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Gwendoline - Unrated Director's Cut (aka - The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik Yak)
So bad it's good, the notorious Gwendoline is one of those outrageously entertaining camp classics that will be enjoyed long after thousands of "better" movies have faded into obscurity. Loosely adapted from John Willie's pioneering 1940s comic strip "The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline," and directed with good-natured humor by French softcore specialist Just Jaekin (Emmanuelle, The Story of O), this delirious dose of mainstream erotica plays like a sexy parody of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Romancing the Stone. In his own audacious fashion, Jaekin was attempting an ambitious, good-looking adventure with above-average production values, but Gwendoline owes its "bad movie" cult status to its cheesy combination of globe-hopping scenery, tacky sets, hopelessly wretched dialogue, laughably awful acting, and a constant parade of beautiful women, either half-naked or scantily clad in outrageous S&M costumes. The film is also notorious for being the screen debut of Tawny Kitaen (shortly before she appeared with Tom Hanks Bachelor Party), who brings a breathtaking lack of talent (and a very hot body) to her title role as Gwendoline, a scrappy stowaway who arrives in China on a quest to find her missing father, who'd ventured into remote jungles in search of a rare and beautiful butterfly.
Joined by hunky mercenary Willard (Brent Huff) and her loopy friend Beth (played by French model/actress Zabou), Gwendoline survives a variety of absurdly amusing obstacles (including one very phony-looking alligator) until they eventually reach the land of the Yik Yak, an Amazonian slave-culture consisting entirely of slim, sexy women! Through it all, Jaekin's image of women is a source of constant fascination: When they're not kicking ass or running around topless, Kitaen and Zabou act like helpless, virginal airheads who need a man to survive, and Gwendoline plays out like an adolescent wet dream. With a climactic chariot chase that must be seen to be believed, it's all so ridiculous that you can't help but be entertained, and Jaekin's 106-minute, French-language director's cut contains several action scenes that were cut for the film's English-dubbed 88-minute American version, released (and available separately) as The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik Yak. --Jeff Shannon
On the DVD
Jaekin's original cut has been spectacularly restored for this Severin Films DVD release, with both French and English audio tracks and a delightful commentary by Jaekin with journalist/author Tony Crawley and Frederick Levier, former contributor to Starfix, a French magazine devoted to fantastic films; their unabashed enthusiasm for the film makes this commentary an unexpected treat. Also included: a 24-minute video interview with Jaekin, in which he discusses the production history of Gwendoline; a 10-photo gallery of Tawny Kitaen from the French softcore magazine Lui; and a fascinating vintage audio interview with Sweet Gwendoline creator John Willie, from the archives of sex-research pioneer Dr. Alfred Kinsey. Kudos to Severin Films for including these high-quality bonus features with a film that many consider one of the "worst" of the 1980s! One caveat, however: Why not include the American cut Perils of Gwendoline on a second disc, instead of as a separate DVD release? --Jeff Shannon