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A Tale of two Amazons
 



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 is a fascinating glimpse into the un-released Amazon High.

The prominent characters in the episode were Cyane (played by Selma Blair), Samsara (Danielle Cormack), the Amazon chief (Claudia Black), and Cyane's friend, the enthusiastic young Amazon, played by Monica McSwain. All four actors received guest star credits - their names in gold at the start of the episode. However, guest stars on Xena don't get their names repeated in the end credits, so their character's names are not spelt out.

Cyane and Samsara were mentioned by name in the episode, but Monica McSwain's and Claudia Black's characters were not, doubtless due to the fact that only part of the original footage was used. So transcribers were reduced to calling them such names as "Amazon #1" and "Amazon #2", which usually denotes an extra with about one line of dialogue, and quite unfitting for guest stars.

Amazon #1
Amazon #2

The Renpics Auction

When Pacific Renaissance finished production of Xena and associated series, all the costumes and props were auctioned off in a massive auction (see description elsewhere on this site). Among the costumes was a rack described as 'Assorted Leathers and Furs' which included a number of Amazon High costumes in various states of completeness, and which I was fortunate enough to bid for.

The costumes had suffered a degree of mixing-up over the years since Amazon High was filmed, and probably parts of them were on other racks in the 'fur collection'. However, after a bit of careful sorting I found I had several near-complete individual costumes.

Olan

Among these were parts of a costume labelled "Olan Monica McSwain" (and two other near-complete Olan doubles' costumes) which nicely settled the question of the name of the young Amazon with the big hair.

Olan's costume (what's left of it)
Take a bow, Olan

Karina

Also among the costumes, after I sorted them out into some sort of order, were parts of two doubles' costumes labelled "Karina Body Dbl" and "Karina Stunt Dbl". I wondered who this Karina might be and eventually concluded there was a fair chance it might be Claudia Black's character, since obviously Karina was important enough to rate two doubles, and the other principal guests - Selma Blair and Danielle Cormack - were accounted for.

Part of Karina's costume was a nice and very distinctive belt.


Very distinctive belt

I figured that if Claudia was wearing that in the episode, it would be a positive identification of 'Karina'. Good excuse for viewing the episode again, anyway.

So I started watching... and in every view, Claudia was either moving too fast and her costume was blurred, or her belt was out of shot, or it wasn't quite distinct enough to be conclusive.

However, the description of Karina on one of Pacific Renaissance's detailed name tags certainly seemed to fit....

Brown suede skirt, striped fur
("stripey cat") top -
very stylish as befits a chief
A detailed description of the prime suspect
Claudia certainly matches the description
though her belt is not quite clear
Note left-right is reversed - Renpics sometimes did that

Then near the end, just as I'd almost given up hope, came the sequence where the barbarians attack and the 'cavalry' rides to the rescue, and Claudia leaps incredibly high in the air and there are just five clear frames of her belt - and yes, it's the right one! And just a few minutes later, at the victory celebration, was an even clearer picture of Karina.

It looks like it could be the right one
And that almost settles it

Much later on, among the miscellaneous bits of costumery, I found just one fur gauntlet with a label that put it beyond doubt.

Fur gauntlet; the dark patches are Velcro
Note the label at top right
The label in close-up

Hail Karina, Amazon chieftain!

Karina
Olan


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Transcript of Amazon High - the unscreened pilot

The Wardrobe auction

Filming Locations

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