Skip to content

Plot: can a maiden fair save the realm from the evil Snow Queen?

The early years and filmography of California indie director Rene Perez offers a wide array of features across a number of genres. Most notably among them the zombie horror franchise The Dead and the Damned (2011-2015) and the western / Predator (1987) crossover Alien Showdown: The Day the Old West Stood Still (2013). Unique to these early years are Perez’ European fairytale adaptations which typically play fast and loose with their source material. On the plus side many of these adaptations star early Perez muses Irina Levadneva, Nadia Lanfranconi, and Jenny Allford. In that sense it’s emblemic of the other two that would follow. The Snow Queen has little to nothing to do with the timeless Hans Christian Andersen fairytale upon which it is allegedly based, and largely exists as preamble to get Irina Levadneva, Aurelia Scheppers, and Jenny Allford out of their clothes. It even has the gall to insert a completely unnecessary and alien para-military subplot that comes across as a technical exercise for some of his later productions. Sleeping Beauty (2014) and Little Red Riding Hood (2016) both introduced foreign elements into their main plots, but at least they bore some vague semblance to the classic European fairytales which ostensibly served as their conceptual basis.

That The Snow Queen would bear almost no resemblance to the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale is a given. Only the Gerda, and Kai characters, and both the Troll and The Snow Queen are accounted for, both none of the plot remotely resembles the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale. At heart The Snow Queen apparently wants to be a fantastique, a genre practiced primarily in France and Spain in the nineteen-seventies. As with many an early Perez feature The Snow Queen too is a victim of padding and is filled to the gill with atmospheric scenic shots that do nothing to forward the story. Sleeping Beauty (2014) suffered from much of the same defects, thankfully Rene would have remedied this tendency by the time he lensed the original Playing with Dolls (2015) and its many sequels. Just when you think that Perez is going to get to the meat of the story a completely unnecessary and alien para-military subplot, that feels not only wildly out of place, but should have been its own feature altogether, is introduced. The Snow Queen comes across as a barely concealed test-run for Playing with Dolls (2015) and like The Obsidian Curse (2016) a few years down the line feels more like a technical exercise than a movie. The fantasy mainplot hardly aspires to anything more than advanced cosplaying and never attains Arrowstorm Entertainment level of professionalism.

A distant kingdom has been plunged into eternal winter by a curse from the Snow Queen (Nadia Lanfranconi). The only thing that can stop the Snow Queen is a magic mirror. Wandering the snowbound forest fair maiden Gerda (Irina Levadneva, as Iren Levy) is happy when her man Kai (Robert Amstler) returns from the Crusades. The Snow Queen has dispatched a troll to capture whoever possesses the magic mirror. That just so happens to be Kai, and he’s imprisoned by one of the Snow Queen’s spells. In the village a cleric brother Liolinus (John J. Welsh) posits only innocent and pure Gerda can withstand the Snow Queen, and sends her on a perilous quest. Meanwhile, on the other side of time, the US Army has ordered Colonel Richard Wagner (David Reinprecht) to locate and retrieve an expensive prototype of body armor, and the culprit responsible for the theft. To that end he has tracked down deserter Valtranz (Robert S. Dixon) to a remote snowbound forest. In that same forest a trio of scientists – Walter (Ian Dalziel), Annika Hansen (Aurelia Scheppers), and Nichelle (Jenny Allford) – are conducting investigations into inexplicable energy surges in the area. What all three parties will come to realize is that they’re all drawn to the nefarious Snow Queen.

Aurelia Scheppers actually had a career prior to working Perez. She appeared in music videos from P!nk (‘Fuckin’ Perfect’) and Lifehouse (‘Halfway Gone’), and had guest roles in series as Lie to Me (2009), Bones (2009), The Young and the Restless (2012), and Switched at Birth (2014). Her highest-profile guest roles have been in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2015), GLOW (2017), and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2017). The same goes for Robert Amstler, and Raven Lexy. Amstler once played bit parts in A-list movies as Flightplan (2005) and The Lincoln Lawyer (2011), but now seems lost in low budget hell. Lexy from her side had bit parts in Entourage (2000), and Numb3rs (2008) and even starred alongside Jason Statham in Crank: High Voltage (2009). Like her colleague Irina Levadneva, Lexy appeared in only three Rene Perez features. The year before she was in Demon Hunter (2012), and the year after in The Dead the Damned and the Darkness (2014), which also featured Levadneva. Irina would make her final Perez appearance in his Little Red Riding Hood (2016).

