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For a relatively standard revenge-flick-with-a-karate-twist, the shot-in-1982, released-in-1984 Alley Cat sure had to go through a lot of twists and turns before finally (and, it must be said, briefly) making it to the big screen. Originally a Filipino project shot in Los Angeles, the production ran out of money a couple of times — and went through a couple of directors (Edward Victor, operating under the pseudonym of “Ed Palmos,” and Victor M. Ordonez) — before being guided through to completion under the auspices of the soon-to-fold Film Ventures International, who brought in Al Valletta to finish things up behind the camera.

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So, yeah — it’s fair to say this was a pretty troubled production, although you’d never guess it by watching it since it’s about as straightforward a story as you can imagine, even in a genre not exactly noted for its originality. To wit : beautiful and buxom young Billie (Karin Mani) lives with her kindly grandparents in Los Angeles, where their neighborhood is routinely terrorized by a gang of street toughs led by one Scarface (Michael Wayne). One night, a couple of punks in his employ try to steal the tires from Billie’s car, and her and Gramps fend them off with her karate skills and his revolver. This, of course, marks them for death in the gang’s eyes and the next day they set upon Grandpa and Grandma and leave her dead, him grieving, and Billie, naturally, out for vengeance. The cops, by and large, are no help, except for a young rookie officer named Johnny (Robert Torti) that Billie is banging, and together the two of them set out to take down the Scarface’s entire half-assed enterprise utilizing her black belt and his — uhhhmmm — beginner’s belt (what are those things, white?). Plenty of by-and-large-competently-staged martial arts fights, interspersed with enough nudity to keep you interested, ensue, and Billie gets her wish and takes down all the hoods by the time the end credits roll.

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Like I said, fairly standard stuff, any way you slice it. Which isn’t to say that Alley Cat isn’t a reasonably enjoyable tough-but-sexy-chick-taking-on-the-mean-streets-of-LA-flick, a la Angel and its like, because it is. Mani is likable and even marginally believable in the title role, and the film is uniformly well-paced and competently shot no matter who happened to be in the director’s chair for any particular scene. The net effect is hardly the most memorable action-adventure yarn, but certainly not a waste of time by any means. The average fan of ’80s revenge flicks will definitely find enough to like here to pop this thing in for an occasional repeat viewing, and that’s a decent enough accomplishment to satisfy this armchair critic, at least when I’m feeling generous.

Unfortunately, the film never got much by way of a proper DVD release for whatever reason —Madacy, a truly sorry outfit that no one misses, pumped out a bare-bones quickie version some years back that looked to be ripped straight from the Vestron VHS — but happily Scorpion Releasing has rectified that situation by putting this out last week as part of their “Katarina’s Kat Skratch Cinema” line, a new-ish occasional action series hosted by former WWE “diva” Katarina Leigh Watters, who also presents their well-established “Katarina’s Nightmare Theater” releases. The widescreen transfer is struck from an HD master and generally looks pretty good apart from some occasional, and quite forgivable, graininess, the mono soundtrack is just fine, and extras include the theatrical trailer, a small sampling of trailers for other Scorpion titles, Watters’ generally-lame-but-reasonably-informative intro and outro bits, and a lengthy on-screen interview with Film Ventures’ Igo Kantor, who is credited with being a “music supervisor” on this film but also worked as a composer, production manager, editor, and even producer on a number of other exploitation titles. It’s a fun and interesting little addition to the disc and rounds out a perfectly adequate, if admittedly unspectacular, package.

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Which is, I suppose, a rather succinct description of Alley Cat itself — it’s there to do a job and does it just fine, and avoids the trap of too many chefs spoiling the broth that it could easily have fallen into. It doesn’t stand out from the crowd in any particular way for any particular reason, but we all enjoy watching a good looking young lady who’s been pushed too far kick a little ass and take a few names once in awhile, don’t we? Especially when there’s no worn-painfully-thin-by-this-point “female empowerment” subtext either woven into or uncomfortably forced upon the proceedings. Billie’s too busy evening up the score to worry about being a female role model in an admittedly (and obviously) male-dominated industry, and the film’s utter lack of pretense is kinda refreshing, especially in this day and age, where some larger socio-political purpose would undoubtedly be foisted upon any script such as this in order to — shit, I dunno — provide greater “relevance” to a movie that’s largely just gonna be watched by people out for a brainless, good time.

If you’re as sick to death of heroines who feel the “need” (dumped on  them by Hollywood execs) to carry the weight of the long centuries’ worth of oppression directed against their entire gender on their shoulders as I am,  you’re in luck —Alley Cat will be right up your (insert well-deserved groan here) alley.

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