Thursday, May 17, 2012

FLAREUP

Another surprisingly "sleazy" mainstream potboiler from the MGM vaults has now made its way out into the world, courtesy of Warner Archive. In this case, it's the 1969 Raquel Welch vehicle, FLAREUP.

Statuesque Las Vegas exotic dancer Michelle (Welch, ONE MILLION YEARS B.C., FATHOM) is having lunch poolside with a couple of her of her co-workers from the Pussycat a' Go Go club, Nikki and Iris, when Nikki's psycho ex-husband, Alan (Luke Askew, ROLLING THUNDER) shows up brandishing a pistol. He puts a bullet in his ex, and then turns on her friends, who he blames for his divorce. All three young women survive, but not for long; Nikki dies of her wounds in the hospital later that evening, and Allan runs down Iris and her police protector in a parking lot shortly after. Fearing for her life - and rightfully so - Michelle flees to Los Angeles and takes a job dancing at another club. There she meets handsome stranger Joe (played by familiar TV actor James Stacy) and tries to start a new life. But angry Alan has found out where she's hiding, and follows her to the City of Angels with murder on his mind...

James Nielson, whose credits mostly comprise of episodic television and Disney features, seems a bit out of his depth with FLAREUP, which never manages to live up (or down) to the exploitative potential of its trashy plot. Instead, the script by Mark Rodgers (another small-screen veteran) trades in TV movie melodrama and hoary clich├ęs. In fact, this film about strippers and serial killers was originally rated PG. There is some welcome female nudity in the flick - being set primarily in and around strip clubs rather demands it - which would probably garner it a R rating today, but the curvaceous Welch never personally bares her assets.

While the once-highbrow studio probably considered this edgy material - Welch mentions smoking pot and fends off the advances of a lesbian co-worker, and a bartender is implied to be a homosexual - the movie is really quite bland. The pace is leaden, and the plodding script is full of utilitarian dialogue that gets the exposition across while managing to sound neither natural nor clever. The camerawork and production values are equally unimaginative - and occasionally sloppy; an impressive stunt at the film's climax is marred by a crew member briefly (but clearly) stepping into frame.

Raquel is - as always - stunning to look at and has enough natural charisma and talent to hold the screen, but the rest of the cast is unmemorable. Luke Askew somehow manages to be the least-interesting and nonthreatening psycho in movie history, despite a fairly impressive bodycount.

Although FLAREUP was previously released on VHS back in the day, this marks its debut on DVD. The new manufacture-on-demand DVD release from Warner Archive sports a decent, 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Although reportedly newly-remastered, the picture quality is a bit fuzzy overall, and there are intermittent specks and scratches throughout - though never to a distracting degree. Colors are bright and accurate. The Dolby Digital Mono audio is adequate, if a bit muffled. The only extra is the original theatrical trailer.

It's difficult to recommend FLAREUP to any but the Raquel Welch completist. Aside from her admittedly glorious presence, there isn't much else in the movie to enjoy except for seeing Las Vegas and Los Angeles before they were completely overdeveloped and every square foot paved over. In the hands of more stylish (or ambitious) filmmakers, and a given just a little bit of trashy attitude to match the lurid story, it might have had the makings of a cult classic. As it is, it's just a curio, notable only for the presence of its leading lady.

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