CHRISTINA: A Jewel In The Pay Cable Skincapade Mine

Jewel Shepard is best known to horror fans for her witty work as one of the ill-fated punkettes in the classic Return Of The Living Dead.  That said, her bread and butter during her prime as a b-movie starlet was a series of softcore and sex comedy flicks that became pay cable staples during the mid-to-late ’80s: My Tutor, the two Hollywood Hot Tubs films, Party Camp, etc.  The wildest and sexiest film to emerge from this pack has to be Christina, a fun little softcore travelogue that embodies the distinctly ’80s charm of pay cable-era sexploitation flicks.

Chrstna-bluChristina takes its basis from a string of erotic novels that were popular in the ’70s and ’80s.  The title character, played with clothes-free abandon by Shepard, is the jet-setting heiress to a publishing empire.  As the first act illustrates, she’s a gleeful hedonist who spends her time partying her way through the discos and boudoirs of Europe.

However, her fortunes take a turn when she’s kidnapped from a swinging weekend with playboy Patrick (Ian Sera) and finds herself imprisoned by a gang of sapphic terrorists led by Rosa (Karin Schubert).  As she tries to figure her way out, her attempts lead to a series of chases, ransoms, rescues, periodic softcore sex scenes and near-constant gratuitous nudity.

Christina was produced by Harry Alan Towers, an infamous figure in European exploitation filmmaking, who also penned the script under his frequent pseudonym of “Peter Welbeck.”  His scenario is gleefully pulpy, complete with campy dialogue, plotting and characterizations that never even try to be serious, but it convincingly recreates the narrative style of a trashy sex paperback.  The opening scene sets the tone: Christina boogies down in a disco wearing a jacket but no shirt so her breasts can jiggle freely to the Europop groove.  It’s a completely implausible fantasy of jet-set life, filtered through Tower’s dirty old man sensibility, and it immediately clues you in to the film’s style.

Director Francisco Lara Polop, working under the name “Paco Lara,” plays along with Tower’s take on sexploitation nicely.  He gives the film the kind of glossy, soft focus approach to sex common to pay-cable sex flicks of the era and makes effective use of Spanish and French locations to create a nice level of production value for the skincapades.  He also works in more action than usual, including some decent motorcycle and car chases Chrstna-01(however, a couple of ridiculously staged catfights add to the film’s camp value).  Allejandro Ulloa’s cinematography lends the right glossy touch and the sax-and-synths Eurodisco score by Ted Scotto will make ’80s addicts grin.

Christina also boasts a fun cast for this kind of film.  Shepard digs into her libidinous role with abandon, spending much of her time topless or naked and giving all in the sometimes surprisingly explicit softcore sex scenes.  She doesn’t get to show the light comedy chops she displayed in her other films of this era but she fits the bill of sexbomb effectively here.  Elsewhere, Eurotrash fans will be amused by Pieces alum Ian Sera hamming it up as a playboy, Schubert devouring the scenery as a lusty queen bee and Josephine Jacqueline Jones, star of Towers sexploitation epic Black Venus, playing a would-be seducer of the heroine.

In short, Christina is glossy trash that plays like an ’80s sexploitation time capsule today – and that will give it an irresistable appeal for anyone who experienced their teen years during the Skinemax era.

Blu-Ray Notes: Severin just gave this title is U.S. high-def debut via a new disc from its InterVision Pictures Corp. sublabel.  The results are the best this title has ever looked on home video in this country, with a transfer that offers rich colors and brings out a nice level of texture unimaginable in past cable and VHS versions.  The LPCM treatment of the English stereo dub does well by the cheap vintage dubbing work.  There are no extras.


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