New Xenaland

Amazon High

Amazon High was made in late 1997 as a telemovie and a series pilot, but was never aired. Two years later, some of the footage was re-cut to make the bulk of the Xena episode Lifeblood, in the form of a historical story told by Xena. This is usually regarded as a rather poor Xena episode - in fact the 'Xena' bits are rather boring - but was a fascinating glimpse into the un-released Amazon High.

Amazon High itself was never screened - and in fact nobody among the fans seemed to know if it even existed in finished form - until it was screened to a small audience of Xenafans at DragonCon in August 2002.

Cheryl Ande was in the audience and she wrote a detailed synopsis of the movie for the chakram-refugees mailing list. By kind permission of Cheryl it's reprinted below. Illustrations are from the aired episode Lifeblood.

Well I am now one of only a handful of people who have seen the pilot for Amazon High. A good deal of it was used in the Xena episode Life Blood but to be frank it was a bit confusing at the time. Having seen the whole thing the movie does make sense. This is going to be a pretty rough commentary as I only saw the movie once.

Amazon High

The story opens in modern day Los Angles where high schooler Cyane (Selma Blair) is trying desperately to become a cheer leader. Cyane is an orphan being raised by her uncle, a preoccupied scientist, who is kind but not terribly interested in his niece. Cyane is rather desperate to be accepted in her high school - she is going out for cheerleader and is trying very hard to be in the right group. Perhaps she is trying too hard, when her friend is sexually harassed by a popular jock, Cyane doesn't defend her friend because she likes the jock's friend. When her uncle talks to her about getting good grades she says it's not wise to be seen as too smart because it turns the boys off. Little does Cyane know her life is about to change.

In a far off land a few millennium back, a young female warrior Samsara (Danielle Cormack) is consulting a medicine man. Her tribe is in trouble and she needs help. She wants him to contact and bring them a legendary warrior, the Atma. So with a bone dagger in one hand and some blood the medicine man begins the spell. Back in LA, Cyane is chatting with her uncle telling him about getting on the cheer leading squad and hitting him up for some money. Her uncle shows her some artifacts he has received including a very familiar bone dagger. When the uncle leaves the lab Cyane picks up the dagger and - poof - she's not in LA anymore. A startled and screaming Cyane appears before Samsara, who is mightily unimpressed by the conjured Atma.

Timur the shaman with the bone dagger
Samsara and Cyane being mutually unimpressed

Cyane is taken back to the tribe's cave. There she meets a young girl, Olan (Monica Mcswain) of about her own age who has sidekick tattooed on her forehead (not really). Cyane is of course very confused - she thinks she may have been kidnapped by cultists but when she and her young friend meet up with a saber tooth tiger, she knows she is in the past. Cyane, although wishing to go home, fits rather well into the tribe - there are the requisite scenes where Cyane shows her friend how to chew bubble gum, introduces her to lipstick and saves her friend from the tiger with modern pepper spray.

Karina (Claudia Black) the tribe's leader is the epitome of an earth mother, kindly and wise with a gentle sense of humor, she seems willing to accept her as the Atma.

Karina can be less motherly on occasion. In a future
incarnation she will be known as 'chick-with-gun'.

The only one not happy is Samsara who finds Cyane woefully inadequate as the Atma. She of course challenges Cyane to a duel - a duel Olan cheerfully informs Cyane she will probably lose and if she does, could she please have her footwear.

Samsara is a formidable warrior but not very bright at times. Cyane cleverly turns the challenge into a foot race much to Karina's amusement and Sam's disgust.

During the race Cyane falls into a river and is fished out by Kor (Carl Urban), a monosyllabic cute caveman. Cyane and cave boy are attracted to one another but Sam shows up and tries to kill cave boy. He is saved by Cyane but since cave boy belongs to an enemy tribe Cyane is in big trouble. She must face a trial by the tribe.

