‘The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak’ might be the best looking movie you have ever snubbed. Released in 1984 and starring the adorable-even-when-she’s-whiney, Tawny Kitaen, this sexploitation pulp movie should be awful but yet it keeps offering visual delights and strange plot twists that keeps your finger away from the fast forward button.
The plot is a classic pulp-peril frame that continuously jeopardizes Gwendoline and her really cute maid/sidekick, Beth. Gwen and Beth frequently get captured, stripped a little and then rescued so that they can be captured again. Gwen is looking for her missing father who went into the most dangerous parts of well, it may be China but they never really say. He’s searching for a rare butterfly and if you pay attention, you’ll spot a lot of hidden butterfly imagery. The two girls are completely out of their league and get captured in the first five minutes of the movie. This is why Gwen recruits a scoundrel boat captain who goes by the unflattering name of Willard.
Let me take a moment to talk about Willard. Liar, gambler and complete asshole, Willard is the romantic lead in this movie. He bitches about the dangerous journey, taunts Gwen at every opportunity and proves his worthiness by the occasional ass kicking of bad guys. His delivery has less to do with being cool as much as he just seeks to belittle everyone. When he smacktalks the villain near the end of the movie, you almost sympathize with the villain’s incredulous response to the fearless idiot. He’s not a dashing rogue, he’s your annoying kid brother living out his action hero fantasy. He’s almost a parody of an action hero and maybe that’s why he ultimately grew on me. When you watch a movie with hard to beleive scenes, sometimes it helps to have a character who is just as annoyed as you are.
What saves this movie is the scenery. Every so often a set piece comes on the screen that looks like a painting from a pulp magazine. The gambling hall where Willard is feeling up prostitutes with the chief of police is gorgeous. The crappy boat Willard drives is scuzzy and float worthy in the way that only pulp boats can be. François Schuiten was the graphic designer for the movie and his background as a comic artist really shines through. There’s a superior quality to everything that elevates this movie beyond it’s sexploitation roots.
The later half of the movie is when things really accelerate. While looking for the butterfly, Gwen and her friends stumble upon an underground female dominated civilization with super science, bondage and freaky leather costumes. Willard is captured and a tournament is arranged to determine which warrior woman will earn the right to mate with him, while fiendish tortures and deaths are planned for Gwen and Beth. Stripping, bondage and scary sex games ensue.
Hey, someone mixed a BDSM Dystopia with my Pulp Peril movie! How will these two tastes taste together?
Pretty awesome I have to say.
There’s an evil queen and a sniveling male scientist and a shit load of leather clad warrior women but the important thing is that the fun never stops. Just when you get used to the idea of a crossbow aimed at a woman who holds the trigger rope in her mouth, then you have to deal with a chase scene where everyone is driving chariots pulled by women slaves. The plot goes over the top and then stays there; shouting abuse at your poor sensibilities on what a sexploitation film should be like.
Is there a happy ending to this movie?
‘The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak’ is not a great movie but it is a unique movie. The mix of nudity, bondage, adventure, domination and science fiction is pretty damn rare to find in movies. The production values dwarf anything you’ll see on SciFi Channel.