• Gwendoline (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: November 19th, 2019.
    Director: Just Jaeckin
    Cast: Tawny Kitaen, Brent Huff, Zabou, Bernadette Lafont, Jean Rougerie, Roland Amstutz
    Year: 1984
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    Gwendoline – Movie Review:

    Just Jaeckin has had an interesting career and should be a better-known name to Eurocult fans than he is. Not only did he direct the picture in question here, but the guy also made Lady Chatterly's Lover, The Story Of O and the original Emmanuelle to boot. So, what's the deal with Gwendoline, also known as The Perils Of Gwendoline In The Land Of The Yik Yak (which is how it was released stateside on VHS by Warner Home Video in a version trimmed of over ten minutes – also included on this Blu-ray release!)?

    Gwendoline (Tawny Kitaen of Witchboard and a few Whitesnake videos) has hidden herself inside a crate that sits inside a ship bound for… somewhere in Asia. She hopes to make it to the 'Land of the Yik Yak' where she'll start looking for her father. Her old man hasn't been seen by anyone since he took off that way in search of a rare butterfly. In the port city where she lands after being released from her crate by the burly Chinese guys who were running the ship, she heads out into the streets. There she soon meets up with an American named Willard (Brent Huff who starred opposite Sho Kosugi in 9 Deaths Of The Ninja and then later opposite Coolio in Submerged!) and runs into her old pal, Beth (Zobou of One Woman Or Two). Beth and Gwendoline want to get on with Gwendoline's quest, Willard isn't so keen on the idea. But of course, the girls have ways of convincing him to think things over a little more before coming to such rash conclusions.

    The three adventurers head off in a few different directions, the women undress a lot, they run around in the jungle some and then in the desert, and finally some strange tribal types capture them. Their new captors bring them back to their base of operations, which just so happens to be in the Land of Yik Yak. There they find that the land is ruled over by a nasty Queen (Bernadette Lafont, who shows up in To Catch A Spy) who controls an army of Amazon women who do whatever they're told and run around in bondage outfits. They're also very much black widows, in that they mate with their men only one time before making short work of them once and for all. With Willard obviously a man, it doesn't take the warrior women long before they've got him hanging upside down from the ceiling and they're trying to get Gwendoline to join them.

    The plot in this one is nuts – it's all over the place. At times the movie is kinky and slick like so much of Jaeckin's other, better-known films, and then at other times it's (intentionally?) campy and goofier than a Troma film. There's no shortage of flesh on display, women disrobe for the simplest reasons, and the movie is full of 'beautiful people' in that there are no unattractive ladies in the cast. As crazy as this sex-adventure hybrid sounds, it turns out to be a whole lot of fun. There's no shortage of style here, from the set design to the wardrobe, even the hairstyles of the Amazon warrior women – it's all highly polished and very intentionally over the top. It isn't surprising in the least to find out that the movie was based on a comic book. It just has that vibe to it.

    Tawny Kitaen, who gets most of the screen time here, is definitely in her physical prime. She looks really, really good in this film and the camera loves her as much as she loves the camera. While the script doesn't prove to be too challenging, she handles things well as she's got enough obvious confidence and some decent screen presence. Brent Huff makes for a macho enough hero that you can understand why Gwendoline falls for him and it's interesting to see the twists that their relationship takes as the movie plays out. If you go into this one expecting some fine, sexy pop art and some neat adventure you'll probably really enjoy it, as it's a fun, slick movie that doesn't spend a lot of time sweating the details. Style over substance? Maybe, but it's still a good time.

    As mentioned earlier, this disc highlights the uncut French version of the film. It runs roughly ten minutes longer than the version that Warner Brothers released under the aforementioned goofy retitling, and most of that content is made up of some of the racier footage found in the film. Hardcore fans of the movie might want to check out both versions as the US cut runs at a slightly brisker pace, while purists will likely be content with the lengthier version on this release.

    Gwendoline – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films brings Gwendoline to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen. Both versions of the film are given their own encodes here, with the French cut getting just under 25GBs of space on the 50GB disc and the U.S. version considerably less real estate at 11GBs of space. Given that the French cut is the better version of the movie, you can think of the U.S. cut as a bonus. Both are in very nice shape and boasting excellent color reproduction. The encoding on the U.S. cut is less than idea, no surprise there, but the French version gets a healthy bit-rate and there weren’t any compression issues noticed during playback. Black levels are nice and strong and the image is free of any noise reduction or edge enhancement. Severin’s DVD release looked quite nice, but this Blu-ray gives the film a pretty solid upgrade in the video department.

