We like Warrior Women here at Zombie Club, so when we caught a trailer of Nucleus Films’ uncut DVD release of Gwendoline at this year’s FrightFest, we knew we had to include it in a Warrior Women ZC line-up. Let’s just say the shots of semi-naked women (including Whitesnake babe Tawny Kitaen) fighting Gladiator-style probably had a big influence. That and the fact it’s from 'erotic classic' Emmanuelle director Just Jaeckin who simply has the perfect name for someone who directs soft-core, saucy skinflicks.
Going toe-to-toe with Gwendoline tonight is the much-neglected 1982 film She starring Sandahl Bergman as the titular (phnarr) She in a post-apoc world that includes orgiastic werewolves, Superbowl Swastikas, tutu-wearing giants and a bizarre multiplying bridge guard. Honest, we’re not making this up.
Gladiators are you ready? Let the games begin…
Tonight's Zombie Club is brought to you by Rawshark in association with the Women’s Semi-naked Chariot Racing Team
Plot Gwendoline arrives in an Asian country on a mission to find her father, who was last seen searching for a rare butterfly in the Land of the Yik Yak.
Rawshark With an extremely sexy DVD cover, a tagline that reads ‘Barbarella meets Indiana Jones’ and Zomblee commenting that it looks like ”Krull with naked chicks!” over the disc’s menus, it’s fair to say anticipation was running high for this flick. And it certainly doesn’t disappoint on the flesh front, kicking off early as Gwendoline arrives in an Asian land where the brothel’s naked breasts on display are ”unusually big for Asian breasts” (Zomblee).
Gwendoline is soon captured by traders, but is promptly saved by Willard, a dodgy French captain in what Jim described as ”the lamest fight scenes I’ve ever see”. When Gwendoline then hooks up with her friend Beth, the two of them trick Willard into helping them in their search for Gwendoline’s father, a journey which will take them sailing down rivers, hacking though jungles and walking across deserts before finally reaching an underground civilization of Amazonian warrior women.
Makes it sounds pretty good doesn’t it? Unfortunately Gwendoline is not really all that. Yes, there are flashes of great moments (the topless women chariot race being one), but it is occasionally dull and often cheesier than a French cheese trolley. Brent Huff as dashing hero Willard is perhaps difficult to take in, with Zomblee wondering out loud at one point whether Huff "ever saw this film afterwards and thought ‘Oh my God! I’m like a gay Harrison Ford. I’m never going to work in movies again!’”
Having said that, Gwendoline is fairly good ZC material, especially with all the female flesh on exposure. ”It’s a sign of authority to have one breast exposed” mentioned Jim as a troop of Amazonian warriors march through the underground tunnels towards the end. Tawny Kitaen is easy on the eye and even gets a ”ten boobs scene” (Jim) when she sits topless for a brief moment in front of five mirrors. Throw in some moments of cannibalism and ”chicks in tubes” (Jim) and you’re left with a reasonably fun, but dumb soft-core action adventure. Not so much Indian Jones and Barbarella, more Flash Gordon and Conan the Barbarian, or as Zomblee put it, ”Gordon the Barbarian”.
"In the Yik Yak, isn't there an enormous crevice with smoking gas coming up through it?"
Zomblee Yeah, I wonder if anyone would've gone to see a movie called Gordon the Barbarian. It sounds like a great ZC movie and one we would no doubt stand in wet rain to see. I'm glad I've never queued in the pouring rain for Gwendoline though, because even though it's got the best "chicks in chariots" scene you're ever likely to see, for some reason this slice of trashy fantasy wasn't quite as much fun as it could have been. That said, it does boast some "great helmet design", and coming from a designer (that's what Rawshark does by the way) that's no small praise. There are also a lot of thongs and big spikes on display during the big chick fight scene towards the end before the bit with incredibly big shoulder pads that Jim thought was "a bit porny". That's a new word, porny.
