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Tawny Kitaen, Naked Slave Girls, S&M Violence - what's not to like...?
on 3 November 2011
I saw the trailer for this one about twenty years ago and have been fascinated with the idea of watching it ever since - it was almost like a forbidden gem for a while with its general lack of availability and bumpy BBFC history (they originally demanded quite a few cuts in the 80s, back in the day when they were much more easily offended, and this censored version - released through Embassy video - became the only convenient way to see it in the UK). The trailer paints quite a different picture to what you eventually get to see - the film is kind of an erotic comedy fantasy adventure, and not entirely successful one (depending on perspective obviously). Personally I think the main issue is with the 'comedy' - it's quite juvenile in nature and no funnier than some of those sitcoms aimed at young teens that one happens to unfortunately catch a glimpse of when flicking channels on occasion (i.e. apathy is the primary response, rather than laughter). It does, however, have a few things going for it: there is a sense of epic adventure in there, doused in lots of imaginative touches that push it into the realms of science fiction/fantasy. Tawny Kitaen (probably one her better roles), one-time babe of David Coverdale (the lucky person, him), looks really fetching throughout, and conveys an attractive sense of innocence well, while she's joined by a host of naked and semi-naked females mainly in the latter part of the film. These factors keep things moving along in a moderately entertaining fashion and at a reasonable pace, but it feels as though it should have been better. The humour repeatedly drags things down into the realms of the silly, and the square-jawed hero/Indiana Jones-wannabe was particularly getting on my nerves. The score, which I believe partly constituted the aforementioned trailer, brings about an odd contrast to the proceedings in that there is an air of melancholy to be detected in its electronic waves - it's certainly not a score I would have guessed to be supporting on-screen comedy (perhaps the composer didn't realise it was supposed to be funny while scoring - quite possible!). All in all, there are pluses and minuses in Gwendoline, but it never quite becomes the great film it could have.
The DVD from Nucleus is a good one - anamorphic widescreen transfer (2.35:1) that holds up well (though will never compete with anything Blu-ray can now offer), ably backed up by an excellent selection of audio tracks: English stereo or 5.1, French stereo or 5.1, and director's commentary. I did watch this first time with the English (5.1) track active, though I may try the French track out next time around - material can come across very differently in foreign tongue and perhaps this oddball stuff will work better in the director's native language. There are a couple of other small extras to pad things out. The DVD cover is also reversible (not immediately noticeable when it comes in a standard black amaray case) - not a massive difference, rather you are presented with a variation on front cover.
Overall - 2.5 for the film (though I'll give it another chance in a year or so and may amend the review if I change my mind!) and 3.5 for the DVD.