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  Bolero Bo Peeping
Year: 1984
Director: John Derek
Stars: Bo Derek, George Kennedy, Andrea Occhipinti, Ana Obregón, Olivia d'Abo, Greg Bensen, Ian Cochrane, Mirta Miller, Mickey Knox, Paul Stacey, James Stacey
Genre: Sex, Trash, Romance, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 2 votes)
Review: Young American Lida McGillivery (Bo Derek) has ended her last term at an English finishing school, and to celebrate she asks her chauffeur Cotton (George Kennedy) to stop the car before it leaves the grounds, then leaps out and starts dancing around while stripping off her clothes to the cheers of the pupils who see her. Cotton is a little embarrassed by this behaviour, but they have a chat and he agrees to be her faithful manservant now that her father is no longer alive. Yet what she really wants to is lose her virginity to a genuine sheik...

And being able to pronounce the word "sheik" properly would be a bonus too. Writer and director John Derek's Bolero was a love letter to his wife, a lot like his previous two films, that won nothing but hoots of derision from those unlucky enough to watch it. It also won a brace of prizes at that year's Golden Raspberry Awards, and that was really the only level it could be appreciated: as a prize turkey. Bo's career, which had been boosted by her non-hubby role in 10 opposite Dudley Mooore, didn't really benefit from these films, I'm sure they loved each other very much but this was like watching a couple garland each other with treacly lovey-doviness for almost two hours.

That is, you're more than a little embarrassed not only by their unselfconsciousness, but also by their lack of, well, embarrassment given the amount of nudity included in artfully shot yet deeply naff aims at erotica, all wrapped up in the smug air of someone confident enough to inflict their supposedly sophisticated sexual fantasies on the world. Bolero was apparently Mr Derek's attempt to update the swooning romance of those old Rudolph Valentino adventures with the addition of nudity and sex scenes, but he apparently wasn't aware that a sex scene doesn't automatically make your film an erotic masterpiece, certainly not when they're presented with the absurdity they were here, especially when he was under the impression he could try out his skills of comedy every so often.

If the director was trying to make the men in the audience jealous of his good fortune, then that didn't play out either, as Bo comes across as maddeningly vapid in this production, grinning away at nothing in particular and doing little to counter the unfair reputation of blondes as airheads. We're supposed to accept that Lida is still a virgin when one could only imagine Bo waved a fond farewell to her maidenhead long before filming began, and when she gets to grips with the sheik of her dreams he not only licks honey off her, giving the appearance of having sneezed mightily on her body, but falls asleep on her as well, leaving her unsatisfied. That bit is supposed to be funny (Lida's pal finds it snortingly hilarious in anecdotal form, anyway).

It's inadvised humour like this that only contributes to the insane awkwardness of the entire enterprise. After ditching the sheik, Lida eventually ends up in Spain, lusting after wine merchant and bullfighter Angel (Andrea Occhipinti) while her companions have sex on the brain too, including Olivia d'Abo whose underage state doesn't prevent the director from stripping her off too. Trouble is, the sex scenes are simply ridiculous, whether it's the way Bo has a light breeze riffling her hair during the deed, or for the erm, climax, a neon sign flashing "Extasy" amid the dry ice. Add to that Bo indulging in bullfighting herself (which looks like footage from a holiday, a holiday with non-arousing bloodsports) and the fact that almost all the characters need to have their ears syringed judging by the amount of times they ask each other to repeat themselves - though no wonder when even the native English speakers struggle with the unspeakable dialogue - and you have a film that's more horribly fascinating than titillating. As co-producer Menahem Golan lamented, "It's a total embarrassment." Music by Peter Bernstein, which notably does not feature Ravel's title tune.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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