Get ready for the closest thing ever made to the perfect mainstream bondage movie -- an adventure that deserves the term "exotic" in every respect.
Just Jaeckin's "Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yaks (hereafter known as POG) is a hugely better film than 9 1/2 Weeks and both of the Gor movies. Why? Because it dared to do what these other films based on printed works in the bondage canon did not dare to do -- it included bondage in the story (and plenty of it!).
POG is loosely based on the "Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline," a comic book penned by bondage pioneer and all-round alpha-dog pervert John Willie. Sweet Gwendoline was a rather hapless blonde who kept running afoul of villains Sir Dystic D'Arcy and The Countess, who spared no opportunity to bind and gag her, often in very, shall we say, imaginative ways.
The comic was an international phenomenon back in the 50s. Like John Norman's Gor novels, they managed to combine mainstream thrills and bondage thrills very smoothly. Willie's storylines provided enough general adventure to look like adventure comics, but also provided plenty of images of Gwendoline tied in various imaginative ways by the Countess and D'arcy.
Jaeckin disposed of the character of the Countess and completely refigured D'Arcy as a hapless flunky for the movie, set it in 1930s-era China instead of Europe -- in short, he generally had his moviemaker way with the film. But unlike other adaptors of elements of the bondage canon to film, he did remain true to its bondage origins.
You know you're in good hands early on in the film -- Gwendoline, played by a young and luscious Tawny Kitaen, has secretly shipped herself to China in a packing crate, subsisting on leftovers and whatnot brought to her by her school chum Beth, played by Zabou. Gwendoline and Beth are in China because Gwendoline's father, a world-renowned butterfly expert, has disappeared mysteriously while searching for a rare specimen in the land of the Yik-Yaks.
Gwendoline gagged. Her hands are tied behind her back as well.
Before Beth can free Gwendoline from her crate, she's discovered there by Chinese hoodlums, who promptly stick her in a wicker basket, which they transport to the gang boss' headquarters, a combination gambling den, opium den and brothel. When the hoods pull Gwen out of the basket, she's cleave-gagged with a red bandanna and has her hands tied in back (none of these feeble hands-front ties for Gwendoline, thank you very much. The bandits sit her up and interrogate her a bit, forgetting that she's not going to tell them a lot with a gag in her mouth, willing or no.
Gwen is rescued from her plight by Willard, a hunky, unshaven adventurer hanging out in the place for no doubt unspeakable reasons. He's annoyed to find himself shepherding two English schoolgirls through the hellholes of wide-open 1930s China, but the plot kinda demands that he does so, so he does.
Gwen and Beth explain their quest to Willard, who says he knows just the guy who can tell him where the land of the Yik-Yaks is, leading to one of the best scenes in dirty-movie history. Off they go to another opium den. In one of its chambers the find a scrawny old guy lying on some pillows. Lying on his lap is a naked young girl who is sucking his cock (we never see the cock being sucked but the head-bobbing gives it away).
What appears to be an ordinary oral sex scene is in fact a brilliant bit.
The old man knew Gwen's father and tells him where he headed to find the land of the Yik-Yaks. Gwen and Beth interrogate him intensely, and at no time during the interrogation does the naked young girl stop sucking his cock. This is pure genius. It beautifully establishes that Gwen and Beth are in a very different culture from England's now.
This is a also a great scene because of what it implies about the cock-sucking girl. She is one who needs no introduction -- when strange people come into a room, it's not for her to cover her nakedness or stop what she's doing -- there's an old white guy who needs his cock sucked, dammit, and she's on the job!
It's also possible to think about this scene in terms of dominance and submission. She is a submissive. As such, her attention is totally directed toward men's cocks. She is not one whom you would introduce to others -- her role is to serve, naked, with her mouth. If ordered to go she would go. If ordered to suck Willard's cock or eat Gwen's pussy, she would do so, because she was ordered to.
All in all, a very nice scene, one of those surprisingly brilliant touches that sometimes lights up a B-movie.
Told that her father was last known to be heading for a city farther in the interior, Gwen, Willard and Beth push on. There are adventures with pirates and plastic alligators, and they eventually wind up trekking through the desert. They're very thirsty and low on water, and a sudden rainstorm comes along. But they have nothing to catch the water in (OK, if you're thinking this is pretty stupid for people hiking in a desert, you're right. I didn't write the script, OK?)
