Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Girl from Rio (Jess Franco, 1969)

I'm no military tactician, but I have a feeling more thought was put into what the sentries guarding Femina: The City of Women should wear than anything else. Are you sure about that? Oh, I'm sure. All you have to do is take one look at their outfits to realize that fashion was probably their number one priority. True, they were, as far as sentries go, pretty fucking chic. However, I think we can all agree that their training when it came it to hand-to-hand combat and marksmanship was probably lackluster at best. Their ability to seduce unsuspecting men to do their bidding is second to none. But can they successfully repel a lightly armed force? Judging by the pathetic display I witnessed at the end of Jess Franco's The Girl from Rio (a.k.a. Die sieben Männer der Sumuru), I'm going to say, no, they cannot. And, of course, none of the blame for the fiasco/climactic battle that ends this film, one that sees the fashion forward sentries of Femina: The City of Women take on five, maybe six, non-combat helicopters filled with thugs who work for an aging gangster, should be placed on the overstuffed shoulders of the sentries themselves. No, the person is responsible for this debacle is their ruthless leader. If she had spent a little less time lounging in mesh body stockings, and a little more time building, oh, let's say, guard towers, her loyal army of warrior women might have stood have a chance against a daytime aerial assault. I'm telling you, put a couple of well-placed heavy machine guns around Femina: The City of Women, and they could have blown those pesky helicopters out of the sky. Unfortunately, my being a man-like creature, Sumuru (Shirley Eaton), the leader of the aforementioned army of warrior women, would have most likely ignored my advice. And not only that, she would have almost certainly thrown me into one of those glass cages for daring to assume she doesn't how defend her womanly compound.
It's too bad Sumuru's hatred of men has clouded her ability to jump to sensible conclusions, because I was totally down with her cause. The first thing I would have done was, tell the sentries to not stand facing the wall while on guard duty. Think about it, when you face the wall, it makes it a lot easier for your enemies to sneak up on you. Try standing with your back against the wall. I guarantee that you will notice a pronounced improvement in your field of vision the second you turn around.
Yeah, I know, Sumuru will tell you that standing with your face toward the wall makes you look edgy and cool. But I have to ask you this, what would you rather be, edgy and cool or dead and stupid? If you said the former, I'm afraid there's little hope for you. If, however, you're a fan of being alive, I think you will find that I have a lot of wisdom to impart when it comes to managing the security of a feminist stronghold.
Someone who should never face a wall is Yana Yuma (Beni Cardoso), the wide-eyed sidekick of Sumuru (Shirley Eaton), the self-proclaimed mayor of Femina: The City of Women. The only reason I'm mentioning Yana Yuma before Sumuru in this paragraph is because Yana Yuma does the majority of the erotic heavy-lifting in the film's opening scene.
And speaking as a person who previously only knew Beni Cardoso as one of the demented redheads from Barbed Wire Dolls, this is a surprising turn of events. You see, Beni's character in Barbed Wire Dolls, also directed by Jess Franco, is so insane, that it hampered my ability to properly gauge her legginess.
Since when has a woman's mental well-being stopped you from evaluating their legginess? It doesn't usually. But the level crazy of Beni was putting out there was so intense, that everything, including gam appreciation, seemed to fall by the wayside.
Well, don't worry, Beni Cardoso's Yana Yuma, while still not quite playing with a full deck, is the perfect candidate to receive my special brand of glaze, I mean, praise, my special brand of praise.
Anyway, as Sumuru watched Yana Yuma, who is wearing a black mesh dress, toy with some shirtless asshole in a smoke-filled environment, I couldn't help but think how much better this film would have been had Sumuru been played by Lina or Soledad. What are you talking about? The film has just started. Nah, I can tell by the way Shirley Eaton was sheepishly not taking part in the murder of the shirtless asshole guy that she's not fully committed to the role. Seriously, she just stands there as Yana Yuma does all the work.
Meanwhile in Rio, a rich Playboy named Jeff Sutton (Richard Wyler) is checking in to a hotel. You'll notice as he's doing so that he is being watched by a shady fella named Carl (Herbert Fleischmann), who works for Sir Masius (George Saunders), a mob boss of some kind.
You also might have noticed that Sir Masius' girlfriend, Irene (Elisa Montés), looks amazing in a bikini. Don't be fooled, though. She may act like your typical gangster's moll, but she is actually Sir Masius' income tax adviser. While most women who happen to be dating criminals spend the bulk of the day grinding their shapely butts into the laps of their thuggish boyfriends, Irene, who, mind you, does her fair share of lap grinding, can usually be found bookkeeping. Of course, she always cooks the books, as they say, while sitting in a manner that can best be described as leggy. This is, after all, a Jess Franco film; a cinematic wonderland where everything is done in a leggy manner or your money back.
Speaking of which, it's time for a brunette Maria Rohm to make her leggy presence felt. And she does so while giving Jeff Sutton a manicure in his hotel room. Sitting with her legs crossed, Maria, who plays a woman named Leslye, notices that Jeff has put his hand on her knee. If I tried a move like that, I would be shunned by society; shunned, I tell you. But since this Jeff pratt exudes charm and douche-adjacent elegance, he's got himself a date with a leggy Maria Rohm. It's not fair.
