Muñecas Peligrosas (Review)
aka Danger Dolls aka Operación Contraespionaje aka Operation Counter
Written by Alfredo Ruanova
Directed by Rafael Baledón
Muñecas Peligrosas is the first of the two Las Tigresas films, featuring a trio of fighting femmes in black catsuits and leopard collars who fight evil (for a fee!) It fits right in with the established world of 1960s Mexican spy cinema, which borrows chunks from James Bond and Eurospy while keeping its own distinct flavor. There is a secret international spy agency, and all-powerful unknown villains who retain their mystery despite having advanced branding tactics. Muñecas Peligrosas is a more subtle affair then the sequel, which features the ladies battling green robots controlled by a mad scientist. Here, they battle an industrialist determined to steal a catalyst for solid fuel production by luring the maker to Mexico via sabotage. But the plot is just background distraction, the real draw of Muñecas Peligrosas is the female characters, the three fighting women and their comic relief maid.
The lead Tigresa is Emily (code designation: T001), played by Emily Cranz. She was born Emma Cranz Cantillano in Arizona to a German mother and Mexican father. She had a string of film appearances in the 1960s, along with several albums (occasionally with a group called Los Black Jeans) and appearances on television variety shows. She eventually married and disappeared from public view in 1970.
Tigresa Diana (code designation: T009) is played by actress Maura Monti. She’s best known to genre fans as the star of the Mexican Batwoman movie, La Mujer Murciélago, as well as appearances in films such as S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini, El Planeta de las Mujeres Invasoras, and Santo Contra la Invasion de los Marcianos. Maura Monti has gigantic hair in this movie.
The final Tigresas is Barbara (code designation: T002), played by Bárbara Angely. Her character sort of gets the shaft in both of the films, often supporting one of the other two characters. Bárbara Angely was born Barbara Mueller in Austria, both her and her twin sister Angelika became models in Italy and eventually moved to Mexico. Now being billed as Bárbara Angely, she appeared in films through the last 1960s, only to retire by 1970 (it was said she tired of the lifestyle.) She earned a Ph.D. and eventually became a triathlon athlete along with her sister. It was while competing in one such event that she suffered the injuries that claimed her life in 2008.
Despite Barbara being a real Tigresa, Emily’s maid Leonor (played by comedic actress Leonorilda Ochoa) gets much more screen time and plot development. Unlike the three import actresses above, Leonorilda Ochoa did not marry and vanish from public view in 1970 as the Mexican film industry depressed. She moved to television, gaining fame in Los Beverly de Peralvillo, a satire on life of rich Mexican City residents (and named in reverence to the US program Beverly Hillbillies). She has been absent in the public eye in recent years due to Alzheimer’s.
Villain Garrick is one of those villains who needs people to know who he is, so he has his big G logo plastered all over his hideout and on his troops. The design of the big G kept making me thing of Gizmonic Institute from Mystery Science Theater 3000. Maybe the Institute militarized and that’s why Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank moved to Deep 13. Makes you think…
There is also a very unfunny running gag involving a karate instructor (played by Alejandro Suárez in yellowface) who speaks gibberish back and forth with Leonor while she hits on him. These scenes go on for far too long and are just awful.
The copy I have came complete with some fan subtitles. Some of the names might not match right up with other names you’ve seen, and I’ve compromised by what names sound correct. And as this is relatively obscure, please enjoy the more detailed than usual review. Or else!
The mad genius Garrick is causing chaos by making a lot of stock footage of explosions and disasters happen so he can lure the fame scientist Dr. Liebenson to Mexico and capture him to get the secret of the K20. K20 is some sort of catalyst for solid matter energy production or something, and only Dr. Liebenson knows the formula, thus it’s produced at a plant in a completely different country than where he lives with barely any oversight by him. Makes perfect sense.
To stop Garrick, the IUS meets and brings in New Yorker Jim Morrison to lead their efforts (the local agent, Hilton, has mysteriously gone missing). They bring him pretty much so he can go hire the Tigresas, the famed female mercenaries who are currently protecting a Middle Eastern king from being assassinated at the huge ticker tape parade that’s being held in his honor in Mexico. Did Mexico throw giant parades all the time in the 1960s? Because Mexico City sounds like a party town if that’s true!