    Audio chores for the French cut are handled by your choice of an English or French language DTS-HD mono and DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio options. Proper English subtitles are provided for the French options and English SDH are offered up for the English mixes. The mono tracks are obviously the more faithful options but the 5.1 mixes are fun in that they spread out some of the effects and score rather well. Audio is clean, clear and well-balanced, free of any noticeable hiss or distortion. English and French Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono tracks are provided for the U.S. cut of the movie.

    Audio Commentary with cast members Tawny Kitaen and Brent Huff. It’s a fun track with a lot of great stories in it. It isn’t always scene specific but that doesn’t matter as they are clearly having a good time together reminiscing about working on the picture. They talk about how they wound up being cast in the picture, what it was like working in France, some of their co-stars, their thoughts on the material. They also share some fun stories about collaborating with Jaeckin, the film’s legacy, the wardrobe and costumes, memories of shooting specific scenes and quite a bit more.

    Also new is the thirteen-minute long The Butterfly Effect, a 2019 Interview with director Just Jaeckin. He notes that he likes the film while recognizing it is imperfect before then talking about the specific looks needed for the characters, his fondness for Zabou (and her issues with the film), what went smoothly on the set and what didn’t, how he was quite fond of all of his cast members and what it was like working with Huff and Kitaen.

    The thirty-four-minute Bondage Paradise is made up of interviews with costume and concept designers and comic book artists François Schuiten and Claude Renard. They speak here about how they met and why they started working together, some of the projects that they’ve been involved with over their multi-decade relationship, working with Jaeckin to bring this project to the silver screen and their thoughts on how the movie turned out. The Perils of Production is an eighteen-minute interview with executive producer Jean-Claude Fleury wherein we learn about how and why he decided to turn Gwendoline into a movie, working with Jaeckin, the casting of the film and more. Gwendoline's Travels is an interview with production designer Françoise Deleu that runs fourteen-minutes. She speaks here about how she got into the business, how she wound up working on this feature, working with the producer on the picture and her thoughts on the film overall.

    As far as archival interviews go, Just Jaeckin is on hand for a director's commentary and a twenty-four-minute on-camera video interview entitled The Last Temptation Of Just for this release. In the interview he covers working with some of the cast members and shows a particular affinity for Ms. Kitaen, while in the commentary track, he goes into detail on some of the casting choices, the set design and the locations used for the shoot. Just comes across as a pretty amiable sort and he speaks of this film with some noticeable pride – he seems to have had a really good time making it and working with the people involved in the project and it's a lot of fun to hear the history of the movie and where a lot of the ideas for some of the set pieces came from. The commentary was on the Nucleus disc but it's nicely done and its inclusion here will certainly please North American fans. The documentary uses the same raw footage as the Nucleus DVD release from years back and is very close in terms of content, but it can be differentiated by the editing.

    Also varied over is the forty-three-minute Dr. Kinsey Interview With 'Sweet Gwendoline' Creator John Willie which is an audio interview with the creator of the comic book on which the movie is based. This isn't of the best quality, the recording is a little on the weak side (it was recorded in 1962), but it's an interesting discussion as we get to hear him give us his take on illustration and the fetishistic material that he worked into his comics.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are the film's original European theatrical trailer, the U.S. theatrical trailer, and a gallery of glamour shots that originally appeared in Lui magazine that feature Tawny doing her thing (ten shots, all taken by Jaekin himself), six-minutes’ of amusing Blu-ray promos featuring Tawny Kitaen and Brent Huff as well as animated menus and chapter stops.

    This release also comes packaged with some nice reversible cover artwork.

    Gwendoline – The Final Word:

    Gwendolyn is sexy, quirky, and completely enjoyable despite its flaws and this Blu-ray from Severin Films is an easy one to recommend. The presentation is quite nice and the disc carries over all of the extras from the previous DVD and includes quite a few additional bits that fans are sure to appreciate.

    Click on the images below for full sized Gwendoline Blu-ray screen caps!