Girl from Rio
= Highest Rating
kind of Space Age sorceress are you?"
the hero asks super-villain Shirley Eaton at one
point in this ludicrous film.
A rather lame one, I can attest.
Not only does her plan for world domination make
no sense, but her army of machinegun-toting, go-go
booted Amazons doesn't even have any bullets —
the gals just shake their weapons at the camera
while gunfire crackles on the soundtrack. Some
of 'em don't even have ammo clips!
from Rio is yet another late '60s collaboration
of director Jess Franco and producer Harry Allan
Towers, the team responsible for such poverty
row pulp fictions as The
Blood of Fu Manchu and The
Castle of Fu Manchu. Towers, using his "Peter
Welbeck" alias, also wrote the script, so it is
he who must shoulder most of the blame for what
ended up on screen. Though Franco does what he
can to imbue it with a pop art/comic book sensibility
and a breezy attitude, the film is severely undercut
by its miserly budget and a choppy screenplay
rife with bad dialog.
and badly dressed —
playboy type Jeff Sutton (Richard Wyler) arrives
in Rio and checks in to a hotel. According to
underworld rumors Sutton is believed to be carrying
$10 Million in stolen cash. This draws the interest
of a big-shot local mobster, Mr. Masius (Hollywood
veteran George Sanders, in one of his last roles).
Sutton supposedly stole the money in America but
the nature of the theft is never explained; all
we need to know is that Masius really wants to
get his hands on it. So he sends various henchmen
against Sutton, who continually defeats them with
the hideousness of his plaid sports jacket. (Actually
he uses poorly staged judo moves and karate chops
to best the baddies. Franco isn't exactly known
as an action director.)
In between dodging Masius'
thugs Sutton takes up with the hotel's hot-to-trot
manicurist, Leslie (Maria Rohm in a horrid black
wig), who's very easy to get in the sack. She's
really an agent of Sumitra (Goldfinger's
Shirley Eaton), an evil female genius who plans
to take over the world with an army of women she's
building at a secret base called Femina in the
Brazilian jungle. Leslie's job is to lure our
hero to Femina so that his purloined millions
can be added to Sumitra's coffers. (World domination
naturally requires regular infusions of capital.)
Sutton, however, isn't who he seems to be either.
No thief, he's actually a mercenary hired to rescue
a kidnapped heiress from Sumitra's clutches. The
$10 Million is phony. It's merely bait to attract
Sumitra's operatives, so that he can learn where
her headquarters is located. But drawing the attention
of mob boss Masius wasn't part of the plan...
a lively samba-flavored lounge score by Daniel
White, The Girl from Rio
blithely bounces along from one ridiculous set-piece
to the next, rarely making any sense, until it
finally self-destructs (as Sumitra's base is supposed
to do) in the disastrously botched finale. As
the hero, Wyler is a complete dud
(that jacket has got to go!),
punching a lot more air than henchmen. All the
film's action scenes are pathetic. Other shots
are clumsily recycled to bridge scenes or
pad out the running time.
(Perhaps explaining some of Sumitra's "instant"
dye jobs... For
some inexplicable reason her hair color changes
from brunette to blonde and back again from scene
to scene.) Eaton
obviously relished the chance to play a "dragon
lady" and is fine in the Sumitra role, but how
she could recite some of that dialog with a straight
face is beyond me. The secondary villain, Masius,
is the sort of ruthless gangster who wears polka-dot
cravats, uses a pink telephone (with a 90-foot
cord) and deplores the sight of blood. (While
his thugs torture the captured Leslie for information,
he lies on a sofa chuckling over a Popeye comic
book.) Sanders, perhaps a trifle embarrassed to
be participating, at least gets to snuggle up
to shapely Elisa Montés, whose comic performance
as Masius' sexy "accountant" is one
of the film's high points.
the movie's not a complete waste. Any flick
this dumb is going to have a few unintentional
laughs. (Behold the foxy heiress being tortured
with a plastic electric fan! And there's that
silly gun-shaking business to simulate actually
firing them. Blanks cost money, ya know!)
Shot on location in Rio De Janeiro, Franco takes
good advantage of the scenery and local color.
He could've made a great documentary just on the
Carnivale. (Instead he made this film and 99
Women, starring Herbert Lom and Rosalba Neri,
at the same time!) Maria Rohm (Justine,
The Bloody Judge)
shows us a bit of skin, too.
Though based on pulp writer
Sax Rohmer's Sumuru character, Eaton's female Blofeld
is listed as "Sumitra" in the closing credits but
referred to as "Sunanda" by everyone in the film.
What the —???
almost goes without saying that The
Girl from Rio receives first-class treatment
by Blue Underground. The print used for
this transfer, anamorphically letterboxed at 1.66:1,
looks remarkably good. (Only a tiny bit of damage
is fleetingly glimpsed.) Colors are especially
vibrant — the ladies' outfits and costumes of
the Carnivale revelers showcase a kaleidoscope
of different hues. As for audio quality, the disc's
digital mono track is clean and clear. White's
enjoyable score isn't compromised.
a poster/still gallery, a talent bio of Jess Franco
(the same as featured on the other BU Franco titles),
a step-through essay on Rohmer's Sumuru novels
(illustrated with pulp paperback covers), and
a 14-minute documentary, Rolling in Rio,
with director Franco, writer/producer Towers and
star Shirley Eaton participating. Deft editing
incorporates scenes from the film with salient
and amusing anecdotes in the interview segments.
BU has a track record of producing terrific featurettes
(for their own label and others); the one included
with The Girl from Rio
is no exception. 2/16/04