Miracles Still Happen

starstarstarhalf
“Truth is certainly more entertaining than fiction.”

We documented elsewhere the incredible, true survival story of Juliane Koepcke, who survived a two-mile fall from the sky, then 10 days alone in the Amazon rain-forest. Naturally, it wasn’t long before a “true-life adventure” version of the story made its way to the screen, starring English actress Susan Penhaligon as Juliane. Outside of Penhaligon, and the actor and actress who play Koepcke’s father and mother (Muller and Galvani), the hook here is that everyone else plays themselves, such as the people involved in the search and rescue mission, for example.

Unfortunately, it isn’t much of a hook, because they didn’t really do much. Like finding the freakin’ plane, it being left up to Koepcke more or less to rescue herself, walking out of the jungle to be found by some very surprised loggers, ten days after the crash. Thus, you get a lot of footage of people flying planes, taking off, landing, radioing in for instructions… None of which adds significantly to the atmosphere, or adds any factual notes of importance. The film is also hamstrung by the very fact this is a saga of solo adventure, which means that once Juliana hits the ground like a giant lawn-dart, it’s her against the jungle. And the jungle isn’t exactly a witty, sparkling conversationalist.

Working around this, Scotese makes heavy use of flashbacks and voiceover. It does stick relatively closely to the facts of the narrative. There is some scathing criticism of this film in Werner Herzog’s documentary about her ordeal, Wings of Hope; Herzog describes it as “extraordinarily bad”, and Koepcke pans Penhaligon for stumbling through the jungle “with the look of a hunted doe” (as shown above!). However, she did apparently consult with the creators – likely further than certain Italian moviemakers would have gone, especially in the seventies. So most of the key moments do agree with what Juliane has said over the years. For instance, she did remember a key survival lesson about finding a stream and following it down, and she did stumble across some crash victims, briefly wondering if they included her mother, with whom she had flown.

It’s generally better off when it simply concentrates on the perilous jungle, especially the moments when you get some idea of scale. The Amazon is big, folks. Credit also due to Penhaligon, who gets steadily more disheveled over the course of what can’t have been an easy film to shoot. She certainly gets closer to a very large anaconda than I would have been prepared to go! But watching her stagger, increasingly bedraggled, around the rainforest is something that isn’t enough to sustain interest. We can only wonder what the results might have been like had Herzog, who narrowly escaped being on the plane which crashed (doing location scouting for Aguirre, Wrath of God), directed this instead.

Oddly, this is credited to ‘Brut Productions’, which was the film production division of cosmetics company Fabergé. I say oddly, because those of a certain age and location will remember 70’s commercials in which heavyweight boxer Henry Cooper touted “the great smell of Brut” aftershave. Seeing its logo pop up in the opening credits here was certainly unexpected. I may well remember that much more than the rest of the film

Dir: Giuseppe Maria Scotese
Star: Susan Penhaligon, Paul Muller, Graziella Galvani

Luana, the Girl Tarzan

starstar
“Not the promised thrill adventure of a lifetime.”

luanaDespite a broad range of impressively kick-ass posters, in which renowned artists Frank Frazetta and Russ Manning had a hand, the heroine of the title (Chen) is much more of a supporting role than the star, and that’s a disappointment. While competently made, compared to others of the genre, its failure to deliver what the advertising promises, and indeed much jungle-girling at all, earns it a significant downgrade. The backstory is more or less the usual: a plane crash in darkest Africa leaves one survivor, the three-year-old daughter of a scientist and an Asian princess(!), who somehow survives in the rain-forest. She grows up to wander round her domain with a chimpanzee sidekick, wearing nothing but a loin-cloth and hair that magically affixes itself over her breasts, this being a firmly PG-13 rated jungle romp.

