Bo Derek stars in this campy sex romp from the 1980s

How one views Bolero will entirely rest on your opinion of Bo Derek, one of America’s top sex symbols in the 1980s. Produced by venerable b-movie house Cannon Films, the 1984 film sees the sex symbol make what amounts to a sexploitation epic. After seeing director John Derek’s final cut, producer Menahem Golan encouraged Bo Derek to spice up the film even further. The result is the holy grail for Bo Derek’s male fans with several explicit lovemaking scenes.

There are no body doubles in this movie. Everything is on full display. The unrated movie makes her other R-rated films tame by comparison. Is there any reason to see this film beyond Bo Derek’s exploits? Can her beauty save a laughable script? No, it is a terrible movie that would have already been forgotten long ago without her charismatic presence.

Bo Derek plays a young American ingénue, Lida MacGillivery (Mac for short), traveling the globe after graduation with one goal in mind. She wants to lose her virginity and experience the heights of ecstasy as she calls it. Set in the Roaring 20s, her traveling companions include her elderly driver, Cotton (George Kennedy) and Cat (Ana Obregon), her close friend from school. Along the way they’ll meet a Gypsy girl that becomes friendly with the group, played by Olivia d’Abo in her first feature role at the age of fifteen.

Fantasizing about Rudolph Valentino in his silent movies, Mac first journeys to Morocco, seeking a handsome sheik that will sweep her off her feet. When that doesn’t pan out quite as Mac expected, she is off to Barcelona with her friends where she meets a hot-blooded matador, Angel. Is he the man for the job?

The dialogue from Derek is so crazy that it sounds like a 12-year-old boy came up with her lines…

Written, directed and shot by Bo Derek’s own husband, John Derek, Bolero pushes sexual boundaries in some of the most elaborate lovemaking scenes ever shot featuring a major star. No stranger to nudity having been in Playboy and other films, Bo Derek lets it all hang out in several extended scenes.

There is a strange air of schmaltz to her lovemaking scenes in Bolero. Legendary Hollywood composer Elmer Bernstein is brought in to score them with a swelling orchestral sound. Apparently his services weren’t needed for the rest of the film, as a lesser composer handles the remaining movie. That pretty much says it all about Bolero. Bo Derek does love to show off her horse-riding skills in the film, including her best imitation of Lady Godiva.

The story of course is patently ridiculous in Bolero. This is a romantic comedy in name only. Mac is not a real character. She is an idealized fantasy version of a girl desperate to lose her virginity. The dialogue from her is so crazy that it sounds like a 12-year-old boy came up with her lines, one that had never actually met a real woman.

Bolero is only a film you watch for Bo Derek. There isn’t much else to recommend about it. As a sexploitation film it succeeds spectacularly, providing a couple of the most memorable lovemaking scenes from the 1980s. It is your call if that interests you.

Movie ★★★☆☆

Bolero Blu-ray screen shot 15

Bo Derek’s starring turn in Bolero receives a double-feature from Shout Factory, paired with Ghosts Can’t Do It. The two movies share a single BD-50, which hasn’t impacted either movie’s presentation. Licensed from MGM, Shout Factory has given this 1984 Cannon Films production an adequate presentation. This isn’t the sharpest or most detailed film scan. It resembles an older telecine job struck a few years ago. A few rough patches of grain are hurt by fairly soft cinematography and an antiquated transfer.

The film print is in respectable condition with no significant damage. Its finer resolution is questionable, close-ups exhibit less detail than I would have expected for this film stock. This was not a low-budget movie for its day, given the reported $7 million dollar budget. A film like Bolero only gets one crack at a Blu-ray edition. While this isn’t a new transfer with stunning depth and clarity, it’s good enough. The entire uncut, unrated version of Bolero, all 104 minutes of it, is included in adequate Hi-Def video.

The film is shown in its expected 1.85:1 aspect ratio. A wisp of processing, mostly some minor sharpening, appears in select scenes. Shout Factory provides a sufficiently transparent AVC video encode that handles Bolero’s grain structure most of the time in clear fashion. Clarity does remain excellent except in the most romantically lit shots, as a soft-focus blur takes over.

The question fans will ask about this disc is how it handles Bo Derek’s more revealing scenes. All I will say is that her fans haven’t seen Bolero this clearly since it was first released.

Video ★★★☆☆

The 2.0 DTS-HD MA soundtrack for Bolero is heard in fine fidelity. The sweeping music has solid range and crisp clarity. Composer Elmer Bernstein actually scores Derek’s lovemaking scenes, leaving the rest to a relatively unknown composer. The mix is pleasant without a trace of harshness. The movie’s overly romantic score is predictable with its swelling strings and other lush orchestral music. Bolero has a decent audio experience that is better than expected but won’t win any awards.

Shout Factory provides optional English SDH subtitles in a white font.

Audio ★★★☆☆

Bolero comes as a double-feature with Ghosts Can’t Do It, another Bo Derek vehicle from the 1980s. Reversible cover art is included with alternate movie posters for the films.

Bolero Trailer (02:36 in HD) – This trailer certainly didn’t play at movie theaters. The unrated film receives an unrated trailer, replete with nudity.

Extras ★☆☆☆☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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