Judge Daryl Loomis can tell his grandchildren about his exploits as a member of the Burlesque Berets.
Their mission: seduce and destroy!
Little makes me happier than the sheer fact that the art of burlesque is still alive and well, maybe even more popular today in certain pockets than ever before. Old-style sexy cabaret, full of bad jokes and winking, teasing dances, and some of the lustiest, most sensual music out there, all happening in front of you on a stage is plainly fantastic. In The Burlesque Assassins, writer and director Jonathan Joffe has assembled some of the top talent in burlesque and created the closest approximation of the art that I've seen, at least that's available from my living room couch.
During World War II, just when it seemed like the Axis powers were about to win, the crack team of American Johnny Valentine (David Crellin, aka Armitage Shanks) and Soviet Katarina Molotov (Carrie Schiffler, Love Me) joined forces to create a crack team of assassins and entertainers, the Burlesque Assassins. Not only did they win the war, they fell in love, but the realities of the Cold War forced the lovers apart. Years later, when trouble rears its ugly head, Johnny assembles a new team to fight the threat, including Bombshell Belle (Kiki Kaboom), Missy Starlight (Koko La Douce) and Bourbon Sue (2010's Queen of Burlesque Roxi D'Lite). While they fight for freedom, Valentine hopes that Katarina will finally return to him.
The Burlesque Assassins is just fun, pure enjoyment from start to finish. As little more than a fairly lavish burlesque production with an absurd story attached, it won't get honored at any mainstream awards shows, but for anybody who finds themselves infatuated with the sultry sounds and sexy movies of the burlesque stage, The Burlesque Assassins is pure gold.
The story has notes of Charlie's Angels and Inglourious Basterds, but it's really just its own silly thing. When the villains are a cloned Hitler, Benito Mussolini Jr, and a Stalin who never died, all horny for the performers, and the weapons of choice include bladed fans and deadly pasties, you know there's nothing but good fun to be had.
Action-packed and charming, filled with pratfalls and sight gags, and a gorgeous cast would make for a success on its own. The fact that those performers are so talented makes it especially great. There's a full lineup of performances, from fan dances to feathers to Roxi D'Lite's sublime ring show, it's an absolute blast. They might not be the most talented screen actresses in the world, but they've got everything they need on the stage to sell The Burlesque Assassins better than anything else could. This is great stuff and as much unexpected fun as I've had in a while. Come for the cloned Hitler, stay for the great dancing.
Released independently, The Burlesque Assassins fares pretty well on DVD. While by no means an expensive movie, it looks pretty good, with a nicely saturated, colorful image that sports pretty good detail throughout the frame. The transfer is crisp and free from any digital artifacts, making it a pleasure to watch. The stereo sound mix is decent, but nothing that special. The music sounds good, the dialog is clear and there isn't any noise, but there isn't much dynamic range.
The only extra is a fun commentary featuring Jonathan Joffe, Roxi D'Lite, Kelitta Maloof, and assistant art director Jordan Stallman. They have plenty of information about the movie, burlesque in general, and tell a few stories that they wound up recording over to protect the guilty. They even play a drinking game, taking a shot every time somebody loses her top, so they're having a pretty good time by the end. Though it's the lone supplement, it's a worthy one. The whole package is available on DVD or digital download from the official website.
The Burlesque Assassins captures the essence of burlesque perfectly. With some of the biggest names in the art form, how could it not? With all the corny jokes, teasing dances, and old time lusty music that makes it what it is, I have no doubt that fans of burlesque will love this.
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