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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak (1984) – Review (NSFW)

When you watch Raiders of the Lost Ark one thing is clearly missing, and that would be gratuitous nudity and bondage. Director Just Jaeckin sought to correct this oversight with his film Gwendoline (later retitled The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak) by using a character created by John Willie, an artist, fetish photographer, editor, and publisher of the soft-porn cult magazine Bizarre. Gwendoline was your standard damsel in distress, but in these comics the damsel was often nude when tied to the train tracks. She would be captured and tied up, rescued by the hero, then captured and tied up. Repeat as often as needed. This was an ideal character for Just Jaeckin, the man who adapted The Story O to the big screen.


The main thrust of the story has to do with Gwendoline (Tawny Kitaen), a naïve girl who has escaped from a convent to hunt for her missing father, and along with her on this adventure is her maid and faithful companion Beth (Zabou Breitman). The movie opens with Gwendoline being abducted by a group of cargo thieves who, presuming a crate from Paris holds valuables, break into it only to find it holds a beautiful woman instead. These Chinese thieves take Gwendoline to a local casino-brothel owner to sell her, but before the brothel owner even has a chance to sample the merchandise a grappling hook imbeds itself in his neck, and mercenary adventurer Willard (Brent Huff) swings into the room. He easily dispatches the thugs, unties Gwendoline, but then he never gives her a second thought. This wasn’t a rescue mission, it turns out the brothel owner simply owed Willard money.


Our hero.

Lucky for Gwendoline the ever faithful Beth shows up, but as the film progresses, and we spend more time with Willard, I kept hoping that Beth and Gwendoline would hook up because Willard is a total asshat and not worthy of either of these women. With his switchblade operated grappling hook standing in for a bullwhip it’s clear he’s this movie’s version of Indiana Jones, but where Indy was a likable rogue this guy is just a jerk. Gwendoline and Beth spend the first half of the movie trying to enlist this guy’s help, and he constantly turns them down. This includes repeatedly tossing them off his boat into crocodile infested waters, and yet we know these two are going to hook up at some point.


The screen just oozes with sexual tension.

There is a difference between two characters at odds with each other, constantly bickering and fighting, but who will eventually fall in love, and these two who have no screen chemistry at all. Gwendoline is at first portrayed as an innocent, though while being forcibly kissed by Willard during one particular escape attempt she practically orgasms, but then later she is calling him a coward and wants nothing to do with him. On the other hand we have Willard who is just an egocentric asshole who only does things for money. When the two fall in love it’s almost as if the screenwriter just flipped a switch, there is no set-up to this relationship, and all of sudden Willard admits he is in love with her with no explanation to this sudden change other than she is hot. I know this is supposed to be a campy-erotic adventure movie but Willard is so unlikable I was praying he’d be eaten by a snake. How much big of a jerk is he? Well at one point they are travelling through a tropical rainforest when a torrential downpour starts, he tells Gwendoline and Beth to, “Take off your clothes quick, or would you rather die of thirst?”


Yeah, he’s smooth all right.

That is just one of many “What the fuck?” moments this film has, but that’s enough talk of about this film’s love story let’s get to the good stuff, and by that I mean more “What the fuck?” stuff. Gwendoline is able to get Willard to help her and Beth find her father, who went missing looking for a rare butterfly, but when we learn that he is dead it looks like the adventure has come to an end even before it got a chance to get going. Then Gwendoline suddenly decides that she is going to find that butterfly and name it after her dead father to honor him for god knows what reason.  Willard wants nothing to do with this plan as it involves going through incredible dangerous country. This is when the apparently naïve and innocent Gwendoline offers to pay him $2,000 dollars. Where did she get that kind of money you ask? Well she secretly stole and sold Willard’s cargo to one of Willard’s less than honest friends, which makes one ask what exactly do they teach girls in those convents?


Then they run into some cannibals.

Gwendoline, Beth and Willard actually run into numerous dangers throughout the film, the butterfly they seek is in the Land of the Yik Yaks and no one has ever returned from there, but I guess $2,000 dollars is enough for Willard to overlook certain death. They are captured by a group of cannibals, Gwendoline and Willard partake in some oral sex (no not the way you think, they are tied up so he is forced to just describe how he would make love to her), and then they escape the cannibals by running around like the Scooby Gang did while being pursued by this weeks guest villain. Things really get interesting when Gwendoline discovers the crevice that leads to the land of the Yik Yaks, but when they lower Beth down to get one of the butterflies she is captured. So Gwendoline and Willard must infiltrate the underground city of Pikaho, an all-woman tribe ruled by a cruel and sadistic queen (Bernadette Lafont). Sneaking around a city solely populated by women is pretty tricky business when one of your party is a dude, so they grab some disguises and Willard dresses up as one of the Amazons.


Words fail me.

We learn that the city of Pikaho was once diamond mining centre that was swallowed up by a volcano sometime in the 12th Century, and shortly afterwards some kind of plague killed off all the men. Now this society survives by occasionally stealing men from the outside world for breeding purposes. Willard seems to be in luck when he finds out that Amazons will be fighting for the right to fuck him, his luck turns bad when he is told that he will be killed after the dirty deed is done, but his luck turns good again when a disguised Gwendoline wins against three other warriors.


Seriously, what do these convents teach young women?

The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak is not a subtle film, it knows exactly what it’s intended audience wants; action, nudity, thrills, more nudity, adventure, and a little more nudity in case anyone out getting popcorn missed the last four or five naked breast shots. Now the first half of this film comes across as your standard Raiders of the Lost Ark rip-off, only with the occasional nipple shot, but the last half when our heroes enter the city of Pikaho things just go off the wall crazy.  Over the next 45 minutes we get...


The machinery room of fuck if I know.


Gwendoline wandering through the hall of bondage.


Gwendoline and Beth sharing a bondage moment.


The evil Queen and her mirrors of breastage.


Gwendoline battling with Bat Shields.


The Evil Queen of Upholstery.


A Ponygirl chariot race.


Willard getting a turn in bondage.


Gwendoline's "O" face as she loses her virginity.

With a movie based on a bondage centric comic it's this part of the movie that shouldn’t really surprise anyone, yet the completely goofiness in the way it handles things does catch one off guard. The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak is not for everyone, it's a bad movie made for bad movie lovers. There is plenty of cheesecake for those who came to see that, but it did kind of make them wait quite some time to get to that, and though the acting is expectedly bad I was surprised at the level of production value on display for many of the scenes.


Fake crocodile notwithstanding.

As I said this is certainly not a film for everyone, and not one I can easily recommend, but if you go into it with the right frame of mind you could find yourself having a good time. It does make one miss the sexploitation films of the 80s as they were definitely unique.

Note: This alternate poster kind of gives off a different vibe than Drew Struzan-inspired one does.

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