Gwendoline (1984) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)


Tuna's notes


Gwendoline is a cult masterpiece by Just Jaeckin, who also brought us Emmanuelle. It is based on an adult comic strip called The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline, which was created by John Coutts and appeared in Bizarre magazine between 1948 and 1959. Think "Perils of Pauline," but with a large helping of bondage fetishism. The film was widely released, and played in the US as The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik Yak. It was once available in the USA on video tape, but those copies have become collectable, and the only DVD is an Italian one for Region 2, which offers either French dialogue with Italian sub-titles, or dubbed Italian dialogue. I had previously worn out two VHS copies of the film, and therefore wasn't bothered by the language problem on this DVD because I knew it by heart.

Gwendoline's father has gone missing while searching for a rumored rare black butterfly in the The Land of the Yik Yak, somewhere in China. She hears that her father has died, but hopes to discover the butterfly herself, and name it after him, so Gwendoline (Tawny Kitaen) and her maid (Zabou) ship themselves to China in a packing crate. While the maid is out stealing food, Gwendoline is discovered by criminals, and sold to a whorehouse owner. That facilitates her meeting with Williard (Brent Huff), a daring adventurer she will eventually bribe into helping her.

Thus begins my favorite sequence of scenes in the film. Rather than Willard, we see his grappling hook enter the room where Gwendoline is being held captive, right into the neck of the head bad guy.




In the ensuing melee, Williard throws a really nasty sword and skewers another bad guy.




He makes short work of a ninja with nunchucks, then takes the money he came for, cuts Gwendoline loose, and leaves. The crooks who kidnapped Gwendoline in the first place finally return, but they assume she has murdered everyone, so they flee in terror. Gwendoline and her maid next encounter Willard gambling. He fights over her with a police chief, and all three are jailed. Then comes the choicest bit of violence ever filmed. Williard roughly grabs her and kisses her, expecting her to scream, but she just wants more, so he has to slaps her ass roughly. The guard comes running, and Williard grabs his hair, pulling his head through the bars, and leaving his ears stuck to the bars.



Gwendoline and her maid hide on Willard's boat. After throwing them into the water a couple of times, he takes them with him on a smuggling mission and an encounter with river pirates. Finally, Gwedoline bribes him to take them to Yik Yak. Along the way, they encounter many difficulties, but eventually find that the storied Yik Yak is an underground world run entirely by women in bondage outfits.



 

All three must fight constantly to survive. The film builds to a formal battle in which the most eligible women, including Gwendoline, battle to the death for the right to screw Willard and then kill him. After defeating the other women, Gwendoline is nervous about losing her virginity, but her maid points out that, after killing other women in hand-to-hand combat, screwing is easy.

*PROMO* Perils of Gwendoline DVD Directors Cut Tawny Kitaen

DVD INFO - many features

  • uncut and unrated
  • full length director's commentary
  • never-seen still photos of Tawny Kitaen from the director's private collection
  • Dr Kinsey interview with the creator of Gwendoline
  • an interview with the director
  • domestic and international trailers
  • available in English or French

SPECIAL PROMO

Buy Gwendoline and get one other DVD free. Choose from among six.

Click on the box image to the right.

NUDITY REPORT

The film is nearly non-stop breast exposure, not only from Tawny Kitaen and Zabou, but from scores of other women in various bars, and then in Yik Yak.


Scoop's notes


Gwendoline has its weak points, and I'll get to those in a minute, but it has one truly extraordinary strength. It had the most exotic and beautiful photography ever seen in a soft-core erotic film up until that point. Just Jaecklin had a wonderful visual imagination, and he knew how to get the optimal mileage from his cinematographers. (Emmanuelle, The Story of O  and Gwendoline had three different cinematographers, although all three films look splendid.) Jaecklin outdid himself in this one. In fact, it seemed that he was trying to create as many different types of locales as possible, just to show off. The story starts in the teeming streets of the port of Singapore, proceeds to an exotic bordello and casino, thence to sinuous tropical rivers lined dramatically by palm trees, thence to thick African-style jungle inhabited by exotic tribes, thence to dramatic desert scapes, and finally to an imaginary underground kingdom filled with campy Art Deco architecture and stylized machines. There is even a chariot race, ala Ben-Hur, except with the "horses" consisting of leather-clad B&D chicks! All sections are photographed well, and the visual story-telling can be outstanding. The first five minutes of the film set up the entire premise with nary a word of narrative nor expository dialogue, just by showing the necessary incidents with compact camera movement and a bit of editing. Orson Welles and Steven Spielberg would tip their hats to the effectiveness of the wordless exposition. Indeed, Jaecklin pulled off a credible homage to Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark, which clearly inspired this film. Gwendoline may have been the most professionally imagined and filmed soft-core of all time until Jean-Jacques Annaud filmed The Lover and raised the bar so high it may never again be cleared.