However, the real stars are the scientist’s other daughter, Isabel Donovan (Marandi), who is seeking answers to her father’s disappearance, and jungle guide George Barrett (Saxson). He knows of Luana, having been rescued by her after being attacked by savages on a previous trek into the jungle. Also along on the trip is her father’s partner, the somewhat creepy Norman (Tordi), who appears to have a more than guardian-like interest in Isabel. It soon becomes clear that “someone” – and let’s be honest, you deserve no prizes for guessing who, 30 seconds after they show up – doesn’t want the truth about the crash to be established. Meanwhile, Luana is lurking on the edge, saving her sister from a spider, stealing her clothes when Isabel takes a dip, etc.

It’s a definite shame there wasn’t more Luana, as her character possesses a sweet innocence which is quite endearing, and certainly more fun than watching the bland Isabel and George traipse through another section of faux-jungle or react to the usual stock footage [though this is integrated somewhat better than usual]. For example, witness the scene where Luana tries to figure out how to use a bra; it’s naively charming, and I’d have loved to have seen more of this angle. Indeed, the script itself is solid enough, with a number of sequences which clearly have potential. For example, there’s George arm-wrestling a tribesman, with scorpions set up on either side to greet the loser with their sting. The film also has a carnivorous plant. How can you go wrong with a carnivorous plant?

The answer appears to be director Infascelli, operating under a pseudonym, as he manages to suck the excitement out of every sequence, courtesy of pedestrian execution. But one final anecdote will sum up the overall ineptness here. When the film got US distribution, Ballantine Books commissioned Alan Dean Foster to write a novelization However, the only available copy of the script was in Italian, so Foster wrote a new novel based on the Frazetta poster. I can’t help thinking any film based on that would likely be rather better than the actual movie.

Dir: “Bob Raymond” (Roberto Infascelli)
Star: Glenn Saxson, Evi Marandi, Mei Chen, Pietro Tordi

Judy

starstarstarhalf
“Insane Clown Posse”

judyAt first, I wondered if this was some kind of post-apocalyptic work, with Ursula (Giorgi) the leader of a face-painted tribe, enforcing discipline with extreme brutality on her minions. But it turns out to be everyday society: she actually heads a group of “street performers” [I guess; not quite sure what they do, but it’s likely something between mime and a freak show]. who survive by extracting money from members of the public. Ursula’s next target is Mary (Babusci), who pulls over in her car to have a phone conversation (an admirably safe approach, it has to be said), only to find herself being menaced by Ursula. Panicking, Mary pulls a gun on the whey-faced loonette, and drives off. Despite making it safely back to the apartment where she lives with her dog, Judy, it becomes increasingly apparent that Ursula has not taken kindly to her rejection at gunpoint, and will have her revenge – both on Mary and Judy.

What’s particularly interesting here is, this is a horror film almost entirely without male characters. There isn’t a single speaking, on-screen male role: there is a emergency dispatcher whom Mary calls on her cellphone (before Ursula’s blocker kicks in), and one of the villains could be male, since they wear a mask and never speak. But otherwise, not just protagonist and antagonist but all the supporting roles – hell, even the dog! – are female. That’s not common in any genre; it’s likely entirely unique in the “home invasion” sub-division of horror. De Santi sets the table well, quickly establishing both the ruthless brutality of Ursula as well as her mercurial nature: Giorgi does very well at putting over the idea that her character could explode into savage violence at any second.

Significantly less effective is the middle section, which largely consists of Mary pottering around her flat. There are attempts at building menace, such as a creepy-looking robe in the bathroom, or incoming phone-calls consisting of almost dead-air. However, there’s no real sense of escalation or progression to these, and they appear little more than trivial gimmicks. Things ramp up appreciably when Judy goes missing from the locked apartment. Mary goes to look for her canine on the beach, but the answer to the mystery may be closer to home than she initially thinks, and when she discovers that… Hoo-boy. There’s also the question of what, exactly, Ursula keeps in that manacled, spike-encrusted box (and, perhaps, also the one of how the hell she got it up all those stairs).

