Rowing With The Wind (1988) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Two thumbs so far down they scrape upon hell itself.

Tuna's comments in white

Rowing with the Wind (1988), aka Remando al viento, is a Spanish film that begins when Lord Byron, Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley are all together in Geneva. They decide to invent a horror story apiece. Mary Shelley invents Frankenstein, but the monster takes physical form and haunts her, and the rest, causing tragedy after tragedy in their lives. Some reviewers claim that there is the germ of a good idea here which the film fails to live up to. I will take their word for it. I don't know enough about the lives of the characters involved to know what was based on fact and what was invention, but the entire thing was tedious, didn't really have a coherent plot, and the acting was nothing special.

It did look spectacular. Some of the comments at IMDB mention that the US release was severely cut, which could account for some of the disjointedness.

Scoop's comments in yellow:

It's Elizabeth Hurley, back in her chubby, unibrow days!

No review is really necessary, because a single phrase will tell you all you need to know: Hugh Grant as Lord Byron. I don't think you need Roger Friggin' Ebert to tell you that's gotta suck Slurpee out of the Super Big Gulp cup.

If that doesn't scare you off, these two frames should do the trick:

Shelley and Byron, together with Byron's wife and her sister, are all living together when they decide to have a competition to create the scariest story. (This really happened.) Mary Shelley creates "Frankenstein", and it is a success, but as time goes on she begins to think that the monster she created is real, and is causing the deaths of everyone connected with that same period in which she created the monster.

The movie makes no attempt to clarify what is delusional and what is real. The monster, for example, appears to us even when no other character is present to imagine him. The monster appears to Shelley for the first time when he visits Byron's daughter in school, and Byron's daughter dies shortly thereafter. Others can sometimes see the monster, and the encounters with Mary's imaginary creature always occur in connection with a death. Yet at other times, outsiders are not able to share Mary's delusions, and the camera shows her talking to air.

 What can ya say?


  • Elizabeth Hurley shows her breasts in a close-up head and breasts shot.
  • Lizzy McInnerney shows her bum and breasts in a medium distance shot, as she leaves her bath.
  • Emma Amos shows all as Byron's Venetian lover.
  • Valentine Pelka does full-frontal nudity in a long scene of nude swimming and its aftermath.

Byron, meanwhile, only repents the sins he has not yet committed.

Hey, they needed a catch phrase.

I guess the IMDb comments must be right about the truncation. The original European release was supposed to be 126 minutes long, but there is only 95 minutes of footage on the DVD. 31 minutes is a lot to cut. There is no way for me to find out whether restoring the missing 31 minutes would make it a grand artistic masterpiece of operatic flamboyance, or would simply render it even more pretentious, incoherent, and silly. I suspect the latter, but I could be wrong. This film won the Goya for Best Director in 1988, so the long version must be better than the version Tuna and I saw, because this mess couldn't win any major awards except for visual categories like cinematography, set design, and costumes.

There are some interesting pictorializations which remind one of a Peter Greenaway film. Byron's lavish Venetian palace includes a giraffe which wanders through the larger chambers for no apparent reason. Byron also travels with a bear, and the shots of his two coaches traversing the countryside, with the second coach pulling the bear, are spectacular unearthly visions.

DVD info from Amazon

Not a good DVD, although the beautiful photography is captured vividly and without distortion or noise. The problems are:

1. the widescreen presentation is letterboxed, not anamorphically enhanced

2. no features

Those scenes don't seem to have any point, but they do look pretty cool.

Since none of the other scenes have any point either, and often feature pretentious dialogue spoken by Hugh Grant and others, the giraffe and the bear are definitely the highlights of the film, and should have shared top billing with Elizabeth Hurley's breasts.

The Critics Vote

  • Apollo 65/100.

  • Nominated for 12 Goyas, winning six, including Best Director.

The People Vote ...

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, Tuna says, "I had a great deal of difficulty staying awake, never got involved in the story (or even detected a story), and was very glad to see it end. Still, it is technically well made, and I will grant that it is not my type of film, therefore C-." Scoop says, "I think that Tuna was too generous. It is my kind of movie, and I found it pretentious, and incoherent, and generally unbearable, despite an attractive surface appearance. It looks great, but it's still a D, a horror to be avoided unless you happen to stumble upon the full-length 126 minute version, which I haven't seen."

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