"If you expect a story to cover up for you, you better brush up on a few details. You have a great thing going, playing naive and innocent, but really you're a little...slut!"
"That's not true!"
"Excuse me? What do you call it?"
"What do you want from me? Why don't you leave me alone?"
I don't have all the numbers, but DVD has been kicking around for just over eleven years now, and there are...what, 80,000 DVDs in print? Nah, I haven't picked up and leered at every last one of 'em, but I feel pretty safe saying that the cover art for Maid in Sweden -- Impulse Pictures' release of Christina Lindberg's very first film role back in 1971 -- beats out every last one of 'em.
...and, yeah, Maid in Sweden is 80 minutes of Lindberg not wearing a whole hell of a lot more than that. It's a thirty-something page script that pads out its barely-feature-length runtime by having the busty eighteen year old s-l-o-w-l-y change clothes, bathe and shower in pretty much real-time, and...um, be raped. Twice for real and again in a nightmare.
There's kinda/sorta/not really a plot in here somewhere, and I guess it's supposed to pass for a coming of age story. Lindberg stars as Inga, a sweet, innocent schoolgirl fresh off the farm to spend the weekend with her sister Greta in the big city of Stockholm. It's kinda uneventful at first: feeding ducks, snapping photos of old statues, making tea, staring blankly as ketchup is slathered on then licked off the small of her sister's back...y'know, the usual touristy stuff. The thing is that Greta's living in sin with her boyfriend, and seeing her sister screw kickstarts Inga's sexual awakening, which in a coming of age drama means there's a pretty good chance she'll be raped. Inga's actually raped twice throughout Maid in Sweden, but both times, she decides she likes the idea and just goes for it. So, yeah. That's pretty much it. It's such a thin story that somewhere around 80% of Maid in Sweden's runtime is either spent with Inga in varying states of undress or in the middle of one of 6,500 different montages shot around Stockholm. When one of der Svedish actors does decide to speak -- in something very closely resembling English -- it's usually something like this. Drop in your own long, awkward pauses every once in a while to get the full effect:
I kinda tried to keep a running tally for the drive-in totals. One aborted lesbian fantasy. Two rapes. Four blocks of sex scenes with Lindberg herself, although there are five if you count one romp that starts immediately after the previous one ends. Two sex scenes with Greta. Between twelve and fifteen nude scenes revolving around Inga depending on how loose your definition for a "scene" happens to be. One lips-obsessed sculptor. Multiple baths and showers, including one arty rape in a bathtub complete with slow-mo water splashing. Six or seven grimy nightmare Swedes in a bar force-feeding Inga booze. One faux-cannibalism-almost-sex-scene.
"What are you taking in school?"
"I'm taking the required program."
"Do you like it?"
"No, thank you."
"You don't smoke? Do you drink?"
"What do you do?"
"I'm in school."
"Yes, I know. You just told me, but I mean, after school."
"I do my homework."
"Oh, how nice. But I mean at night...for excitement."
"Sometimes me and my friend are going to the movies."
"My boyfriend. We are going steady."
"So you're going steady? What does that mean? Does that mean you're holding hands in public? Or maybe you read poetry together?"
Maid in Sweden barely qualifies as a movie, but that's kinda the state of softcore cinema back in the early '70s. The one and only thing about it that holds up at all is Lindberg's fearlessness, willing to let herself be repeatedly attacked and reveal every last square inch of her body, and the only appeal Maid in Sweden can possibly have to anyone, anywhere is to Christina Lindberg completists. Otherwise...? Skip It.
Video: Bootleg quality. Maid in Sweden has pretty clearly been sourced from an ancient video master, one that's cropped enough to leave a lot of the movie looking awfully cramped and even manages to lop the sides off some of the opening credits. It's been transferred from a print rather than the usual sparkling negative materials, riddled with specks, reel change marks, and a hell of a lot of damage. Virtually all traces of color have been drained away, and contrast is anemic throughout. Some edge enhancement has been tossed on to try to compensate for the soft, murky image -- which is pretty much an indiscernable mess in several scenes -- but these weak stabs at trying to polish such a poor master never really work. The video has kind of an unstable, slightly wobbly appearance at times, which is particularly glaring in an early scene where the tiles on the kitchen wall look like they're vibrating. Yeah, I know a Swedish softcore flick shot on a shoestring forty years ago isn't ever going to look that great, but Maid in Sweden is in the running as one of the worst DVDs I've ever seen. Unless every possible film element has been destroyed, I can't think of much of any excuse for a legitimate DVD release to have turned out this awful.
|A quick indication of how poorly cropped the image is.|
Audio: The monaural soundtrack isn't any better. The audio -- awkwardly delivered in English, in case you were wondering -- is painfully shrill and marred by a persistent hiss in the background. The levels vary wildly from scene to scene, occasionally leaving the dialogue pretty much impossible to make out over the music. A shopping trip in the city and Inga's dinner date have it the worst. The bass is kind of overcooked, giving me a headache when I had to crank up the volume to try to suss out the inane, pointless dialogue. Awful, awful, awful.
Extras: Yeah, I know I wouldn't shut up about the cover art, but that's pretty much the only thing vaguely professional about this release. Aside from being apparently sourced from an old VHS half-assedly dusted off the shelf, the back of the cover looks like a low-rent bootleg, and the menu is no-frills over a blurry still of Christina Lindberg.
The DVD does include a newly-recorded ten minute interview with Lindberg, but it's pretty amateurish as well. It's 100% raw footage, not edited at all, leaving in a slew of awkward pauses and ends abruptly as the camera is in the middle of being put away. Lindberg talks about how Maid in Sweden was her first film role, shot while she was still in school. The movie was financed by Americans and, despite the title, wasn't ever screened in Sweden; she hadn't even seen Maid in Sweden until shortly before this interview was shot, more than thirty-five years after it was filmed. Lindberg also speaks
briefly about her co-stars, explicit sex scenes she really doesn't remember filming, Inga's similarity to many of her other early roles, and how funny she thinks it is that she was cast in the part seeing as how she doesn't look all that Swedish. It's a kind of clumsy interview, but if you're devoted enough to want to suffer through the movie, I'm sure you'll still find this worth a look.
A battered anamorphic widescreen trailer (3 min.) rounds out the extras.
Conclusion: Well, at least the cover's not false advertising: then barely legal on these shores, Christina Lindberg spends somewhere around half of this Swedish softcore flick changing clothes, bathing, or being raped-slash-liking it. Lindberg's legion of fans are probably the only folks out there who'd be willing to shell out twenty bucks for this DVD, though. Borderline-unwatchable movie. Abysmal release on DVD. Skip It.