Review: The Girl From Rio / Cert: 18 / Director: Jess Franco / Screenplay: Harry Alan Towers, Franz Eichhorn, Bruno Leder / Starring: Shirley Eaton, George Sanders, Richard Wyler, Maria Rohm / Release Date: January 21st 2013
Spanish legend Jess Franco (Vampyros Lesbos) returns with yet another Harry Alan Towers production, this time featuring the Sax (Fu Manchu) Rohmer femme fatale, Sumuru (played with relish by Goldfinger glamour girl Eaton).
The film follows playboy Jeff Sutton (Wyler, Man From Interpol), whom the underworld seem to think is harbouring $10 million in stolen cash. This puts him at risk from two parties, Brit-in-exile mobster, Mr. Masius (an end-of-career role for Sanders) and Sumanda (this being the name Sumuru – the self-styled leader of the all-women army of Femina, a base hidden away in the Brazilian jungle – goes by in the script, while the end credits have her as Sumitra). Sumanda attempts to find the whereabouts of the money, while trying not to fall for the suave Sutton, who is in fact a mercenary, on a mission to rescue a heiress from the compound. It gets no less confusing as Masius wants in on the stolen money that doesn't actually exist.
While it may not be James Bond, The Girl From Rio has a campy, kitschy charm, akin to In Like Flint, or Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine. The Femina army would have appealed to the feminist movement had they not all been clad in short tunics and filmed so luridly, in true Franco fashion. Eaton has a whale of a time, in what would be her final role before retiring from acting, strutting around threatening Sutton in her monogrammed mini dress, and inexplicably changing hair colour from scene to scene. There's plenty of fun to be had, be it from the tongue in cheek dialogue or the action-in-inverted-commas scenes which include a woman being tortured with a plastic electric fan.
There's a certain lowered expectation you apply with these type of films, and while they could never be considered great, they are enjoyable in their own way. This release is actually the first time the 1969 film has had a UK home video release, and considering its age and budget, it looks fabulous, with plenty of garishly bright colours and flesh on display. It's certainly worth a try if you enjoy the likes of Danger: Diabolik, Barbarella or '60s camp spy films. Just don't expect a masterpiece. This is Jess Franco after all.
Extras: 15 min interview with Jess Franco, Harry Alan Towers and Shirley Eaton