Notable for being Brigitte Bardot’s first major movie role – and notorious for being the shoot whereat that famous photo of her naked on the beach was taken (she’s not quite so naked in the film itself) – Willy Rozier’s film is a dreary production with a script and performances that most school plays would put to shame. Nevertheless, it does possess a weird kind of otherworldly charm, almost in spite of itself.
Gérard (Calvé, like a waxwork double of Guy Pearce) is a 25-year-old student who realises the myth he’s currently studying, concerning sunken treasure off the coast of Tangiers, matches a small find he made on holiday some five years previously, rather too closely to ignore. He then spends the entire first half of the film securing passage back to Tangiers, before finally rocking back up at the lighthouse where he had previously been friends to the 13-year-old Manina – now a buxom Bardot wearing a bathing costume at least two sizes too small.
If you’ve got this far, you can guess how the latter 45 minutes plays out, doing so without bothering to attempt a single surprise along the way. There’s a brief hunt for the loot, involving some relatively nice underwater photography, and an even briefer romance that goes from “Remember me?” to “Let’s spend our lives together” faster than you can get a Peloponnesian penny out of your pocket. The highlight of the film is the “erotic” sequence during which a waterborne Bardot follows Calvé’s trail of air bubbles around the sea as they break upon its surface. It’s trite and embarrassing, and about as sexy as steaming cabbages.
Most of the photography is pretty pedestrian too, failing to show off the admittedly beautiful locations to anything like their fullest extent, and while this new restoration has returned a crispness to the picture, the budget sadly doesn’t appear to have stretched as far as removing any of the blemishes on the print. Some of the reel changes are in shockingly bad repair, for maybe hundreds of frames on either side.
The extra features are just as bizarre, including as they do an entire bonus film (albeit in standard def) – the equally bland courtroom sexual politicker 56, Rue Pigalle – and a short about a sword fighting duel fought between Rozier and the film critic François Chalais (is it too late to place some money on our fellow critic?), plus a twenty-minute photo gallery comprising around a dozen photos in repeated rotation.
Bardot, of course, is the main attraction, and when she finally appears she certainly holds the attention far more than the tame bar brawl, the laboured comedy lecture or anything else about this dim-witted, bizarrely unadventurous fairy tale.
Extras: 58 Rue Pigalle (feature) / the Rozier-Challais Duel / Photo gallery
MANINA, THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S DAUGHTER (aka THE GIRL IN THE BIKINI) / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: WILLY ROZIER / SCREENPLAY: WILLY ROZIER / STARRING: JEAN-FRANÇOIS CALVÉ, BRIGITTE BARDOT, HOWARD VERNON / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 13TH