To call the ending abrupt, on the other hand, would be the understatement of the year. Admittedly, it doesn’t seem like there’s anywhere else the story could go, at the point when the credits roll; yet there’s usually at least a momentary coda at the end of most movies. Here? Not so much. All told, it would likely have worked better as a short film, in the 15-20 minute range, which gives you an idea of how much padding is present. Still, given the low budget, it is certainly better than some I’ve endured, and is helped by a creepy central premise, especially if you suffer from coulrophobia. Look it up…

Dir: Emanuele De Santi
Star: Orietta Babusci, Marlagrazia Giorgi

Battle of the Amazons

starstarstar
“This world was made for hate, not love.”

amazonsIt’s startling to think that when this came out, this merited not only a theatrical release in the United States, but a review from perhaps the most respected critic of our time, the late Roger Ebert. Needless to say, it didn’t end well for the film, but Ebert tearing apart a film is still fun to read. I particularly liked the line, “There are spears and bows and arrows and swords, which suggests early times, but then again all of the women on both sides are fresh from the hair dryer. They also exhibit impressive technical advances in the art of brassiere-design.” Yeah, welcome to The Magnificent Seven – only set in a vaguely Greco-Roman era, with a tribe of rather vicious Amazons the antagonists.

They live by raiding and plundering local villages, under Queen Eraglia (Love), but after they kill her father, local lass Valeria (Tedesco) has had enough, and rents the service of conveniently-passing bandit Zeno (Tate), to teach the village farmers how to defend themselves. However, the sexual chemstry that flies between Valeria and Zeno fail to impress her betrothed, who convinces a group of village men, that their best chance of survival is to switch sides, reveal details of the defense plans to Eraglia, and hope she sees fit to give them mercy. It turns out though, that he may not be the only snitch present in the town camp, as things proceed towards the entirely expected finale, a lengthy battle pitting the raiding women against the defending agriculturalists.

It’s actually a little darker and possibly somewhat more well-thought out than I expected: the final line of dialogue being the one atop this review, which sprinkles a nice sense of doom and futility over things, and the multiple levels of betrayal are effectively handled. I started watching this on a plane flight to New York, but I think the second topless torture scene was about where I opted to save it for another day, though there really isn’t much else here worse than PG-13 rated. Tedesco makes a good impression as the feisty heroine, and it’s a nice touch to have women effectively leading both sides, though when it comes to the actual fighting, Valeria obviously steps aside for Zeno. Sadly, the Amazons also step aside when the action kicks off, largely being unconvincingly replaced by male stunt doubles in masks and wigs. Valeria acquits herself best there as well, indeed coming to the rescue of her employee in the final face-off. I can’t honestly say I minded the dubbing as much as Roger, and the time passed briskly enough on its way to an appropriately grandiose finale. Though I’m certainly agree with him on one point: I’m not quite sure why the local men made such a fuss about getting kidnapped…

Dir: Alfonso Brescia
Star: Lincoln Tate, Paola Tedesco, Lucretia Love, Mirta Miller

Werewolf Woman

starstarstar
“Hungry like the wolf”

wolfwomanWhile there have been plenty of female vampires over the year, the number of female werewolves is a lot smaller. There’s the wonderful Ginger Snaps (and its not as wonderful sequels), the forgettable Cursed, TV series Bitten, and most infamously of all, Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf.  However, perhaps the closest relative here is a little off to one side: the remake of Cat People, made by Paul Schrader in 1982. It is not dissimilar in tone and approach, both taking a firm, if somewhat hysterical psychosexual tone to proceedings, and Giorgio Moroder’s musical score sounds like the synthesized one here. Both have heroines whose transformations are triggered largely by sexual excitement, and who eventually find a man happy to love them for who they are – only for that happiness to be short-lived. Of course, this one being grindhouse, the reason for its abrupt termination is her boyfriend being stabbed to death while trying to stop her from being raped, which triggers a rampage of revenge that justifies its inclusion on this site.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. It’s also a sexual assault which triggers the psychological problems for Daniela Neseri  (Borel). The psychological trauma and Daniela’s obsession with a family legend involving an ancestor who supposedly turned into a predatory animal, form a potent combination, and she develops a deeply-held belief that she also changes into a wolf at the full moon. That doesn’t appear to be the case, but it still brings tragedy down on the family, when Daniela gets all hot and bothered after seeing her sister (Lassander) making love to her husband. The resulting carnage get her committed to a psychiatric hospital by her aristocratic father (Carraro), only for Daniela to escape after an encounter with the facility’s local nymphomaniac. After some more brutal murders, which baffle the local police, she finally meets her soulmate, who works as a stuntman. And this takes us back to where this paragraph came in.

