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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Christina (Blu-ray)
Christina (Blu-ray)
Severin // Unrated // May 31, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Tyler Foster | posted June 28, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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Although their pop culture impact does not seem to have endured beyond the early 1980s, there were once a series of books about Christina Van Belle, "The Playgirl of the Western World." Christina is a sexually liberated heiress, famous all over the globe and notoriously uninhibited. Published by Playboy, the series managed to rack up 19 entries between 1976 and 1983, all published under the pseudonym "Blakely St. James", and featuring photographs of Jill De Vries as the title character. Curiously, it was only after the last book in the series had been published that legendary writer/producer Harry Alan Towers (a frequent Jess Franco collaborator) adapted the character in what the opening titles of Christina optimistically promise will be the first of several movies (in truth, this is the only movie in the would-be series).

In the film, directed by Francisco Lara Polop (under the pseudonym Paco Lara), Christina is played by cult film star Jewel Shepard (best known for the zombie classic Return of the Living Dead), in one of her first major roles. We are introduced to the film's version of Christina dancing gleefully in a nightclub, wearing a dress, an open blazer, and nothing else, the rest of the club seemingly taking the topless woman in the center of the dance floor completely in stride (such is Christina Van Belle's global notoriety, coupled with her immense popularity with everyone). This is followed by a section featuring voice-over by a reporter, doing a story that introduces us to Christina and her particularly blessed life. From there, it would be hard to call the events of the rest of the movie a "plot"; it's more like a series of incidents that eventually conclude with another scene of Christina, this time fully naked, on the center of another dance floor. Symmetry!

As someone whose tenure at DVDTalk has encompassed a number of erotic films, the general feeling is that the need for the narrative to play second fiddle to a bunch of sex scenes makes it hard for the viewer to really focus on either one. Watching Christina, one gets the sense that a more compelling problem might just be a failure to cast anyone with the right type of charisma. For 20 or so minutes, Christina has nothing on its plate but watching Christina have a ball enjoying her favorite pastime: men. Shepard, with a dazzling smile and just the right amount of sardonic bite, has a playful energy that makes the movie exciting, and helps blur the line between smut and storytelling. Nothing particularly exciting happens in the story -- aside from a brief incident with a would-be kidnapper, she races an old friend down a mountain and they join another couple for a sexy dinner -- ant yet, Christina feels like a real movie, with Shepard giving a performance that matches the concept of her character.

Alas, on a second attempt, Christina is successfully kidnapped, and the movie loses track of Christina as a character. According to the Blu-ray box copy, the film revolves around her stint in the clutches of a gang of lesbian commandos, but she's only trapped with them for another 20 or so minutes in a series of scenes that range from silly to stupid. Although Polop drops in some hilariously goofy fantasy sequences in which gloved hands roll toy cars over Christina's body, none of the actresses in the commando group are a fraction as charismatic as Shepard, and much of the section is taken up by lengthy, atrociously-choreographed fight scenes that are too bad to be thrilling or funny. Christina herself retreats into her head, muting the adventurous, assertive qualities that made her character engaging.

Before long, Christina escapes the island, only to end up in the clutches of a completely different group of kidnappers, where a similar scenario plays out, minus the boring fight scenes. By the time she picks up a sweet virgin boy who decides to help her escape, it's clear that neither Towers or Polop have any directive beyond throwing all sorts of thrills at the screen and seeing what sticks. A car chase finale fails to get the blood pumping (although I did enjoy the use of vegetables as a weapon), and the bookend of Christina's nude dancing feels like insult to injury -- a smart idea that would've worked had the previous 50 minutes been a total letdown. The movie goes to credits with a final scene of Christina, in the nude, poking at a word processor (in hi-def you can see that Shepard is pressing the keys at random!), brainstorming her next adventure. Another film might've given the filmmakers an opportunity to capitalize on Shepard's starpower, but it was not to be.

The Blu-ray
InterVision brings Christina to Blu-ray in a single-disc edition, with art featuring a bottomless Shepard lounging in front of a very '80s backdrop. The package arrives in a Vortex eco-friendly Blu-ray case, and there is no insert.

The Video and Audio
Presented in 1.78:1 1080p AVC and LPCM 2.0 audio, Christina looks decent and sounds a bit better than that. Print damage is obviously a factor, and there are times when the transfer seems to have some issues with white levels (certain scenes or moments will appear on the verge of blowing out, even though overall contrast appears accurate -- likely an issue that has to do with the print used as a source for the transfer rather than the transfer process itself), but colors are generally strong, and detail is sharp. No obvious grain reduction or smoothing has been applied. Dialogue is surprisingly clean and crisp (so much so that I wonder if some of Christina's dialogue was voiced-over by another actress), and music sounds fine. No subtitles or captions have been provided.

The Extras

Fans of Jewel Shepard will enjoy seeing both her performance and her other attributes throughout Christina, but as erotica, the film runs out of steam in the first act. InterVision's new Blu-ray is pretty decent, but based on the film itself I'd give it a rental before deciding to buy.

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