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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: diamond is stolen from high-profile target. LETHAL Ladies are on the case.

Andy Sidaris closed the book on the original LETHAL Ladies franchise with Fit to Kill, the conclusion of the three-part Kane storyline and the last of the 5-picture deal that Sidaris brokered after the home video success of Picasso Trigger (1988). Not all episodes were created equal, and some were just plain better than others. The LETHAL Ladies movies never aspired to anything more than fun-loving spy/action romps set in and around Hawaii with a rotating bevy of bosomy belles in candy-colored bikinis and where explosions, shootouts, and an abundance of oversized breasts stood in for trivial things such as inter-episode continuity, ongoing plot, and character development. For a while the series had been losing steam but good old Andy had found a new muse in the interim. The last original LETHAL Ladies chapter Fit to Kill is a glorious throwback to the halcyon days of Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987) and Savage Beach (1989).

The franchise always largely served as an excuse to flaunt big guns (both literal and figurative), oversized explosions, and the thinnest veneer of a spy-action plot. Nobody loved beautiful women more than the late Andy Sidaris and what better way to get into their good graces than to promise them stardom? In their six years with the series Dona Speir, Roberta Vasquez, and Cynthia Brimhall all had become, to lesser or greater extent, superstars in their own little corner of cult cinema. After Hope Marie Carlton bade the series farewell after Savage Beach (1989) it effectively made Dona Speir the de facto series mascot. Years of headlining the LETHAL Ladies had taken their toll on Speir and she was ready to move on. Fit to Kill was the last featuring Speir, Vasquez, and Brimhall and (obviously) new blood and bodies were needed. Sidaris the elder was, for all intents and purposes, ready to retire the series and what was more fit to kill the franchise than the “Andy’s greatest hits” that was Fit to Kill? In the two years that followed Andy’s son Christian Drew took up the mantle and produced the two expanded universe episodes Enemy Gold (1993) and The Dallas Connection (1994) with his Skyhawks Films. Sidaris the younger may not have gloriously risen to the occassion, but he managed to extend the series’ lifespan beyond what was reasonably expected of it. Both Sidaris universes merged in Day of the Warrior (1996) and Return to Savage Beach (1998).

To keep its operatives sharp The Agency is organizing war games. After the obligatory swim in the resident pool Donna Hamilton (Dona Speir) and Nicole Justin (Roberta Vasquez) engage Shane Abilene (Michael J. Shane, as Michael Shane) and Bruce Christian (Bruce Penhall) in a round of paintball and target practice. Meanwhile at Aladdin Resort & Casino, Martin Kane (Geoffrey Moore, as RJ Moore) is hatching a convoluted plan to bring down federal agent Hamilton, lure his former criminal associate Po (Craig Ng, as Craig Ryan Ng) into the open, and take possession of the vaunted Alexa diamond. At no point does Silk (Carolyn Liu), an Agency informant, find it necessary to relay any of this information. Having failed to produce the Klystron Relay nuclear trigger as ordered, Kane has now fallen out of Po’s and his client’s favor making him fair game for not respecting the criminal code. Po has dispatched statuesque leather-clad hitwoman Blu Steele (Julie Strain) to collect the outstanding debt and the prize on his head.

Back at the The Agency headquarters Lucas (Tony Peck) briefs the agents of their latest objective: the infiltration of a high-society black-tie event wherein philanthropist and entrepreneur Chang (Aki Aleong) will cordially donate the Russian imperial diamond stolen from the Leningrad museum during World War II to a Russian diplomat as an act of restoration. The Agency will monitor the diamond, handle security, and oversee the exchange. It sounds like a simple enough operation. Edy (Cynthia Brimhall) and Lucas commence the necessary preparations, while Donna and Bruce reconoiter the event perimeter for any possible breaches. Nicole busies herself with screening all of the invitees and personnel. Rookie agent Ava (Ava Cadell) will act as a delegate to meet Russian diplomat Mikael Petrov (Rodrigo Obregón, as Rodrigo Obregon) and his aide Gregor (Mark Barriere). Shane Abilene will stay behind at the offices of K SXY radio and familiarize new Agency trainee Sandy (Sandra Wild) with all the necessary procedures, in theory and in practice, before her first field operation. In the confusion at the black-tie party Kane’s tracking necklace is stolen (among other riches) leading Nicole and Bruce on a hurried retrieval mission while being chased by bumbling assassins Evil (Chu Chu Malave) and Kinevil (Richard Cansino). When the true culprit finally reveals himself Donna, Kane, and a few bystanders are abducted. An explosive, bullet-ridden clash between the various factions seems imminent. As the smoke clears and the chaos subsides Donna Hamilton solemny philosophizes that her “work here is done.” Prophetic words, indeed.

A changing of the guards was on the horizon and with the late great Julie Strain the series was given a second lease on life. Strain was a Penthouse Pet (June, 1991), Pet of the Year (1993), muse of Spanish fantasy illustrator Luis Royo, and she who should have been Vampirella. Strain was no stranger to action with roles in Hollywood actioners as Out For Justice (1991) (with Steven Seagal) and Double Impact (1991) (with Jean-Claude Van Damme) next to bit parts in Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994) and Beverly Hills Cop III (1994). As Speir retired from the series Strain became the new mascot easily eclipsing her equally well-endowed co-stars Shae Marks and Julie K. Smith. The new cast never really gelled and there was no real chemistry between Strain and Marks the way there was between either Speir-Carlton or Speir-Vasquez. It was never for a lack of trying on Julie’s part. She took these roles perhaps far more serious than they deserved.

The only real new face (or body, rather) is Sandra Wild. Wild appeared in Playboy several times over the years, most notably in August 1991 as part of the “California Dreamin’” article. In a rare exception to Sidaris casting traditions Sandra apparently never made it to Playmate but appeared in multiple of their home videos. She also starred in the 1990 Michael Bay directed music video for ‘Up All Night’ from Slaughter. Wild amassed a respectable amount of (mostly uncredited) decorative roles in popular television series as Married with Children (1989), Full House (1989), Columbo (1990), Star Trek: The Next Generation (1990), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1994), and Walker, Texas Ranger (1995). Not that that translated into something resembling a real acting career. For better or worse, the casting choices here would be an omen for things to come.

Sidaris, senior and junior alike, were about to learn an important lesson: with great boobs comes great responsibility. While there never was any particular shortage of willing and able Playmates to choose from they would never quite find suitable replacements for both Dona Speir and Hope Marie Carlton or Roberta Vasquez. Christian Drew tried his darndest to find the right duo (you may interpret that any way you want) but none were really able to recreate the chemistry between the original two platinum blondes. Roberta Vasquez really made the role of Nicole Justin (who always was a thinly-veiled proxy-Taryn) her own and Strain was only second to her in becoming a pillar of the series in her own right. All of which speaks to just how iconic Dona Speir and Hope Marie Carlton were to the series and how dangerously their shadow loomed over whoever was chosen to follow in their collective footprints. For the most part the rule of thumb was that a Playmate’s bust-size was inversely proportional to her line-reading skills (Julie Strain being the exception). The original LETHAL Ladies would be resurrected for two episodes with Day of the Warrior (1996) and Return to Savage Beach (1998). No more sequels were produced by either Andy or Christian Drew after 1998. Sidaris the elder himself would pass away in 2007. In the decade-plus since nobody has risen to the task of filling that particular niche. Secretly we’re hoping either Rene Perez or Benjamin Combes will do so, but only time will tell.