Plot: in a post-apocalyptic wasteland two starlets seek a sacred stag reel.
John Michael McCarthy is probably the closest America has come to having a Josh Collins. Collins was the master of ceremonies behind Pervirella (1997) (with Emily Booth) and Superstarlet AD is cut from a very similar cloth. Pervirella (1997) was a Victorian steampunk cosplay extravaganza with enough boobage and bounce to make Jim Wynorski proud. Superstarlet AD on the other hand is a monochrome tribute to the Russ Meyer and John Waters repertoire, 1950s science fiction, and 60s drive-in exploitation fare (delinquent youth, nudie-cuties, roughies, various countercultures) complete with colored The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) campy musical numbers and comedic interludes, striptease routines, and lesbian histrionics. In other words, Superstarlet AD is a mostly forgotten nouveau retro antecedent styled after Barbarella (1968) pre-dating Anna Biller’s exquisite feminist manifesto The Love Witch (2016) (with Samantha Robinson) by over a decade and a half. It premiered on the 2001 SXSW Film festival alongside Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Amores Perros (2000), Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000), and Lukas Moodyson’s Together (2000) and it was part of the seventh annual Chicago Underground Film Festival at the Fine Arts in Michigan in 2000. Since then it has become a beloved cult item no matter how much of an obscurity it might be.
Shot alternating in color and black and white in and around Memphis in just 16 days on a miniscule budget of $16,000 and promoted with the tagline, “when man turns to ape woman turns to woman” Superstarlet AD is a curio even in cult circles. Like Eraserhead (1977), Begotten (1989) and 964 Pinocchio (1991) it’s pervaded with that cold industrial feel of stark alienation and dystopian desolation. The cast consists of enthusiastic amateurs with Kerine Elkins, Gina Velour, and Michèle Carr in the principal roles. All three ladies fill their bras more convincingly than their roles, although nobody can be accused of not bringing any gusto, vigor, and enthusiasm to their respective parts. While there are planks of wood with more acting talent the trio throw their all into the roles, most of which are dialogue-heavy with Velour providing near-constant narration. Despite, or rather in spite, of obvious budgetary limitations Superstarlet AD is very artsy and quirky at times. For a no-budget indie it’s custodian to number of beautifully composed shots and frequently looks far more expensive than what it cost. Very much like Galaxina (1980) before it this is a spoof that plays its humor completely straight.
After an unspecified extinction level event simply referred to as, “the Cataclysm” has reduced to the world to a smoke-shrouded barren post-nuclear wasteland and what little remains of the male population has literally reverted to Neanderthals. As the “homosexual” fashion industry was obliterated during the Cataclysm ammunition, clothing, and lipstick are in short supply. This is Apocalypse Meow. The women of this wasteland have flocked together in a make-shift gyno-centric society always on the brink of war. “Beauty cults” or violent gun-toting all-girl gangs of a specific hair color and dress code roam the streets. Three major gangs have emerged from beneath the remains of yesterday’s world. First, there are the Satanas (modeled after Tura Satana) presided over by Verona (Michèle Carr, as Michelle Carr). Then there are the Phayrays who fashion themselves after Fay Wray and Mamie van Doren and are led by Ultramame (Rita D'Albert). Lastly, there are the treacherous Tempests (as in burlesque dancer Tempest Storm) who congegrate in the Replay Lounge and worship a sewing machine that they don’t know how to operate. Velvet (Katherine Greenwood, as Odessa Greenwood) is the only of the clan who can, but she adamantly refuses. Not even a good whipping from resident dominatrix Cathy X (Kitty Diggins) can sway her. Jezebel (Kerine Elkins) is the 13th mistress to rule the gang. All three engage in open war and territorial disputes are commonplace. The Phayrays and Satanas desire nothing else but to topple the power-hungry Verona and claim her crown and its attendant power as their own.
