MGM // 1984 // 105 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // September 23rd, 2005
A story of sexual awakening...that will awaken your desires.
Lida MacGillivery (Bo Derek, Orca) is on a quest to lose her virginity, but her attempts at finding a lover willing to relieve her of this terrible burden are thwarted at every turn. That's right -- a character played by Bo Derek cannot seem to give it away. What next, Denise Richards playing a nuclear physicist?
Bolero is bad. Colossally bad. Monumentally bad. Sure, you can't expect much from the husband and wife team who foisted Tarzan, the Ape Man on an unsuspecting world, but Bolero somehow manages to sink below the levels of awfulness Bo and John Derek achieved with their jungle jiggle epic (and this despite the fact Bolero doesn't feature Richard Harris running around with his johnson flapping in the breeze).
Although Bolero manages to get worse as it clumsily lumbers along to its ridiculous conclusion, this flick's awfulness is apparent right from the get-go. Would you believe a pushing-thirty Bo as a student at a prestigious English boarding school? Neither do I. Would you believe that a Scottish girl who attends an English boarding school populated by students from all across Europe would have an American accent? Doesn't make sense to me, either. Would you believe Bo's first antic after graduating is a naked run across the school's campus? Yeah, I can kind of see that.
As I mentioned earlier, Bo is desperate to get laid, so she and her friend Cat (Ana Obregón, Monster Island) head to Morocco, hoping they will meet a sheik willing to usher Bo into womanhood. (They hatch this plan after seeing Rudolph Valentino in The Sheik. Thanks, Rudy.) Tagging along is Cotton (George Kennedy, The Concorde: Airport '79), Bo's chauffeur/guardian. Well, the three make it to Algiers, rock the Casbah (yeah, I know; that one was pretty bad), and Bo meets a sheik who agrees to deflower her. (The sheik is played by Greg Bensen, whose portrayal of an Arab leader is even less authentic than that of Elvis in Harum Scarum.) Things do not go according to plan, however. The sheik covers Bo in honey and milk, then proceeds to lick it off, but he falls asleep before they can do the deed (he's either spent too much time smoking his hookah, or he's seen the first third of this movie).
Unwilling to accept defeat, Bo and her companions head to Spain, where Bo develops a major case of the screaming thigh sweats for a matador named Angel (Andrea Occhipinti, The Sea Inside). Angel initially shows no interest in her, but you can't really blame him, as he already has a full plate: he is boning some crazy redhead, and he has a young gypsy girl named Paloma (Olivia d'Abo, Conan the Destroyer) who's waiting for her fourteenth birthday to roll around so Angel can bed her. Not to worry, though. See, Angel is not a very popular matador (he refuses to kill the bulls he fights), so he relies on his winery as his primary source of income, but he's not exactly raking in dough selling wine, either. Bo offers to buy the winery (she came into her late father's fortune upon graduation), which causes Angel to perk up. The two go horseback riding on a beach (you can see a modern ship on the ocean behind them; you can also see John struggling to keep the ship out of the shot), and Bo tells Angel the story of the sleepy sheik; Angel says he will take her maidenhood (I hate to use that phrase, but I'm running out of euphemisms). Bo and Angel get it on (finally!).
Bo barely has time to bask in the afterglow before cruel fate intervenes and a bull gores Angel right in his wedding tackle. Headstrong as ever, Bo vows to nurse Angel and his fun bits back to health. Part of Bo's plan includes training as a matador, but before her first lesson a bunch of the sheik's men (who look about as menacing as Jamie Farr in Cannonball Run) show up and kidnap her (I have no idea how they know where to find her). They tie her up, take her down to the beach, toss her into the sheik's biplane, and the sheik takes off. Okay, now get this: Bo tells the sheik she's in love with Angel, loosens her bonds, and jumps out of the plane. Next time we see her she's back in Angel's house, chatting it up with Cat and Paloma. That's right -- Bo jumps out of a damn plane and makes it back to safety unscathed. How did she manage such a feat? Beats the hell out of me; no explanation is given.
Bo starts her matador training. Angel doesn't really seem to care. Bo rides bareback on a horse, and I mean that literally (and you thought rug burn was a problem). Angel still doesn't seem to care. Bo gets into the ring with a bull. Angel suddenly feels a tingling sensation in her nether regions. He and Bo get it on. Smoke billows, the music swells, and lights flash all around them. Then Bo and Angel get married and the movie ends, with Bo never having given thought to the fact that her beloved is more turned on by the sight of a bull than he is by her.
I can remember when Bolero was originally released (unrated, if I am not mistaken); the (manufactured) controversy and (manufactured) hype surrounding it created a certain mystique about it (at least to me and my teenaged friends). Now, a little more than twenty years later, it's a bit hard to see what all the fuss was about. This movie is downright boring. Yeah, the script is awful and the acting is horrendous, but nobody cares about those aspects (let's face it -- Bo has no talent, and John only had a talent for finding hot blondes). As with every other piece of crap Bo and John made, the selling point is Bo unclothed. And, as with every other piece of crap Bo and John made, that's no reason to suffer through this movie. I can't deny that Bo looks good disrobed, but waiting for the good stuff (what little there actually is) is a chore.
I didn't clock it, but I'm almost positive there is a thirty-minute stretch between each of Bo's nude scenes; sure, you get a couple of scenes of Olivia d'Abo bathing, but her character is so annoying, and her performance so grating, I would rather have seen her punched in the throat than covered in suds. And Kennedy hops into bed with Angel's maid, but thankfully the scene ends before George has a chance to run around with his johnson flapping in the breeze. (I guess the only way Kennedy decided to emulate Richard Harris was by staying drunk throughout the shoot, which probably wasn't a bad idea.) This film might have been something of a big deal back in the '80s, but today it's far tamer, and thus far less enjoyable, than anything you're likely to run across on Cinemax.
The movie certainly looks a lot better than I was expecting. The source print was obviously in great shape; other than some excessive grain in a couple of shots, some bleeding in the Casbah scenes, and a little too much edge enhancement, the transfer looks very nice. There is a good bit of surround action in the soundtrack, but the bottom end is very weak, and the overall sound is a bit thin and hollow. Dialogue is always intelligible, but I'm not so sure that is a plus. (Speaking of the dialogue, I think this painfully overlong movie would have been a good forty minutes shorter had the cast simply been able to get their lines out; they constantly stumble over their words like a drunken Edgar Allan Poe after he made a sale.) The only extra is the film's theatrical trailer, which manages to pack a fair amount of Bo nudity into two minutes (too bad the movie itself is not as skillfully edited).
Is Joe Sarno still around? He is? Somebody tell him to go spit on John Derek's grave.
Guilty, guilty, guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 1984
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer