Manina, the Lighthouse-Keeper's Daughter (1952) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Aka: Manina, la fille sans voile (Original French title.)

Aka: The Girl in the Bikini (American theatrical release in 1958.)

This is a lowbrow French entertainment which would now be forgotten except for one very key element: it represented Brigitte Bardot's screen debut. La Bardot exposed one of her breasts briefly, so it is also her first screen nudity.

In a brief prologue, a young student finds a Phoenician amphora while skin diving off a remote island in the Mediterranean. Many years later, he learns that there was a legendary Phoenician shipwreck in the same general area, and that the sunken ship was supposed to have contained many amphorae filled with gold coins. Convinced that his own find is part of a priceless hoard of ancient treasures, he finances an expedition to return to the island and dive for the loot. Since he is only a poor university student, the only way he can get a suitable boat for the task is to make a deal with some treacherous cigarette smugglers.

When he finally gets back to his island, he finds that the little daughter of the lighthouse keeper has grown up to look a lot like Brigitte Bardot, so he begins to romance her. The captain of the smuggling boat begins to suspect that there was no treasure to begin with, and that the student is only using him and his boat to woo the sexy young woman. The elements of dramatic conflict are established. Can the smugglers be trusted? Does the treasure exist? If so, who will find it? If it's found, who will end up with it? Will the student run off with the lighthouse-keeper's daughter?

We tend to think of the French cinema as a bastion of aloof intellectualism and pseudo-art, but this film was not made for the dour-faced university crowd. This film was made into a stew for popular consumption, and it could easily have been a "B" Hollywood film from the same era if it had been in English. It includes a pinch of this and a dollop of that to entertain the masses. It is an adventure about buried treasure, and it is a corny love story, but it's also a lowbrow comedy and a musical! There is the trite background music. There are over-the-top minor comic characters like Huntz Hall - even one scene inspired by the Keystone Kops. There are scheming, chain-smoking, moustache-twirling weasels like Gilbert Roland. There is a pretty girl in a bikini. There are popular songs. There is a big musical production number. Sometimes it is downright silly.

Although Manina is a poor movie in certain ways (the corny acting and the incredibly rushed denouement), and can even be laughably poor (some truly bad use of miniatures), you might get a real kick out of this film. I did. It is truly a time capsule left for us by forgotten people who lived in unfamiliar places and times. There are some nice (stock?) shots of Paris and Cannes in the early 50s and some fascinating street scenes which really seem to have been shot in Tangiers in 1952.  For some of us older types, this film is also a look back at a naive, primitive, old-fashioned type of filmmaking which we remember from our childhoods and which will never come around again. It made me smile to realize that French people my age must have very similar memories of cheesy films, except theirs have a different cast of characters.

I'll be honest and say that I don't want to watch any more like this, but it was a lot of fun to watch one, especially since it featured Brigitte Bardot's screen debut and nude debut.

Manina: The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter DVD Brigitte Bardot

DVD INFO (click on image left)

  • 4:3
  • Good transfer
  • 19 pictures in a small gallery
  • PAL, all-region.
  • There is also a French disc, but that transfer is not as good, it is hard-coded for Region 2, and no subtitles are available, so this Australian release is the one you want.




Brigitte Bardot's left breast is briefly exposed down to the bottom of her areola.

The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

  • This film had a brief and limited theatrical release in the United States in 1958, six years after it was made. By then Bardot had become a major international star and the distributor hoped to cash in on her name. Results unknown. Given the bare breast, I suppose that it played in very few locations.
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, I guess it is a C- as a French popular entertainment from the early 50s, and one that can be quite fascinating to watch. Since I have not seen anything else like it, I don't know if it is a good or bad example of what the French were doing then in terms of mass-market commercial films, but it's charming enough to rate a C- and a recommendation for curiosity-seekers at least, especially since the DVD transfer is quite satisfactory!

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