Panther Squad (1984)

Rating: *
Review Date: 3/29/22
Cast: Sybil Danning, Jack Taylor

An eco-terrorist group called Clean Space takes over the controls of a newly launched spacecraft and demands that the New Order of Organized Nations (NOON) cease their space program. NOON responds by attempting to launch a rescue mission with a backup pilot, but Clean Space kidnaps her and doubles down on their demands. The only hope for the Free World lies in the hands of Sybil Danning and her crack commando team of girls who look like they just walked off the set of an 80's music video. Using their bikini bodies and karate skills, they infiltrate the bad guys' fortress and put Clean Space out of business with the aid of a super powerful disintegration ray.

This is without a doubt one of the most incompetent films I've ever seen. The film's opening credits feature the Panther Squad girls at a firing range, unconvincingly pretending to shoot guns that clearly aren't loaded. And at least one of these girls doesn't even appear in the rest of the film. Then, nearly the entire first half of the movie revolves around the space launch and hijacking, which heavily incorporates stock footage of test rockets, airplanes, cityscapes, and some spaceships that appear to be lifted from an early 80's Roger Corman film. I probably would have been able to identify that film 35 years ago, but my memory isn't as sharp as it used to be. Let's just say that it's really bad, and I often questioned if I was watching the right movie. When Sybil and the girls finally show up, things become a little more interesting, but the attempts at humor are atrocious, the dialog is appallingly bad, and the action scenes (if you can call them that) are embarrassingly awful. Not only is drop-frame editing used, but the actual print is rephotographed under magnification in order to simulate zoom shots and alternate angles. Nothing can hide all of the incompetence on display and the end result looks absolutely terrible.

Sybil Danning is the only one in the cast who can act, which is a pretty damning statement. The girls themselves are cute, but not very talented. However, in their defense, they have literally nothing to work with, and the extent of the direction given to them boils down to splashing around in a pool and pretending to wrestle with bad guys. One particularly laughable scene features an actor literally reading his lines off a piece of paper that's in front of him. Not surprisingly, continuity is a recurring problem and one woman's hair length, style, and color radically changes between scenes, making you question if it's the same character. Sybil's "super weapon" looks like a blaster from "Battlestar Galactica" (1978), and even though it's sealed in a case that only shows up at the very end, you can see her carrying it like a regular pistol earlier in the film. But the biggest puzzler is that the Panther Squad starts with six girls, and by the end there are only five. One of them just disappears with absolutely no explanation. The film's big money shot involves a helicopter chase, which probably ate up most of the microscopic budget. Unfortunately, it's incredibly lame and quickly ends with an incongruous stock footage explosion.

It's astonishing that this film exists, and it makes you wonder how and why it ever got made. It also makes you wonder how it ever got a distribution deal and made it onto a shelf in a video store, but home video must have been such a hot novelty back in the 80's that you could literally put out ANY garbage and someone would buy it. Seriously, unless you're a diehard Sybil Danning fan, avoid this film at all costs. It is a complete waste of time and energy.