Release Date: 21 January 2013
1969 | 15 | 90 minutes | £12.99 Distributor: Mediumrare Entertainment Director: Jess Franco Cast: Richard Wyler, Shirley Eaton, Maria Rohm, George Sanders
About an hour into The Girl From Rio, it breaks for a carnival interlude, editing its characters into the midst of genuine Rio carnival footage. It feels appropriate, since this is a film best appreciated like a passing parade: by enjoying the vibrant music and the outrageous costumes.
Although not actually based on a comic strip, it has the feel of one; sadly, the results are more Modesty Blaise than Danger: Diabolik. Richard Wyler plays the excitingly-monickered Jeff Sutton (Richard Wyler), a greying medallion man/own-brand Bond who soon attracts the attention of two different factions after arriving in Brazil with a briefcase filled with $10 million of ill-gotten gains. Kidnapped, he’s taken to Femina, a geographically mysterious “City Of Women” ruled by Goldfinger’s Shirley Eaton (in her last movie role before quitting the business to concentrate on raising a family).
Like Camelot, Femina is a silly place. Its inhabitants spend most of their free time standing around in rows, posing with their machine guns. They also have some curious ideas about torture: doing febrile panting around a chap’s ears is more friendly than waterboarding, but less likely to get results.
The script is a disconnected mess, crammed with ill-defined characters, illogical situations, and tumbleweed one-liners. Euro-sleaze director Jess Franco is in his element whenever it’s time for the sexy stuff (like a nude woman writhing around on the floor in a pool of dry ice), given an excuse to execute his trademark crash-zooms into boobs and armpit hair. But he’s miserably ill-equipped (in every sense) when it comes to action – when it’s time for a shootout, the Feminans have to simulate machine-gun fire by shaking their prop weapons!
What the film does have, despite its impoverished budget, is style. The Feminans, with their cloaks, boots and holey dresses (reminiscent of Doctor Who’s alien Thals), look marvellous. So do the flick-knife-wielding henchmen of George Sanders’s squeamish gangster, kitted out in sharp suits and carnival masks. The score is also fabulous, mixing ba-ba-ba bossa nova with burbling alien-planet atmospheres the BBC Radiophonic Workshop would have been proud of.
It all adds up to the sort of film which would look great projected on the wall in a swinging mod nightclub, but is immensely frustrating to actually sit through properly.
Featurette “Rolling In Rio” (14 minutes) features amusing and insightful interviews (conducted in 2004, for the region one DVD) with Jess Franco, Shirley Eaton and producer Harry Alan Towers; Franco is particularly good value, declaring that, “Cinema should be like a box of surprises, like a magic box!” and reminiscing about George Sanders (who committed suicide a few years later), and how people took advantage of his good nature. There’s also a brief slideshow of black and white stills.