Karina now explains to Cyane why her actions were so serious. The tribe that cave boy belongs to is composed of vicious cannibals. Karina's tribe once had men in it - they were the beloved husbands, fathers, and sons of the women Cyane now sees. When the women were off with the medicine man one day, the cannibals attacked the men and killed them all. Samsara who always was with her father saw the whole thing and now is consumed by revenge. The Atma was the one who was supposed to lead them to victory but now she has sided with one of the enemy. Her only chance now is to convince the council to let her live. At the council meeting, Cyane pulls out all the stops and using every "can't we all just get along" cliche she convinces the council to let her live. She has however tapped into the tribe's real need to find a way to rebuild it's life.

The tribe then takes her out on a hunting party to kill wild horses. Cyane not understanding the intent of the hunt joyfully leaps on the back of the lead stallion.

The tribe has never seen anyone ride a horse and this confirms their belief that she is truly the Atma. She is adopted into the tribe and Cyane becomes concerned about the tribe's well-being. When Olan tells her of the tribe's desire to return to the valley they came from, Cyane devises a plan to give the tribe a tactical advantage. Apparently Olan has a very interesting talent, she was the first Pet Psychic, she can talk to animals. So she and Cyane go have a chat with the stallion who leads the horses. The stallion however is not interested in becoming a slave to humans and things get worse when Cyane and Olan are captured by the cannibals.

"What's wrong?"
"Can you run really really fast?"

At the cannibal camp things aren't good. Although Cyane gets a proposal of marriage from cute cave boy her happiness is somewhat dampened by the fact that Olan will be the main course at the wedding reception. Cyane and Olan therefore plot their escape and while Olan makes it Cyane is captured again. Cave boy is ordered to kill her but can't and just in the nick of time Samsara and the female warriors rescue her.

Meanwhile the medicine man, the last male in Karina's tribe, is dying. He gives Cyane the power to return to her home and she does. Although gone for only a moment in present time, Cyane is changed. At cheer leading practice when her friend is harassed by the jock she gives him mean wedgie and makes him apologize. She feels increasingly that she does not belong in the present but that her heart is with the tribe in the past. She decides to return and after thanking her uncle for caring for her, she uses the dagger to return. She is now determined that the tribe will take back the valley.

Once back with the tribe, she and Olan go back to visit the stallion. This time Cyane has a secret weapon - sugar cubes. The stallion now agrees to help Cyane and an ambush is planned. Cannibal tribe now is moving into the valley, and cave boy is now their prisoner. Karina lures the cannibals into battle and just as the women appear to be beaten, Cyane, Samsara, Olan and a host of mounted warriors attack with Cyane shouting "Amazons rule" .

The cannibals are defeated. Although Samsara wants to massacre to enemy, Karina stops her and Samsara storms off in disgust. Cyane rescues cave boy and sends him off to lead his people in peace.

The classic Western shot -
the warrior rides off into the sunset

At the celebration that night, Karina declares that from now on her tribe will be known as Amazons and in honor of their dead men folk no man will ever belong to their tribe. The movie ends with Cyane and Olan, sporting a new pair of red sneakers, dancing with the Amazons.

The movie was directed by Michael Hurst and was thoughly enjoyable. It had good action sequences and the acting was pretty good. Selma Blair was spunky enough as Cyane, Claudia Black was great, and Daniel Cormack had potential as Cyane's violent rival. The cannibals mostly overacted. It would have been nice to see an action adventure series aimed at pre-teens that emphasized sisterhood and self-reliance but the show didn't fly. I guess there was a feeling that Ren Pictures just had too many similar shows and there is always a concern that boys won't watch action shows with female leads. Also you never can tell how the series would have played out in a half hour format. In my opinion it would have been better than Cleopatra 2525 and Jack Of All Trades.

In all honesty I have to report that other people at the con didn't like the pilot. Others although enjoying the movie didn't think it would fly as a series. I'm sorry it wasn't given a chance.


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