CONTAINS SPOILERS AND AN APOLOGY FOR MY LACK OF BACKBONE
Well, that didn't take long. Back in October 2012 I finally threw in the towel and gave up on Jess (Jesus!) Franco after his repulsive The Sexual Story Of O, vowing never again would this artless trash corrupt my DVD player and contaminate my retinas. But then this one comes along and it's got proper actors in it: Shirley Eaton and George Sanders, who aren't just going to turn up in any old filth. And the BBFC have only given it a 15, so surely there can't be that much lesbian writhing and crash zooms in and out of ladies' bits, right? In the event: yes. Trouble is he might have downplayed the drooling lechery but he hasn't filled the void with anything interesting, while the end result isn't anywhere near as borderline offensive as his usual ugly grunting softcore, it's crushingly dull to the extent that I actually dozed off and had to rewind it by ten minutes.
Made in 1968, The Girl From Rio is apparently a followup to Lindsay Shonteff's The Million Eyes Of Sumuru (which I haven't seen), again featuring Shirley Eaton as the leader of an all-woman community plotting world domination from her secret Amazon city named Femina. This is the sort of cockeyed concept even the James Bond producers balked at (1983's Octopussy is probably the closest), but Jess Franco and writer Peter Welbeck, aka producer Harry Alan Towers, just said "oh, what the hell" and went with it. Rather than a Sean Connery or a Roger Moore, however, the case is handled by one Richard Wyler, possibly aided by Maria Rohm (Mrs Harry Alan Towers) while George Sanders lurks in the background cackling at Popeye comics when he isn't being urbane in that marvellous voice of his.
You'd think it would be impossible for a film so packed full of incident - gun battles, escapes, chases, fights, girls in uniforms - to be so cataclysmically tedious. It kicks off with one of those vaguely erotic but meaningless dance sequences Franco seems inordinately fond of, which has little if anything to do with the rest of the film, before hero Wyler jets into Rio accompanied by a cheesy theme song. Like Towers' series of Fu Manchu movies (the last two of which were also directed by Jess Franco), The Girl from Rio is nominally based on the writings of Sax Rohmer, but it's boring, it's stupid, and it's absolutely no fun from start to finish. There's no charm, no charisma, and no-one seems particularly enthusiastic about what they're doing. Franco may have been super-efficient on set - according to the featurette they finished a week ahead of schedule so they started shooting another film to fill the time while the crew were all on salary - but it hasn't translated to being any good and perhaps it might have been better if he'd taken his time over it rather than blasting through it to get the damn thing over as quickly as possible, like it's the washing up or something. Utter rubbish.