CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS AND BLIMEY
Well, it wants to be Raiders Of The Lost Ark meets Emmanuelle, but it's closer to Jane And The Lost City meets a Madonna video. Still, it's a different beast to Man Of Steel or Avengers Assemble: this adaptation d'une bande dessinée is frankly much more interesting than blokes in lycra flinging CGI stuff at each other and laying apocalyptic waste to densely populated centres. Okay, it's monumentally silly, and the acting wouldn't impress a toddler, but it's nice to look at, the music's pretty and Just Jaeckin gets to put a lot of mistily photographed nubile flesh on the screen, as is his wont.
Gwendoline is basically a series of silly pulp adventures in which a drippy young convent girl (Tawny Kitaen) voyages to the Far East to track down her missing lepidopterist father, who has apparently disappeared into the wastelands known as the Yik-Yak in search of a rare butterfly. Teaming up with a guy (Brent Huff) who is supposedly a tough, macho hero in the Indiana Jones mould (but is in reality a charmless, deeply sexist dick), Gwendoline and her maid (Zabou) manage to triumph over (or run away from) gangsters, white slavers, smugglers, pirates and a tribe of cannibal savages before stumbling into an underground city populated almost entirely by women in plastic bondage gear....
I originally saw Gwendoline many years ago on the Embassy pre-cert VHS release, when it was cut by the BBFC by nearly three minutes and presented in the wrong ratio; the UK DVD is now in full widescreen and all cuts have now been waived. Sadly it takes too long to plod through the soft porn stuff which as far as Jaeckin (and the audience) is concerned is the meat of the movie; the real reason he directed it and the real reason we rented it. Yes, it's very nice, but in the internet era where gynaecological imagery of attractive young women can be Googled in seconds, it now feels odd to have to sit through a proper film just to see some skinny girls' breasts. Progress, I suppose.
Still, if you can get past the atrocious acting and the general air of stupidity, Gwendoline (known in some versions as The Perils Of Gwendoline In The Land Of The Yik-Yak) it's not actually that terrible. Pornography may be in the wrist in the beholder, but this is definitely on the erotica side of the fence, and Jaeckin's soft-focus style is more interesting than David Hamilton's Bilitis brand of glaucoma smut. This may be little more than a sexed-up Warlords Of Atlantis, wanting to cash in on the Raiders trend, and it certainly takes its time before wheeling on the women in black plastic underwear which, let's be honest, is the whole point of the exercise. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't get some fun out of it.