Endangered Species (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Surprisingly, there are intelligent and thought-provoking elements in the basic premise of this grade-B sci-fi film made in Lithuania.

Suppose you are a game warden or an anti-fur activist. You find a poacher about to kill a rare leopard for the pelt. Would you kill the poacher rather than let him fire that shot? Of course not. He's a human being. You would try to prevent his action, perhaps try to get him arrested, but not kill him.

Now suppose that there is a race of highly advanced beings. They prize the skin of earthlings. They have made earth a game preserve and have forbidden the hunting of humans. But there is still a big demand for human skins on their planet, so poachers come to earth to hunt us. Their game wardens will try to prevent them from poaching, but will not shoot the poachers. Why not? Go back and read the previous paragraph. You would not kill a member of your species to protect an inferior species. Neither will these guys.

Arnold Vosloo plays the game warden. Some enormous Lithuanian guy plays the poacher who murders dozens of humans for their pelts. Eric Roberts plays the human cop investigating the murdered humans. Eric doesn't have the firepower to defend against the powerful alien, so he keeps begging the alien game warden to use his own powerful technology to counter the bad guy's powerful technology, but the warden, although a good guy, will not take the life of a member of his own race just to defend mere human animals.

Not a bad premise at all. In the hands of James Cameron or somebody like that, it could make for a terrific movie, an exciting thriller which also has far-reaching social implications.

Unfortunately, Cameron and his peers were nowhere to be seen, and we are left with bad dialogue (much of it dubbed), laughably bad special effects, miscast actors (John Rhys-Davies as an American cop?), and production values only slightly worse than those on the vintage Dark Shadows soap opera.

Way to go, lads. Terrible movie from a great idea.

I did learn some interesting facts about making cheap movies in Eastern Europe. Here are some of the things I discovered:

(1) They use about a half dozen English speakers. (In this film, Roberts, Rhys-Davies, Vosloo, Tony Lo Bianco, the coroner, and the woman who played Roberts's wife.) The people in small parts simply speak their lines in Lithuanian and are dubbed over in post-production. The guy who played the poacher was on camera more than anyone else, but this presented no problem since the character did not speak any earth languages.

(2) They create the illusion that the film is made in an American town by using only a few signs. The police station is a local building with some inexpensive English language signs hung on it. Same with the local strip club and health club. A couple of cars are painted to look like American police cars from a generic city.

(3) They are not especially careful about where they film, because all traces of local culture and signage are blurred out in post-production. Here's the way it works. As they drive through the streets, the words on all the street signs are blurred out. The identifying signs on local gas stations and retail establishments are blurred out. This film actually has a long chase scene through the streets of Vilnius, and I watched it very closely. There is nothing to betray the location. It might have taken place in Akron or Syracuse, except that there is something vaguely unfamiliar about it. There are no oil companies in America that use that color combination, for example, so even though the brand names are blurred away, it is obviously a brand that does not really exist in Syracuse or anywhere else in the USA.

To tell you the truth, the whole process is quite ingenious, and I had a good time studying how they disguised Vilnius and its inhabitants to look like some generic small city in the rust belt.

The good news is that the nudity is plentiful, and the women are lovely. The final flesh count: frontal nudity from two identified actresses, breasts from eight or nine more, of which two are identified.


See the main commentary to the left and below.

DVD info from Amazon

  • no features, no widescreen

Since the alien poacher prizes the best human pelts, he does his hunting in strip clubs and health clubs. The film begins in the woman's locker room of a health club, where two completely naked women (Monika Verbutaite and Evgenija Zakarevieiute) have a long chat as they prepare to become victims. Later on, the poacher wreaks havoc on a strip club, where we see an unidentified topless waitress, several unidentified topless strippers, and a lovely topless bartender (Viktorija Soldatenko). The three identified actresses all speak with perfect American accents. Of course the words we hear don't even come close to matching their lip movements! Additional nudity is provided by the breasts of Sarah Kaite Coughlan in a sex scene with her cop husband (Eric Roberts).

The Critics Vote ...

  • No major reviews online. No minor reviews either, for that matter!

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it a surprisingly high 6.2/10, but based on a mere 25 votes. The "correct" score would be no higher than five. The ballot box has obviously been stuffed. 36% of voters have scored this film nine or better, something which no sensible voter would do.
  • No box office. Straight to video
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is an E as a sci-fi film. Laughably bad. You might stretch a bit and call it a low C-, but only if you define its genre as grade-B softcore erotica. In a nutshell, it is a cheap-ass bad movie made from a good premise, but it is partially redeemed by some nice nudity and competent performances from Roberts and Vosloo.

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