It’s pure exploitation cinema, not skimping at all on the nudity, and with a healthy amount of gore as well – what else would you expect from a director who, the same year, gave us Deported Women of the SS Special Section? This isn’t quite as sleazy, though certainly is not family viewing, and is well enough made to make for an interesting viewing experience for broad-minded spectators. Borel has a nicely lupine quality about her, and even if the transformation sequences [most notably the opening dream sequence] leaves a bit to be desired, the various elements – the heroine, her family, the cops who gradually realize the connection between the corpses – are tied together with a script that has had more effort put into it than you might think. They truly don’t make them like this any more.

Dir: Rino Di Silvestro
Star: Annik Borel, Howard Ross, Dagmar Lassander, Tino Carraro
a.k.a. La lupa Mannara or The Legend of the Wolf Woman

Tiger of the Seven Seas

starstarstar

“Good, for the (Spanish) Main part”

tigerofthesevenseasAnother in the flurry of Italian female pirate flicks of the sixties, this stars Canale as Consuelo, the daughter of a pirate captain. After he retires from the buccaneering business, she defeats her lover, William (Steel) in a duel to decide who takes command. Her father is killed with William’s knife a short while after, but they are attacked by the Spanish forces of Governor Inigo de Cordoba (Calindri) before her boyfriend can be hung for the crime. In the ensuing confusion, William escapes, and makes off with the ship. Consuelo and her followers, hijack another vessel and give chase. But is William the real culprit, or is this part of a plan cooked up by the Governor’s scheming wife, Anna (Spina), who seeks to get her hands on the horde of treasure which was buried in a secret location by Consuelo’s father, before his death?

The action is a bit disappointing here, with most of the sword-fights consisting of not much more than the two participants standing at arm’s-length from each other, waving their weapons. The story is also rather predictable, with few if any of the developments being unexpected. We just know William is going to be proven innocent, even if he looks like a young, piratical version of Lou Reed. ]Maybe that’s just me?] What do work, are the characters, who are an enjoyable bunch to spend time with – even the villainous Anna, who is clearly the brains of the marriage. She’s an excellent foil for Consuelo, who is equally smart and brave; she certainly makes a strong first impression, hurling a knife at William, and embedding it in the trunk of a tree by his face.

The spectacle side of things is well-integrated, though I have an idea some of the footage may have been lifted from other pirate pictures, as it doesn’t quite seem to match; it was certainly not Capuano’s sole foray into the genre. Everything builds nicely to the standard adventure film cliche, #37: the masked ball, which Consuelo infiltrates in the cunning guise of…a pirate, to rescue William, after he made an ill-advised attempt to storm the fortress and abduct the traitor. This leads to an all-out battle, perhaps most remarkable for the “raining cannons” sequence, but despite what I said about the plot having no twists, I must admit, the final conclusion is not one I saw coming, with the villainess getting off surprisingly easily, compared to other potential fates. She actually gets the treasure, though at the cost of letting Consuelo and William go. I like to imagine the sequel has them heading back to reclaim her father’s loot, and I certainly wouldn’t have minded seeing more of their adventures, and it’s a shame no such follow-up ever emerged.

