Tuesday, July 10, 2018

OASIS OF THE LOST GIRLS - DVD REVIEW

Although most widely-known for producing a number of films for Jess Franco, including classics such as THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF (1962), ‘on the side’ (so to speak) the spirited if notoriously cut-price French production company Eurociné (owned and operated by Marius Lesœur [1911-2003]) also dabbled in whatever exploitable genre happened to be profitable at any given time; a business model which resulted in a number of unforgettably tawdry productions, such as Patrice Rhomm’s ELSA FRAULEIN SS (a.k.a. FRAULEIN DEVIL [1977]) and Jean Rollin’s & Julián Esteban’snow-(in)famous nudie horror ZOMBIE LAKE (1980). At other times, out of pure necessity to try and get as many films out into the marketplace as possible on a constant basis, while cutting as many corners as they could in the process, Eurociné at times also, in true Frankensteinian fashion, stitched-together whole chunks of pre-existing films with newly-shot and/or redubbed footage: the kind of cinematic schizophrenia of which “John O’Hara” / a.k.a. José Jara’s OASIS OF THE LOST GIRLS (1981) is such a prime – if that’s the proper word to use! – example. 

Taking cues from Eurociné’s earlier, equally cobbled-together Pierre Chevalier film THE HOUSE OF THE LOST DOLLS (a.k.a. POLICE MAGNUM 84, 1974), OASIS likewise employs the same tried-and-trusted ‘white slavery’ template to provide the, um, thrust of its narrative. This time round, young women from around the world are routinely drugged, abducted and shipped-out to a remote brothel (quote) “somewhere down in Africa” known as The House of the Lost Oasis. At the outset, Annie (Françoise Blanchard from Jean Rollin’s THE LIVING DEAD GIRL [1982]) and her friend are picked up by a couple of guys at a local nightclub to be sold off to white slavers, whose henchman (Eurociné stock-player Yul Sanders / a.k.a. Claude Boisson) is assured they are (quote) “Real top-quality goods…They’re real bangerinos!” Following a long, drawn-out voyage during which the girls are repeatedly taken advantage of (a sequence utilizing footage from THOTLD and that film’s makeshift cargo hold), they eventually arrive at their destination, where they are greeted by the house’s stern warden-type disciplinarian (Shirley Night), who looks like she just stepped out of a Jess Franco prison film. 

Upon slowing-down considerably thereafter, the slack action goes on to reveal many of the kidnapped girls (semi-clad in no more than skimpy undies or see-thru nighties!) recollecting how it was they somehow got mixed-up in all of this, a plot device which conveniently allows the filmmakers to further pad things out with reams of recycled footage culled from the Eurociné archives. When Nadine (Nadine Pascale) – one of The Oasis’ numerous nubile captives – reminiscences about her nightclub act back in Las Palmas, those cheeky folks at Eurociné brazenly insert she and Lina Romay’s entire kinky striptease from Jess Franco’s TWO FEMALE SPIES IN FLOWERED PANTIES (1980). And not only that, but in order to add further fetishistic fervor to the proceedings, Nadine’s prolonged torture at the hands of Irina (Joëlle Le Quément) and Mr. Forbes (Yul Sanders yet again!) from said film is also ‘smoothly’ worked into the script.  

Rather jarringly introduced late into the episodic, disjointed narrative is an extended subplot involving Interpol agents Arturo and Roland (the latter of whom is played by Jack Taylor using still more recycled-and-redubbed material, this time from Gianpaolo Callegari’s sub-Bondian Eurospyer AGENT SIGMA 3: MISSION GOLDWATHER [1967]). The pair of operatives are trying to infiltrate the white slavers’ prolific kidnapping ring, much as in Chevalier’s aforementioned THE HOUSE OF THE LOST DOLLS, which also supplanted it’s running time with elements of Callegari’s antiquated spy yarn. In OASIS, a number of unconvincing ‘doubles’ are seen and disembodied voices coming from off-screen are heard, intended to sub for the by-then-long-since-absent Taylor in many of the film’s newly-shot scenes; even AGENT SIGMA 3’s sultry femme fatale Catherine (Silvia Solar) is also reworked herein, with her now becoming the boss of the white slavery operation!

Unbelievably slipshod and cut-rate across the board, OASIS OF THE LOST GIRLS does endeavour to inject at least some semblance of coherence into its flimsy plot with all of its hastily slapped-together, redubbed and mismatched footage. Lacking any sort of polish whatsoever, this patchwork creation’s main reason-for-being is of course its scenes showing bare flesh, which is ladled-on plentifully in Jara’s ‘all-new’ material (flatly-shot in quickie setups by Eurociné’s in-house ‘go-to’ DP, Raymond Heil). All of this is further offset by THOTLD’s other sleazy sequences. When not being shipped inside large straw baskets like produce to market, the girls are periodically stripped, groped and raped (“No! Stop pawing me!”) in a number of sordid – if awfully amateurish – sequences wherein nothing much else transpires (real lowest-common-denominator fare, this! But Eurociné fans know what to expect in advance). Typical of such slapdash movies, there is also a lot of back-and-forth between these more commercially-viable aspects and the much older and less-exploitable ‘retrofitted’ material from AS3: MG, which boasted higher production values and far spunkier pacing but lacks the sleazy punch of the newer material. Attentive viewers should also listen out for the pilfered score, which features both Daniel J. White’s languid opening track from ZOMBIE LAKE and Jean-Jacques Lemêtre’s cheerful (albeit wholly inappropriate) ditty from Alain Deruelle’s CANNIBAL TERROR (1980).

Released stateside onto Hispanic home video in the ’90s as EL OASIS DE LAS CHICAS PERDIDAS courtesy of Spanish-language home video specialists Million Dollar Home Video (MDHV) as part of their Caliente sub-label, this Eurocinépatchwork effort made its digital era debut in 2002 via Germany’s X-Rated Kult outfit. Released under the similar-sounding OASE DER GEFANGENEN FRAUEN (trans: “The Oasis of Imprisoned Women”), picture quality was decent for the time, although it was presented in a flat 1.66:1 aspect ratio and only featured German audio. Given that Charles Band’s now-iconic VHS imprint Wizard Video introduced many a Eurociné film to unsuspecting U.S. viewers back in the ’80s, it’s actually quite fitting, and most welcome indeed, that Band’s Full Moon has decided to dig deep into the Eurocinévault yet again with this release. Sporting the on-screen title of FILLES PERDUES (trans: Lost Girls), OASIS OF THE LOST GIRLS comes to DVD in an excellent 16x9 transfer retaining the film’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, but given its erratic nature and the various film stocks used (some of which differ by 14 years!), the picture quality naturally fluctuates wildly amid all this casually-mismatched footage. While it sounds fine for the most part, the English audio track option also points to the film’s rather-too-hasty post-production, and is at times, somewhat inaudible. Alas, no extras are included other than trailers for some of Full Moon’s other product. 

Given the film’s zero budget, Eurocinédoes (however miraculously!) manage to put together something approximating a real movie here, and no matter how boneheaded it may be, it should appeal to the more adventurously open-minded - or just plain masochistic- cineaste. Order it from Full Moon Direct or Amazon.

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