(US - 1984)
Written and directed by John Derek. Cast: Bo Derek, George Kennedy, Andrea Occhipinti, Ana Obregon, Olivia d'Abo, Greg Bensen, Ian Cochrane, Mirta Miller, Mickey Knox. (Unrated, 105 mins)
One of Cannon's most controversial releases, BOLERO opened on Labor Day weekend 1984 riding a wave of publicity due to its troubled production and explicit sexual content involving iconic star Bo Derek. The actress had been offscreen since 1981's TARZAN THE APE MAN, a film that began a decade-long stretch where she was starring exclusively in films directed by her husband John Derek. John, born in 1926 and 30 years his wife's senior, was a former actor who once held his own with Humphrey Bogart in KNOCK ON ANY DOOR (1949) and an Oscar-winning Broderick Crawford in ALL THE KING'S MEN (also 1949) and had prominent roles in epic blockbusters like THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956) and EXODUS (1960). John was married to original Bond girl Ursula Andress when he quit acting in 1966 to focus on filmmaking and photography. After he and Andress divorced, John was married to Linda Evans until their divorce in 1974. The divorce came after John met 16-year-old Kathleen Collins a year earlier and whisked her away to Europe. Upon returning to the US after Kathleen turned 18, the pair married and he rechristened her "Bo Derek," managing every aspect of her career and even handling the photography for her numerous Playboy pictorials. She landed a supporting role in the 1977 JAWS ripoff ORCA and in 1979, skyrocketed to international stardom as the object of a midlife crisis-stricken Dudley Moore's obsession in Blake Edwards' zeitgeist-capturing megahit 10.
Bo followed 10 with a very similar role in 1980's A CHANGE OF SEASONS, which had Anthony Hopkins in the Dudley Moore midlife crisis part. By this point, the Dereks, with their age difference and John's Svengali-like management of her career--he resented the "Svengali" implications but trolled his detractors by naming his company "Svengali Productions"-- became a lightning rod for tabloid controversy. They had such a ubiquitous media presence and Bo-mania was such a pop culture phenomenon that Fleer even released a set of "Here's Bo" trading cards. 1981 saw the release of the incestuous love story FANTASIES, a film the Dereks shot in Greece in 1973 during their sojourn to Europe where John wouldn't be inconvenienced by California's 18-as-the-age-of-consent statutory rape laws (when they returned to the States and while Bo was shooting 10, John also found time to direct the 1979 hardcore porno LOVE YOU! with Annette Haven). But the Dereks made their biggest splash of 1981 with their sexed-up remake of TARZAN THE APE MAN, a film that veered so far from the source story that the estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs tried to sue. Highly publicized thanks to Bo's barely-there Jane outfit and her numerous nude scenes, TARZAN saw Bo not using her 10 fame to further her own acting career but rather, the couple using her fame to get big-studio budgets for John's crummy movies. A director with an eye for beauty but no idea how to tell a story, John Derek's films during his marriage to Bo accomplish little aside from John Derek showing the world how hot his young wife is. TARZAN THE APE MAN generated enough interest--and enough people still wanted to see Bo naked--that it became a hit, but nobody liked it and it was immediately and rightly ridiculed by critics and audiences, earning multiple Razzie nominations and making John a major-studio pariah.
|A set photo from early in BOLERO's shoot, as|
evidenced by the presence of the soon-to-be-fired
Fabio Testi on the far left (thanks to
William Wilson for supplying this pic)
TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS and HERCULES and big-budget money-losers like the expensive Brooke Shields adventure SAHARA and the raunchy Faye Dunaway period piece THE WICKED LADY, both of which bombed. REVENGE OF THE NINJA and BREAKIN' were two of the very few hits under the MGM/UA-Cannon deal, and when Yablans attended the disastrous private screening of BOLERO, during which numerous MGM/UA brass started laughing out loud in all the wrong places, he'd reached his breaking point. Golan was just as upset about John Derek's finished cut as Yablans, but he got an even bigger surprise when an irate Yablans drew the line and flat-out refused to distribute BOLERO. The topic was brought up in Mark Hartley's 2015 Cannon documentary ELECTRIC BOOGALOO and Yablans, who was out at MGM/UA by 1985 and who died in 2014, appears on camera still stewing about Cannon, and over BOLERO in particular. After the teen comedy MAKING THE GRADE flopped later in the summer of 1984, Yablans had seen enough and pulled the plug on MGM/UA's relationship with Cannon. As a result of the falling out with Yablans, Golan and Globus were on their own and began self-distributing most of their films, starting with BOLERO (1985's LIFEFORCE, produced by Cannon and released by Tri-Star, was an exception, and several 1986-87 Cannon productions would be released by Warner Bros). While BOLERO barely made back its budget thanks to, once again, people wanting to see Bo Derek nude (it opened in third place that Labor Day holiday weekend, behind TIGHTROPE in its third week and GHOSTBUSTERS in its 13th, then plummeted to 8th place in its second weekend), the resulting film was so terrible that it did irreparable damage to what remained of the Dereks' credibility in Hollywood.
|"Yep...the picture was called COOL HAND LUKE," sighs|
George Kennedy, adding "They gave me an Oscar for it!"
GHOSTS CAN'T DO IT, produced by former Trans-World Entertainment partners Eduard Sarlui and Moshe Diamant, is John Derek's worst film by a wide margin, a self-indulgent travelogue/home movie that found Bo as a widowed wife trying to find a younger body to host the spirit of her robust, much-older, and recently deceased husband (Anthony Quinn). Also featuring veteran actors Don Murray and Julie Newmar, the alleged comedy GHOSTS CAN'T DO IT is obviously about an aging John Derek facing his own mortality but is so vapid and empty that it's somehow worse than either TARZAN THE APE MAN or BOLERO, with its only notoriety these days stemming from the presence of none other than Donald Trump in a small role as an asshole corporate raider (in other words, "Donald Trump") trying to take control of Quinn's business. BOLERO and GHOSTS CAN'T DO IT were recently released as a double feature Blu-ray by the fine folks at Shout! Factory, and the very fact that this product exists in the year 2016 should completely debunk once and for all the myth that physical media is dead.
|John and Bo Derek at the height|
of the early 1980s Bo-mania.