Saturday, 26 May 2012



It might be Fair Trade, it might be Fairtrade. The title on screen is written all as one but with a large T in the middle - unlikely to be for aesthetic purposes given the demonstrably unaesthetic movie it's bolted on to - that might or might not signify a word break. Is it referring to fairtrade as in non-exploitative, like coffee or sugar? Or is the fairness of the trade, whether drugs or hostages, supposed to be ironic? We may never care. The DVD artwork and the IMDb both seem to suggest it's two words so that's good enough for me, whatever the fontmeister who produced the opening credits might think.

In Fair Trade, no less a figure than Oliver Reed gets his arse kicked all over South America by some college girls. He's a brutal Argentinian generalissimo and drugs baron whose son has been captured in America in a cocaine bust, so he kidnaps DEA boss Robert Vaughn's comely daughter and a planeload of her college friends to trade for his son's freedom. But Reed reckons without the girlies inexplicably transforming into the Rambettes: casually sneaking through the jungle in camouflage cutoffs and bandoleros while machine-gunning sleazy Latinos and native tribesmen, the college girls actually seem more comfortable with killing than the soldiers do, as they decimate Reed's hand-picked elite private army on his home ground...

There's the opportunity for some wonderfully disreputable sleaze here, but even the presence of a blonde and black-clad Claudia Udy as Reed's glamorous right-hand sadist in residence doesn't crank up much excitement: less Ilsa She-Wolf Of The SS and more Ilsa Of Sunnybrook Farm. (Why does Reed have a resident dominatrix anyway?) Without the graphic sordidness it's all far too low-key and underpowered to make any impact. If they'd gone all out on the tits and gore and people thrown to the piranhas, it might have ended up as enjoyably nasty trash, but everything's half-hearted and toned down with the exception of one gloating rape scene (which was apparently cut by more than a minute anyway).

The thing about fair trade produce is that it should be exactly like the regular produce but you feel morally better for choosing it. Well, it isn't and I didn't. This is supposed to be exploitative and it even cheats on that. Vaughn and Reed are usually good value but Vaughn isn't actually in the movie enough, and for some reason Reed masks that wonderful voice of his with a French accent. You'd have expected a stab at Spanish, but French Argentine is apparently the third largest ancestry group in the country (according to Wikipedia, so it probably isn't). Another offering from the late Harry Alan Towers, and nowhere near one of his better ones.


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