In the abandoned city of Femphis dark-haired Naomi (Gina Velour) and her platinum blonde girlfriend Rachel (Alicja Trout) set out on a perilous quest raiding every movie theatre they come across in hopes of finding her grandmother’s sacred stag reel or some dye converts. During one such excursions the two find subversive, hot rod-riding, clothes-wearing redhead Valentine (Katherine St. Valentine, as Kate St. Valentine) - apparently an actress from the 1950s who was comatose when the world ended - and is understandably confused in and by the present day. Naomi is the pacifist leader of a new beauty cult, the Superstarlets, where hair color is of no importance. When Naomi learns from Valentine about a place called Retro Metro, the last in Femphis where dresses can be found, a turf war seems imminent. The Phayrays desire to recruit Rachel into their ranks and Valentine’s knowledge furthers the interests of the Satanas. Jezebel is wise enough to put her petty dreams of dominating all gangs aside and let the encroaching chaos do her dirty work for her. Negotiating a truce between the Satanas, the Phayrays, and the Tempests will clear the path for her future usurpation of all power and their fragile coalition will last long enough to destroy their clear and present problem, the dissident Naomi. In a world "gone nudie-cutie, Armageddon style,” and in a war waged by mostly by hair-pulling and jiggling over-sized busts will there be enough stockings, garter belts, suspenders, and vintage bustiers for things to come to a peaceful resolve?
All of the women are pretty enough, although they might not appeal to those not into that whole underground punk/retro pin-up aesthetic. Admittedly, we’re no fans of some of the thicker make-up that Kerine Elkins can be seen wearing either but other than that there’s very little to complain. The biggest and obvious references on that front are Bettie Page, Jayne Mansfield and Mamie Van Doren, Wendy O. Williams, Kitten Natividad, Betty Brosmer, Uschi Digard, Monique Devereux, and Tura Satana. Or full-figured, healthy-looking women who weren’t afraid to showcase their wealthy, natural curves and whom - at least by some of today’s unrealistic and unforgiving beauty standards that seem canonize the sickly and skeletal thin above all else - would either be described as plus-size or plain fat. As near as we can tell most of the cast seem to come from either the Velvet Hammer burlesque troupe, exotic dancer, or the underground punk pool. It does raise one question: why were the Julies, the late great Strain and K. Smith, not in this? Superstarlet AD was something right in their wheelhouse, boudoir, or lingerie closet rather. Strain had taken her top off for lesser filmmakers and on scanter budgets in those unrewarding post-Sidaris years. Those who love vintage lingerie will get an absolute kick out of Superstarlet AD as these gun-toting belles brandish more than enough stockings, garter belts, suspenders and such to satiate anyone’s craving. With that in mind, this is probably the greatest monochrome post-apocalyptic sci-fi Andy Sidaris and Jim Wynorski never made
Nostalgia. That most addictive of drugs. That’s indeed what propels Superstarlet AD forward. Pinpointing when exactly the nouveau retro movement started is anyone’s guess. Superstarlet AD is probably a good place to start. American horror was firmly in the post-modern grip of the self-referential and the meekly comedic, and Asian horror (specifically Japan) was experiencing some of a resurgence.
If something like this were made today it practically begged for curvaceous cuties as French Instagram sex bomb Green Cat From Hell, French-Canadian alt model Ardaeth, American go-go dancer and devil-do-all Toriikills, Ukrainian belly dancer Diana Bastet, Icelandic booty babe and Playboy Playmate of the Month (September, 2014) Arna Bára Karlsdóttir, Australian-British OnlyFans sensation Leah Wilde, or American adult stars as Natalie Monroe, Kayla Kiss, or Reya Reign, to name just a few. Karlsdóttir, Wilde, Kiss, Reign, and even Green Cat From Hell (despite the obvious language barrier) could very well pull it off considering the roleplay they all frequently engage in. With nostalgia stronger than ever before and the longing for simpler times the question is whether there would an audience for such a thing. It is another discussion entirely who would be best qualified to helm such a feature. Wynorski descended into caricature and parody around the time this came out, and it’s safe to assume he’s a lost cause at this point. Unless by some divine intervention he regains his composure suddenly. That leaves the younger generation to meet the demand. Benjamin Combes, Neil Johnson, and Rene Perez have all shown an affinity and knack for such a thing.