Dir: Luigi Capuano
Star: Gianna Maria Canale, Anthony Steel, Maria Grazia Spina, Ernesto Calindri

Fraulein Doktor

starstarstarstarhalf

“Germany calling…”

frauleindoctorThere’s a lot going on in this World War I spy thriller: probably a little too much, though it’s still generally interesting. The titular character – I wouldn’t go so far as to call her a heroine, for reasons that will become obvious – is a nameless German spy, whom we first see coming ashore at the British naval base of Scapa Flow. Her two male associates are captured, with Meyer (Booth) being “turned” by British intelligence officer, Colonel Foreman (More). Meyer reveals the fraulein’s mission is to find out on what boat Lord Kitchener will be leaving the base, so it can be attacked. Despite More’s desperate efforts, the plan succeeds and Kitchener is killed. That’s not the first time she has caused problems: in a flashback, we see her seducing French scientist Dr. Saforet (Capucine), in order to steal the secret of a dreadful new chemical weapon. Meyer, now a double-agent, is sent back into Germany with the aim of killing her, and appears to succeed. However, that’s just a ruse, so the not-so-good doctor can complete her biggest mission: organizing a raid on Allied headquarters to steal their defense plans, in advance of a massive German push.

It’s refreshingly grey in terms of morality. Neither side comes off as occupying the high ground, and there’s very much a sense of grubby necessity. For instance, when the agent is being presented with a medal for her role in killing Kitchener, the presenting German officer refuses to shake her hand, because he considered Kitchener a fellow officer as well as a friend, and his death was “cheating”. But they are perfectly happy to use her talents: when the idea of sending a woman in is questioned, her commander replies, “Why not a woman? She has imagination, precision, courage beyond any man on any battlefield. She has only two weaknesses: traces of pity and grains of morphine.” The latter adds an extra wrinkle in her final undercover role, as a nurse on a Red Cross train, heading to the front, and she has no reluctance in using her body to achieve her goals – whether with men or women. Kendall gives a solid performance, and I was surprised to discover this was inspired by a real person, Elsbeth Schragmüller, whose identity as “Fraulein Doktor” was not revealed until almost 30 years after the end of WW1. Details of her actions are still sketchy, offering the makers a blank canvas on which to paint: no evidence she was a bi-sexual drug-addict, for instance!

As noted, there’s too much going on here. The mission to kill Kitchener could have been an entire movie in itself, as could the theft of the chemical weapon, but instead, these are galloped through at an over-anxious pace. The finale then seems to forget about its leading lady entirely, heading off in an completely different direction, depicting the German attack, both with conventional weapons and poison gas, and the effects on the Allied troops. Shown below, it is truly a nightmarish sequence of epic proportions, enhanced by Ennio Morricone’s discordant score: I believe the Yugoslav army supplied military extras, and that ups the ante considerably. It makes for a grim, rather than rousing finale, bringing home to the fraulein, the responsibility of what she has done. I can see why it was a commercial flop and has largely been forgotten, yet despite its flaws, it deserves a better fate than obscurity.

Dir: Alberto Lattuada
Star: Suzy Kendall, Kenneth More, James Booth, Capucine

The Queen of the Pirates

starstarstarhalf

“Court in the act.”

queenofthepiratesSandra (Canale)  and her father fall foul of the local tyrannical Duke (Muller) after they refuse to pay his excise duty. Arrested, the arrival of the poor but noble Count of Santa Croce, Cesare (Serato), saves them from death – or a fate worse than in Sandra’s case, as the Duke has a profitable sideline, shipping local girls off to the Middle East. After escaping, they join up with a local pirate band, who agree to help target the Duke after Sandra bests their leader in sword-play. To gain the hand of the duke’s daughter, Isabella (Gabel), Cesare agrees to hunt down the “Queen of the Pirates” who has brought trade to a standstill, not knowing that his target is the same woman he helped save, and since then has had a secret longing.

