Once upon a time there was an actor named John Derek. He was never a big name but he had a pretty decent career going. He appeared in films like Knock on Any Door with Humphrey Bogart and Exodus. Heck, he even played Joshua in The Ten Commandments. Off screen he managed to marry the likes of Ursula Andress and Linda Evans. Not too shabby. Then in 1972, while still married to Evans, Derek met a 16-year-old young woman named Mary Cathleen Collins. The two became romantically involved and before long the marriage with Evans was history and the new couple, with their 30 year age gap, headed off to Germany until the young lady reached the age of 18 and they were able to marry. The world would soon know Ms. Collins by the her new name…Bo Derek. Of course, she became a sex symbol thanks to Blake Edwards’ film 10, but as the years went on John Derek would spend time in the director’s chair creating steamy vehicles for his lovely wife. The most notorious is our film today, 1984’s Bolero.
Bo plays a young woman named Ayre MacGillvary, known to everyone as “Mac.” She has just graduated from the prestigious boarding school where she has spent many years in pursuit of higher education. Having reached this milestone she does what most new graduates do…moon the faculty then strip naked and dance around the grounds. Luckily, her loyal chauffeur Cotton (George Kennedy) is there to bring her back down to earth.
Next on her list is to get rid of something. Her virginity. Since she has a bit of an obsession with a Valentino-ish movie star, she decides to head for the middle east to find a rich sheik she can give this “gift” to. Cotton and her friend Catalina (Ana Obregon) are along for the ride. It doesn’t take long for Mac to find a willing young sheik, but he ends up being a dud…falling asleep before the deed is done.
Frustrated but still determined, Mac and company now head for Spain. Immediately, she begins to become obsessed with the beauty of the bullfights, and more so with the beauty of a particular young bullfighter named Angel (Andrea Occhipinti). Mac begins to plot to get close to the dreamy toreador. She gets some advice from a teenage gypsy girl named Paloma (Olivia d’Abo) who then starts hanging out with Mac and Catalina all the time. Before long, Angel is more than happy to rid Mac of that nasty old virginity thing. However, there is trouble on the horizon. One day, during a bullfight, Angel ends up getting too close to the business end of the bull. To put it bluntly: he gets a horn in the crotch. Now, and understandably so, the man can’t get his little matador to perform in bed. Nor does he really want to. Can’t say I blame him…ouch! But Mac, who’s only experienced “extasy” once is anxious for more. She sets out to nurse him back to health with such advanced medical techniques as riding around naked on a horse.
At the time of its release, Bolero caused quite a stir. It was released with no rating from the MPAA, it’s makers fearing it would likely be slapped with the dreaded X. The versions that exist today, however, are rated R and are the same as the version originally released in 1984. The fears of the filmmakers are understandable. After all, barely one minute into the film Bo Derek already has all her clothes off. Derek’s love scenes are also a bit more explicit than what most major studio films would feature. These aren’t the most shocking aspects of the film, though. Most surprising is the nudity from Olivia d’Abo who was all of 15 years old at the time this was made. Considering how John Derek began his relationship with his future wife and leading lady when she was 16, this comes off as more than a bit creepy.
All that aside, the film is just so incredibly silly. Let’s start with the whole bit with going to the middle east to get jiggy with a sheik. This part of the story serves absolutely no purpose! It does provide one of the film’s most unintentionally funny moments, though. When Mac describes to Catalina her romantic encounter with the sheik, we see it portrayed as a silent movie with some of the most ridiculously overscripted dialogue cards in movie history. They’d work well as parody if the rest of the film wasn’t scripted in the same nonsensical way.
Moving on to the main plot of the film involving Bo and the matador, I can only describe it as juvenile at best. The extreme level of stupidity on display here can pretty much be summed up in one scene. Angel lies in bed, fresh from getting a bull’s horn in his wee-wee, and the sex hungry Bo points at his crotch and proclaims, “That thing is going to work!” Lest you think this film couldn’t get any more fatuous, I haven’t even mentioned what happens when that “thing” finally does work. Bo and the bullfighter make love on a cloud with a neon sign reading “Extasy” glowing behind them. And no I didn’t misspell that.
Bolero was the fifth ever winner of the Razzie for Worst Picture. As far as I’m concerned, they could’ve just retired the award after that. It just can’t get much worse than this. If there’s one thing that can be said for Bolero it’s that there is no other film quite like it. And there was much rejoicing!