So, yes, a lot of nudity in Gwendoline, which always goes down a treat here at ZC, but even we don't get to see this much skin in our average depraved film session. A big 'thank you' to the French for bestowing upon us their characteristic sense of sophistication and enlightenment from this little export. Tits everywhere. Maybe that's why it's got such a hardcore following; it's not difficult to acknowledge that such assets as Tawny Kitean, breasts galore (you only have to wait 5.40 mins for those), Amazonian chicks in armour, a "kung-fu midget" (Jim), a stock reluctant hero who thinks he's Indiana Jones, some more breasts, sandy bums and more thongs than you'll find in a massive thong retailers. What's not to like?
"How about the music?!" shouts a tiny voice inside my head. It is pretty bad, and even though the acting and dialogue (and the dubbing! Sheesh...) are appalling, it gets away with it here more than it would were we watching something more serious in tone.
"If I was a butterfly and I lived here and someone tried to take me to London, I'd break their face!"
"He always wants to break faces!" (Rawshark)
Jim Zomblee's hit the nail on the head there - if there's one way to describe Gwendoline it's that 'it gets away with it'. The opening encounter where the old guy explains the plot, with lines like 'all this trouble for a fucking butterfly', while some sexy naked drugged up chick wriggles around on his general groin area, is quite an eyeful. And then there’s also that fight involving the lamest Bruce Lee look-alike you've ever seen. He even pulled out nunchukas and yet he still managed to be lame. I thought that was impossible. Mind you, a later fight did involve a guy getting his ears ripped off after he got his head stuck in a jail wall, which dragged it back a bit, I suppose. ("I wonder how the ears stayed attached to those little bars?" - Zomblee)
And this is the real issue - how can a film that's got guys getting their ears ripped off, Bruce Lee look-alikes complete with swinging nunchukas, tonnes of tits and dialogue like 'you mean, he sacrificed my father to appease the spirit of the wind?' be so dull? Surely it must be highly watchable in a good bad kind of way? Well, no, it's not really, and it's not helped along at all by the ridiculous supposedly sensuous straw scene. I for one was getting a bit embarrassed, and so was Zomblee who tried to busy himself with garlic bread preparing activities ("Jesus, I can't believe how long this scene is! ")
Don't get me wrong, any film with a ten breasted Tawny Whatnot in it has it's highlights, mine in particular being the armoured bitch fight where the winner gets to shag the hero (who does indeed have a voice that gets "too high pitched at times" - Rawshark), the women in the tubes, and the underwater upside down sequence ("I can't do upside down underwater..." - Zomblee, "I don't mind it!" - Rawshark). It's just, you know, you get the feeling that this was a missed opportunity for a good bad classic. No wonder we spent a big patch in the middle of the film talking about the shower in Zomblee's new flat. Which has a seat in it. Which is apparently not as much fun as it sounds.
"He went back for the butterfly, how romantic is that?"
Director Just Jaeckin
Cast Tawny Kitaen
Runtime 100 mins
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Plot In a backward post-apocalyptic world, She aids two brothers on their quest to rescue their kidnapped sister.
Jim So with the slightly pervy delights of Gwendoline out of the way, it was time for She. No, not the epic Hammer production starring Ursula Andress mind, but the screwball post-apocalyptic barbarian actioner starring that bird from Conan the Barbarian, which, as it goes, turned out to be one of the most unpredictable films you're ever likely to see.
It opens at a kind of renaissance fair market (where one stall is selling old breakfast cereal) with our blonde hero getting into a scuffle with some very bizarrely dressed guards in American Football padding and strange hats. Cue blank looks all round. "In the first ten minutes I've had Rice Crispies, swastikas and a really bad hat!" noted Zomblee, which pretty much nails what we were all thinking, i.e. what the fuck? Anyway, hero boy and his mate are captured and soon come before She, who surprisingly takes a liking to them and agrees to help them find hero boy’s sister. And from here on in, be ready for absolutely anything.
