The Girl From Rio (1969)
The attractive Shirley Eaton kind of returns as Sumuru, a female version of Fu Manchu in this sequel of sorts to The Million Eyes of Sumuru from producer Harry Alan Towers. Just as he had done with his Christopher Lee/Fu Manchu series, Towers turned over director duties to cult favorite, Jess Franco, for the second and final film of Eaton’s turn as Sumuru. As a matter of fact, Eaton would retire from the screen following this filmed in Brazil drive-in special.
For whatever the reason, Eaton’s name has been slightly tweaked to Sumitra this time out though she’s still bent on world domination at the head of an army of female models. An army that includes many who are minus the top portion of their uniform. She rules the city of Femina that leading man Richard Wyler is going to find himself entangled in. Wyler hits Rio with a supposed suitcase containing ten million dollars and local crime lord, the slumming George Sanders takes notice as does Miss Eaton.
Entering the story is Towers’ actress/wife, Maria Rohm as a seemingly damsel in distress whom Wyler takes notice of. Not surprisingly, romance follows and since she might know something as to Wyler’s money, Sanders has her kidnapped. At the same time, Wyler finds himself in the evil clutches of Eaton after being whisked away on a jet plane thanks to a group of topless flight attendants. Hey! This is a Jess Franco film so one should expect these things including a still to come customary lesbian scene. And yes the women who make up Sumitra’s army are all attractive which is explained when the woman bent on world domination states matter of factly, “If one of my girls isn’t perfect, she must die.”
Wyler is going to be subjected to fog machines while imprisoned in a glass cage where he’ll meet Marta Reeves as a fellow inmate. Tortures follow and a subsequent escape so we can get Sanders and Rohm back into this zany plot. Sanders is in this racket for the money and believes that Eaton is sitting on a fortune in gold brick bars hidden away in the depths of Femina. With a slightly higher budget than many a Franco film, three helicopters will be employed as a raiding force with Sanders at the head who storm into the city of Femina. City? Let’s say a large scale office building being used on a Sunday for filming purposes.
Having no axe to grind here I’d like to state that the previous film The Million Eyes of Sumuru is far more enjoyable as a whole. This one is far more exploitative at the hands of Franco which should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his zoom lens tactics and penchant for showing off female flesh on screen. The lesbian scene I spoke of is mostly implied between Eaton and one of her minions but as I suspected, it was filmed with a double for Eaton and she had no idea the scene was inserted into the film until after seeing the finished product as she points out in an interview on the Blue Underground blu ray release.
What does make this fun is not only the Franco factor, yes it’s hard to understand what makes his earlier films watchable but they are, but the location shoot, a jazzy score, some cool sets and designer outfits and a catchy title tune sung by …. I don’t have a clue.
It’s got a bunch of women running amok with machine guns and shaking them as if they’re really firing them while the rat a tat tat noise of real guns is dubbed into the proceedings. Then we come to poor George Sanders, a one time Oscar winner who wound up in a bunch of these low budget specials on the exploitation circuit including The Body Stealers and his final film, Psychomania, in 1972 before taking his own life. Sure George is collecting a paycheck here but he still injects a bit of humor into the film as a mobster who orders violence upon his fellow man but abhors it and frequently turns his head and grimaces when it’s being dished out by anyone of his thugs.
My absolute favorite part of the film? The X-Ray torture machine used on Wyler and any woman not worthy of Eaton’s army. It’s a dead ringer for the machine my dentist has been using to take my x-rays every second year I sit in the dental chair. Her victims didn’t get the heavy blanket that I do so maybe that’s the difference between pain and just taking photos of teeth. Not to mention I get to keep my clothes on.
There’s not a lot to recommend this one to the masses but those who enjoy the career of Jess Franco who haven’t yet caught up with this one may want to give it a look and can do so along with the earlier film, The Million Eyes of Sumuru on that Blue Underground double feature release.