Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Directed By Walerian Borowczyk
1968 – 90 Minutes/Widescreen
DVD Provided by Cult Epics (www.cultepics.com)

In 1887 the island country of Goto was hit by a devastating earthquake that destroyed ninety percent of the island along with ninety percent of the population. The remaining people became insulated and cut off from the rest of the world. So much so that, in the present day, or 1968 the time the film was made, the island of Goto has remained in the year 1887. Now, under the rule of Goto III, the island of Goto goes about its business as always. During an execution ritual where two men must fight and one is killed, the guilty one and one is freed, the innocent one, Grozo is pardoned for his crimes and Gro, who refused to stay within the rules of the tournament, is beheaded. Now Goto III gives Grozo the job of dog watcher, fly catcher and boot polisher. Unbeknownst to Goto III, his beautiful wife Glyssia is having an affair with Gono, a lieutenant in the Goto army. Grozo uses this knowledge to try and take over the monarchy and the prize he covets above all things. The lovely Glyssia.

This is the first live action film of Walerian Borowczyk. Before that he was an animator. Cult Epics includes an award winning short film entitled The Astronaut on the DVD to show Walerian’s roots as a film maker and animator. The short is very well done and entertaining, reminiscent of some of Art Clokey’s work that didn’t involve Gumby. The feature film is a political fable that is interesting to watch and one must wonder if David Lynch has seen it as the film contains many Lynchian images. There are the intricate fly traps that Grozo is constantly fiddling with during the course of the film that are intriguing to try and figure out the mechanics of. The film comes across as a silent movie in picture quality with flashes of color throughout to help give certain scenes more of an impact. Unfortunately, the quality of the color scenes is so dreadful that they detract more than enhance the overall film.
Another point of misdirection is Cult Epics presentation of the film. Being Walerian’s first film he had not yet dove headfirst into the bizarre and sexually deviant themes he explores in later films such as THE BEAST and BEHIND CONVENT WALLS. There are two nude scenes, one in a well organized brothel and the other in a final lovemaking scene between Glyssia and Gono. Other than that the film is pretty chaste. But, Cult Epics would have us believe otherwise. The cover of the DVD case has Glyssia and Gono in a clinch and the disc itself has a shot of the nude women in the brothel. Even the insert has a color reproduction of a poster for GOTO that someone thought was a good idea. It has a nude woman surrounding by a psychedelic sea and makes it seem like we’re about to get down to the nitty gritty. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The one problem I have with the film itself is that Walerian wants us to feel sorry for Glyssia, the Emperor Goto III’s wife. Kind of hard to do since Goto III is portrayed as a benevolent ruler and a truly loving man. He realizes that his kingdom is still being affected by the horrible catastrophe that befell it over eighty years ago and he acts accordingly. He is shown over and over again as a fair and just man. Never is he portrayed as a tyrant. He loves the simple things in life; horses, his dogs, children and the affection he shows for his wife is simply wonderful. Yet, Glyssia can’t seem to keep it in her pants? Whatever, bitch, you get what you deserve. At no time did I feel sorry for her or her lover, Gono.
The film elements are less than perfect, but it is better for the film to have surfaced in this condition than not at all. I question the inclusion of the color scenes since the color is washed out and murky and the scenes are so brief and hard to see that they really add nothing to the film in their present state. If anything they tend to detract from it. The inclusion of the short film The Astronaut was a good idea, but the miniscule history they include as an insert in the DVD case is so brief that it borders on insulting for a man whose obsessions became such an impact in filmmaking. Admit it you’ve all heard of THE BEAST and its infamous scene.
So, if you’re a big fan of Walerian Borowczyk for films like THE BEAST, this is not for you. True lovers of classic cinema will enjoy this simple tale of political intrigue.

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