Complimenting their unrated cut of Just Jaeckin's Gwendoline comes the domestic R-rated version that was previously released on VHS by Warner Brothers, The Perils Of Gwendoline In The Land Of The Yik Yak. Though this version is ten minutes shorter, it tells the same story and is also the version that a lot of people are more familiar with. Allow me to be lazy and recycle my thoughts on the film from the review of the unrated disc, as they're pretty much the same…
Gwendoline (Tawny Kitaen of Witchboard and a few Whitesnake videos) has hidden herself inside a crate that sits inside a ship bound for somewhere in Asia. She hopes to make it to the 'Land of the Yik Yak' where she'll start looking for her father, who hasn't been seen by anyone since he took off that way in search of a rare butterfly. In the port city where she lands after being released from her crate by the burly Chinese guys who were running the ship, she heads out into the streets. There she soon meet up with an American named Willard (Brent Huff who starred opposite Sho Kosugi in 9 Deaths Of The Ninja and then later opposite Coolio in Submerged!) and runs into her old pal, Beth (Zobou of One Woman Or Two). Beth and Gwendoline want to get on with Gwendoline's quest, Willard isn't so keen on the idea, but the girls have ways of convincing him to think things over a little more before coming to such rash conclusions.
The three of them head off in a few different directions, the women undress a lot, they run around in the jungle some and then in the desert, and finally some strange tribal types capture them and bring them back to their base of operations which just so happens to be in the Land of Yik Yak. There they find that the land is ruled over by a nasty Queen (Bernadette Lafont was shows up in To Catch A Spy) who controls and army of Amazon women who do whatever they're told and run around in bondage outfits. They're also very black widows, in that they mate with their men only one time before making short work of them once and for all. With Willard obviously a man, it doesn't take the warrior women long before they've got him hanging upside down from the ceiling and they're trying to get Gwendoline to join them.
The plot in this one is nuts – it's all over the place. At times the movie is kinky and slick like so much of Jaeckin's other, better-known films, and then at other times it's (intentionally?) campy and goofier than a Troma film. There's no shortage of flesh on display, women disrobe for the simplest reasons, and the movie is full of 'beautiful people' in that there are no unattractive ladies in the cast. As crazy as this sex-adventure hybrid sounds, it turns out to be a whole lot of fun. There's no shortage of style here, from the set design to the wardrobe, even the hairstyles of the Amazon warrior women – it's all highly polished and very intentionally over the top and it isn't surprising in the least to find out that the movie was based on a comic book. It just has that vibe to it.
Tawny Kitaen, who gets most of the screen time here, is definitely in her physical prime. She looks really, really good here and the camera loves her as much as she loves the camera. While the script doesn't prove to be too challenging she handles things well as she's got enough obvious confidence and some decent screen presence. Brent Huff makes for a macho enough hero that you can understand why Gwendoline falls for him and it's interesting to see the twists that their relationship takes as the movie plays out. If you go into this one expecting some fine, sexy pop art and some neat adventure you'll probably really enjoy it as it's a fun, slick movie that doesn't spend a lot of time sweating the details. Style over substance? Maybe, but it's still a good time.
So, why would you want this trimmed version of the film instead of the unrated director's cut? Nostalgia, primarily. Most North American fans of the film saw it for the first time under this title and in this version and for a lot of us this cut will prove to be a fun stroll down memory lane and a definite blast from the hair-sprayed eighties past. In addition, though some of the raunch is trimmed the movie also excises some snippets of dialogue here and there which results in a faster paced version of the movie, even if it isn't necessarily a better version. The beauty of this is that if you want the unrated version, it's out there, and if you want this version, it's also out there. Take your pick, you can have one, the other, or both depending on your fanaticism levels. The removal of some of the seedier content does impact the scenes, but again, if you want the eighties home video version of the movie you remember, this is the version to get so it certainly has its purpose.
Video quality on this alternate cut of the film is identical to the unrated directors cut, as Severin has used the same materials for both transfers (and in the case of this release, recut the unrated elements to match the trimmed version on this disc). Judging by the image quality, it is probably a safe guess that Severin was working with the same elements that Nucleus Films used for their recent R2 PAL release of the same film (the repetition of some of the extra features backs this up), which is good news for those who aren't region free and who didn't splurge on the import disc, because the movie looks great and the anamorphic 2.35.1 transfer looks very nice on this DVD. The color reproduction is very good, the black levels are strong and deep, and the flesh tones, of which there are plenty, look lifelike and natural. While sometimes the really fine detail seems to be obscured a just a tiny bit in the shadows or the darker scenes thankfully this is a really minor complain and there's still a lot in the image to look for. Most viewers should definitely come away from this one happy with how the movie looks. Mpeg compression artifacts aren't a problem, edge enhancement is held firmly in place, and while there is some mild line shimmering, it's just that – mild, and it doesn't prove to be overly distracting or a serious problem at all.
The quality of the Dolby Digital 2.0 English language audio track on this release is fine and there are no problems with hiss or distortion. Dialogue is clean and clear and the subtitles are nice and easy to read and also fairly well timed. The 5.1 tracks and the French language options that were on the domestic cut are not on this release, which only makes sense as this version was released in the U.S. anyway. For the scenes that aren't spoken in English, subtitles pop up automatically which is a nice touch.
The extras are slimmed down from the uncut release. Gone are the audio commentary with the director and the audio interview with the creator of the comic strip that the film is loosely based on. Still present on the disc is the Last Temptation Of Just featurette, the Tawny Kitaen photo spread from Lui magazine, and both the domestic and the international trailers for the film.
While a lot of people are going to prefer the unrated director's cut of the film, it's a testament to Severin Films that they've made both versions available even if there is some overlap in terms of supplements. The disc looks and sounds great and the movie, in this form or it's unrated version, is a lot of fun. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.