Its storyline is more than slightly similar to the other Italian piratess movie we also covered here, Queen of the Seas, from the following year. This is slightly weaker, mostly because Sandra ends up taking a back seat to the heroic Cesare in the second half, though it benefits from a solid supporting performance by Gabel, who brings a genuine nastiness to her role as the spoiled heiress, who is perfectly happy to endorse Daddy’s white slavery operation, as long as it keeps her in jewels and pretty dresses. The shift in focus from Sandra is disappointing, not least because she can handle a sword pretty well – that’s clear right from the fight against the Duke’s excise-men, and reached its peak during the friendly duel against the pirate king. Really, given the era (1960) and Canale’s provenance as a former runner-up in Miss Italy, it’s genuinely impressive.

queenofthepirates2

From about the midpoint on, it is entirely predictable, and becomes much less interesting as a result, despite some efforts to suggest that Cesare might not really be smitten by the heroine – just pretending to be, in order to lure her in. There’s also some desperately unfunny attempts at comedy, courtesy of his squire, and the English dub appears to have been written by someone practicing for International Talk Like a Pirate Day, spattering every other sentence with gratuitous nautical vernacular. I can’t call it disastrous, and at 75 minutes, doesn’t outstay its welcome; there’s just too much queening and not enough pirating in this for me.

Dir: Mario Costa
Star: Gianna Maria Canale, Massimo Serato, Paul Muller, Scilla Gabel
a.k.a. La Venere dei Pirati

Le Avventure di Mary Read

mary read

starstarstar

“Graded as a solid sea-plus.”

While best known for notorious horror film, Cannibal Ferox, director Lenzi’s career covered almost the entire gamut of genres, from spaghetti Westerns through Eurospy films and giallo, to war movies. He also did historical adventure films like this, starring Gastoni as Mary Read, a highwaywoman who takes a spot on a corsair ship run by the unfortunately-named Captain Poof (Barnes). After his demise in a sea-battle, Mary takes over the ship, leading daring raids on any and all who cross her path, on sea or land. Given Poof was working with the approval of the British crown, and supposed to be targeting only its enemies, this provokes a reaction, in the shape of Captain Peter Goodwin (Courtland), who is ordered to take care of Poof, unaware he has been replaced by Mary. However, complicating matters, he also knows her personally, having been locked up in prison with her back in England, and had a brief fling with Read at the time. Can he bring his former love to justice?

queen of the seasDespite its age – this was made in 1961 – it has stood the test of time fairly well, except for a romantic ending which is both predictable and unfortunate. This turns the heroine into exactly the subservient woman she spent the first 80 minutes not being. Up until then, it plays well ahead of its time, with Read taking no crap from anyone, and proving to be skilled both with a pistol and a sword, as well as her words. [And perhaps a needle, some of her costumes, particularly the red one, being quite spectacular] The production values are generally pretty impressive, especially in the naval sequences; they clearly had a couple of full-scale boats to work with, rather than miniatures. However, its recreation of what is supposedly “17th-century England” leaves a lot to be desired, unless the landscape and costumes of that era were a lot more, ah, Mediterranean than I was aware! I’m also rather hard pushed to swallow Read’s intermittent efforts to pass as a man: I guess eyesight was not as sharp back in the day.

Clocking in at a brisk 85 minutes, there’s not much chance to pause for breath. This helps paper over holes in the plot, such as the Governor of Florida apparently not bothering to mention to anyone, that his party was raided by a woman pirate. But I like the way Read is portrayed as smart, for example, out-thinking Goodwin and getting him to fire on a supporting ship – she wants to destroy his reputation as much as anything else. However, this makes the final resolution all the more implausible, and I’d far rather have seen her sail off into the sunset, perhaps with Ivan (Longo), the crew-mate who seems to carry a torch for her. I guess this wasn’t quite far enough ahead in its thinking.