Jenny Allford’s sole claim to fame is an uncredited part as one of the party chicks in Seth MacFarlane’s Ted (2012). From there she descended straight into the low budget hell known as TomCat Films. In that capacity she appeared in Captain Battle: Legacy War (2013), and Lizzie Borden's Revenge (2013). On both occassions she shared the screen with Marlene Mc'Cohen. In case of the latter that also meant that former porn star Veronica Ricci was on hand. You know that there’s trouble ahead when the porn star acts better than the alleged actresses, and the poster art is better than the movie. Not that that always is the case, mind, Ricci was pretty fucken abysmal in Mc'Cohen’s mockbuster Interstellar Wars (2016). Whether Allford’s lot has improved is entirely up for debate, but TomCat Films is a fate so awful that you wish it upon nobody. Well, it’s a step above Neil Breen, but we’re not sure how much that’s saying exactly.

As would sadly become obvious in the following years simple economics forced director Rene Perez to take quite a few liberties with the material he was adapting. All of which would be perfectly alright if actually served the story at hand. It doesn’t here. The Snow Queen desperately wants to be a fantastique, or the closest proxy to that. It isn’t. At best this could have been a loose remake of, say, Blood Of the Virgins (1967), Girl Slaves Of Morgana Le Fay (1971), Nude For Satan (1973), Seven Women For Satan (1973), Vampyres (1975), or even Huntress: Spirit Of the Night (1995) more than anything else. Most of the times it looks like an early Nightwish or Immortal music video, to be entirely frank.

Not that we begrudge Perez for attempting to do these adaptations when he has access to those scenic California woodlands, as well as Castello di Amorosa in Napa Valley, and Castle Noz in San Joaquin Valley. It only speaks of ambition to attempt such a thing on the limited budgets he works on. Why attempt adapting a fairytale when a gothic horror throwback (with a gratuitous dose of blood and boobs) would have sufficed, or worked even better? Rene obviously has access to the locations, the babes, and the props/special effects to undertake such a venture. There’s no question that Rene can do much with what is obviously very little, but The Snow Queen is not that movie. Perez can, and would, do better in the years to come.

Plot: can Pervirella save Condon from the evil Queen Victoria?

After the fall of the great houses of Hammer, Amicus, and Tigon and with directors-producers as Norman J. Warren and Pete Walker moving out of the filmmaking business British exploitation – and cult cinema seemed destined for obscurity. For a while, at least, that was indeed the case… until 1997. That year two figureheads of counterculture, two masters of fringe cinema joined forces for Perverilla, a vaudevillian throwback of deliberate kitsch and cheese that, for all intents and purposes, was to be a celebration of yesteryear’s celluloid heroes of the preposterous, and the grotesque. Far from a critical – and commercial success upon original release it attained something of a rabid cult following in ensuing decades. In no small part responsible for that following was it being an early outing for two future British television personalities, the last great hurrah for ailing British - and Italian exploitation mainstay David Warbeck, and a showcase for the considerable assets of a young (and often very naked) Emily Booth.

The mad genius behind Pervirella is Josh Collins - a first class honors graduate from Central St. Martins school of Art and Design in London in 1990 - who made a name for himself in British nightlife with his underground cabaret and burlesque club The Frat Shack, RHB Exotic Entertainment as well as his bars in Melbourne and Perth. Collins and his entourage are behind the annual retro music festivals Wild Weekend Festival in the UK and Spain as well as the Las Vegas Grind in Las Vegas, Nevada. With his Zombie Zoo Productions production company Collins conceptualizes, designs, and manufactures everything from sets, costumes, and props for the various live performances of his artist collective. As an avid fan of cult cinema from the sixties to eighties Collins was bound to envision his own deviant feature and with The Perv Parlor (1995) that was indeed what happened. Helming The Perv Parlor (1995) was underground filmmaker Alex Chandon who by then had helmed micro-budget splatter epics as Chainsaw Scumfuck (1988), Bad Karma (1991), and Drillbit (1992). In short, Josh Collins is the embodiment of decadence and excess, and more or less the British equivalent to notorious boob-lovers as Jim Wynorski, Andy Sidaris, or Bill Zebub.

