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Saturday, September 2, 2017


I continue to find the cinematic output of prolific Spanish filmmaker Jess Franco to be a mild diversion at best, as in VAMPYROS LESBOS and SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY.  (Or at worst, as in PAULA-PAULA.)

But whatever it is about Franco's work that has attracted so many avid followers over the years, they're likely to find it in his 1980 softcore-sex-and-spy potboiler TWO FEMALE SPIES WITH FLOWERED PANTIES, aka "Ópalo de fuego".

As usual, Franco shoots with a half-artistic, half-artless style that's slapdash one moment and somewhat striking the next--owing some of the latter, it seems, to good fortune.  The shaky zooms and pans characteristic of his work go hand-in-hand with some shots that have sort of a rough-hewn arthouse look.

Franco's lifelong love Lina Romay (THE HOT NIGHTS OF LINDA) stars as Cecile, an exotic dancer whose year-long prison sentence for "indecency" will be erased if she agrees to go to the Canary Islands and spy on some suspected sex-slavers for the French secret service. 

Cecile agrees and, along with her beautiful but airheaded dancing partner Brigitte, is soon occupying a posh hotel suite next to the mansion of main suspects Mr. and Mrs. Forbes.

They also end up dancing (if you can call it that) in the Forbes' swank nightclub where Cecile's contact, Milton, also works.  Milton's one of those "is he or isn't he?" characters who's gay one minute and straight the next, and some comedy is derived from Brigitte becoming infatuated with and practically raping him.

Franco, in fact, seems to enjoy juxtaposing such lighthearted scenes with those of rape (the Forbeses breaking in a new captive meant to be sold as sex slave to some perverted millionaire) and sadism (a captured Cecile being sexually tortured by evil Forbes henchwomen who enjoy inflicting pain).

While there's certainly nothing here on the level of one of the "Ilsa" flicks, some scenes are quite startling in their strong content compared to the almost innocuous spy antics of the rest of the film.

For the most part, however, TWO FEMALE SPIES WITH FLOWERED PANTIES is pretty unremarkable as either comedy or suspense thriller.  While passable entertainment for the patient viewer, many scenes tend to drag, even those meant to be erotic (as when Mr. and Mrs. Forbes hash out their weird marital sex problems).

The film's main appeal, as it were, is a likable performance by the voluptuous Romay, portraying a character whose lack of spy smarts is made up for by tons of spunk and a kind of fearless innocence. 

Some political intrigue and a couple of shocking murders (with more of that jarring torture which seems almost out of place) build to a fairly lively action climax involving members of a hippie/biker commune who have taken a liking to Cecile and decided to come to her rescue.

The 2-disc set from Severin Films (with reversible box cover) contains the movie proper on Blu-ray disc, in both English and French with English subtitles.  In addition to a trailer and some silent outtakes, the bonus menu contains interviews with Franco and film composer Daniel White, along with an informative and insightful look at the film by Stephen Thrower.

Disc two (DVD) is the alternate cut of the film entitled "Ópalo de fuego" which differs considerably, containing much that is missing from the longer cut while also lacking many of its key scenes, especially those of a sexual nature.  The reason for this odd alternate cut is a mystery even to Franco expert Thrower, making it an interesting novelty.

Generally speaking, this tepid spy adventure barely gets by on Lina Romay's charm and a wealth of nudity and twisted eroticism.  But as a Jess Franco film, TWO FEMALE SPIES WITH FLOWERED PANTIES will no doubt be of great interest to those who find the study of both him and the evolution of his filmography to be an object of endless fascination.

Buy it at Severin Films


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