Tuesday, July 18, 2006

GWENDOLINE – UNRATED DIRECTOR'S CUT

A new DVD label called Severin Films recently released on Region 1 disc one of my favorite late-night cable flicks of the Eighties – THE PERILS OF GWENDOLINE IN THE LAND OF THE YIK YAK – in its original, uncut European form, as GWENDOLINE – UNRATED DIRECTOR'S CUT (1984)… and a welcome disc it is.

Based on a popular European comic strip, GWENDOLINE begins when our naïve, virginal heroine (Tawny Kitaen, WITCHBOARD) is smuggled into China in a wooden crate. Soon she meets up with her friend Beth (French cutie Zabou) and is rescued from salacious slavers by a square-jawed, rogue adventurer named Willard (Brent Huff, ARMED RESPONSE, 9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA). Gwendoline's searching for her missing father, who was last seen hunting for a rare butterfly in the Land of the Yik Yak, and she enlists the handsome soldier of fortune to help her. In the course of their dangerous quest, the intrepid trio encounters vicious pirates, fake crocodiles, giant snakes, and ravenous cannibals (among other traditional pulp story perils), before eventually coming to a lost city of whip-wielding amazon women – nearly all of them topless (and most of them bald)!

Let's just end our synopsis there, for while the story continues on, with tricky death traps and sordid situations aplenty, it's those topless amazons that make this movie the Late Show classic that it is. Outside of an ambitious porno or a vintage "nudist" flick – or maybe SHOWGIRLS – you're unlikely to ever see more pairs of attractive bare breasts on display in a single movie than in the last quarter or so of GWENDOLINE. Additionally, the only things those amazons do wear is sexy, skimpy leather outfits straight out of a high-priced S&M boutique.

Directed by Euro-erotic filmmaker Just Jaeckin (EMMANUEL, THE STORY OF O), GWENDOLINE is an entertaining mix of Saturday matinee high adventure, comedy and fetishistic erotic fantasy. And if that doesn’t pique your interest, then you're reading the wrong column!

Severin Films' DVD presents the movie in a flawless 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, with beautifully rendered colors and a crisp, clear image. Four audio options are included: 5.1 Stereo English and French and 2.0 Mono English and French. The 5.1 English is probably the preferable mix, as Kitaen and Huff delivered their lines in English, while the rest of the cast spoke their own native languages.

Produced with the full cooperation of director Just Jaeckin, Severin Films' uncut special edition includes a video interview and a full-length audio commentary with the notorious director. The interview covers Jaeckin’s introduction to the European comic strip and how he worked to bring it to the screen, while the audio commentary is more technical, covering all aspects of the making of the film, including the stunning set design, the challenges of the exotic locations, and working with the various cast members.

Other features include a very rare vintage audio interview with cartoonist John Willie (creator of the Gwendoline comic strip) conducted for the Kinsey Institute in 1962! In addition, there's a still gallery made up of nude photos of Tawny Kitaen from the French magazine Lui, which were shot by Jaeckin to promote the film. The disc also includes both the American and European trailers. The American trailer sells the film as a low-rent Indiana Jones-styled flick, while the European trailer is more moody and emphasizes the erotic content and kinky imagery.

By the way, Severin also offers the R-rated American theatrical version on a separate disc. Unfortunately, I'm not sure exactly what the differences are between the two versions, as it's been years since I last watched the old American cut. Personally, I wish they'd included both in a two-disc set, just because I have fond memories of watching the U.S. version so many times on cable and VHS (I like the American poster art and title better, too).

Obviously, I love this film. After reading the description above, I'm pretty sure you'll know whether it's something you'd like or not, so if it sounds like your kind of escapism, pick it up. You won't be disappointed.

BUY: Gwendoline - Unrated Director's Cut (aka - The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik Yak)

BUY: The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik Yak