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  Lighthouse-Keeper's Daughter, The Oh-Ho, It's Bardot
Year: 1952
Director: Willy Rozier
Stars: Brigitte Bardot, Jean-François Calvé, Howard Vernon, Espanita Cortez, Raymond Cordy, Paulette Andrieux, Henry Djanik, Jean Droze, Nadine Tallier, Maurice Bénard, Robert Arnoux
Genre: Romance, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Gérard (Jean-François Calvé) is a student of archaeology who today in this sparsely attended lecture finds his ears perking up when the lecturer starts to discuss the lost treasure of Trolius, a Phoenician in ancient times whose ship was sunk and his fortune in gold coins was lost off the coast of Corsica. What interests Gérard is that he knows this region, and when he was holidaying there five years before he was diving and found an amphora that was classified as an interesting find, even if it was not wholly intact. With that in mind, his train of thought brings him to realise that artefact was not alone down there, and if he was very thorough he could probably uncover the rest of the treasure...

But nobody was particularly interested in that, for where the fascination about The Lighthouse-Keeper's Daughter, or Manina… La fille sans voile as it was known in its original French, lay was in its leading lady, who didn't even show up until forty-two minutes into the plot, though her character made an appearance as a young girl early on. Brigitte Bardot, for it was she, was playing Manina, and this was only her second film as she began to carve out a niche for herself as a sex symbol, though not quite as keenly honed as she would become under the tutelage of Roger Vadim a few years later. If you were waiting for her to show up, the first half would seem rather a slog.

In that opening half, there was a lot of establishing of the premise by writer, director and producer Willy Rozier, as he drew his leading man (Calvé was a stage actor who dabbled in movies and television) towards the Mediterranean and the fulfilment of his dream of becoming rich. The trouble with that dream was he could not simply show up on the Corsican beach, wade out to the spot in question and start bringing up the treasure, he needs a boat and he needs assistance, so he goes off to pretend to be a cigarette smuggler and hire the vessel of Howard Vernon, who may surprise fans of his cadaverous countenance in all those Jess Franco exploitation movies by looking unexpectedly virile in this role.

Once Vernon was on board (in more ways than one), Gérard can set about his grand plan, though not before we were treated to a nightclub sequence where a highly boisterous crowd reacts to the cabaret on offer by eventually causing a riot which is only quietened by a gendarme wading into the revellers and clonking them over the heads with his truncheon. Here we think the lead singer, Espinata Cortez, will hook up with our hero, as Rozier set her up as a potential love interest, but she was abruptly dropped once we got our first glimpse of BB, playing an eighteen-year old Manina not too far away from her actual age. As soon as Gérard claps eyes on her, it is love at first sight, but then no matter what man sees the girl it seems her feminine allure is utterly irresistible, though thankfully it renders her admirers more sentimental than anything else.

Bardot was certainly beautiful at this age, but had not quite grown into her features yet as she would in her twenties, or perhaps it was because Vadim knew how to photograph her and the directors who followed him by casting her followed suit by approaching her looks in a similar fashion, but for whatever reason she was not quite recognisable as the megastar she would become shortly after. She also needed a lot of practice at this acting lark; Calvé was efficient enough but rather bland, Vernon obviously about to branch out into coldly villainous parts, but Brigitte was no better than she would have been in a school play, though some may find this gauche innocence appealing. Everyone else not enthralled by seeing her in this nascent point of her career might well wonder if she had any talent at all, a little unfair but she evidently needed a better director than Rozier to bring out her best qualities. Nevertheless, an interesting item of minor movie history. Music by Marcel Bianchi and Jean Yatove.

[Eureka's Blu-ray is watchable with nice detail, but not the most blemish-free print you'll ever see or hear. You do get a bonus movie - 56, rue Pigalle - and footage of a duel Rozier fought as a result of it, plus a Bardot gallery.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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