Take a truly stupid story. Have it adapted into a screenplay by someone who seems unfamiliar both with the way people speak in real life and the way they speak in movies. Hire the worst actors you can find. Use the worst director available, whose only previous movie was absolutely dreadful. Raise a fuss over the sex scenes. Release it without a rating. Call it Bolero.
For my money, Bolero is the worst film of the eighties so far, and they'll have to scrape so far into the bottom of the barrel that they hit the floor underneath to do any worse. I do not go around promiscuously calling films terrible. Even trash usually has some element of interest. Bolero is absolutely worthless. In my life, after seeing over 3000 films in theaters, I've only walked out of a film twice: once because I had to catch the last bus of the evening or walk for miles through the snow, once because I had to walk out of one film to get a chance to see another film which I probably could never see again. I was sorely tempted to walk out of Bolero, and nothing but my record kept me in my seat. I can't for the life of me understand why anyone else stayed.
Bolero, set in the 1920s, stars Bo Derek as a young girl who wants to lose her virginity in an exotic setting. This doesn't sound promising, but the plot only gets worse. The only reason anyone would want to see this film is for its supposedly hot sex scenes and ample opportunities to see Ms. Derek naked. If this is what's drawing you to the film, I urge you to reconsider. Obviously, the filmmakers were hoping that titillating sex scenes would make the audience overlook the rest of the film's shortcomings. To mask such gross incompetence behind sensationalism, though, they'd have to have had a scene in which Ms. Derek gangbanged the Vienna Choir Boys in front of the Vatican at high noon.
There are sex scenes and there is nudity, but not nearly as many or as much as the advertisements would want you to believe. As far as the content of the sex scenes goes, they are little more daring than what is shown in many R rated films. As usual in Hollywood films, any shots of a penis are strictly avoided, and we get only fleeting glimpses of the star's pubic hair. Mostly, we see a lot of Bo Derek's breasts and ass, and lengthy shots of naked people writhing about, discretely blocking their genitals with an arm or leg. John Derek, Ms. Derek's husband and the director of this mess, could easily have gotten an R rating with minimal cuts, if he had wanted it, but Bolero wouldn't make a penny with an R rating.
One would have to go far to find worse acting in a professional film. I cannot imagine what lead the producers and John Derek to cast such untalented people, unless it was the vain hope that their ineptitude would make Bo look better. No such luck. The supporting cast may be dreadful, but Bo gives one of the worst performances I've ever seen. George Kennedy, the only other name actor in the film, gives a reasonably solid performance in a supporting role, and there's a dog which manages to be convincingly natural in the role of a dog, but everyone else is screamingly awful. I suppose that, given a script which wasn't so inane, some of them might have a fleeting career as bit players, but I strongly doubt it. Most of them sport heavy accents which, mercifully, make some of the dialog incomprehensible.
The photography is intermittently pretty, but anyone with enough money can hire a reasonable cinematographer and get acceptable results. Elmer Bernstein, who usually provides scores that are no worse than serviceable, is dragged down by the general muck surrounding the film. If he has written a worse score, I hope I never hear it. The other technical people do their jobs, with the exception of the costume designer, who gives Bo Derek a wardrobe that does little to accentuate her beauty, which Bolero convincingly demonstrates to be her only asset.
The heaviest share of the blame belongs to John Derek, who came up with the idiotic story, directed with no visible talent, and, I think, also wrote the script. I don't care enough to check. The United Nations should pass a resolution to prevent this guy from using a motion picture camera anywhere on Earth (and, while they're at it, they should prevent him from using a pen for anything other than his signature). What bothers me most about Bolero is its horrible stupidity and amateurishness, which is particularly disheartening in the face of its technical professionalism, and this can all be laid at Mr. Derek's door.
On past occasions, I've said that a bad film's negatives should be scrapped to make banjo picks. I hope this doesn't happen with Bolero, as some poor banjo player may inadvertently hold his pick up to the light one day and be subjected to part of a frame of this trash.
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