Bolero (1984) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

There is a school of film criticism that says a reviewer should measure a film on how well it achieves its own ambitions. Of course that particular school is not likely to beat Harvard in the College Bowl, but we attended it ourselves briefly, at least to the extent that we have given a C+ ratings to the occasional film that we didn't like at all, simply because it was at the very top of the list for lovers of that type of film. This kind of movie is usually considered execrable by people who are not into that particular genre.

Bolero is such a movie, provided that you define the genre narrowly enough. Call it an "80s sexploitation film for couples," or a "Bo Derek nudity film." I suppose the latter is kind of redundant. If you're an 80s director and you hire Bo to be in a film, I suppose you aren't hiring her for her ability to handle iambic pentameter or to deliver complex characterization. Let's face it, you've signed her up to look gorgeous naked and in facial close-ups. Bo's beauty is the basic reason for Bolero to exist, although the script does make a perfunctory effort to rationalize that within the context of a plot.

And what a plot it is. It takes place back in the silent film era. Bo graduates from an elite academy and then, having always been a good girl throughout her life, resolves to use her new freedom to have some fun, and to lose her virginity in some exotic way. Since she and her friend have a major fixation with Rudolph Valentino films, Bo resolves to lose her cherry to a real sheik. She does manage to find one in Morocco, and gets undressed for him, whereupon he falls asleep.

She then decides to lose her virginity to a bullfighter.

No, really. I'm not making this up.

She offers herself to the first available bullfighter, finally gets the ol' hymen popped, and falls in love. Mr Bullfighter, as it turns out, is young and handsome, owns a ranch and vineyard, quotes from Aristotle, dances divinely ... you get the idea. Your basic Renaissance bullfighter-vintner. The affair proceeds quite nicely until the matador's next fight, in which a bull gores him in the 'nads. Understandably, this event has the effect of diminishing his interest in fuckin' Bo 24/7. She is steamed about this, and especially about the fact that he's always lying around in bed and feeling sorry for himself and acting like a girly man. She responds by doing what I think any one of us would have done in the same circumstances.

She starts training to be a matador herself.

For reasons not entirely clear to me, this seems to cure the bullfighter of his sexual slothfulness, so he and Bo get married and resume the ol' in-out over the closing credits.

If you have any interest in seeing beautiful images of Bo Derek's face and body, this flick delivers the goods in a relatively innocuous and romantic context that will allow you to watch it without getting any grief from your wife or girlfriend. They may even watch with you because it is generally inoffensive. Of course, I won't suggest that they will like it. It was nominated for nine Razzies, and won six. If you would like to see good storytelling, capable acting, solid dialogue, real human emotions, and a professional level of editing and directing, you might want to pass on this and rent The Sweet Hereafter instead.

Bolero was directed by Bo's husband John, a two time Razzie nominee for worst screenplay, and a three time Razzie nominee for worst direction (Bolero, Tarzan, and Ghosts Can't Do It).

John is a serious candidate for the title of worst auteur ever.  Here is his filmography of the John/Bo collaborations sorted by IMDb rating:

  Director Cinematographer Screenwriter Editor
(3.12) - Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981) Yes Yes No No
(3.02) - Fantasies (1981/I) Yes Yes Yes No
(2.63) - Bolero (1984) Yes Yes Yes No
(2.45) - Ghosts Can't Do It (1990) Yes Yes Yes Yes

Note that there is an inverse correlation between the number of functions Derek filled and the IMDb scores. On the other hand, the highest one is not much better than the lowest, so that correlation is not really significant. To put those scores into perspective, Plan 9 From Outer Space is rated 3.50

Actually, to be fair to Derek, he did exhibit some talent for cinematography, was a capable still photographer, and exhibited an almost unparalleled talent for romancing beautiful women. In addition to Bo, he was married to Linda Evans and Ursula Andress, both of whom resembled Bo when they were young. Derek obviously liked those Nordic blonde looks on women with tiny waists offset by large firm breasts. He and Bo actually had one of the most stable Hollywood marriages of all time. They were together for 25 years, and were married for the last 24, until John's death in 1998.



  • No features except the original theatrical trailer
  • the transfer is anamorphically enhanced (16x9), and looks marvelous!


  • Bo Derek - all body parts in very softcore erotica

  • Ana Obregon - breasts

  • Olivia D'Abo - everything, but covered with suds

  • Mirta Miller - breasts coming our of hot tub at night

  • One anonymous woman - breast in a sex scene with ... George Kennedy!!! No wonder she stayed anonymous,

  • Andrea Occhipinti- buns in two scenes

  • Ian Cochrane - brief buns before a sex scene with Obregon

The Critics Vote ...

  • Roger Ebert didn't cut the Dereks a lot of slack here, with a half a star.

  • It won six Razzies out of nine nominations. It was also nominated later as the worst picture of the 80s, but lost out to Mommie Dearest.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 2.6/10, 59th worst of all time
  • Amazingly, this film grossed $9 million in the USA.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a C-. Look, let's be honest. This film stinks worse than a sardine canning plant. But Bo looks spectacular and gets naked as often as possible, the cinematography isn't bad, and the DVD transfer is beautiful. If you rent or buy it to see Bo naked, you'll get what you're looking for and you probably won't notice the plot anyway.

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