Sunday, 5 October 2008

Blue Rita (1977)

Although it dates from 1977 Jess Franco’s Blue Rita it really has more of the vibe of the late 60s than the late 70s. It’s a return to the feel of his silly but fun movies of that period, movies like The Girl from Rio and Kiss Me, Monster. Like those films it’s a sexy comic book-style spy spoof. Blue Rita runs a kind of combination night club/up-market strip joint/high-class brothel, but she and her all-lesbian staff deal in other commodities besides sex. Their main business is freelance espionage, blackmailing and kidnapping clients attracted by the girls. These unfortunate men are then chained up and doused in mysterious green goo. This goo has the effect of raising their libidos to an unbearable level, and they are then taunted and tempted by offers of sex by Blue Rita’s beautiful naked lesbians until they are prepared to provide whatever classified information they possess.

Perhaps unwisely, Rita has been selling this information to more than one intelligence service, and she has made powerful enemies. When she kidnaps a European boxing champion (who apparently has links to the intelligence community) things start to get out of hand. To add to her difficulties, she appears to have a traitor in her own organisation, and one of her girls seems to have been disloyal enough to fall in love. The plot becomes steadily more tortuous, but if you’re trying to make sense of the plot then you’re missing out on the point, and most of the fun, of this movie.

As in all good spy spoofs, and indeed all good spy movies, the plot is too complicated to make any real sense. It’s all about style, and Blue Rita has style to burn. In fact it’s an object lesson in Jess Franco’s ability to make a visually interesting movie on a minuscule budget. Very stark, mostly white, very bare sets, lots of bright primary colours, outrageous costumes (on the rare occasions when the women are actually wearing anything at all) and daft gadgets - it all enhances the comic-book feel. The fight scenes are absurdly silly, but again this adds to the comic-book ambience, and adds a camp quality somewhat reminiscent of the old 60s Batman TV series.

While l’m a huge fan of Jess Franco, I have to admit that in the 70s some of his films pushed the sexual violence and sadism angles to a bit of an extreme. That criticism can’t be levelled at Blue Rita. There’s an enormous amount of nudity and lots of sex, and it’s sometimes kinky, but it’s all done in a light-hearted fun way. This is one of Uncle Jess’s sunniest and most playful movies. Night club settings, especially when combined with kinky sex, always appealed to him and brought out the best in him as a film-maker, and this movie is no exception. Blue Rita is pure entertainment, done with tongue planted firmly in cheek, and it’s one of Franco’s most engaging and delightful movies.


Alex Bakshaev said...

Glad to read a positive and enthusiastic comment on this rarely-mentioned Franco film. It is enjoyably silly, while perhaps not exactly "essential" Franco.

dfordoom said...

I think Blue Rita is a good example of Franco in fun comic-book inspired mode. He doesn't get enough credit for his silly fun movies - it's something he does remarkably well.