"Eh, mummies with chainsaws?" offered a bemused Rawshark at the beginning of a fight against mummies with chainsaws, which comes after the fight with monsters climbing out of huge cardboard boxes that ends with Frankenstein's monster's head blowing up, but before the big werewolf sleepover barbecue, and way before the fight with the knight on the bridge who does a stand up routine and multiplies every time he gets a limb cut off. And I haven't even mentioned the guy with the green eyes.
“I’m having a ‘I don’t know how to write that down’ type of moment.” I think we all were Zomblee, for most of the evening…
“Additional music by… bastard.”
Zomblee There's a scene in She where this bridge keeper keeps on getting his limbs chopped off, and every time this happens, he multiplies, so before our characters know it, there's, like, a small army of beardy bridge keepers. And I'm sure the scene is pretty much repeated at some point, which can only be a good thing. Generally, this is one of those movies that feels all over the place, in an endearingly haphazard b-movie kind of way.
"Monks now? We're into yet another weird society?" asks a bemused Rawshark during the monks scene, and that's the kind of question one has to keep asking oneself while watching She because it will take you to places that most movies can only dream of, or places maybe they'd just prefer to avoid altogether. This isn't particularly helpful when there's a case of 'second movie syndrome' going on and I’m being bombarded with images such as a Frankenstein robot, a huge hairy man in a tutu, gay werewolves, and what I remember to be a million other things that could only make some kind of sense if a) you've taken mind altering hallucinogens, or b) you were production designer on She.
"This is a wonderful garment, what is it made of?"
Rawshark Take a movie that is a blend of a million styles and genres, and combine it with ZC ’second movie syndrome’ as Zomblee put it, then you’re going to be left with three bemused Zombie Clubbers sitting on the sofa, alternately chatting through the boring plot bits and cheering the greatly surreal bits. And let’s face it, She has both of those in buckets.
The opening sequence had us all excited with its solar system opening, Rice Crispie selling and fight scenes that ended in one guy getting gored on spikes (” Oh my God. I’m buying this film! This is amazing!” - Zomblee). Straight after that, we got (deep breath) knights in boxes (” Bad guys in boxes! Brilliant!” - Jim), random Frankenstein monsters, She in a Jacuzzi, chainsaws, a ‘squashing room’ like the one in Star Wars, werewolves and a strange monk society that worships the green-eyed Godan. Plot? Long since forgotten by this point.
It doesn’t stop there. After the ‘Forest of Yellow Death’ and some medication tent with a mad scientist, we finally get to the standout scene of the whole film – the multiplying bridge keeper. This weird tattooed eye-patched multiplying chap had us in hysterics with his energy – so good we watched both of his scenes again as soon as the film had finished.
From there on in we got a Mad Max style Thunderdome clash, a girl in chains, a spaceman, a ”missed music montage opportunity” (Jim) before the final ”unnecessarily long” (Zomblee) final Siege of the Helmet Gang. Ultimately She is a complete mess of a film, but when there’s this much going on, you can be sure never to be bored for too long. Cult fun.
”What’s that?””A bomb.””What’s a bomb?”
Director Avi Nesher
Cast Sandahl Bergman
Harrison Muller Jr.
Runtime 104 mins
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And so Warrior Women, the first Zombie Club at Zomblee’s new flat (complete with a seat in the shower, remember) came to its own ‘clear away the wine glasses and ashtrays’ goodbye montage. Glossy Gwendoline had certainly fulfilled it’s promise on the naked flesh front, but ultimately seemed to be a film reaching out for cult status and as a result was a bit, well, boring and dull.
No such criticisms for She though, which despite it’s cheapness and b-movie look and feel, was often highly inventive and original. Just don’t attempt to follow what the hell’s going on whilst watching it. If there was to be a playground scrap between tonight’s Warrior Women (yeah, go on, imagine it!), Sandahl Bergman could have Tawney Kitaen any day of the week. Easy.
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