June 11: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is free! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.
The youngest of five children born in Hollywood to a Greek father and a Latino mother, Mimi Lesseos started learning martial arts at the age of six. She came to the attention of wrestling fans in 1988 when she wrestled for the American Wrestling Association and feuded with Madusa Miceli over their women’s title. She also teamed with Wendi Richter on occasion and was even featured in the December 1989 issue of Playboy holding — well, lying face down on a bed nude — the AWA World Women’s Championship belt, even though she never won it.
She was wrestled in the LPWA (Ladies Professional Wrestling Association), for CMLL in Mexico and in Japan before going into stuntwork, appearing in Man on the Moon, The X-Files, The Scorpion King and Million Dollar baby, as well as often working as Jane Kaczmarek’s stunt double.
After appearing in the wrestling movie The American Angels: Baptism of Blood, the Erik Estrada biker movie The Last Riders and the Lorenzo Lamas kickboxing film Final Impact, Mimi decided to make her own movie. as she wanted to play a fit and strong female character who was not “sleazy or muscle-bound”.
She wrote, starred in and produced the movie, raising half of the $600,000 budget through an investor while she provided the other half, by selling property and fighting in Japan. That’s also where she found a distributor and got worldwide distribution after taking Pushed to the Limit to the Cannes Film Festival.
Director Michael Mileham, the godson of Jessica Tandy, ran camera on Blazing Stewardesses and The Glove, as well as serving as the director of photography on Psychic Killer, Uninvited, Revenge of the Cheerleaders, The Lonely Lady and Black Shampoo.
Mimi claimed this movie was autobiographical. Then again, we already know Bloodsport was supposed to be that way for Frank Dux and he was stretching the truth too.
Well, imagine if Van Damme stopped the action to go visit his parents, catch his racist brother doing blow and then went to Vegas to be a showgirl — a moment that has nothing to do with the rest of the movie — instead of just doing the splits straight for the Kumite?
Because Pushed to the Limit has a Kumite too.
Her brother Johnny (Greg Ostrin) gets shot up being a moron to crime boss Harry Lee (Henry Hayashi) and her man Nick (Michael M. Foley) gets hurt too, so she decides that she needs revenge. As she tells her Miyagi-figure Vern (Verrell Reed), “I’ve been pushed to the limit.” As you may know, I react to the title of a movie being said in a movie as if Pee Wee just said the secret word. Imagine my sheer joy when the mentor answered back, “You’ve been pushed to the limit?”
To be fair, the stupid brother said this joke to a Triad gangster: “What do you call two gooks in a fast car? The Gooks of Hazzard.” He deserved to die.
So how does she get her pound of flesh? By entering Harry Lee’s basement casino Kumite and kicking the hell out of Ms. Inga (Christl Colven, who only acted in this movie and otherwise has done makeup for Full Moon movies) but not until that gigantic butch brawler breaks the neck of Mimi’s best friend.
The training that she gets to get to this point is without a doubt the dumbest martial arts training I’ve ever seen committed to a film and I’ve watched tons of Jackiesploitation ripoffs of Drunken Master. I get what Miyagi wanted to teach Daniel-San with fence painting. I have no idea what Vern’s lesson of hide and seek around palm trees, much less his “become the tree” mantra and then asking her to punch the tree is supposed to teach. She also uses flying dropkicks in an actual fight and then Vern sends four dudes to jump her in an alley and the moment she starts killing them, everyone gets an extended sitcom end credits laugh out of the whole misunderstanding. Vern may also have low level ESP and never takes off his headband; he seems like every sensei I’ve ever met making a killing from teaching the secrets of the Orient to white kids who only learn synchronized katas and never the much needed way of the exploding fist or poison hand Dim Mak Death Touch of Count Dante.
There are also notable people in the cast, like “Dirty White Boy” Tony Anthony, Paula Meda (who is in several of the Donald Jackson Rollerblade movies), Vivian Wickliffe (an amazon fighter from Armour of God), a guy named Ulf Ranger playing Jack Stud making me wonder which fake name is better and Amy Barcroft who was Amazing Amy in the aforementioned The American Angels: Baptism of Blood.
None of the sitcom level music matches what is happening on screen. Phones randomly ring in the middle of dialogue which isn’t microphoned well at all. The action is so poorly directed that you wonder if the old WCW camera crew made this. The ending — the ending! — has a misdirection kill of the boss, a total pro wrestling ending where Inga gets knocked out, Lee runs in with a gun and Inga comes to and breaks her boss’ neck instead of her opponent’s because she’s confused. Also body slams are used in fights to the death.
I tell you all of this to tell you that I loved this movie. I loved every single second because it seems like — and is — a vanity project that made its way to me thirty years after it was filmed, aging like only finest of wine can.
I’m saying none of this to be ironic. I legitimately loved every single frame so much so that I tracked down every single other Mimi Lesseos movie and am practically devouring them. Guess what — they’re all as good as this. Maybe better.
You can watch this on Tubi.