Gwendoline's storyline and dialogue can be fun as well, so I have no quarrel with Tuna's affection for this film. The script even includes one of the greatest lines of all time: "It's raining, take your clothes off." In fairness, however, we might point out a few flaws:

1. The acting is just dreadful. Jaecklin seemed to ignore acting in most of his movies. He liked the kind of leading lady who seemed like a childish and nearly mindless bimbo, someone who could feign wide-eyed innocence and seem younger than her years. His favorite leading lady was Sylvia Kristel, who was actually reputed to be exceptionally brilliant and sophisticated, but whose screen persona seemed especially dense and immature. Kristel was too old to be playing the virginal naf in this film, but if Jaecklin was looking around for an American actress who was as much like Sylvia Kristel as possible, he hit the jackpot in Tawny Kitaen. Kitaen's line readings were a bit rough around the edges, but she seemed like Helen Hayes compared to Brent Huff, who was in his first major movie role - and it showed. He was 23 when he made this film, and he was just too young and immature to be playing the crusty world-weary adventurer ala Indiana Jones. He read his lines like, and generally seemed like, a high school kid - albeit a very handsome and buff one. Kitaen eventually became a self-parody and was not able to sustain a real acting career, but Huff did manage to hang in there, and still works regularly, now usually typecast as an authority figure. His characters often have a military rank or titles like "agent," and "officer." He almost always works in films you never heard of, but he does work! It actually took him quite a while to establish his B-list career. Immediately after Gwendoline, the best he could come up with was Nine Deaths of the Ninja, a film rated a sterling 1.6 at IMDb. His "sorted by rating" list at IMDb looks like this:

  1. (6.38) - Girls' Night (1998)
  2. (5.09) - Falling from Grace (1992)
  3. (4.86) - Oblivion 2: Backlash (1996)
  4. (4.72) - Hollywood Confidential (1997) (TV)
  5. (4.59) - I Spy Returns (1994) (TV)
  6. (4.48) - Beautiful (2000)
  7. (4.37) - Dead Tides (1997)
  8. (4.22) - More Mercy (2003) (V)
  9. (4.16) - Gwendoline (1984)
  10. (4.15) - Hitman's Run (1999)
  11. (4.12) - Coach (1978)
  12. (4.03) - Armed Response (1986)
  13. (3.96) - Hijack (1999)
  14. (3.89) - Scorpio One (1997)
  15. (3.82) - The Bad Pack (1998)
  16. (3.55) - Hot Boyz (1999)
  17. (3.35) - Submerged (2000)
  18. (3.33) - Final Examination (2003) (V)
  19. (2.99) - Glass Trap (2005)
  20. (1.97) - Nine Deaths of the Ninja (1985)

As you can see, he had no rated films between 1986 and 1992, by which time he was 31 and, I suppose, had grown into his "Agent Taylor" roles.

2. There is virtually no nudity in the first 42 minutes of Gwendoline, and there is absolutely none from the stars during that period. That's a long time to wait for the two leading ladies to get out of their shirts because of the rain. To be balanced, however, one must note that the last 40 minutes, the portion in the land of the Yik-Yak, presents virtually wall-to-wall breasts, and thong-clad bums, and that includes Kitaen and Zabou as well as the evil queen's anonymous henchwomen and minions.

The Critics Vote ...

  • There are no major print reviews available for this film, but 10k bullets has a comprehensive review.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 4.3/10. The scores are about evenly distributed among all ten possible scores!
  • It grossed a couple of million in a January 1985 run 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.

Our 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. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. 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-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • 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.

 

Based on this description, this film is a high C+, but as in the case of most "cult" favorites, is only for a limited audience.

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