Synopsis: In the tradition of Barbarella and Danger: Diabolik comes this swinging ’60s action orgy as bisexual super-villain Sumitra (the luscious Shirley Eaton of Goldfinger and The Blood Of Fu Manchu) launches a diabolical plan to enslave the male species with her army of lusty warrior women. But when Sumitra kidnaps a fugitive American playboy, she crosses a sadistic crime boss (Academy Award winner George Sanders of All About Eve and Village Of The Damned) and ignites a battle of the sexes that will bring Brazil to its knees in more ways than one. Get ready to experience director Jess Franco at his most erotic, exotic and bizarre. This is The Girl From Rio!
Richard Wyler (The Bounty Killer) and Maria Rohm (Eugenie, Justine) co-star in this kinky cult favorite (also known as Rio 70, Future Women and The Seven Secrets Of Sumuru), packed with go-go boots, miniskirts and outrageous Jess Franco style.
eyelights: Shirley Eaton. Femina. the locations. the sexy bits.
eyesores: its pathetic finale. its lame action. its uninspired cinematography. its run-of-the-mill plot.
“If one of my girls isn’t perfect, she must die.”
‘The Girl from Rio’ is a 1969 sequel to the 1967 motion picture ‘The Million Eyes of Sumuru‘. It follows Sumuru, leader of the Order of our Lady, an all-female organization bent on taking over the world from men, in her latest scheme.
This time, from the island of Femina, near Rio de Janeiro, she plots to kidnap a criminal who’s just landed in the area with 10 million dollars in stolen money – money she can use to fund her operation. But she’s in for a little surprise.
You see, Jeff is not a criminal: he’s actually a secret agent sent to track down Ulla, a wealthy young woman whom Sumuru has imprisoned on Femina. And now that he’s on Sumuru’s radar, he can infiltrate her city and break Ulla out.
Of course, they face an additional complication: local crime boss Masius takes an interest in both of them, hoping to make a small fortune off them and, when he’s not busy reading Popeye comics and just lounging around the pool, interferes.
The first two times that I saw ‘The Girl from Rio’, I was completely unaware of the fact that it was a sequel; it wasn’t even hinted at anywhere on the DVD box. And it’s a good thing, too, ’cause I probably wouldn’t have picked it up.
Well, the fact is that it’s a picture that stands up on its own; there’s no need to see the original to see this one.
But one needs to know that this is a Jess Franco film: its a low-budget production that belies the caliber of its cast, notably Shirley Eaton and George Sanders, and it doesn’t do anything especially well. It’s a half-baked affair.
À la Jess Franco.
It doesn’t even manage to make Rio look exotic, even though I expect it was chosen for that reason (and affordability): everything looks grey, drab, and even the Rio Carnival, which is inserted for no reason, fails to inspire.
And Femina? Well, for the centre of womandom, it looks pretty cold, like a modern airport terminal. And its “futuristic” holding facility filled with wafts of smoke was most definitely made on a soundstage (i.e. a converted hangar).
Let’s just say that this film has none of the production quality of the original, even though both were produced by Harry Alan Towers. Was it a lack of funding, or did Franco just misuse the money and none of it ended up on the screen?
Who knows, but it certainly looks and feels cheap.
I think the worst of it comes during the combat scenes, which are poorly-choreographed and don’t look real at all – they look like play-acting. It all culminates with a chopper attack on Femina, which leads Sumuru to blowing it all up.
Um… did I say blowing it up? I meant: we hear an explosion. But we never see it, so maybe she didn’t actually set her “30-second timer”. Maybe all she did was take out a few smoke machines and place them right under Franco’s cameras.
No joke. I think that’s what she did.
That’s how jaw-droppingly bad it is.
But there remains the central conceit of an all-female society that plans to take over the world. I like that idea. And Sumuru (or whatever she’s called here as it seems to change a lot) shows us the ins and outs of her organization.
Well, she had to show Jeff her compound and explain it all to him before she locked him up and tortured him for information, right? What kind of ’60s villain would she be if she hadn’t done at least that? Or seduced him at least once?
Not that there’s any reason why she’d be interested in this guy. I swear, Sutton is neither charismatic or handsome. He also wears some of the worst clothes ever! I know it was nearly the ’70s, but there’s no excuse for such plaid suits!
The rest of the costumes are interesting, though: from the Femina outfits (low budget superhero or science fiction film rejects), to the sexy outfits that Sumuru and Lesley wear – many of which are made of see-through mesh material.
It’s a world of women designed by men, of course.
But I can dig it.
Shirley Eaton is sort of wasted here. Aside for her commanding presence in some instances, she just poses or acts sexy. And sometimes it’s a body double in her stead. Same goes for George Sanders, who just sits around most of the time.
And their lead, Richard Wyler? He plays Jeff like an @$$hole, can’t fight worth his life, and the camera doesn’t love him one bit. Interestingly, he’s worked with some of the greats, like Alfred Hitchcock and Blake Edwards – but in uncredited roles.
That’s pretty telling.
Dang. ‘The Girl from Rio’ shouldn’t be even remotely as enjoyable as it is. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not a super great time, but it should actually hurt to watch it. For some reason, though, it somehow has a perversely likeable quality to it.
Is it the presence of the über-seductive Shirley Eaton? Is it the droll familiarity of George Sanders? Is it the heightened sexiness of the production (which isn’t PG like its predecessor)? Or is it campy in the so-bad-it’s-good category?
Sumuru only knows.
Maybe it’s just a question of low expectations combined with even lower standards, but I’d watch it again.
Date of viewing: February 3, 2016