect the biggest star here is probably Shannon Elizabeth who was a two years away from making it big and would become a pillar on American television afterwards.

For the most part Blast is a case of wasted (or at least unfulfilled) potential. Nemesis (1992) was the perfect storm and Albert Pyun was never able to recreate that magic. If Blast is shorn of anything it’s Pyun’s usual style and swagger. The Hong Kong aspirations of Nemesis (1992) are nowhere to be found. The gun pyrotechnics are disappointingly flat lacking in both urgency and impact. None of the individual fights carry any weight and have something of an underrehearsed feel. The Twin Towers Correctional Facility was an incredible location but it isn’t used to maximum effect. Say what you will about former Pyun alum Jean-Claude Van Damme but he was at the height of his success and power by 1997, Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) was two years old by this point – and even though Steven Seagal begun his decline he was still considered a legitimate action star. Albert Pyun was in the habit of making stars out of the unknown and rehabilitating disgraced (and fallen) action stars but he himself never ascended (or transcended) his low budget roots. Nor was he able to legitimize himself with a big budget production. Blast is emblematic of Pyun as a director and at every point effortlessly fails to deliver that what its title would have you believe. Under Siege (1992), Speed (1994), or Con Air (1997) this most certainly is not. Hell, it doesn’t even come within an inch of Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995). Had it been half as cartoony as Air Force One (1997) then at least it had been fun. Alas, it is not.