Pervirella was to be Collins’ most ambitious and engrossing production up to that point. A spiritual successor to his The Perv Parlor (1995) filled to the gill with oneiric fantasy images, Victorian Age period costumes, ornately designed candy-colored full-size sets, cartoony miniatures, and model animation. It was to be the scion to everything from School For Sex (1969), Zeta One (1969) and Girl Slaves Of Morgana LeFay (1971) to Flesh Gordon (1974), Marie, the Doll (1976), StarCrash (1979) and Galaxina (1980). Following in the footsteps of Luane Peters, Judy Matheson, Kirsten Lindholm, Yutte Stensgaard, Pippa Steel, and Mary and Madeleine Collinson was 21-year-old Cheshire hottie Emily Booth, a curvaceous cutie with an aversion to clothing. As Pervirella Booth was modeled after Jean-Claude Forest’s Barbarella and the Roger Vadim adaptation from 1968 where female libido is the strongest currency, as well as Modesty Blaise. Collins’ creation had a penchant for dressing in pink just as Hanna-Barbera's Penelope Pitstop from Wacky Races (1968) and there never was a situation where Pervirella couldn’t get out of by flashing her breasts or swinging her ass. Among the many guest stars are Redemption Film muses Eileen Daly, and Rebecca Eden, as well as the controversial, BAFTA award winning Jonathan Ross (BBC’s highest paid star as of 2006) and The Word and Never Mind The Buzzcocks host Mark Lamarr. Early in the production Caroline Munro was to guest star as well, but she left after a few weeks. That Pervirella was a satirical jab at the the Royal House of Windsor is an added bonus. Before America got in on the action with Superstarlet A.D. (2000), there was Pervirella.

In the realm of Condon, evil Queen Victoria (Sexton Ming) has decreed that dissidents – intelligentsia, perverts, and otherwise - are to be rounded up and summarily executed. To that end the Queen orders that a wall be built around Condon establishing her long pined after “Monarchy of Terror”. In the underground dissent and discord with the establishment are rife and soon a rebel alliance is growing in the bowels of the city. The rebels call themselves The Cult of Perv and are presided over by the Demon Nanny (Rebecca Eden). For as long as she has been their ruler the Demon Nanny and her Cult of Perv have indulged themselves in the “Sins of the Depraved”. In her death throes she gives birth to a girl (Anna McMellin) who within seconds grows into a voluptuous babe that the Pervs name Pervirella (Emily Booth, as Emily Bouffante). In Pervirella the Cult see their long prophesied savior and a fellowship is soon formed. Professor Rumphole Pump (Ron Drand), Monty (Shend, as The Shend), Sexton Ming (Anthony Waghorne), and special agent Amicus Reilly (David Warbeck) are to embark on a “Crusade Of Doom” and assist Pervirella in any way they see fit. On their zany globetrotting adventure Pervirella and her fellowship are besieged by agents of the malefic Victoria and a trio of witches. If her journey wasn’t dangerous enough Pervirella has one tiny problem: within her bountiful bosom resides a sex demon and whenever she loses her magic talisman she’s overcome by raging nymphomania and an urge to tear her clothes off; both of which she finds impossible not to indulge…

First and foremost Pervirella aimed to revitalize the British sex comedy by taking it back to its Benny Hill roots. Next to that it’s also a very lively steampunk fantastique that lovingly spoofs Eurospy conventions and that two decades prior would probably have been made in either France or Spain. It looks as if Monty Python, Peter Jackson, Renato Polselli, and Luigi Cozzi went on a bender and in their collective state of inebriation produced a screenplay that defies description. In other words, Pervirella is delightfully insane on about every level. It also happens to be Alex Chandon’s most entertaining feature by a wide margin. Here Chandon merely serves as a conduit to Collins’ vision and most, if not all, of his shortcomings are wholly absent. The candy-colored, circus sideshow, Victorian steampunk production design is a wonder to behold. It took cosplaying (a phenomenom that originally came from early 1980s Japan) and LARPing to a then-unprecendented level and we wouldn’t be surprised if much of its cult following derived from those spheres. Also not unimportant is that Pervirella at no point takes itself seriously and that its primary concern is to have fun, above all else. It’s also a good excuse to see freshfaced 21-year-old Emily Booth cavorting around in what seems like a permanent state of partial undress. Pervirella was the injection that the very British and all but extinct knickers and knockers subgenre needed. In any case, there’s an abundance of both but it never reaches Zeta One (1969) levels of camp. Pervirella even has her own swanky, sexy theme song, just like Barbarella (1968) and Galaxina (1980)!

