I’d been wanting to watch this 1993 movie called RUNNING DELILAH, first because it stars Kim Cattrall as a cyborg, then because I realized it was directed by Richard Franklin (ROAD GAMES, PSYCHO II, LINK), and it didn’t hurt that it co-starred THE PHANTOM himself, Billy Zane. What I didn’t figure out until shortly after I pressed play was that it was really an ABC TV pilot that was released as a TV movie when it wasn’t picked up for a series. It’s written by Ron Koslow, the screenwriter of INTO THE NIGHT, but more relevant to this he was the creator of Beauty and the Beast, the popular show with Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton. I guess RUNNING DELILAH was one of his romance/genre crossover ideas that didn’t fly.
And I do not believe it transcends that description, but I wanted to review it for The Cultural Record, so I’ll go ahead and throw in another TV movie, AMAZONS (1984) that was included on the same DVD. (It also had SUPERDOME  and THE AMY FISHER STORY [1993,the one with Drew Barrymore]) but I didn’t watch those.)
RUNNING DELILAH finds Christina (Cattrall) working as a secretary, but she’s actually Delilah, a spy trying to steal documents from her criminal boss (Yorgo Voyagis, VAMPIRE IN VENICE). She meets up with her partner Paul (Zane), who sports what was called a “Caesar cut,” as popularized by George Clooney on ER, and laments that they never got it on. He seems to take it well when she turns him down again, and this is actually one time when it’s a benefit that it was supposed to be a TV show. If it was a movie the guy she turns down would turn out to be a traitor, but since it’s a TV show it just means there will be sexual tension and then they’ll fall for each other.
The boss invites her to dinner but really she’s been made – he attacks her and takes her out to the woods, where she puts up a fight, but his men shoot her and leave her for dead. Paul finds her and because he’s in love with her he pressures a doctor guy (Francois Guetary) to use his not-ready-for-prime-time experimental cyborg technology to bring her back to life.
On one hand it’s cool because she doesn’t die and has new super abilities. On the other hand she feels like she’s no longer a woman or human and thinks it was pretty presumptuous of this dude she turned down to make that decision for her. Also, there’s some sense that she’s literally the property of the agency that spent all this money to make her into a valuable tool for their activities, and there are privacy issues because they can watch through her eyes on their monitors, and even record what she sees. So she freaks out and runs off at super robot speed, viewing the world with TV fuzz around the edges and Terminator-hand punching some guys in an alley.
There’s a funny scene where she and Paul are on a rooftop emotionally yelling at each other about all this and they calm down and they’re about to kiss but she puts her robot hand on his chest and the raini causes an electric shock to go through him. He jumps back and looks really pissed about it (shame on him for not being more understanding), but after a bit he gets over himself and starts to laugh, and she laughs and everything is fine.
(After that the robot parts are covered up and don’t seem to have this water issue anymore.)
The fun part is that she can learn whatever she wants by having programs uploaded into her. It takes longer than in THE MATRIX, but it’s still useful. She mentions that she always wanted to play piano, and then later she’s playing piano. After that they do a joke that I enjoy absolutely any time anyone does it: a scene transitions with a bluesy guitar riff that sounds like the soundtrack but then we see that Delilah herself is playing it. She plays guitar now. And she’s sitting on the piano, as if to signal that she got bored of that and moved on.
(See also: MAD MAX, when his wife is playing the saxophone.)
She also gets good at martial arts. And gymnastics. And learns French. And Paul gets jealous and defensive when she’s better than him on the gun range. Stupid asshole, you’re the one that turned her into a cyborg! But he gets over it.
By the way, she stops wearing her glasses, gets cool black hair, starts dressing way cooler (with a preference for black cat suits) and acting much more confident.
Of course for the last third she gets to go on a mission to Paris to bust the criminals responsible for her near-death and current state of robothood. But most of what she does is non-robot stuff like just staking out buildings and sitting in front of a computer with Paul looking at files. They act like it’s a big deal that she can hear and talk to them from inside her head even though earpiece technology existed at that time. Also she goes undercover as a sexy lady in a wig and latex jacket to seduce a guy. Even when you’re a super advanced cyborg who can literally and physically run circles around every other agent, if you’re a woman you gotta do the undercover hooker thing.
There’s a little bit of action. She thinks she’s getting attacked and kicks a guy through a wall. They fight a little during the climax, one of those “spying on the transaction in the warehouse and jumping down from the rafters” deals that is on every TV show of the ‘80s and ‘90s so it seems weak if you’re me and thought this was gonna be a movie. She fights briefly and then blows up a plane with one very accurate shot.
The craziest part of the movie is the last scene, where she comes out wearing only a bathrobe saying she wants to show Paul something and do an experiment. She sits on his lap, which is obviously suggestive, but it does not indicate any sort of intercourse. She closes her eyes and the whole apartment begins to shake and then it cuts to outside as all the windows in the building shatter and passersby try not to get hit. The end! I guess if there had been more episodes she could’ve harnessed her earthquake orgasm powers for counterterrorism.
Franklin still had a few more feature films in him at that point, but he’d done the pilots for the aforementioned Beauty and the Beast and a rom-com called A Fine Romance. In subsequent years he’d do episodes of The Lost World, BeastMaster and Flatland before his final film VISITORS in 2003.
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I was also under a wrong impression when I clicked on AMAZONS, because I thought it was gonna be fantasy, assuming it was the 1986 movie of the same title that has a very memorable painted cover. This is nothing like that, and it’s also nothing like the unrelated photo they used on the DVD menu. Like RUNNING DELILAH it was made for ABC, but nine years earlier and as a movie of the week.
It does start out like a fantasy movie, with Amazons in the midst of battle, on horseback, shooting arrows at knights in a foggy, fiery nightscape. But then it skips to Washington DC, present day (1984).
