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