The Indonesian exploitation classic Lady Terminator (AKA Nasty Hunter) may be the first cult film that began its underground success based on the allure of a single image. A beautiful woman with 80’s style big hair and tight new wave leather pants and jacket unloads an AK-47. The iconography of this female villain is the strongest since Faster, Pussycat Kill! Kill!‘s Tura Satana. Once you see her image on the cover of the VHS or DVD, you don’t want to see the film, you need to see it.
That was the experience I had when I first watched, and instantly loved, Lady Terminator, one of the most wildly inept, but deliriously entertaining low-budget foreign films ever made. I knew I had to introduce it to cult movie lovers in Chicago when I hosted a Facets Night School lecture based on this movie and the Indonesian exploitation film industry. (You can see that lecture here).
Despite the research for the lecture, the one question I could not answer was: who was this actress playing the Arnie rip-off, ventilating dozens of people and one-upping the Austrian muscleman with her explicit sex scenes?
The film’s star, Barbara Anne Constable, had remained a mysterious cult movie figure since the film’s appearance on Indonesian screens in 1989. In the twenty years since, Lady Terminator has delighted audiences internationally in Australia, in the United States and has just finished screening at the Toronto Underground Film Festival! Constable has been the inspiration for everything from movie poster art and flammable alcoholic drinks to female wrestlers (in cranberry sauce!).
The Great Lady, for the first time ever, graciously granted me an interview regarding her work and experiences in making this grindhouse classic.
DTO: Could you give a little bit about your background and how you got involved in acting?
BAC: I started out as professional commercial dancer/choreographer, and as such I did quite a lot of television commercials in Australia and Hong Kong. So I suppose I was used to being in front of the camera and on stage. The professional dancing also lead me into modeling, and when I got the role of Lady Terminator, I was in Hong Kong at the time on a twelve month modeling contract with Irene’s Models, and Models International (both leading agencies in Hong Kong). I was casting for jobs often many times a day, and I was asked whether I was interested in casting for a film that was to be shot in Indonesia. The agent did mention that there was some nudity (nothing graphic), and that I would have to learn how to use firearms for the film, and that there would be some fight scenes – and I thought ‘why not – sounds like an adventure’. A few months before this I had played the role of a dancer for a Chinese film that was shot in Shanghai.
DTO: Could you tell me what that film was and what your experience was making that movie?
BAC: To be honest, I cannot remember now as it was a Chinese name, and I couldn’t understand a bloody word most people were saying. I did a lot of scenes as a dancer. I stayed in Shanghai in a hotel for the time I was there, which I recall was for about a week. Back then, there were a hell of a lot of bikes on the roads, and trams. I had an English interpreter who was a university student, and she begged me to somehow sponsor her to come to Hong Kong. It was an interesting experience, but I must say, I really didn’t enjoy China that much. It felt extremely suppressive, and I was very glad to get out of there. When I first arrived at the airport, all the security were armed with machine guns…not a very hospitable welcome. When I arrived back in Hong Kong, within days, Tiananmen Square happened. I remember that well, as my parents frantically called from Australia to see if I was safe.
I was surprised I got the lead role in Lady Terminator – but I did realize that the film was going to be a B Grade Asian film…otherwise they would have acquired a ‘serious Caucasian actress’ from overseas for the lead. I have never really been a ‘serious actress’ – I have done some short courses in acting in Australia…but the whole ‘method acting thing’ I found to be quite bizarre when I was younger. The whole getting into character and staying in character thing for serious roles was kind of weird to me. And, I have worked with some quite high profile actors on other jobs, and to be honest I found them all to be really self absorbed people. Its like ‘that need’ to always be in the public spotlight is really a character flaw that a lot of serious actors and actresses share – like some sort of personality disorder. When I was younger I felt , ‘Why on earth would you want to spend the better part of your time pretending to be somebody else. Obviously, a lot of actors don’t really like who they are.’ These days I don’t feel so harshly, but I do think that actors are a breed all of their own – and that the high profile ones are way overpaid for what they do!
DTO: Had you seen The Terminator before making this film?
BAC: Yes, of course I had seen Arnie in The Terminator before making The Lady Terminator.
DTO: The original Terminator was a cyborg, but in this film, she’s human–Tanya, a young anthropology student looking to finish her thesis. Do you know if this change was due in part to adding the sex appeal to the movie?
BAC: I don’t know for sure, but I assume that is why they made this change, yes.
DTO: How did you feel about appearing nude and being in provocative scenes, such as the bondage and penetration by the spirit of the South Sea Queen?
BAC: The nudity didn’t phase me at all. Being a professional dancer at the time, I was very comfortable with my body in general, and as a woman I have always been very comfortable with my sexuality. I appeared in Australian Penthouse as ‘November Pet of the Month’ when I was 19 – four years before I made Lady Terminator. I was in great shape physically at the time, so the nudity wasn’t a problem at all.
However, the bondage scene where the snake goes up my vagina, I wasn’t happy about at all. To be honest, I was mortified when I first saw it. That bondage scene was one they required me to do in my bikini – it didn’t make sense to me, but the film was weird as hell anyway, so I didn’t think much of it. Also there wasn’t a damn lot of continuity in the film anyway. I only saw that scene as it is in the movie, about two years after I made the film when Ram Soyara Films sent me a copy of the movie on VHS Beta. The Director never told me that they were going to put that in later as an effect – so I was pretty annoyed about it actually.
