And God Created Woman (1956) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna
comments in yellow (written in July, 2000):
The long-awaited Criterion release of Roger Vadim's "And God Created Woman" (1956) with Brigitte Bardot finally arrived. Criterion releases have ranged from very good (Walkabout) to awful (Salo). My hat is off to them for the digital transfer on this one. They even included a short before and after featurette to show what their digital noise correction was able to accomplish.
This was Roger Vadim's directorial debut in a film he wrote to showcase Ms. Bardot, and remained his favorite of his films up to his death in February of this year. The plot is not complex. Bardot is 19, and an orphan. She is living with an old couple who got her from the orphanage more or less as slave labor. Brigitte has a very healthy libido, a lust for life, and is as much a gold digger as you would expect from someone raised in an orphanage. As much as she is willing to use people, she adores animals. Note that Ms. Bardot has spent her retirement working for animal causes, which leads me to believe that she assisted in writing the script. She is in love with one man who thinks of her as an easy lay and a tramp, but marries his brother, who she has become good friends with, to avoid being sent back to the orphanage. She also has her hooks into the wealthiest man in the area. Not that she is a "bad girl" by today's standards, but her behavior was quite shocking in 1956. Eventually, she has sex with her brother-in-law, which nearly ruins the family. The plot would not have carried the film, were it not for Brigitte being on camera for nearly every frame. She brings such beauty, charisma and fire to the screen that I adored the film.
Bardot would have been enough to make this film for me, but Vadim chose Saint-Tropez, France for a location. It is amazingly picturesque, and Vadim did it justice. His use of CinemaScope produced incredible color, and the art direction and photography got color, framing and set direction perfect. This DVD is a jewel in my personal collection. The other images are teases, see-throughs and upskirts, with images chosen to showcase both the art direction and Ms. Bardot.
Scoop's comments in white:
The eccentric autobiography of exploitation producer David Friedman, "A Youth In Babylon", mentions that this was the first European movie ever to receive general US distribution in its original version. Although many foreign films had traveled the arthouse circuit, this one actually made it into drive-ins and the old pussycat circuit.
Just prior to "Woman", Friedman and his cohorts had circulated Bergman's "Sommeren med Monika", but the promoters cut it about in half, dubbed in American voices, and re-scored the entire movie to make it light-hearted. Bergman wouldn't even have recognized the thing. (In fact, Friedman reports that Bergman tried legal means to prevent the dissemination of this butchered cut, but was happy to allow the butchery to continue after he received a cash settlement).
Monika was successful because (1) it had some fleeting nudity when Harriet Anderson did a skinny dip. (2) it somehow escaped the "Condemned" rating from the Legion of Decency.
|I actually enjoyed the Legion's ratings. I only went to movies they condemned, because you couldn't trust the ads. Exploitation filmmakers always tried to make it seem like there was more flesh in their movies, but if the Legion condemned it, you could trust that it would have nudity or extreme weirdness. It also turned out that these were some of the best films of their era, like "The Pawnbroker", so I got an education as well.||
|Friedman tells one absolutely hilarious story where they were once picketed by the Knights of Columbus in full regalia, with ceremonial swords and the assorted headgear of the old British Admiralty. Initially, Friedman and his mentor thought it was a street theater group performing "H.M.S. Pinafore", but when they figured out the situation, they turned it to their advantage as a free publicity opportunity. During the brouhaha between the promoters, the cops, the public, and the press, Kroger Babb, Friedman's mentor, kept referring to the festooned Knights as "Admiral" and "Commodore".|
|Anyway, when "Monika" made a few bucks,
the exploitation guys looked around for some Euroflicks where they
could get the US distribution rights cheap, and not have to spend all
the time and money they had to spend on making Monika acceptable to a general audience.
This particular Vadim flick, "And God Created Woman", was in vivid
color, featured the beautiful Bardot in lovely locales, and wasn't too
depressing, so it was a natural to be the frontrunner. By our
standards, there wasn't much nudity in it, but for the time, it was
Many more Bardot flicks followed, and Bardot's fame in America was thereafter certifiable across all economic classes. The working class guys couldn't tell you what continent France is on, but they could tell you the country's sexiest film star.
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