So… have any of my Gentle Visitors ever wondered what “Raiders” would be like if you mixed it up with a little vintage Eurosex naughtiness ala “Barbarella”? No? Well, what kind of globe-trotting Catgirl adventuress would I be if I didn’t dig deep in the DVD vault for something a little spicy… a little racy… a wee bit risqué to really show you just how much “Raiders” has influenced films from all around the world. This time out, the 1984 French film “The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik Yak” based on… of all things… an odd little bondage/fetish cartoon series. Yep, I kid you not. 😉
Our synopsis goes like this: “Sweet naive virginal Gwendoline leaves her convent school and arrives in China in a box on a quest to find the fate of her lost father who was last seen searching for a rare butterfly in the legendary “Land of the Yik Yak”. Saved from white slavers and a fate worse than death by her loyal maidservant and a devil-may-care adventurer, soon she is knee-deep in trouble. Along the way she and her companions must face pirates, scoundrels, vicious native tribesmen, poisonous desert windstorms, and a lost race of Amazon warriors guarding a volcanic mountain full of diamonds.”
Hmmmm? Yes… I know… Sounds a bit naughty… (Just the sort of film to tease my sweet Carolyn… and convince her I really am a nutty lil’ dweeb for sure. 😉 ) but it also sounds really campy and way fun too. So for a bit of jungle adventure fun the way only the French could manage it, let’s all kick back and enjoy the fun together shall we? 😉
At first glance… this might seem an odd choice of film for our March Movie Review Festival, no doubt about it. A French soft porn sex farce based on a vintage bondage fetish comic series from Canada? Hey… why not? I admit it… I’m a fairly open-minded lady who’s not adverse to a little risqué action in my films. Certainly this one looked all light and fluffy and a whole lot nicer than some of the slasher films out there. Mind you… when Carolyn saw the DVD cover on Movie Nite she did raise an eyebrow and give me her best disbelieving smirk of amusement. But she’s a good sport… (and probably figured if it was toooo darn bad, we could probably find some way to amuse ourselves instead… 😉 ) so with our popcorn and wine coolers ready we popped it in our player and cuddled in to watch.
However… surprisingly this one actually gets off to a promising start. We begin on a crowded dock somewhere in the exotic Far East, bustling and busy as ships unload their cargoes and various locals, both honest and not so honest, await to receive them. It’s sooooo obviously a set built completely in a huge warehouse sound stage, but while that’s easily apparent, it actually give the whole thing that look of an old vintage adventure film and… at least for me brought back some nice memories of oodles similar scenes from all the old B&W Republic serials I watched as a girl. Without too much more than a few panning shots of the frantic action going on, we close in on a trio of scurvy scoundrels sneaking through the offloaded crates looking for valuable stuff to get their sticky fingers on. What do they find? Why a honking big old crate, fresh off a ship from Paris. Ooo-la-la!! Jackpot! With visions of valuable imported wine, delicate french silk, and all the other riches of Europe in their heads they crack it open only to find… not the choice loot they expected but instead… a girl. Not just any girl, but our heroine, the deliciously pretty Gwendoline (played by a young Tawny Kitaen in her first big screen role) who’s ridiculously shipped herself to this exotic locale in a box just like in a Looney Tunes cartoon. Sure it’s goofy… but it sets that delightfully silly tone that let me know at least this one was gonna be a fun little romp that didn’t take itself too darn seriously.
So… what do three villanous scoundrels do with a lovely doe-eyed French girl? Why promptly knock her unconscious and haul her off to sell her to a brothel, naturally. Luckily for poor Gwendoline, her spunky and devoted maid servant Beth (played by the exotically named Zabou Breitman) is soon in hot pursuit of the bad guys only to end up getting grabbed as well. Yep… it’s just that kind of story you see, “Pretty damsels in distress constantly getting kidnapped and tied up”… I mean, it was inspired by a bondage cartoon after all, silly… 😉
There’s the standard bit where our scoundrels bargain for the girls with the slimy brothel keeper, and then… right as we get to the first bodice ripping nudity threatening that proverbial “Fate worse than Death”, the window crashes in and a big honking grappling hook snags the boss by the throat as our film’s obvious hero makes his entrance in proper style. He’s Willard (played by Brent Huff)… some sort of devil-may-care sailor type here to squeeze some money out of the brothel keeper for some unsavory job he did in the past. He’s not really interested in saving Gwendoline and Beth… just in getting his money… but his arrival and subsequent thrashing of the brothel keeper’s minions does give them the chance to make their escape. Strange given Gwendoline’s almost instinctive desire for him at first glance. Guess our boy Willard never saw that Whitesnake video… 😉
There’s that whole initial bit where Willard tries his darndest to get rid of these annoying ladies and the silly quest to find the butterfly once they learn of her father’s death. Really odd given that our boy Willard seems to consider himself quite the lady’s man and here he’s got a really attractive naive lil’ virgin just about squirming with desire to jump his bones. Like he’s in absolutely no way interested in her at all… Yeah, right.
