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In 1987 David A. Prior had a banner year releasing three of his most beloved cult classics; Deadly Prey, Killer Workout, and Mankillers. Prior’s the one auteur of the eighties whose unique brand of impassioned trash makes him the Ed Wood of the Reagan era. The dialogue in Prior’s films is ridiculous, the editing questionable, and the sound is amateurish. Yet his belief in what he is doing and his commitment to the medium deserve admiration.

Mankillers is an ingenious mirco-budget reworking of Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen (1967) that pits twelve female convicts up against an evil sex trafficker played by Prior regular William Zipp. It may sound like an exploitation movie at first but Mankillers avoids all of the cliches and the over active masculine gaze associated with the genre. There are no rape scenes, no nudity and almost no cursing at all. If it weren’t for one scene Prior could have made the only PG-13 movie ever made about this subject.

Lynda Aldon heads up the team of lady cons as the seasoned agency professional Rachel McKenna. She instills a sense of team work into the group’s hard head Christine Lunde and teaches the girls how to run, jump, crawl, fire machine guns, and throw grenades. After a few weeks her team is forced onto the field early, so they walk over to the bad guys’ little shanty town compound to doll out retribution like free cheese. There, Aldon has a show down with bad guy Zipp where she kills him once, twice, three, no four different times.

Zipp’s role of John Mickland is one of the great bad guys. He tortures an informant with a chainsaw, stabs a lady, and does a preposterous amount of cocaine. William Zipp plays every scene with a manic frenzy and one hundred percent commitment to his perm. We know right away he’s a sleaze bag monster when we first see him exchanging women for cocaine, then we know for sure he’s bad cause he keeps all of his henchman living in little shacks like you see in photographs of refugee camps.

Prior’s great strength as a filmmaker is his undaunted belief that what he’s doing with a film works. It’s as if he is devoid of an aesthetic self-consciousness. By some child-like logic Mankillers works. It’s a lot of fun even if it is really bad. One gets the feeling that Prior would have been perfectly content if you laughed at his movie. He only seems invested in bringing “fun” to his audience.