By 1969, Raquel Welch was at the peak of her cinematic career. Still a bit rough-around-the-edges as an actress, she nevertheless possessed a charming on-screen personality. Not surprisingly, that wasn't the aspect that movie studios chose to showcase when marketing her films. A prime example is Flareup, a 1969 thriller that heavily stressed images and clips of Welch gyrating in a sexy outfit as a go-go dancer. The fact that she is dressed in depressingly demure outfits except for this brief sequence represents something less than truth-in-advertising. Welch is Michele, a vivacious, independent minded Las Vegas strip club dancer whose best friend is murdered by her psychotic ex-husband Alan (Luke Askew). He gets away with the murder and kills another of his wife's friends, who he believes conspired to cause convince his ex to divorce him. Last on the list is Michele, who he relentless hunts. Although charismatic, Michele shows a distinct lack of common sense when it comes to self-protection. For reasons never explained, she turns down police protection and is immediately stalked by Alan. He trails her to Los Angeles, where her poor judgment flares up again (pardon the pun) when he pursues her in a high speed car chase. In the kind of logic made for "women-in-jeopardy" movies, Michele sails through the crowded streets of L.A. where she could seek help from hundreds of passersby, only to wind up in a remote and deserted section of Griffith Park where her would-be killer pursues her through a zoo. She later continues to show similar good sense by escaping from a guarded hospital room only to walk straight into the killer's next trap.
Flareup epitomizes the guilty pleasure movie, from the faux Bond-like opening credits to some laughably bad acting. The film is directed in a clunky, erratic style by James Neilson, who doesn't miss an opportunity to use a zoom lens or a cliched situation. He does succeed, however, in making the most of impressive on-location shooting in both Vegas and L.A, which at least gives the movie a feeling of authenticity. Neilson also shoots topless go go girls at L.A's famed Losers Lounge,where "King Leer" himself, Russ Meyer, is said to have scouted for well-endowed "talent" for his own movies. James Stacy is the parking lot attendant who starts a love affair with Michele and, refreshingly, this is one movie that doesn't have the male play hero to rescue his girlfriend. Michele maybe lacking in good judgment but is brave and resourceful enough to take on the killer herself. The movie does have some genuine suspense and one particularly chilling sequence in which an elderly motorist realizes that the hitchhiker he has picked up is actually a cold blooded murderer. Here, director Neilson finally distinguishes himself in an extensive sequence that is quite haunting.
The movie is good, passable fun and brings back some fond memories of the swinging Sixties. The region-free DVD from the Warner Archive contains an original trailer that emphasizes that Welch is now playing "herself", not a Mexican bandito or a cavegirl, a sly knock on her earlier films. The trailer, which is sexist enough to cause Gloria Steinem heart palpitations also presents Stacy with prominent billing- and spells his name wrong!
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