What to say about Emily Booth (here still calling herself Bouffante) without becoming redundant? For one thing the Bouff debuted simultaneously in Hollywood as well as in British (and, by extent, European) trash cinema. Not only did she play the lead role in a vehicle with her mind, she also made a cameo in Paul W.S. Anderson’s failed sci-fi/horror hybrid Event Horizon (1997). If anything else, it goes to show that a terrible screenplay cannot be salvaged by a swathe of respectable Hollywood actors or a big budget. Event Horizon (1997) was a lot of things, but it wasn’t good by any metric you choose to employ. Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, and Joely Richardson couldn’t save Event Horizon (1997) – so how was the Bouff going to stand a chance? No, Ems did right by focusing her mad energies on Pervirella, which was never going to have any mainstream appeal. To her credit the Bouff was able to parlay her turn in Pervirella into a lucrative television – and modeling career. Just two years later Emily rechristened herself Booth and went on to host Bits (1999–2001), season three of outTHERE (2003), as well being a regular presenter on Eat Cinema (2006) (now My Channel), videoGaiden (2008), and the Horror Channel. In between her television gigs Ems found time to act in Alex Chandon’s Cradle Of Fear (2001) anthology and Inbred (2011), among many others. Not bad at all for a bubbly British lass never afraid to take her top off when and where it mattered.

The other big name was late New Zealand actor David Warbeck, a veteran of nearly 80 films in a career that spanned a quarter of a century, then in his twilight years. Warbeck started out in theater productions, and performed with a small touring company in New Zealand before being awarded the New Zealand Arts Council scholarship in 1965. The scholarship allowed him to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, England which he did for four terms. Sources differ whether Warbeck quit or was expelled (he was rumoured to have had an affair with Geraldine McEwan, the wife of Academy principal Hugh Cruttwell) which led him to a modeling career wherein he figured into various print – and television commercials as well as a number of fotoromanzi with Marisa Meil. His modeling engagements quickly led to opportunities in acting and Warbeck’s first role of note was in Trog (1970), the swansong of Hollywood Golden Age leading woman Joan Crawford. From there David was whisked to Italy by spaghetti western specialist Sergio Leone for A Fistful of Dynamite (1971). He returned to England for the Hammer horror Twins Of Evil (1971) from director John Hough and with Mary and Madeleine Collinson. In 1973 he was tipped to play James Bond in Live and Let Die (1973) before producer Albert R. Broccoli vetoed up-and-coming television actor Roger Moore from the spy-action series The Saint (1962-1969) who cut his teeth for the role as suave Simon Templeman.

In the years that followed Warbeck alternated between horror and action-adventure working for directors Lucio Fulci and Antonio Marghereti on The Last Hunter (1980), The Beyond (1981), Hunters Of the Golden Cobra (1982), and The Ark Of the Sun God (1984). Before Pervirella Warbeck’s last notable effort was Rat Man (1988) with Nelson de la Rosa. Warbeck famously shared the screen with everybody from Joan Crawford, Ava Gardner, Anthony Quinn, James Coburn, Jack Palance and Peter Cushing to embattled Italian exploitation babes as Janet Ågren, Laura Trotter, Tisa Farrow, Catriona MacColl, and Cinzia Monreale. While doing Pervirella Warbeck was under investigation for running a brothel out of his restored high Victorian gothic Hampstead palazzo, a colossus built by associates of Sir George Gilbert Scott at the time of the construction of St Pancras station. It was custodian to a miniature salon theatre that witnessed performances from Gilbert and Sullivan, George Grossmith and Ellen Terry.

That Pervirella is acquired taste almost goes without saying and it definitely isn’t for everybody. It’s intentionally kitschy in every aspect and the pastel – and cotton candy production design is enoug to send anyone away screaming. Yet there’s something strangely appealing about a steampunk pastiche that closely mirrors Flesh Gordon (1974) in terms of plot but is completely its own beast otherwise. It wouldn’t be until some twenty years later that Josh Collins took to directing his second feature with the equally irreverent and satirical Fags In the Fast Lane (2017). In the two decades after Pervirella Alex Chandon went on to produce a number of music videos for British extreme metal band Cradle Of Filth which culminated in the band featuring in his proper debut Cradle Of Fear (2001). While Cradle Of Filth exploded into the mainstream (at least in metal terms) and have carved out a very… er, interesting career path for themselves Chandon remained a humble unknown. Chandon’s most recent feature is the suprisingly entertaining Inbred (2011) and the short film compilation Shortcuts to Hell: Volume 1 (2013). Perhaps it’s unfortunate that the Pervirella universe was never expanded or explored with a sequel. Or perhaps not, as Pervirella draws as much strength from not having been tainted by sequelitis. Only one question that remains: who will replace Emily Booth as Britain's n° 1 bra-busting cult babe?