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  Legend of Frenchie King, The Bombshells BombBuy this film here.
Year: 1971
Director: Christian-Jaque, Guy Casaril
Stars: Brigitte Bardot, Claudia Cardinale, Michael J. Pollard, Micheline Presle, Marie-Ange Aniès, Georges Beller, Henri Czarniak, Oscar Davis, Raoul Delfosse, France Dougnac, Teresa Gimpera, Leroy Haynes, Valéry Inkijinoff, Jacques Jouanneau, Emma Cohen
Genre: Western, Comedy
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Doc Miller (Henri Czarniak) is a very bad man prone to avarice, which is why when his business partner discovered a site in the French territory of the Wild West where there were great reserves of oil, he was reluctant to share any of the claim. To the extent of shooting his partner dead and making good his escape with the map of the place, taking a train ride out to the desert location, but on the way he met with a mishap, or rather five mishaps as a masked gang boarded the carriage he was in and set about relieving the passengers of their valuables and cash. He was willing to give up a few banknotes, but there was no way he was giving up his travelling bag with the map hidden inside - or so he thought.

Six years before The Legend of Frenchie King, originally known as Les Petroleuses, was released Brigitte Bardot had teamed up with another French icon, Jeanne Moreau, to act out a jolly, if explosive, romp called Viva Maria! Most often she would be paired with male stars, but that work was well-recalled by fans dedicated and casual alike, so why not try to repeat the formula with an Italian icon, Claudia Cardinale? That would seem to have been the thinking behind the Spaghetti Western shenanigans here, supposedly a comedy but in effect lacking in laughs, if not in activity, as the presentation verged on the chaotic, almost as if director Christian-Jaque was no longer in control of his previously demonstrated filmmaking skills.

This was the man who had specialised in, yes, romps after all, his swashbuckler of the nineteen-fifties Fanfan le Tulipe still affectionately remembered by many, which merely showed how long ago that was compared to this. The energy was certainly there, but the wit, the sure hand guiding the cast and crew, were assuredly not, possibly because the director was a last-minute replacement for Guy Casaril who had started the film but had been let go early in the shooting. It couldn't have been down to him being overawed by his leading ladies, it was more indicative of what was passing for humour in a European film industry that really needed shaking up, not quite goodnatured enough for what had gone before, and not saucy enough for what was on the way.

Sure, there was a bit of nudity, male and female, but any attempts to be adult about the characters' concerns were sabotaged when everyone behaved like children, even when they were attacking one another. Bardot played the title role, Louise, who headed a gang of her four sisters, all as glamorous as she was (under the circumstances), and not above resorting to criminality to get by, as meanwhile Cardinale was her counterpart Maria who runs a small holding with her four brothers who are under her thumb - get it, five sisters and five brothers? Not quite seven of each, but you can imagine there will be some matchmaking before the end of the movie. Naturally, Louise and Maria were the smart ones in their families, and equally predictably they would eventually clash in what was advertised as a battle for the ages.

The King Kong vs. Godzilla of European bombshells, basically, though by the point this sequence eventually arrived you may be too bored to care, not least because it turned out to be a sad little brawl in a dusty yard, with a bit of clothes ripping to make it seem as if something exciting might have been occurring. It wasn't. Also showing up was that eccentric character actor Michael J. Pollard who was the local Marshal, deporting himself much as he always did, wishing to romance Maria (or was it Louise? It hardly mattered) but ending up trying to arrest the two families of siblings and finding solace in his friendship with a Pekinese which was chucked out of the moving train by Miller early in the plot. You could easily forget that the main thrust of that narrative was striking oil since it was relegated to the conclusion, a slapstick affair more tiresome than funny, and diversions like Cardinale singing a song while stripping were hardly adequate in justifying the entire, lazy enterprise. A big letdown, considering the potential. Music by Francis Lai.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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