Dir: Umberto Lenzi
Star: Lisa Gastoni, Jerome Courtland, Walter Barnes, Germano Longo
a.k.a. Queen of the Seas

Nikita – Sexy Killer

starstar

“French kissing… And rather more…”

[Note. This is a XXX-rated film, so while I’m being very restrained, the discussion of it is, of necessity, still for mature readers.]

nikita sexy killerI don’t have any problem with pornography, but the concept of porn with a storyline leaves me somewhat baffled: it’s a combination that doesn’t seem to make sense. Personally, I either want to watch people having sex or a movie with actual characters and a storyline; I don’t think I’ve ever been in the mood where I’ve thought, “I want 2 1/2 hours that combine hardcore pornography with more traditional elements of cinema,” but that’s what you have here. Actually, 2 1/2 hours of hardcore pornography alone, seems like serious overkill, by a factor of somewhere between five and ten. I certainly didn’t get through this in one sitting.

But I was intrigued by the concept. The porn parody has a long, disreputable history, from Skinemax fluff like Lord of the G-Strings through to hardcore entries like – and, I swear, I’m not making this up – Naporneon Dynamite. But this, dating from somewhere between 1996 and 1999, depending on which source you believe, is the first I’m aware of which was based on an action heroine. [Subsequent investigation turned up what appear to be multiple entries involving Lara Croft-alikes. I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for reviews here] The star here, Sarah Young, got her start doing Page 3 shoots at the age of 14 (!), and transitioned to hardcore later, under the care of her future ex-husband, Hans Moser. Last I could find out, she had quit the adult industry, and was studying to be a lawyer.

Anyway. This film may simply be titled “Sexy Killer”, going by the print – this would make more sense from a “not having Luc Besson sue your ass off” front, but the IMDb begs to differ, so I’m going with that. It certainly does follow the basic storyline of Nikita, particularly early on, though the crime which gets the heroine, Sarah Lester (Young) on her journey into Nikita, is a home invasion – albeit one which turns into a group sex scene between the actual invading of the home and the cops showing up. Then, as in the original, she shoots a cop while high, but is bailed out of the resulting life sentence, by Serge (Clark), who offers her an alternative: wet work and other operations for the organization in which he works. There’s a restaurant scene where she has to assassinate another diner, and another mission involves sniping from a window, both of which will be familiar to fans. But the film does divert at the end, where – and I trust I’m not spoiling this for anyone – Nikita lifts some incriminating documents she’s supposed to be recovering, and uses this as leverage to break free from her employers. Which is actually a kinda cool idea, I have to admit. I also appreciated the cat-fight between Nikita and her mentor/colleague, Jeanette (Sartori). Besson missed a trick there, I feel. And the subsequent lesbian canoodling.

Mostly, though, it’s about the sex. Lots and lots of sex, with the ratio of that to plot being approximately 3:1. And, since the running time is 152 minutes, that is an awful lot of multiple aardvarking, as Joe Bob Briggs used to call it. As for what happens in the remaining 38 minutes (approx), you have to cut the performances some slack, given dubbing where the voice actors are far more enthusiastic with regard to moaning and groaning, than the actual dialogue. But, actually, the actors aren’t bad: in particular, Clark is spot-on, as the world-weary agent tasked with keeping his rebellious underlings in line, and a good equivalent to Tchéky Karyo (or Gabriel Byrne, if you prefer the remake). But the action scenes are perfunctory, and little more than a token gesture – admittedly, it’s an entirely different kind of action in which the makers are interested, so criticizing them for this seems irrelevant. It is possible to make films that mesh hardcore sex with narrative in an interesting way: Caligula is perhaps the best-known example, and Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, by reports, also does so. Here? Not so much, and it’s probably of interest only to Nikita completists.

Dir: Mario Bianchi (as “Nicholas Moore”)
Star: Sarah Young, Christoph Clark, Stefania Sartori