The recent Spanish psycho-sexual thriller, "Entre las Pernas", is one of two new releases that also mark the appearance of a brand new genre specialist DVD label in the UK. Nucleus Films was founded by filmmaker Jake West ("Razor Blade Smile", "Evil Aliens") and writer & researcher of cult films, Marc Morris, who originally started out producing documentaries and DVD extras for other UK distribution companies -- in particular, Anchor Bay UK, for whom they've done extensive work over the past year or so. By moving into distribution in its own right, Nucleus Films is echoing the development of ex-filmmaker, Bill Lustig's highly praised US label, Blue Underground -- which started in similar circumstances. In some ways, it is probably slightly easier to establish a niche market in the US because of the country's enormous size; UK companies usually have to rely on a few big sellers to finance their lesser known titles -- or else, like Mondo Macabro, consider moving completely into the US market in order to survive. Nucleus Films undoubtedly faces a tough struggle to establish itself -- even with the great experience of its two founders to fall back on -- but their classy DVD presentation of "Entre las Pernas" (as well as the simultaneous release of another cult Spanish flick, "The Ugliest Woman in the World") certainly bodes well for the future and is most definitely worthy of support from genre fans at home and abroad.
"Entre las Pernas" (Between Your Legs) is a multilayered, densely plotted tale that follows a similar crooked path to the recent Spanish hit "Sex and Lucia", in that its story unwinds itself amid the multifarious relationships of a large cast of characters -- all with various stories to tell. In fact, storytelling and narrative are at the very centre of this film: its characters spend a great deal of time telling stories which, themselves, often hinge on storytelling and its effects! The springboard for all this is a sex addicts anonymous group where members get together to help each-other overcome their sex cravings and to tell their stories. When two of the group's members, Miranda (Victoria Abril) and Javier (Javier Bardem), begin an adulterous affair, they are soon implicated in the murder of an anonymous young man whose body is discovered in the boot of an abandoned vehicle in an underground car park where Javier and Miranda -- coincidentally -- once enjoyed one of their spontaneous trysts! Matters are complicated when Miranda's jealous policeman husband, Felix (Carmelo Gómez) is assigned the case!
Director Manuel Gómez Pereire certainly strikes the perfect tone for a classic tale of lust, obsession and murder: the film mixes elements that recall the classic works of Hitchcock -- such as the Vertigo-style, animated opening credits and composer, Bernardo Bonezzi's terrific, Bernard Hermann-esque score -- with a twisting narrative structure that invokes the mid-nineties Hollywood trend for boundary pushing erotic thrillers such as "Basic Instinct". Cinematographer, Juan Amoros provides the film with a slick, modern-day noir visual style and the Madrid setting looks lovely throughout.
The film is also blessed with a strong triumvirate of principle cast members and some decent supporting actors. The narrative constantly switches focus and emphasises different characters at different points in the film, so it is vitally important for everybody's performances to be strong -- and, thankfully, they are! Heading the cast is one of Spain's hottest young actors, Javier Bardem ("Collateral") who plays a character whose cool, confident persona conceals an addiction to phone sex! Javier is a screenwriter who discovers his sexual fantasies have been taped over the phone and that copies are being circulated on the black market! Victoria Abril is also excellent as Javier's lover, the beautiful but nervy Miranda -- on the surface, happily married to her policeman husband but secretly indulging in random sexual encounters with strangers during her morning dog walks! Her husband, Felix, is played by the always watchable Carmelo Gomez who is, by now, something of a past master at playing the reliable family man with a dark secret (see, for example, the Spanish supernatural thriller "Nos Miran") and does so again here with his usual likeable charm. The friends and relatives in this trio's lives end up playing just as important a role in the story, and the film features many good supporting turns: notably Juan Diego as Felix's tortured colleague Jareno, and Victor Ruedo as the murder victim with a pivotal secret.
So -- the film looks nice; it chugs along purposefully, and always retains one's interest throughout its respectable 115 minute running time; the climactic plot twist is a surprise (though hardly original) and is central to the mystery's solution rather than just an artificial gimmick. Somehow though, the many intricate plot details and recursive narrative tricks fail to transcend the sum of their parts and we are left with a competent but unspectacular thriller that doesn't leave much of a mark on the psyche once the film has finished. Nevertheless, some excellent performances from the principle cast members do help give the film at least the appearance of possessing slightly more weight than it actually does! Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that, despite its clever-clever Russian doll narrative effects and flashbacks etc, at heart this thriller is really rather conventional, and could just as easily have been the subject of a straightforward tv drama.
Nucleus Films give us a great disc here that sports a nice 2.35:1 widescreen anamorphic transfer and the choice of Spanish stereo 2.0 or 5.1 Surround Sound (clear, removable English subtitles are also present). Trailers, tv spots and stills gallery are included, plus biographies and filmographies of cast and crew. A twenty-minute "making of" featurette rounds off the extras: including interviews with producers, the director, and the main starts of the film. Some nicely done animated DVD menues and page transitions give this disc a particularly stylish look. The film may not be a masterpiece but it is an engaging enough thriller that couldn't ask for a better presentation than it gets here. Worth a look.