A Movie Miscellany

Some rather quirky films I’ve watched recently:-

Wolfhound (2002)

Writer Colum takes the wife and kids back to his secluded family home in Ireland, where he plans to use the isolation to work on a book, but all the locals keep giving him funny looks and there are dark hints about what happened to his parents. Wolfhounds hang round the house at night, and in a derelict barn Colum finds a bed and chains that give rise to weird S&M dreams in which he fucks a Playmate, only they’re not really dreams. With his wife and kids in danger from the leader of the local pack, Colum gets in touch with his inner beast and transforms, beating the boss man in combat and then driving off into the moonrise with his family.

This was simply dreadful, with naff acting and a ludicrous storyline (script was by Scott Bradfield, who probably doesn’t mention it on his resume). The lack of a decent budget is obvious, with camera shift transformations and the whole thing looking like it was filmed on three sets – farmhouse, village shop and village pub. The attempt to inject some menace fails woefully, with the wolfhounds looking like big, soppy dogs pouting for a cuddle rather than potential man-eaters, while the ending is simply an anti-climax, as if they ran out of money or film, and simply couldn’t be arsed to explain the back story. Even the erotic element doesn’t work, with big boobies and lots of rhythmic swaying in lieu of any chemistry between the characters or sexual charge in the situation, not even with the ambiguous use of chains as restraints. It’s shit like this that gets porn a good reputation.

The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984)

Holy warrior Kain comes to a town where an uneasy peace exists between the forces of local tyrants Zeg and Bal Caz, with control of the well vital for each, while the ordinary citizens go without. Kain hires himself out as a mercenary to first one side and then the other, playing them off against each other while he cleverly undermines the power of both, to aid the sorceress Naja. After many travails, she forges an invincible weapon for him and Kain puts everyone who opposes him to the sword. Universal equality and happiness is declared. Easy peasy.

This too suffers from budget restraints, though not as badly as the previous film, with what is obviously little more than a village, and a small one at that, serving as the base of operations for the two rival warlords, when reasonably I don’t think either would have been the least bit interested in such a dismal backwater. It compensates with a plot that provides plenty of opportunity for incidental invention, as with the many boobed dancer, the many tentacled monster and the reptilian adviser to Bal Caz, and this is perhaps where the movie is at its most interesting, showing the decadence of this society. The fight scenes don’t really grab, with the characters most of the time doing little more than wave their weapons about in the air. David Carradine as Kain looks his age and is rather lumbering, with the suspicion that the other actors have to hold back to make him look the part of hero. On the plus side, while the good guys seem slightly one-dimensional, I rather liked all the leering evil from Zeg and Bal Caz, plus assorted sycophants, all of them shamelessly hamming it up. And, for the win, Maria Socas who plays Naja, wears little more than a loincloth throughout and is simply stunning. I liked it, but won’t be in a hurry to watch it again.

Gwendoline (1984)

Gwendoline arrives in China with her friend Beth, in search of her father, a famous lepidopterist who has gone missing while looking for a new species of butterfly. After escaping from white slavers, the two women throw in with the roguish Willard and coerce him to take them to the interior where unknown tribes hold sway. They end up at a city of Amazons, whose Queen wants to kill Gwendoline and use Willard as breeding material. Naturally our heroine, who has absolutely no previous experience as a fighter, manages to thwart a small army of trained warriors, bringing about the collapse of the city state and escaping with Beth and Willard, as you do. Her father may be dead, but Gwendoline does find the rare and undiscovered butterfly he was looking for, which is the best they can do by way of happy ending.

I’ve seen this compared to Barbarella, and guess I can see some of that. Tawny Kitaen as Gwendoline makes a very good innocent abroad, there’s an evil queen ruling over a city state with a crazy scientist at her side (D’arcy has elaborate torture devices, albeit nothing quite on a par with the orgasmatron of Duran Duran), and a volcano in lieu of the Matmus, or whatever it was called, when an explosive curtain bringer downer is required. At a stretch you could equate Beth with Barbarella’s spaceship (or, at least, the talking computer/AI) and Willard is a shop soiled version of the angel Pygar. Such comparisons aside, it is rather a ridiculous film, with no real explanation as to how or why the Amazons are all women (okay, they need men from outside to breed with, but why no boy babies?), and all young, incredibly attractive women at that. The side plot, with Willard starting out as the macho man and borderline misogynist, and then softening into somebody who loves Gwendoline, was all rather cliched, and the battle scenes were equivalent to pillow fights with swords, while my eyes boggled for more than one reason at the sight of chariots pulled along by women in breechclouts (a sop thrown to the pony girl demographic in the audience).

Of course I’m being disingenuous. Director Just Jaeckin’s back catalogue contains Emmanuelle, The Story of O and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and fantasy trappings aside this is just exploitation cinema along roughly similar lines, fuelled mainly by a need/desire to show lots of attractive women in little or no clothing. And yet, for all the obviousness of that agenda, the end result is something so barmy and innocent that it’s hard to feel offended. Bottom line, it’s too ridiculous to take seriously, a film I’d categorise as saucy rather than sleazy, with a good sense of its own idiocy and playing to that, and I actually enjoyed it once I managed to put my critical faculties on hold. It feels innocent, good natured and harmless, with the nudity non-sexualised, or even amusing as when Willard gets to dress as an Amazon, and it’s only in writing about the film and trying to explain/justify its appeal that the exploitation elements loom so large and become an issue. Ho hum.

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