DTO: Had you known about the legend of the South Sea Queen before filming LT?
BAC: No, I had never heard about the Legend, and to be honest, I just thought it was a weird bloody script. I didn’t realize – in fact, no one actually explained to me that it actually was a ‘myth’.
DTO: How was working with H. Tjut Djalil and the other actors? Did you get to dub your own voice onto the film? Did you perform some of your own stunts?
BAC: H. Tjut Djalil was a very gentle and patient old gentleman. I found it quite hilarious that he also played the role of the old Shaman type guy. And no I didn’t get to dub my own voice. That was another inclusion I had no idea about. Apparently they had the movie over-dubbed in L.A. In regard to my stunts, yes I did do most of them, and some of them caused me a few serious injuries.
DTO: What injuries did you incur and how did they affect the film shoot?
BAC: The first injury I sustained were burns from the squibs (small explosives) they put inside my leather jacket for the shooting scenes were I was shot. I sustained a number of burns that were very sore, and they were treated, but it did not affect shooting. I continued on with the shooting schedule.
The worst injury I endured was on the final day of shooting for the final scene. I was dressed in my leathers, and armed with the AK47, and I had to run up to some glass doors and kick through them. I had done a number of scenes as such in earlier weeks, and all was good. Unfortunately, the special effects department didn’t do their job correctly, or there was some sort of miscommunication with the director, because when I kicked the glass door, it shattered, and it was real glass, and as I pulled my leg out of the door, I got stabbed in the back of my right leg by a huge shaft of glass. They rushed me to a military hospital where my leg was sewn up. There were a lot of internal as well as external stitches. I was very lucky because the glass went right through my leg and came out the other side, narrowly missing my achilles tendon. I couldn’t walk for a couple of weeks at least. It was about month before I was able to shoot the final scene again.
Apart from that, I was walking along in relative darkness one evening on a break from some car chasing scenes, on my way to a crew tent to grab a cup of coffee, and I suddenly fell – like the earth just gave out from under me. My intuitive response was to put my elbows out to the side of me as I fell, and this broke my fall. Crew members ran with a torch light to where I was, and as they shone the torch, you could see that my legs were hanging in a very deep well that we could not see the bottom of. I was very lucky that night. If I had have fallen down that hole…there definitely would not have been a Lady T film…at least not with me in it anyway.
DTO: Did you get to know any of the other actors/actresses in the film? How was working with them?
BAC: I did get to know the main characters. The guys were all really good guys and very funny. I got on very well with Christopher Hart (Max), who was an expat working in Jakarta. But I got on best with some members of the Indonesian Camera Crew…my best buddy was Max Uleus…I still miss him – he was a wonderful friend to me when I was there.
DTO: Watching LT, one can see how you had to be in great shape for many of the chase scenes, handling the M-16 well and convincingly attracting men to their doom. You certainly fit the bill. How did you keep in shape during production?
BAC: Well I was already in good shape before the movie, and we filmed probably 16 hours a day, and I was doing a lot of running and jumping, and fight scenes, so I didn’t have to do any other exercise while I was there to keep in shape. The exercise I got doing the movie was enough.
DTO: Had you ever handled firearms before this movie? Your choreography, especially in the police station, is pretty masterful.
BAC: No I had never handled firearms before this. The stunt crew gave me a crash course before we started filming. The choreography for the fight scenes was also prepared by the stunt crew, and I had to learn it. Because of my dancer/choreographer background, I found that quite simple.
DTO: You mentioned in the first email to Facets Multimedia that you would not have made the film if you knew it would be exported outside Indonesia. Could you comment on why you feel this way?
BAC: I was told that the film was for the local Indonesian market. The whole script was very weird when I read it, and to boot, it was a rip-off of Terminator, which was a massive American film that had great acclaim. I felt there was no harm in doing such a film for the local Indonesian market if it gave the people there some thrills, but come on! – Its not like it exposes me in the best light. If I was going to do a film for the international market, I would have only done it willingly if it was a credible script, and had some decent actors and actresses in it. I understand Lady T. has become a cult film in the US and UK and other European countries – but I think this has happened due to the sheer insanity of the film – and therefore its comedic/entertainment value.
DTO: Cult films previously discarded as “worthless,” such as Troll 2 and The Room have since gained enormous popularity among cult movie fans who discovered the exhilarating entertainment value of what’s been put on the screen, reigniting fame for those involved in those movies. If Lady Terminator reaches that level of underground success, do you think starring in it would have been worth it? Would it rekindle an interest in appearing in new movies?
BAC: Well I have never been into celebrity for celebrity’s sake to be honest. So, the answer would be only if that level of interest in the film somehow equaled a good income for me and my two children. I don’t know about appearing in new movies – I mean its twenty years later…I suppose it would depend on what was offered. If I had a choice on appearing in something – it would probably be Reality TV in some way. I am a mad fan of American Idol because of the talent and watching the inspiring journeys of the contestants – so my dream would to be a Judge on American Idol. Now that would be one awesome gig!
DTO: Have you ever been interviewed before about your role in Lady Terminator?
BAC: No Lew – you broke my interview virginity!
Whoa! My many thanks to the wonderful Barbara Anne Constable for this interview. She’s on Facebook, so go over and befriend her. Let her know you’re a fan. Speaking of Facebook, you can also go there and join the Lady Terminator Appreciation Society to spread the word on this great film!