Friday, June 22, 2007
Kneel Before Queen Kari
Well, here it is. Another year older. And what have I done. Having a birthday in June sometimes means that some summer blockbuster will open on that day. I still remember the “ON JUNE 21 GET ERASED” billboards that heralded the upcoming ERASER and the trailer for THE ROCKETEER that hugely trumpeted JUNE 21 as the release date. I was there opening night for each movie and still have a fondness for them, whether they deserve it or not. On June 21st, 1998 the Nuart showed, of all things, a Diana Rigg double bill, consisting of ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE and THE ASSASSINATION BUREAU. Which, come to think of it, qualifies as a Diana Rigg-Telly Savalas double bill. Not too many of those. Either way, I was there. There isn’t much out this year that seems to qualify as a birthday movie.
In recent years, I’ve sat down on or around my birthday with PREHISTORIC WOMEN and I—hang on, I just realized what I typed. It’s very embarrassing. I swear, the reasons have nothing to do with my feelings about women but simply my feelings for the film’s star, Martine Beswick. Yes, Martine Beswick. Zora in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, Paula Caplan in THUNDERBALL, Hyde in DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE, the Queen of Evil in Oliver Stone’s directorial debut SEIZURE and others, including the role of Kari in this 1967 film from Hammer Films which may be her best role. I freely admit that when Beswick turns up in a movie I cannot be objective. I’m only human.
PREHISTORIC WOMEN is a pretty bad movie, actually, with an opening twenty minutes that can seriously test the patience of any non-Hammer Films convert who may happen to be watching. But when Beswick makes her entrance as Queen Kari it instantly springs to life due to the energy and raw sexuality that seems to just ooze out of her. Kari is the leader of tribe of dark-haired women who rule over the blond-haired women, keeping them as their slaves. There’s very little reason to recount the plot. There’s very little here worth defending. But Beswick’s mere presence in the film remains one of the more ferociously sexy performances I’ve ever seen and, bluntly put, if it’s my birthday, I’ll watch what I want and that’s what I did again this year. Long Live Martine Beswick.