The Perils of Gwendoline


Release Date: 1984
Director: Just Jaeckin
Running Time: Far too long!
Cast: Tawney Kitaen, Brent Huff, Zabou (aka Isabelle Breitman)
AKA : Gwendoline, Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik Yak
Comic Artist: John Willie
First Appearance: The Perils of Gwendoline (1946)


This strip first appeared in the US in 1946, drawn and scripted by John Willie (real name John Alexander Scott Scouts) who was editor of a bondage magazine called Bizzare. With Willie's/Scouts' death in 1962 the strip was reprised by Eric Stanton. The strip crossed the Atlantic to France in 1976 where it was published by Humanoide Associés (publisher of Metal Hurlant): another story was published by them in 1978. Following the lousy film, another strip was released in France based on the film called Gwendoline et le machiniste (1984).


If imitation is flattery, then ''The Perils of Gwendoline'' could be considered a big compliment to Steven Spielberg, Roger Vadim, John Derek, Frederick of Hollywood and Bruce Lee. Just Jaeckin, the director of ''Emmanuelle,'' has this time concocted a ''Raiders of the Lost Ark'' knockoff that eventually turns into ''Barbarella,'' with a heroine (Tawny Kitaen) whose doe-eyed dopiness recalls Bo Derek, although her looks do not.

The opium-den scenes and sci-fi set pieces are occasionally interrupted by bouts of martial arts, which is where Mr. Lee figures into the forumula. As for Frederick, his influence here, like much else about ''The Perils of Gwendoline,'' is obvious.

Since Mr. Jaeckin is playing to the action crowd, his film includes plenty of violence, nudity, sadism and dumb humor. One joke that went over particularly well at the UA Twin, where the film opened Friday, had its hero (Brent Huff) reaching out of his jail cell to grab an enemy, then pulling this man's head through the bars so that his ears come off. The only thing this audience found funnier was Gwendoline's timid declaration that she was a virgin.

Since there probably is a wide audience for this sort of thing, it's unfortunate that ''The Perils of Gwendoline'' isn't fussier about the fine points. The dubbing is terrible, particularly in the case of Bernadette Lafont, who plays a sort of pornographic priestess. The acting is one-note, and Mr. Huff's unrelieved sarcasm - apparently someone's idea of a Harrison Ford imitation - gets especially tiresome. More than enough gags revolve around Gwendoline's being slapped around. Mr. Huff throws Miss Kitaen into the drink several times during one shipboard sequence, to show her who's boss. Whenever he does this, she seems to love him all the more.

©New York Times

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