Saturday, 29 November 2014

Flareup (1969)

Raquel Welch may not be the world’s greatest actress but her career includes quite a few surprisingly interesting movies. Unfortunately Flareup is not one of them.

Flareup is a thriller, with Las Vegas go-go dancer Michele (Welch) on the run from crazed killer Alan Moris (Luke Askew). Moris has been divorced by his wife Nikki and he blames her friends Michele and Iris (Pat Delaney) for turning Nikki against him. In fact of course the truth is that nobody needed to turn Nikki against him. Moris is a crazy dangerous loser and Nikki figured that out by herself. Now Moris has flipped out completely and is planning to kill his ex-wife and her two friends. And anybody else who gets in his way. Michele decides that it might be a good idea for her to get out of Las Vegas. The police have offered her protection and they need her as a material witness but when Moris goes after Iris Michele decides she doesn’t trust the police to protect her. She heads for LA.

In LA she has no trouble getting another job as a dancer and she meets Joe Brodnek (James Stacy). Joe is obviously pretty keen on her and although he’s a little odd he seems to be odd in a harmless and rather engaging way and Michele thinks he’s kind of cute. Joe is a model aeroplane enthusiast, something that amuses Michele but also makes him seem more appealing.

There isn’t much time for romance though since Moris is still at large and now he’s turned up in LA.

The plot unfolds in a fairly routine way with Moris stalking Michele while the cops are stalking him. Routine is unfortunately a word that comes to mind quite often in regard to this movie. The chase scene through the old zoo is one of the better moments and the climactic scene is quite effective although it perhaps needed a bit more of a buildup.

Director James Neilson had a prolific career in television. In the 60s he made a few not very distinguished feature films. He was competent but uninspired and Flareup tends to be more of a fizzle-out than a flareup.

The action scenes are handled adequately but they lack any real imagination and are a bit perfunctory.

Welch was a capable enough actress in the right movie but her problem here is that her character is seriously underwritten. Michele is supposed to be a free spirit but the script tells us that fact rather than giving Welch the opportunity to demonstrate it. The script really gives her very little to work with and she seems unsure of herself, as if she wasn’t quite clear what was expected of her.

Unfortunately the other actors are even weaker and the other characters are even sketchier. We should care what happens to Michele and Joe but we don’t really know them enough to be particularly interested. 

The movie’s main strength is the amusing glimpse it gives us of the LA and Las Vegas night-club scene in the late 60s and it does manage to capture the seedy glamour of that scene quite well. The clubs Michele works in are topless bars and there’s plenty of topless go-go dancing. Miss Welch of course does not appear topless. She was smart enough to figure out early in her career that if you want to have a really sexy image you’re better off keeping your clothes on - leave something to the imagination. She does however contribute a fairly enthusiastic go-go dancing scene.

The Warner Archive made-on-demand DVD is quite acceptable. They’ve made an effort to maintain a high standard with this series and all their releases are at the very least reasonably good, and most are excellent. It has to be said though that this is one of their lesser efforts. It’s rather grainy and the colours perhaps could have been a little more vibrant.

Flareup is strictly a movie for Raquel Welch completists, or for very keen fans of 1960s go-go dancing. It’s mildly entertaining at best. Anyone interested in exploring Welch’s filmography is well advised to seek out some of her other better movies such as Kansas City Bomber, Fathom (a fun tongue-in-cheek caper movie which displays her proficiency at light comedy), the gritty revenge western Hannie Caulder (in which she plays one of the more convincing lady gunslingers) or The Lady in Cement (a fine slightly neo-noirish crime thriller which pairs her quite successfully with Frank Sinatra).

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