Garrick’s lair has giant Gs all over it and guards wearing G-logo clothing. If you enjoy Garrick’s hideout, then you will love it when it appears again in Con Licencia Para Matar as the villain’s lair, this time with all the big Gs switched out to Ks! Garrick murders the captive Hilton via electrocution and bugs the location where he dumps the body to spy on IUS. Luckily for him, Morrison has loose lips, at least until he finds the listening device!
At the parade, there is trouble and the Tigressas are on the case. Along with the maid Leonor who straight up murders a dude by kicking him off a high building (after fellating his gun handle while trying to disarm him!) Jim wanders in to help beat up some of the assassins, luckily one of the Tigresas knows him, otherwise he’d be dead as well. After killing all the villains, they head to a club (and we get a song interlude) where the Tigresas’ fee is higher than Morrison is able to pay, so the ladies go on vacation instead. Yes, the beginning of this film is everyone dickering about the price! Barbara takes a visit to New York and and visits the IUS boss, thus getting him to pay more money.
Emily is spending the vacation time with her boyfriend Waldo interrupts their make-out session to take a call (rude!) and schedule business (ruder!) thus they can’t get it on (rudest!) especially when the interrupters ring the doorbell (beyond rudest!) and he sends her away so they won’t see her (Mad Max Beyond Ruderdome!)
Waldo works for Garrick’s group, who are planning to take out the Tigressas, Waldo having no idea who they are. Thanks to some truth serum on Morrison’s captured aide, they get a tiny bit of information. Emily sends Leonor to pick up Barbara from the airport while her and Diana do a test for Morrison. Barbara knows she’s being followed by goons from Garrick, so she puts on a red wig, enough to fool all the people looking for her except Leonor.
Despite that, the villains still get the drop on them, requiring Barbara and Morrison to beat them all up. Waldo goes to visit Emily to try to ask her to dinner, almost delaying a mission. That’s what happens when your house is the mission control headquarters!
The ladies bust into Garrick’s place and try ot arrest him, but it was a trap and everyone is captured except Emily, who manages to escape and run. Garrick threatens the captives with a destructive ray while trying to find Emily’s identity, the women refuse to talk so they are strapped in and the machine turned on! Except it was all a trick to see if they would talk, the fake Garrick is actually Morrison in disguise, and Emily walks in relieved they passed.
Dr. Liebenson arrives to try to fix all the problems Garrick caused with the K20, and the heroes go to meet him. Garrick sends Waldo to confirm Emily is a Tigressa and attack. After several waves of attackers at the airport and the chemical plant, eventually Leonor and Dr. Liebenson are captured. Garrick uses truth drugs to get the formula for K20 out of Dr. Liebenson.
Emily discovered Waldo works for Garrick, and is too torn with feelings about Waldo to betray him. She locks the others behind a steel door to go talk to Waldo. Waldo agrees to betray Garrick, thanks to some off camera sex!
The Tigresas break into Garrick’s base and take out guards, then capturing Garrick in a scene almost identical to their fake capture of Garrick earlier. And like earlier, they end up getting captured because Waldo decided he didn’t want to be a traitor.
Garrick decides to get rid of the ladies in the most convoluted way possible, he sets up a giant machine that begins a long countdown (that can’t be stopped) and will eventually bath the whole room in disintegration rays. This leaves enough time for Morrison to burst in and everyone starts fighting. Waldo is shot saving Emily, and eventually all the Tigresas leave the room with Morrison, Dr. Liebenson, and Leonor, leaving all the wounded villains to be roasted alive by the disintegration rays. We see some cool scenes as bodies burst into flaming skeletons. But why would you have that machine in your office entryway??? Also, the countdown reaches 000, but then the heroes still have enough time to leave the room before the machine begins its job. What a lazy machine!
Rated 5/10 (dancer, drawer, time’s almost up, time is beyond up, finally zapping people)
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