Welcome to Femina: The City of Women. A magical place where naked midriffs rule the roost. Where pantyhose-adorned undercarriages grow on trees. The city voted the red cape capital of Brazil for the third year running by Red Cape Magazine. And the best place to find affordable cunnilingus for all you lesbians on a budget. I don't care if men aren't welcome (a misandric speech given by Sumuru during our initial tour makes that all too clear), I want to live in Femina: The City of Women.   
It's morning, and after a long night of partying (Brazilian style!), Jeff and Leslye decide to take a stroll. (Keep an eye out for Jess Franco as the guitar player during their early morning jaunt.) Remember Carl? That's right, the shady fella who was spying on Jeff as he arrived in Rio. Yeah, well, he does what all good henchman do, he sicks a bunch of lesser henchman on Jeff and Leslye, disrupting the tranquility of their stroll.
The cool thing about Carl's lesser henchmen is that they all wear creepy masks and carry switchblades. On the downside, their fighting skills were a tad lacking in the being good department, and Jeff and Leslye have little trouble thwarting their pathetic attempt to harm them. 
How do we know Maria Rohm puts her red stockings on one red stocking at a time?  Show us, Jess. Show us how Maria Rohm puts her red stockings on. And wouldn't you know it. He does show us. I love you, Jess Franco. As Maria Rohm started to put on her second red stocking, it dawned on me that Jeff and Leslyse are discussing something plot-related.
I thought I might have heard something about ten million dollars in stolen money. But like I said, Maria Rohm is putting on red stockings when I heard this, so I can't be 100% sure what was actually said during this scene. I guess I could watch the scene again. However, I have a strong feeling that the results will be exactly the same.
Pairing her red stockings with a flashy mini-dress (the kind that cause the tops of her red stockings to appear every time she shrugs her shoulders), Leslye accompanies Jeff to the airport. If you thought Carl and his lesser henchman were going to give up trying to apprehend Jeff (it's clear they want the ten million dollars he purportedly has stashed away somewhere), you're sorely mistaken. Even though he's separated from Leslye during the kerfulle with the lesser henchmen, Jeff manages to escape aboard a plane filled with women in matching capes.
Wait, did you say, "matching capes"? Yeah, so. Don't you read Red Cape Magazine? These women are from Femina: The City of Women. And last time I checked, men, especially those who wear their cocks on their crotches, aren't welcome there.
Waking up, as most men do after they arrive in Femina: The City of Women, tied to a slab while a leggy Yana Yuma stands over you in a menacing yet still leggy fashion, Jeff finds himself to be a "guest" of Brazil's most elusive all-female society. While it's obvious her hatred of men is sincere, you wouldn't know it judging by the way Sumuru, who is wearing a black body stocking (one with feathery flourishes around the wrists and ankles), wraps her legs around Jeff's midsection. Oh, and if you're wondering what happened to Leslye, she was captured by Sir Masius and is currently being tortured pool side by his lesser henchmen.
In the grand tradition of spy flicks, whether they be campy on purpose or campy by accident, the villain of the piece gives the film's hero a tour of their headquarters and a detailed explanation about their dastardly plans. Which, of course, involve ruling the world. You have to remember, most men were fearful of the women's movement of the 1960s, and this fear seeped into pop culture in the form of movies like, The Girl from Rio -- you know, one's where women try to take over the world.
At any rate, it's during Jeff's tour of Femina: The City of Women that I noticed all the vulnerabilities in city's defenses. Instead of teaching her soldiers to be irresistible to men (an actual class taught in Femina), Sumuru should have brought in a drill instructor. And, yes, I'm sure they could find a female drill instructor listed in the Brazilian Yellow Pages.
When the tour/explanation is over, Jeff is locked in a glass box along with Ulla Rossini (Marta Reves), the daughter of some rich dude, and a bunch of other unfortunate souls.
Will Jeff be able to withstand the psychosexual torture Sumuru has in store for him? Who cares. What I want to know is, what colour, if any, are the panties Yana Yuma is wearing underneath that silver cape she wears. I mean, all that it would take is a mild breeze for us to find out.
What I really want to know is, when did Elisa Montés find the time change from black fishnet pantyhose into mauve sparkly pantyhose? As it doesn't seem like she had enough time to change. I guess that will have to remain one of those mystery thingies. Nonetheless, when the helicopter attack I alluded to earlier finally gets underway, you can tell that the production was getting low on cash. And it's no wonder, as most of the money was clearly spent on stockings and pantyhose. While Jess Franco regulars, Maria Rohm, Elisa Montés, Valentina Godoy (she plays one of Sumuru's elite guards), and Beni Cardoso all seemed at ease, it's obvious that Shirley Eaton and Richard Wyler aren't quite Jess Franco material. It doesn't take too much away from the film, but I prefer it when all the performers are fully-committed to Jess Franco's vision.


  1. I saw this one not too long ago. I thought the ensemble the villainess' main henchwomen tends to wear was interesting (in every sense of the word) and looked rather uncomfortable.

  2. Okay, I'm confused.
    The English title is "The Girl from Rio," but the German title translates as "The Seven Men from(of?)Sumuru."
    My German is a little rusty, but I do remember the difference between Frauen und Männer. :)

  3. @Nine-Finger Menace: I don't know, I could get used to wearing a cape with no pants.

    @Karim: Yeah, I'm confused, too. I mean, I've read that the German title translates to "The Seven Secrets of Sumuru."

  4. I'm meaning the backless, hard plastic leotard that seemed to attach solely at her ass.