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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Bolero / Ghosts Can't Do It (Blu-ray)
Bolero / Ghosts Can't Do It (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // R // January 12, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted May 1, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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In 10 Words or Less
Nude Bo Derek does not a movie make

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Cult films, How Did This Get Made?
Likes: Most Cannon Films
Dislikes: Boring films
Hates: Feeling like a perv, bad dialogue, John Derek films

The Movie
Much like how his documentary Not Quite Hollywood offers newcomers a handy checklist of Australian cult films to check out, Mark Hartley's Electric Boogaloo does the same for the classic cinema released under the Cannon Films banner--a slate of over-the-top B-movies that dominated video stores of the 1980s (including the actual Over the Top.) One of the movies covered in that classic look-back at a bonkers film production company is Bolero. After watching this brief recollection, featuring star Bo Derek, it becomes clear that the attempted erotica is a trainwreck, to the point where it helped collapse the distribution deal between Cannon and MGM, which can be viewed as the beginning of the end for the company.

What's amazing is, Electric Boogaloo only touches on how bad Bolero is. To watch the entire 105-minute disasterpiece is to know the sting of truly horrid film. The story focuses on Mac (Bo Derek of running down the beach with cornrows in 10 fame), a 1920s prep-school graduate off to give her virginity to the sheik she dreamed about while watching Rudolph Valentino movies. (We should probably ignore the fact that Derek is nearly 15 years too old to play the part believably, or that this supposedly virginal girl is so free and skilled with her body.) Either way, the whole sheik business is just a side dish to the main meal: Mac's attraction to a bullfighter unable to rise to the lusty occasion thanks to an injurious bull's horn.

Whatever story there is to Bolero (and it's really just plenty of disconnected nonsense all over the place, with George Kennedy on hand to make you believe it really is a movie), it exists mainly as a vehicle for nudity, mainly from Bo Derek, but from others as well (including the disturbing presence of repeated full-frontal nudity from 15-year-old Olivia d'Abo as a gypsy girl, which frankly seems illegal, particularly when we remember that, at one point, John Derek couldn't return to America until his new underage lover Bo turned 18.) There's no doubting Bo Derek's physical attractiveness, and the film puts it on full display, whether it's sensual scenes of milk and honey being poured over her or what looks like full-on intercourse. However, there is the law of diminishing returns, and as shots of her flesh pile up, they become less interesting, and fail to distract from the mess around it, to the point where the ending of the film, an overwrought blend of fog, skin and a mis-spelled neon light, is basically laughable.

More than the ridiculous story or the over-reliance on nudity, Bo Derek's inability to act is what drags Bolero down into a pit of awfulness. It's not likely that Helen Mirren could have made this film any good, but at least the line readings would have been passable as that of a real person. If Bo Derek was less attractive or less willing to strip down completely, there's a good chance she would have never gotten past community theater as an actor, and even there she would have stuck out as having slept with the director to get her part.

Bolero is bad, and often quite boring, but it can't touch John Derek's final film in terms of straight-up awfulness. From concept to execution to even just the title, Ghosts Can't Do It is ridiculous. A young woman named Kate (Bo Derek) loses Scott, her much-older husband (again, John Derek only writes what he knows), but he sticks around on a nearby ghostly plane, that she can hear and apparently see. Desperate to be together, they hatch a plan: find a guy, kill him, and let Scott take over his body. And, like Bolero, there will be a mess of other meaningless, distracting stuff going on, including some inconsequential business dealings and a plot involving jewelry theft that goes absolutely nowhere. And, of course, Bo Derek is often naked.

However, unlike Bolero, it's not up to Bo Derek to carry all the weight. Instead, we have the late Anthony Quinn, in the role of Scott, to heap blame upon. That's four-time Oscar-nominated Anthony Quinn. Two-time Oscar-winner Anthony Quinn. At some point, whether of his own free will or under some sort of duress, he decided to throw away all the goodwill he'd cultivated in his career and take part in this insult to cinema. I felt more pity for the stars in the godawful Movie 43 than I do for Quinn here, because at least that was a comedy. (And yes, I know the box art describes these two films as "romantic comedies". Shout! Factory will be hearing from my lawyers about this blatant case of false advertising.) Quinn's performance here has the subtlety of a football to the groin, only with less believable characters. Considering most of his scenes take place with him in close-up in a dark space, with unmotivated costume changes, it would seem that the entirety of the shooting took place in a closet in his house over the span of perhaps 90 minutes. Shouting in the dark like a loon doesn't take a whole lot of work.

Of the two films, Ghosts Can't Do It comes the closest to the feeling of "so bad, it's good" and that's only because of crazy scenes like one featuring Derek saying lines like "I can't let you rape me." That doesn't even make any kind of sense, people. Once again, Derek's inability to deliver lines makes situations where she's talking to people in front of her while holding concurrent side conversations with the ghost of her husband into something akin to bad theater, which is really being generous. There are any number of points where you have to wonder whether this film could possibly have been salvaged by involving people with talent and interest, because those people were not on set. But in reality, this movie is just a complete mess, and when it decides to finally come to an end after being dragged out to an excruciating length, it's a moment to be thankful. The suffering is over.

By the way, this movie includes a role for Donald Trump (so even bad movies aren't a safe escape anymore.) The credits list his character as Donald Trump, with the goofy title of "(And yes, that was Donald Trump)" and there's a classic bit of foreshadowing when Bo Derek tells him "I think you like to make mischief."

The Discs
The double-feature of Bolero and Ghosts Can't Do It arrives on one disc, packed in standard Blu-ray keepcase with a double-sided cover. The static menu offers a choice of films to start, and then options to watch the film, select scenes, adjust languages and check out the extra. There are no audio options, but subtitles are available in English.

The Quality
Neither film's 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer (1.85:1 on Bolero, 1.78:1 on the other) looks great, but Ghosts Can't Do It definitely comes out ahead, with a sharper image (Bolero's persistent soft focus didn't help), more vibrant colors, deeper blacks and higher level of fine detail. Some dirt and damage is evident in Bolero, while Ghosts Can't Do It, overall, looks rather clean. It would seem like the longer Bolero may have experienced more compression in the transfer to Blu-ray, as some bits of digital distraction can be spotted in various places, while Ghosts Can't Do Itis rather solid. Either way, not the finest package, but one that will do.

The films arrive with matching 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks and they do the trick for these films, keeping dialogue clean (where possible) and the music strong, while offering good separation between the elements. In listening to them in close proximity, it's obvious which film was the studio movie with a real budget. Ghost Can't Do It just sounds like a subpar product. However neither film gets much of a boost from the sound. They are just there as aural wallpaper.

The Extras
The only extras included are the trailers for each film, running 2:36 and 2:48 each, with notable nudity in both (which makes one wonder where these aired.) While the preview for Bolero plays up the sex in that film, Ghosts Can't Do It's trailer decides to just go for straight-up insane instead.

The Bottom Line
I have a ton of respect for Shout! Factory, for their persistence in obtaining under-the-radar gems and giving them the quality releases they deserve, and I understand that often times one needs to fund quality artistic work by creating populist money-makers (even Criterion has their Armageddon), but did Shout! Factory really need to bring us this double-feature failure? Sitting through these two films (a word used loosely) is at best a chore and at worst a painful bore, and all the Bo Derek nudity in the world cannot redeem them. The quality of the release is fine, and this is the one time where not getting much in the way of extras was a welcome relief. If you really need to watch some Bo Derek, do yourself a favor and go check out 10. This is just not worth it.

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter

*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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