Willard knows just what to do. "Take off your bras!" he orders Gwen and Beth, and after some protest, they do. Then they use their bra cups to catch rainwater.(Sure, all you mothers who've ever nursed know how bra cups don't absorb liquids, don't you?)
Well, anyway, Gwen and Beth must have special English nunnery bra cups, because they do retain water and are able to survive long enough to reach a green oasis in the desert with a beautiful waterfall -- where cage doors promptly slide down from the rocks around the waterfall and trap the lot of them.
Never let them talk you into travelling third class.
They have been trapped by a tribe of primitive African-looking guys who smear their skin with blue mud -- the Deepak Chopras, or something to that effect. Some would be aghast at placing a tribe of guys who look and dress a lot like the mud men of New Guinea in the middle of a Chinese desert, but I kinda liked it. Added a real touch of mystery and terra incognito to the story.
The primitives string Willard, Gwen and Beth from poles by their knees and wrists and haul them across the countryside to their hovels. There, they put the three of them in a pen and hogtie them.
Willard informs Beth and Gwen that they will be sent out to be hunted down and torn apart by the tribe's dogs at dawn the following morning, and that he will be hung out in the giant spider webs bordering the land of the Yik-Yaks as a sacrifice -- and no sacrifice to the Yik-Yaks has ever been seen alive after being sacrificed.
Gwen listens to Willard spin his sordid tales. Talk about beautiful!.
Certain of their impending doom and sorry for Gwen since she's a virgin and all, Willard decides to give her and Beth at least one kinky thrill before she dies, so he starts writhing around and saying dirty things, and pretty soon Gwen and Beth are writhing around and moaning and it doesn't look like anybody's going to get any sleep.
Eventually, everybody has a noisy, moany orgasm and things can settle down to peace and quiet. But they don't. Because Gwen and Beth, perhaps inspired by the thought of being torn apart by dogs, do some vigorous writhing and manage to escape from their bonds. They untie Willard and the three of them are able to sneak past the natives and their guard dogs, being trained city dwellers and all.
They head back out into the untrammeled, or at best, semi-trammeled wilderness, in search of the butterfly in the land of the Yik-Yaks, since they've already figured out that Gwen's dad has metamorphosed into the great beyond. Soon Beth finds the way into the land of the Yik Yaks by falling into a concealed opening leading to it.
A Yik-Yak at work. In the background, a Yik-Yak just hanging around.
Now, suppose a bunch of nubile young French fashion models, perhaps under the influence of some ungodly drug cocktail, were to migrate to the deserts of Innermost China, where they choose to dress only in thongs, leather breastplates and shoulder pads of the sort used by U.S. football players, shaving all their hair except for a topknot at the crown of their skulls, wearing WAAAY too much eye makeup and lipstick. Suppose further that they built an underground city out of limestone blocks and built weird Victorian machines to mine the gold that's all too plentiful in the place, and to torture each other in stylish ways for no particular reason. And to live without men.
That'd be your Yik-Yaks.
Gwen and Willard knock out a couple of unwary Yik-Yak guards and take their costumes. Tawny Kitaen looks fetching in her G-string and shoulder pads, the same isn't true of Willard. Well, he didn't look all that fetching in the G-string to me -- female visitors and gay visitors to this page may well have a different opinion. They're like that.
Here's Willard. Note that he's wearing pants in this scene. DEFINITE continuity error. Fortunately no such mistakes occur with Tawny Kitaen or Zabou.
Gwen and Willard get split up as they search for Beth. Gwen finds Beth after wandering into a spooky room filled with Yik-Yaks undergoing photogenic torments. One of the Yik-Yaks turns out to be Beth. She's chained by the wrists to rings set in the wall, and she stands and looks terrified at a huge spear set to be launched by a crossbow-like device. The only thing preventing its transparent blade from skewering Beth is a thin string with a plug on the end -- a plug which Beth grips firmly in her lips, for the moment she lets go of it, she's dead.
Beth is the woman to the right, targetted by the artsy crossbow. We don't know what the gal on the left did, but you have to figure it was something naughty.
Gwen takes the plug out of Beth's mouth and frees one of Beth's wrists from its ring, allowing Beth to duck out of the way when Gwen lets go of the plug and the spear head smashes into the wall. Unfortunately, the noise brings the evil queen and her retinue running, presumably to view the twitching, bloody remains of Beth's body, and although they're kinda disappointed that Beth is still intact, they do have a new captive in Gwen.
The visual beauty of the sets on this movie sets it light years ahead of most others.