Anyhoo… it isn’t long before our girl manages to trick and persuade our hero to join her quest after ruining some opium deal he had going on with some fairly scurvy pirates. Once she gains the upper hand, it’s into those ever so stylish khaki explorer clothes and off for the steamy reaches of the interior. Where exactly? Why now there’s a question…. supposedly the city we started in was somewhere in China, but just up river there’s this steaming jungle full of vicious blowgun wielding natives called the Kiops. Those guys seem to look a lot like South American tribesmen crossed with Indonesian headhunters. Beyond their lands you then abruptly transition into a trackless desert lies haunted by a deadly poisonous sandstorm surrounding the volcanic mountains of the lands of the Yik Yak. Anybody know where that might be? I sure don’t… talk about “Terra Incognito”. This part of the movie resembles the standard jungle adventure pretty darn well, including a capture by the natives and that neat bit where they carry you to their village tied to poles like venison. Classic….
All along the way, we get those never too subtle French soft porn moments you might remember from “Barbarella”. You know… lame excuses for Gwen and Beth to get naked at the drop of a hat… lots of sex talk, including this weird bit where Willard and Gwen are tied up and he still manages to have “phone sex” with her to calm her down… all without a phone. 🙂
But… once we get into that final 45 minutes of the story or so, all subtlety goes right out the window. After climbing down into a chasm that Gwendoline says she saw in a dream we are introduced to the Yik Yak themselves, fierce warrior amazon women ruling over one of those super scientific “lost empires” from out of “Flash Gordon”. You know the ones… where everything is all stark white and impeccably clean, all art deco and the like, where our warrior girls all wear these skimpy black leather bikini armor bondage outfits. There’s oodles of bound women slaves everywhere… tied to the walls… trapped in cages… hanging upside down over pools… sliding rather suggestively in and out of crazy metal chimneys and the like. Trippy… really trippy.
Naturally the evil queen (played by Bernadette Lafont) of these deadly ladies was expecting them, and after trapping them all, decides that Willard will be the victory prize in an amazon mating combat ritual. Gwendoline? Well, she’s too spunky.. to independently minded to make a good subject so she’s just gonna have to die. Along with loyal Beth of course. But just as you might expect, our girl manages to pluck up her courage and escape… find herself one of those leather bikinis… save Beth… and then fight to the death in disguise to save our hero. Easy, eh?
That will tick off the queen of course, but by the time we reach the story’s climax at the erotic amazon mating ritual… both figuratively and literally… D’Arcy, the captive French engineer from her father’s expedition (played by Jean Rougerie) who’s been enslaved by the queen to run her diamond mining operation in the volcano will rig the volcano to blow and bury the lost city forever. Will Gwen, Beth and Willard make it out alive? Will Willard admit his passions for Gwen? Will they ever find that darn butterfly they’ve been searching for throughout the entire movie? Yes, yes, yes… naturally they do. It’s that sort of movie… 😉
So what’s the verdict? Well…. this one turned out to be a lot more tame than I actually expected, with more simple nudity than any really overt sexuality. The “fetishy” bondage stuff might have been pretty risqué by 80’s standards, but wasn’t even as explicit as some of the stuff you get on late night pay cable here in the states. For me, the earlier part of the film played better than the latter half. As a simple “Perils of Pauline” imitation, it wasn’t half bad, although the chemistry between Miss Kitaen and Brent Huff was fairly tepid at best. My favorite character has to be Zabou’s Beth… a brave spunky character with a delightful scene in which she simply bitches out the Kiop tribesmen and slaps their leader silly, so stunning them that our trio almost manages an escape. Hilarious…
We did have quite a bit of fun watching this… laughing quite a bit at some parts, groaning at others, and for the most part giggling a whole lot more than the filmmakers probably intended. It earns a respectable 3 “Meows” out of 5, having just enough campy silly notions combined with a sly wink and naughty plot that seems to have only improved now that our film is sliding into vintage age.
We saw this on the extended unrated European Director’s cut from Severin Films, All region, letterbox and in the original French audio with perfect English subtitles. It also has an English dubbed audio track, but for me it’s hard to say which one was the intended one…as some actors appear to be dubbed better in English than in French while other are the opposite. Either way, it’s a steal for right around 12-16$ US and easily found on the various Amazons around the world should you too want a crazy retro sexy evening’s movie fun. certainly a more tasteful erotic epic than some of the other “Raiders” inspired erotica I bumped across while researching this month’s festival…. trust me. 😉
A Trailer? Oui!! Mais bien sûr! 😉