It’s Saucy Fantasy and Adventure Time!
By Leigh Wood
Be it science fiction, futuristic, fantasy, classic, camp, jungle, or pre-historic, these saucy romps are so bad its good glorious!
Barbarella –Producer Dino De Laurentiis (Conan the Barbarian) and director Roger Vadim’s (And God Created Woman) 1968 adaptation of Jean-Claude Forest’s comics immediately sets its camp sci-fi tone with a shiny, zero gravity, striptease and never looks back. The brassy sixties theme and score perfectly match the strangely tasteful nudity and fun fur ship interiors – although that has to be a bitch to clean! The bad SF designs, poor flying effects, ugly color, and psychedelic lighting are certainly dated, too. Awkward plastics, pleather get ups, and lots of tight tights further establish the kinky sex experimentation and whiff of bondage, lesbianism or fem-dom and liberation – toking up on “Essence of Man,” the Excessive Machine, and all that. I’m not really a Jane Fonda (Cat Ballou) fan, but surely she was very into personal grooming back in the day, for her costumes leave little else to the imagination. We don’t see all the sex glory, but it’s amazing the before and after saucy humor is delivered with such a straight face considering the preposterous technical dialogue and tongue in cheek tone. However, it is odd to have the feral kids, their ugly dolls, and the suggestive biting amid the juicy, and this kind of bad futuristic design is what gave the science fiction of the time a juvenile bad name. Poor editing and slow ass montages of bubblicious space travel and ridiculous skiing also hamper the bemusement. We get the generally pointless A to B adventures and excuses to have sex, but at 98 minutes, the lack of reason or rhythm from one scene to the next becomes overlong and tiresome. Fortunately, the goofy ship angles and wild filmmaking remain fun and mature audiences are fully aware of the viewing treats here. John Phillip Law (The Golden Voyage of Sinbad) has such nice…wings! Maybe one has to be stoned to appreciate what’s happening here – for while I can absolutely understand why its seventies re-releases raised its cult fame, I’ve never been quite sure what the heck is going on in this movie! I dare say kids can watch a television edit or the PG version purely for the hysterics and not perceive the innuendo or kinky overtone. Duran Duran anyone?
Barbarian Queen – Bad dialogue, anachronistic language, old speaketh names, Valley Girl style, and poor English sound set the campy mood for this boobalicious 1985 Roger Corman produced Amazon vengeance tale. An awkward opening rape and more sexual violence scenery make it somewhat tough to enjoy this film, and yet I dare say the torture scenes are bizarrely fun for bondage fans as are the woefully bad but brief gladiator fights. The rapacious, bodice-ripping titillation may be strange, but it is probably accurate for the Roman setting. Besides, it’s nice to see the nudity and gore instead of a kid friendly, magic filled fantasy and there are a few amusing brothel scenes and orgies, too. Granted, it would have been sexier to see the gals kick ass more, but the story isn’t that bad. It’s nothing new for sure, but there is some attempted character development and moments of sentiment with children and exiled villagers. Unfortunately, bad acting makes it tough to take the opening aggression or any dramatic turns seriously. The action and fighting move quickly and aren’t bad – in fact, they are well choreographed and edited – but small-scale designs and low budget toy swords keep the 70 minutes kitschy. The costumes are also eighties over the top colorful yet fittingly fantasy furs and sexy skimpy leather. What does it matter if you can’t always tell one annoying chick from the next? We don’t need the finite details on the big rebels versus bad guys finale, either. If we weren’t in the middle of a misguided, slo-mo, ridiculously CGI revival with poor fair such as the Conan reboot and Wrath of the Titans, I would say this deserves to be redone properly. Sadly, some audiences may also tune in now thanks to Lana Clarkson’s murder and the subsequent Phil Spector trials. This one may not do the genre any favors and shouldn’t be taken too seriously, but fans of the original Conan or The Beastmaster can enjoy this Showgirls sword and sorcery good time.
Death Stalker – Clarkson bared more bod – I kid you not her costume is a cape and a g-string – in this previous 1983 Corman romp full of magical amulets, mystical swords, and drunken chalices. Bad dialogue, woeful names, and a confusing quests amid a tournament at the local evil wizard’s place compound the plot troubles here, and poor character motivation doesn’t help. The ripped Rick Hill (Today’s F.B.I.) only wants to fight, denies a request to rescue a princess, but then accepts this power trip instead. The back and forth riddles are tiresome and the titular hero doesn’t do much except bag some babes, however, that’s better than the nasty, lecherous pig cavemen having all the action. Everyone is so dirty and scantily clad that it’s tough to tell who or what is going on – although the early and often T n A, chicks in medieval hot tubs, chicks in cages, and mud wrestling dames make up the difference. Fun set pieces, an amazing amount of prehistoric g-strings, lots of horses, a warty witch, and an eyeball in a cauldron also accent the sacrificial orgies, near bestiality creatures, and voyeuristic cave troll turned horny old man. Though the music is often out of place – dramatic swells, comical tunes, or ethereal arias happen at the wrong times – and the magical aspects could have been better, voice actor Bernard Erhard makes for a would be intriguing villain. He turns one of his henchmen into playmate Barbi Benton! The fight scenes seem strangely slow and take too long when there’s no room to spare in this 76 minutes; by time we get to the warriors tournament, there’s little reason to care. Yet the thinly plotted, bemusingly so bad its good is like porn without the explicit sex. Is this about the quest, the tournament, or bagging as many babes as possible? Who cares? The magical something or other whatnot is corny for sure, but this remains quite the watchable adult fantasy.
