We’re edging ever nearer the climax that is my interview with Sybil Danning next Monday. So, before then, here’s more Sybil Danning!
So, none of Sybil Danning’s films really are what you would consider “respectable.”
As I mentioned previously, it’s not her fault though. She’s always wonderful; and, even when doffing her top (as she does in these two films as well) she brings an air of class to every film she graces, from Battle Beyond the Stars to Jungle Warriors and everything above, beyond and in between, Sybil Danning = Awesomeness.
That being said we’re going to discuss the two of her films most resembling classy affairs.
First off there is Bluebeard from 1972, a remake of the film of the same name from 1944, starring my beloved Richard Burton in the titular role, Joey Heatherton, Raquel Welch and of course… Sybil Danning. The film is a black comedy/thriller, of sorts, set in an (I guess) alternate time period, during World War II. It follows the humorous exploits of ‘Bluebeard’ aka Baron Kurt Von Sepper, as he marries (SPOLIERS), then kills a parade of 70’s beauties, in increasingly over the top methods (and numbers) because he is impotent and cannot sexually satisfy them.
Bluebeard, as with most of Richard Burton’s output from the 1970’s, was hated upon its release and I can see why (although, I love the film.)
Granted, I love everything Richard Burton has ever done from the classics like Night of the Iguana, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, to the not so classics Exorcist II The Heretic, The Medusa Touch and Hammersmith is Out, he can do no wrong in my book. In fact, as I also mentioned previously (I think), he could read the phone book for 3 hours in the same cardboard delirium he performed in during Exorcist II and I’d award him best actor…
But, anywho… On the whole, the film is a bit of a mess, not horrendously so, but enough to make it a challenge, I’m sure, for non-fans of weirder fare to get into. The tone is the most major problem it has going for it, a lot of the time you can’t tell when things are supposed to be funny or serious and more often than not, even when it SEEMS like it should be funny, it’s leaning toward serious. The other biggest issue is the pacing. The movie proceeds in a very slow, stately fashion, when in reality it needs to be clipping by at rapid fire speed to keep the laughs and horrors flying at you from all directions, like a Vincent Price film from around the same time period. (Burton once said he based his performance in Bluebeard slightly in the vein of Price in fact.)
The cinematography and set design are wonderful though. Burton is game and in top scenery chewing form, aside from the occasional dip into the de rigeur for the period woodenness here and there. The ladies who play his various consorts are also pretty much pitch perfect for the needs of the film (even Joey Heatherton, who gets a lot of hate for her talents is quite good, although Elizabeth Taylor in the same role would’ve made things a whole lot more interesting.) And the direction by veteran Edward Dmytryk is solid, just could have used a more judicious watch in the post production process.
Sybil has a TINY, tiny, cameo part in this one, but it’s memorable and she steals the scene as a Lesbian Prostitute hired by one of Burton’s many wives to teach her how to make love to a man. Sybil is equal parts commanding, funny and sexy as ever in what is essentially a throw away role. (Yes. There is nudity, as stated. And yes, she and the wife do get impaled by a chandelier in mid coitus. You’re welcome.)
Up next is Julie Darling aka Daughter of Death from 1983. This one is a bit more obscure and hard to track down, but I highly recommend doing so. It’s written and directed by future Chained Heat ”auteur” Paul Nicholas and, in addition to Sybil, stars another of my favorite actors Anthony Franciosa and in a should have been star making turn, Isabelle Mejias as ‘Julie.’
The film introduces us to Julie and quickly lets us know that she is EVIL with a capital Elektra Complex. You see, Julie likes her dad, and by likes her dad I mean… wants him inside her…
We see Julie watch as her own mother, whom she hates, get brutalized and killed by an intruder (even though Julie, who is an expert with guns, could have shot the attacker any time) so she can have daddy to herself. And, she does, for a little while at least… until dad (Franciosa) brings home a new stepmom (Danning) and brother. Needless to say this doesn’t set well with Julie and she tries her damndest and I mean DAMNDEST to make herself the only person in dear old dad’s life for good!
I won’t spoil this one, because it’s a really unique thriller. It has a lot of tense moments and one MAJORLY gross moment, that even The Orphan didn’t have the balls to go all the way with. And the ending is a real nail biter that will leave you scooting toward the edge of the seat right until the last few moments.
The direction and script ARE a little muddled at times, but overall it’s a superb lower budgeted effort. Franciosa gives an atypically off kilter performance, as if he wasn’t sure what to do with the part (and as much as I love him I NEVER want to see his sex face again. *shudder*) Isabelle Mejias is FANTASTIC as Julie. She nails it, kills it and makes it totally her own, from the fake innocence, to the freak outs, to the psychopathic rage, Julie Darling wouldn’t work without her. And, as usual, Sybil is solid in her part, which, much to my surprise is the most substantial role I’ve ever seen her in. Once she shows up she’s in scene after scene, and pretty much carries the film as Julie’s unwitting enemy throughout the bulk of the film. It’s really a powerhouse part for Sybil, that should have gotten her a lot more attention as well.
Bluebeard 6 out of 10 “Playing with his Organ” jokes
Julie Darling 8 out of 10 Refrigerator based hiding places for kids