This one’s a little better than RUNNING DELILAH in that it feels like a self-contained movie, albeit one clearly made for network television in the early ‘80s. It does have a surprisingly strong cast, plus a score by the great Basil Poledouris some time between the two CONAN movies, and cinematography by the also great Dean Cundey, who’d already done HALLOWEEN I, II and III and soon would do BACK TO THE FUTURE. The director is Paul Michael Glaser, the actor from Starsky & Hutch, and it’s the first thing he directed besides episodes of that show. He would go on to direct BAND OF THE HAND, THE RUNNING MAN and KAZAAM. The screenplay is by David Solomon, some writer from Hart to Hart, but with a co-story credit to THE CANDY SNATCHERS director Guerdon Trueblood.
The #1 thing that keeps it watchable is an earnest and likable performance by Madeleine Stowe, whose credits at that point mostly consisted of episodes of Baretta, The Amazing Spider-Man, Trapper John M.D., etc. She plays Dr. Sharon Fields, the new doctor at a DC hospital who’s learning the ropes, getting hit on by male doctors like Dr. Jerry Menzies (Peter Scolari, a few years after Bosom Buddies) and offered support by a more senior female doctor, Dr. Cosgrove (Jennifer Warren, SLAP SHOT, MUTANT). It’s definitely trying to point out the condescending attitudes men have toward her and her accomplishments, but also being a movie of the time she’s too nice to the men and of course secretly charmed by their advances sometimes. At least there’s one part where she blurts out “That’s absolutely sexist!,” sounding almost amused by a co-worker’s idiocy.
She gets into trouble when a congressman under her care flips out and runs into the street and gets run over, and she gets the blame for it.
For a while it’s intriguing. Since she’s new in town I figured she would either be one of the Amazons secretly living among us, or be recruited by them. But we soon see that she’s just stuck in the middle – they killed this politician as part of their scheme for world domination, and she might get sued for malpractice, so she starts looking into what happened and finds out too much. Dr. Cosgrove is one of the Amazons and likes her, so she tries to swing it so they don’t have to kill her, which Vivian (Leslie Bevis, ALIEN NATION, THE OPPOSITE OF SEX) is itching to do.
By the way, I should note that they are not immortals, they are descendants of the original Amazon tribe, generationally indoctrinated by their mothers. They get together to do katas and their daughters have archery competitions and oath ceremonies. Also they conspire to embed women into the highest positions of power allowed through hiring, elections or marriage and then murder the men above them to put them in charge. And now there’s a woman who might become vice president.
The highlight and most underutilized aspect of the movie is CLEOPATRA JONES herself, Tamara Dobson, as Rosalund Joseph, another employee at the hospital who obviously is an Amazon too. Not just because she wears the bow and arrow trinket on her wrist that all of them wear – the lady is 6’ 2” and looks glamorous as hell even in a lab coat. She gets the one fight scene in the movie (beating down two PCP dudes that flip out in the hospital, because “When you’re from Washington DC you learn a little self defense”) and a few dialogue scenes with Stowe, but unfortunately she’s kind of a supporting Amazon, and after this she retired from acting.
There’s a scene where Dr. Cosgrove goes to an art gallery opening and immediately gets hit on by some dude, who she disses, then immediately gets hit on by a second dude. It reminded me of the scene in this film’s sidequel WONDER WOMAN 1984 where Wonder Woman has to keep brushing off admirers at the party, except Dr. Cosgrove takes a look at the second guy, a younger guy, and says, “You’ll do.” Post-sex he’s laying on her bed and comments on the painting of Amazon warriors she has on the wall. I’m not sure if he notices her crossbow.
He scoffs at the idea of Amazons, saying, “Ah yeah, I read about them. It’s obviously a myth though,” because how could women survive without men? So the doctor sternly gives him one of those “let me explain exactly how this works… uh, I mean, according to legend” speeches outlining their method of conquering male tribes, selecting a few to keep as sex slaves for impregnation purposes and then executing them. She lets this guy go, though, so I assume some of their attitudes have changed.
I’ve skipped over the fact that Lt. Tony Monaco (Jack Scalia, RED EYE) a homicide detective investigating the death of the congressman, also hits on Dr. Fields, and she resists but then starts dating him and later convinces him of this Amazon theory and they spy and an arrow gets shot through his car window, etc.
Stowe is really good at selling alot of pretty crappy dialogue about why work is more important to her than personal relationships and things like that. She’s easy to like so I found myself disappointed in her for being so happy with the restoration of the status quo at the end. Watching the movie is a struggle to figure out how much it’s a movie about men’s fear of women and how much it’s a movie projecting men’s fear of women. Unfortunately I ended up thinking it was mostly the latter.
Don’t get me wrong, I disagree with the Amazons murdering politicians, as well as their historical practice of sex slavery. Not cool. I’m against it. But it’s very convenient for this premise to use those non-existent things as arguments against the real life struggle for women to be in positions of power. At the end our strong female doctor character is celebrating the arrest of the first ever female vice president, while making kissy kissy with the cop who followed her around and waited outside her house to prove his “persistence” until she stopped turning him down.
Yeah, I guess that was 1984 for you. To add insult to injury, this is the plot summary currently on IMDb:
“A secret cult of beautiful, large-breasted female warriors plots to take over the world by killing off important male politicians.”
It’s all accurate except I swear to you there is nothing about breasts in here at all. That is never implied to be a qualification for their group and neither Cundey or the costumers seem interested in exploiting their bodies the way many filmmakers do. Yet whoever wrote that one sentence wanted to focus on it.
Furthermore, one of the DVD sets that includes both of these is called “8 Movies For the Man Cave.”
So can we really blame the Amazons?