Sheena: Queen of the Jungle – Bond Girl, later day Charlie’s Angels star, and That 70’s Show mom Tanya Roberts has a good time in this shockingly PG 1984 comic book stretch. The well done opening fifteen minutes of jungle exploration and orphaned origins is actually played straight with no indication of the campy fun to come. Slow motion Tanya riding a zebra, however, quickly changes that! The mystical, sensual synthesizer music over the would-be serious action scenes are as out of place as the overlong slo-mo, and Roberts’ famously husky and sexy voice doesn’t match the near spiritual telepathic talk of the land or culture clash dialogue. Granted, she has an obligatory insipid romance and lots more silly stuff to do, but Roberts looks swinging on ropes strong and bareback riding capable. Besides, the main attraction here is her bemusing total exposures, if you get my meaning. The wild storyline is quite innocent and timeless, too, but unfortunately, the dated eighties designs, contemporary lingo, standard assassination ploys, and ruinous mining on the healing land plots detract from the exotic fun and ruin cool villainess France Zobda and classy Shaman Elizabeth of Toro. The cast is racially appropriate rather than white washed, but the coup-laden western-esque and corrupt Tigora kingdom versus the peaceful Zambouli tribe faux political story feels very poorly written considering the already delicate East Africa history. It’s not well acted or clearly developed, and the PG audience to whom this too long two hours was targeted wouldn’t care about these kinds of complexities anyway. The largely mother/daughter feminism does work well, and this should have been a straightforward good and evil origin story introducing the comic foil reporters to the jungle or a defending the earth against ruthless mining mercenaries tale. Though grainy photography and mixed wide and full screen formatting make some scenes look unusual, cool elephants, big cats, snakes, hippos, monkeys, and dynamite Kenya locations, grasslands, and sunsets add a delightful sense of wonder. Tribal nudity and some rituals or animal action may be too intense for small children, but kids can enjoy the innocent charm just as much as late night adults will skip to the saucy parts. I dare say I’d like another new Sheena if it could be done with a realistically strong chick, a hunky supporting guy, and no CGI. Till then, it’s best not to let the actual story ruin the beauty here.
Tarzan: The Ape Man – John Phillip Law joins hunky Miles O’Keeffe (Waxwork) in this 1981 John Derek directed vehicle naturally focusing on his absolutely sexy and pretty to look at wife Bo Derek (10). We open with Edgar Rice Burroughs references and a fun MGM lion roaring Johnny Weismuller calls, but the narration is pointless and establishing travels over the lengthy credits make the Parker back story sooo slooowww. The camp tone, however, is apparent in Bo’s entrance, and the 1910/quasi eighties safari style and wispy white under things accent her delightful physique – as do those nude sunset swims and bathing montages. Antagonist Richard Harris (The Field) gets his junk about, too, but his fatherly scenes with Derek are too weird. The childlike conversation amid her rough hose down and naked tribal paint job is just…ew. While the role is in keeping with the slightly more mature written Tarzan themes – I’ve never understood why these books are classified as children’s material – it also reeks of erroneous white savior knows best for the primitive jungle and doesn’t work with the off on the wrong foot attention to Jane here. Derek is still a damsel in distress and looks too modern or old for this ingénue perspective, and the meandering pace, ridiculous slow motion, and cut away montage battle action takes half the movie to get to Tarzan. John Derek lingers on his own cinematography yet inserts out of place, wide-eyed up close Bo shots. You can have both female discovery and epic scope, but not when your husband is the director (awesome Ten Commandments Joshua though he is). Fortunately, beautiful landscapes, silhouetted frames, glistening water reflections, Sri Lanka locales, lion action, and snake squeezings detract from the stilted dialogue and Bo fan’s girling over Tarzan. She feels him up while he’s asleep and peels a banana while speculating on his virginity! I’m surprised there aren’t more saucy jungle movies – the erotic opportunities and loincloths seem rampant. Though the Burroughs estate understandably wants to keep the brand Disney friendly, O’Keeffe’s tiny loincloth doesn’t exactly fit and his beefcake is eighties laughable beneath that pre-requisite headband. With all the dry skin, wet skin, painted skin, tender love, and rough touching – what’s that orangutan doing? – this is as soft core as they come. Enjoy the bevy of gratuitous eye candy here, watch on mute, or skip to the naughty parts – this picture makes no sense otherwise.