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  Gwendoline And With One Bound...
Year: 1984
Director: Just Jaeckin
Stars: Tawny Kitaen, Brent Huff, Zabou, Bernadette Lafont, Jean Rougerie, André Julien, Chen Chang Ching, Vernon Dobtcheff, Roland Amstutz
Genre: Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: Three undesirables are skulking their way around a Far Eastern port looking for something to steal and sell; first they find Bibles, but on opening a large crate they are surprised to discover a young woman inside. She is Gwendoline (Tawny Kitaen), who has travelled to China as a stowaway in search of her missing, butterfly collectiing father, only now she has more pressing matters to attend to as she is kidnapped by the three thieves and taken to see a local gangster at his bar. Her companion Beth (Zabou) is distraught at losing her mistress, so searches for her, but will she find her in time? It's not looking good for Gwendoline - she is to be sold into slavery when suddenly...

During the eighties there were a couple of genres that made their mark as little more than that decade's equivalent of B movies: the rip off of Raiders of the Lost Ark and the comic strip adaptation. Not a comic strip adaptation as Superman was, but as Jane and the Lost City was, and with this adaptation of John Willie's Gwendoline you were offered a French combination of the two. The script was by Jean-Luc Voulfow and director Just Jaeckin, then and now best known for his softcore hit Emmanuelle, and this film, as it turned out, was to be his last to date.

When you learn that Jaeckin is involved, you expect a plethora of naked women on display, but he reigns himself in for most of the running time, or two thirds at least, concentrating on the adventure side of things. So it is that Gwendoline and Beth are rescued from their predicament by a rugged he-man stand-in for Indiana Jones, Willard (Brent Huff), who rather violently dispatches the gangster and his henchmen and then slouches off to play on the roulette tables without giving them a second thought. So begins what can best be described as an antagonistic relationship between Gwendoline and Willard.

Seeing how he took care of her captors, Gwen insists that Willard accompany them upriver into uncharted territory, and persuades him by winning his assistance at roulette. The story is uncomplicated in the main, breezily skipping from point A to point B with commendable lack of pretention and only the bickering between the women and Willard causing an unwelcome irritation. You want them to ditch this angle as it's tiresomely predictable that Gwen and he will get together before the end, although the way this happens is, erm, unusual, so credits to them for that.

Pausing only to tussle with natives or have Gwen and Beth remove their shirts in a rainstorm for no very good reason (well, as far as the plot goes anyway), our heroine finally recognises something from the dream which brought her here in the first place. An offscreen, in-danger-of-erupting volcano taken as read, the trio find themselves in an lost kingdom ruled by women in skimpy leather gear, and the film's fetishistic side rears its head, with Gwendoline and co being captured and naturally dressing up in the leather gear to blend in. There's a threat of the action being too silly for adults while certainly being too grown up for kids, but for some adults, stuff like this will never be too silly. It won't get your adrenaline pumping, but it is decorative when it could have been simply functional. Music by Pierre Bachelet and Bernard LeVitte.

[The crisp-looking Nucleus DVD features a commentary with Jaeckin, and an interview with the director too, trailers, an alternate title sequence, a short history of the film's troubles with the BBFC in the 80s, and more.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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