Woman On Fire

The Misadventures of Mistress Maneater
Stars: Lorissa Julianus, Mickey O’Sullivan, Cynda Williams, Adam Christopher, Dave Lichty and Kalle Jogisoo
Director: C. J. Julianus
Scriptwriter: Lorrisa Julianus
Composer: Lisa Liu
Cinematography: John Wesley Norton
Binary Star Pictures
Rating: not rated but could be a strong PG 13 for themed material.
Running Length: 105 Minutes 

“The Misadventures of Mistress Maneater,” now there is a film title for you. A first reaction would be jungle fever and ancient relics, but no, this “Mistress Maneater” is actually a gal named Ava, who is an art historian, but currently makes her living carrying a suitcase and wearing black leather. The first half of the film is like a vaudeville act and just when you think you know the plot, it goes in a different direction. Actress/Scriptwriter Lorrisa Julianus makes this film her own with body language, facial expressions, quips (there are also whips in the film), and brings to life a character who has a high IQ, but can’t live down a bad incident in her past. So, there are two things working here, definition of character, which Ava would like to achieve, and defamation of character, what she has now. Mixed into Ava’s dilemma is stolen art work, a Serbian priest in an Episcopal church, shady business deals and this town really needs help. 

Director C. J. Julianus gives the actors free rein. Ava (Lorrisa Julianus) wears black leather like it was sprayed on, carries a suitcase containing whips and other items, has a client list and is trying to earn enough money to pay back her ex-boyfriend, a Russian mobster named Boris (Adam Christopher and he should be in a James Bond movie). The money was loaned to Ava and is now missing.  In the meantime, on the other side of town, is a small Episcopal church that has a new priest, Father Radovan (Mickey O’Sullivan and he, also, should be in a James Bond film) The priest is from Serbia. This church is barely making it financially, but low and behold, what does Ava find when she eventually enters the church?  Valuable art work. What to do, Ava, help the priest find what the art is worth to help the church, or help yourself and pay off Boris.  An interesting situation that involves Gabe (Shannon Brown who steals his scenes), and other friends. Then, there is that situation about martial arts, hmm. 

This movie actually has two parts.  The first is whip-cracking humor, while the last half is somewhat serious and the stories behind the first half come to light, Who, what, when, where and why. In “Mistress Maneater,” body language does the acting. Whether it be face or biceps, it tells a story. Ava can do a page of dialogue with just her face, and this is matched with Shannon Brown and Mickey O’Sullivan. One is tempted to see the film twice to catch everything. David Lichty, as the town’s Mayor, tells what he is all about in the first 30 seconds of his appearance, and Boris?  Well, he is a villain. As for a love story, somewhere within the lives of the characters, there is a spark. This cast is on their toes, and not only that, but composer Lisa Liu has a compelling music score interwoven with classical music and I detected Bedrich Smetana’s “The Moldau.” 

What caught my eye in the trailer was the stained-glass window of Christ, which I had seen years ago in another location.  Turns out, the film was done using part of the campus of Valparaiso University, Indiana and a chapel there also has the stained-glass window design. Director C.J. Julianus and scriptwriter/actor Lorrisa Julianus are well known in the theatrical community. This film is a showcase for them and so, we can ask---will there be an “Ava” sequel?  “The Mistress of St. Michaels,” perhaps? 

Marie Asner