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Girl from Rio, The

Review by: 
Rio '70 / Future Women
Release Date: 
Blue Underground
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Jess Franco
Shirley Eaton
Richard Wyler
George Sanders
Bottom Line: 

 The Girl From Rio" is a luminescent, primary-coloured, mildly sexy, comic-strip spy-caper from the idiosyncratic eye of Jess Franco and the overactive pen of producer Harry Alan Towers (under his pen-name Peter Welbeck). Shirley Eaton ("Goldfinger") is Sumitra: the devilish leader of the futuristic city of Femina -- populated exclusively by a scantily-clad solder-class of women (with children's toy guns!) who obey her every command! This "space-age sorceress" trains some of these young women to go out into male-dominated society and seduce unsuspecting millionaires with the intention of stealing their fortunes for the upkeep and expansion of Femina! With this cunning plan, she eventually plans to amass enough arms to enable her to take over the entire world! When Sumitra kidnaps the daughter of a wealthy industrialist in order to extract a ransom from him, cut-price James-Bond wannabe, Richard Wyler is put on the case, in the guise of Jeff Sutton: undercover super-spy!
To get the attention of Sumitra, Sutton Arrives in Rio after having spread the cover-story that he is an escaping criminal with Ten-Million Dollars of stolen loot secretly stashed away! Sutton waits for the female mastermind to make her move, but things are complicated by the fact that every gangster in Rio has heard about the so-called stolen loot and is also out to kidnap him! In particular, crime-lord Sir Masius (an ailing George Sanders) is interested, not only in Sutton's alleged cash, but also the vast fortune said to have been amassed in Sumitra's secret vaults at Femina. Can Sutton rescue his client's daughter while avoiding both male and female criminal groups? And will there be time for some hedonistic parting-down at the Rio Carnival? You bet!
This is not one of Franco's better movies; in fact, it is rather idiotic. But, thanks, in large part, to Blue Underground's fantastic restoration job, it fulfils it's function as a cartoonish, James Bond-style spy spoof rather well. This is another of writer and producer, Harry Alan Towers' Sax Rohmer adaptations (although the name of his evil female criminal mastermind has been changed from Sumuru to Sumitra), and, much like Towers' Fu-Manchu adaptations, the story has nothing in common with anything Rohmer actually wrote! Instead, the film seems to have been conceived as a vehicle for ex-James Bond star, Shirley Eaton; Franco managed to kill off the Fu-Manchu series once and for all with his ultra-low budget "The Castle Of Fu-Manchu", and he appears to have done the same for Eaton's career with this particular outing — she never worked again after completing the film!
The film looks great, and Franco's ultra-garish lighting schemes come across beautifully on the DVD. The fact that everybody uses decorative toy guns throughout (Franco makes no attempt to hide this, and often zooms in on the useless weapons) and, at one stage, an ordinary desk-fan is used as a murderous futuristic weapon of torture — only adds to the, obviously deliberate, camp irony and comic-book humour of the piece. Gunshots are simply dubbed on to the soundtrack whenever anyone points their plastic weaponry; and the destruction of Femina at the end of the film is achieved with two yellow smoke bombs and a shaky camera! Daniel White's musical score supplies us with an amusing James Bond-style theme tune; and an extra layering of cheese is added by the ridiculous fashions on display: the women of Femina all wear revealing PVC tunics (Franco's "artistic" camera set-ups always seem positioned at just the right angle to give the viewer a good eyeful!); while macho hero Richard Wyler is lumbered with the most disgusting plaid jacket for two-thirds of the film! Wyler's character, the spy Jeff Sutton, is just the kind of casually smug sexist who will make you want to side with the harsh, totalitarian regime of Eaton's Femina; but of course, it's all part of Franco's ironic spoof on the attitudes found in sixties James Bond films. By the end, with Femina in ruins and Sumitra defeated, Sutton has at least three Euro babes hanging off of his arm and looks smugger than ever! Bah!
Blue Underground's DVD is well up to their usual standard: the film looks unbelievably good. The one negative is the fact that there is a missing pre-credit sequence in which Wyler's cover-story is established. This makes it rather hard to understand what's going on until well into the film! Extras include a Jess Franco Bio; "The Facts of Sumuru": a text piece on the work of Sax Rohmer; an extensive gallery of posters and stills; and "Rolling In Rio": a featurette containing interviews with Franco, Shirley Eaton, and Harry Alan Towers. Franco expounds on his love of the comic-book style of the film and how cinema should be a "magic-box of surprises;" Eaton, who had obviously not seen the film until she came to record this interview, is horrified to find it to be "virtually pornographic" (it's not: there are just some occasional topless shots of various women), and is even more horrified to learn that Franco had used a body-double to shoot a nude lesbian scene (c'mon ... you knew there had to be at least one!) for her character without her knowledge! The bad man!
An excellent presentation of a so-so Franco piece, this is probably only really of interest to the committed Franco fan or lover of cheesy Sixties spy films.

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