The rest of the movie consists of Gwen, Willard and Beth's adventures among the Yik-Yaks, which mostly arise from their desire not to be tortured and/or killed. There's a lot of running around and badly staged fighting in some beautifully designed sets, with brilliantly crafted costumes and lighting. It's a beautiful movie to see, a polar opposite of the idiots-running-around-in-a-Southern-California-junkyard-dressed-in-rags epics that seems to dominate the B-movie SF genre nowadays.
Pony Girls? Oh, yeah, we got 'em.
There are also some groundbreaking scenes for mainstream films from the fetish viewpoint, most notably the one involving a chariot chase in chariots drawn by teams of Yik-Yak pony girls. But there's also a great scene in which Willard is strung up by the wrists and lowered into a pit of horny, naked Yik-Yaks. Then he's pulled up from the pit, with horny Yik-Yaks hanging on like crabs clinging to a chicken neck. The ones who hang on the longest get to fight to the death for the chance to screw Willard, in a weird fight involving teams of women, one of whom wears a butterfly wing-shaped shield and the other armed with a sword.
Anybody who's ever pulled a crab trap baited with a chicken neck will recognize this sort of behavior.
One of the odder aspects of the film is the way the size of the shoulder pads worn by women in the Yik-Yak city grows progressively larger, until finally a disguised Gwen winds up screwing a helplessly bound Willard in shoulder pads that look like they belong in a Japanese theatrical production, while the queen watches in a costume that's so padded and billowy that she looks kinda like Jabba the Hutt in Star Wars.
Shoulder pads just keep getting bigger and bigger in this film.
POG is the closest thing I have ever seen to one of the more elaborate Internet bondage fantasies in a mainstream film. It's without a doubt the most visually brilliant bondage film ever made, easily outdoing the more well-known Story of O and 9 1/2 Weeks in terms of powerful and arresting imagery, as I think the vidclips demonstrate.
Unfortunately, the script is clumsily written, the acting is without exception wooden, and the movie is entirely without dramatic tension. You never believe any of the major characters are actually in peril, not for an instant. In fact, you never believe any of the major characters are characters. The acting is so wooden and the plot so episodic that the suspension of disbelief is impossible for even a second. You never really slip into the story or care about the characters -- you watch the movie as a series of pretty pictures and adventures scenes, not a story about people.
Let me set an example of what good acting can do. On the same night as one of our viewings of POG, we also watched the TV series "Just Shoot Me." There's a scene at an editorial conference where Wendie Malick is secretly reading the script of a dirty movie written by David Spade. A scene makes her exclaim with delight and laugh out loud. After quickly concealing what she was reading, she beams at Spade and says, "You pervert!" with complete admiration while Spade pantomimes his pleasure and acknowledgement of her complement. It's all done with such complete ease and naturalness that you hardly notice the skill of it. But if any of the scenes in POG had been acted with the same skill, it would have stood out like a lighthouse in the fog.
Character development and plot help, but this stuff can make up for a lot.
Now, in Skinamax films it's not always necessary to have a lot of character development, though every little bit of it helps. It's not necessary to have a strong plot, though the stronger the better. But they're generally loaded down with plenty of naked women having sex as compensation. There's only a couple of sex scenes in Gwendoline, and they're both problematical. One involves an old guy getting a blowjob -- great scene from dominance/submission point of view, but not exactly the stuff that most erotic fantasies are made of. (OK, so you've got a lock on the "Old Guys Who Watch Sexy B-Movies" demographic -- what's that worth?).
And the scene with Tawny Kitaen doing it with a bound Willard has two problems: Tawny remain clothed throughout so no one will know who she is, which means it's not very naked though a breast or two pops out now and then -- and the wrong gender is the one tied up.
But it's the total lack of dramatic suspense that really does the movie in, and to that I ascribe the conviction, common among many European filmmakers, that when you are making a fantasy anything can happen in a childlike sort of way. You can see it in Barbarella, the Fifth Element, Solaris and quite a few others. The problem with the attitude is, it sucks the dramatic tension right out of a film and makes it into something that isn't a story. And that's what happened to Perils of Gwendoline -- though the terrible acting and poor repartee did their part, too..
What a shame, because POG was in fact the perfect mainstream bondage movie in many ways. It's combination of adventure theme, exotic locales and equally exotic bondage was the right stuff, and folks who like bondage are going to like it. But for everyone to like it, it has to be a story that people will enjoy.
When in France, be sure and tie up a bondagette.
Return to the exotic index of the Yik-Yaks