Powerful roles in diverse exploitation projects helped ensure the luminous Sybil Danning (BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, HERCULES, HOWLING II, REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS) a place as the cinematic prototype of a woman who could kick ass…and look good while doing it. Danning has even mentioned in interviews that Ericka, her hardened prisoner in the WIP epic CHAINED HEAT, inspired women to fight for their jobs and for equal rights in their daily lives.
Danning has also proven to be as incisive behind the scenes as in front of the camera. Her assistance on the Oscar-nominated OPERATION THUNDERBOLT was invaluable. Not only did she help provide financing, but she secured the services of the volatile, always watchable Klaus Kinski for the film as well. Keeping Kinski on a short leash on set, she also appeared in the film, to great effect (and critical acclaim), as his partner in crime, Halima.
Meanwhile, the years of the video explosion found her utilizing her gutsy physicality and behind the scenes brawn as a producer on such action epics as THE PANTHER SQUAD and L.A. BOUNTY. In both these projects, once again, she stepped in front of the camera. In THE PANTHER SQUAD, she portrayed Ilona, the leader of a group of fearless female mercenaries who are hired to save the world from Space Clean, a terrorist organization determined to stop space exploration. While that film definitely has its campy, micro budget charms, it was with L.A. BOUNTY that she truly hit her stride.
Here Danning, who created the story for the film, invented the character of the taciturn, weapons happy Ruger. A former police officer turned bounty hunter, Ruger is determined to take down the vile Cavanaugh, played with sleazy grace by exploitation regular Wings Hauser. Coming on like the female version of Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan fused with his more mysterious Man With No Name, Danning is an industriously quiet force, making the character a strong yet feminine action figure that should have had a longer shelf life than a single film. Wisely, Danning has rectified this cultural drought by creating a comic book containing Ruger… entitled, appropriately enough, RUGER.
Nicely, Danning’s script for the comic is aided by the bright textures of Dash Martin’s colors and Scott Ethan Ambruson’s cinematic drawings. Both perfectly capture the spirit that Danning brought to her celluloid creation. With shadowed textures and segmented panel work, Ambruson and Martin make Ruger’s first appearance in the book a perfect embodiment of the character’s energy from the film. Ruger barely spoke a word in L.A. BOUNTY, making her character a powerful force of mute determination. Here again, she is a hushed and potent force, emerging from the night to take control…and claim her target.
The fact that her target, Gregory Mossford, is a sleazy Canadian politician under the protection of the US government does little to deter Ruger as the proceedings unfold. Amid brightly rendered explosions and bullet decorated assassination attempts, she goes nose to nose with the military…and, in a feministic gesture, with a series of other potent female characters, as well. Indeed, one almost looks forward to the fireworks that are sure to emerge between Mathilde, Mossford’s powerful wife, and Shannon McCarthy, his fun loving mistress, than any of the other battles that are sure to occur in the remaining two issues of this limited series.
But putting social implications aside (if you must), the book, overall, is extensively a fun and sexy jaunt…the perfect gift for anyone who remembers the glory days of exploitation filmmaking.
RUGER is currently available for purchase from Danning directly at www.sybildanning.net.