We get a lot of review requests along with links to private “screeners.” Mostly, these are low-budget movies so dreadful that they don’t even appear on Netflix or Amazon Prime – yet. They have titles like Luciferina and The Haunting of Mia Moss and, in this case, Rondo.
Often the movies are unfinished: The soundtrack might not match the video, the credits have yet to be added, that sort of thing. But occasionally these films have a certain rustic charm; the spirit of Ed Wood living on.
If ever there was a successful film director who exemplifies the much-decried “male gaze,” it would be Brian De Palma. De Palma’s thrillers – especially in the 1970s-80s — often featured damsels in distress and damsels in undress: Melanie Griffith in Body Double, Angie Dickinson in Dressed to Kill, and former De Palma spouse Nancy Allen in several of his films, to name just a few.
If De Palma was guilty of glorifying the male gaze, then I’m guilty, too; not just because I enjoyed his voyeuristic images, but also because, stylistically, he emulated the late, great Alfred Hitchcock.
Which brings me to Rondo, written and directed by Drew Barnhardt, a filmmaker who told me he was definitely influenced by De Palma. This is more than apparent in Rondo, with its 360-degree pans, voyeur elements and, of course, sexy ladies.
I confess that I had the wrong idea going in to Rondo. From that title, I expected some macho action flick a la John Wick. “Rondo,” I supposed, would be the protagonist’s he-mannish name, and fistfights would ensue. Wrong.
“Rondo,” it turns out, is the password to gain admission to a perverse sex club. And the movie protagonist is not some hulkish weight-lifter but rather a buxom babe named Jill (Brenna Otts). When something bad happens to Jill’s brother after he visits the sex club, she goes undercover to investigate.
Above, Jill (Brenna Otts) comforts her traumatized brother
OK, this low-budget movie isn’t in the same league as the best of Brian De Palma. But it is an entertaining (if a bit sleazy and grim) little thriller. If you like bloody violence you will enjoy the ending. And if you enjoy damsels in undress, thanks to actresses Iva Nora and Otts, your male gaze will get an eyeful.
Male Gazing in Rondo
“Mrs. Tim” (Iva Nora, above and below) is about to discover the downside of weird sex clubs
Brenna Otts, above and below, submits to a pat-down by the villainous “Lurdell” (Reggie De Morton).
Lurdell and Jill discuss the terms of her sex-club desires. Below, Jill goes into more detail:
Lurdell and his evil companions enjoy some white-girl booty.
Among movie-nudity scholars (yes, they exist), there is some debate about what constitutes actual “nudity.” To me, if you reveal 99 percent of your bare ass — thong panties or not — then yes, that qualifies.
The movies have a long, sometimes shameful history of white-girl heroines being threatened or violated by the “scary black man.”
Between Otts’ sex-fantasy speech about “big dicks” (see above) and the symbolism of a black man pressing his gun into her backside (also see above), well ….
In researching this article, we checked out some old thrillers and found this scene from De Palma’s 8mm (1999), in which naked actress Emily Patrick shares the stage with a BBC (look it up). Except …
It isn’t a De Palma thriller. We were confusing 8mm with De Palma’s Snake Eyes, which premiered a year earlier and also starred Nicolas Cage. Oops.
The scene below depicts another nude white girl imperiled by a BBC. Except …
Emily Patrick doesn’t seem “imperiled” at all. In fact, she looks downright pleased to see her companion’s appendage – much like Jill’s sex fantasy.
OK, so wrong movie, wrong director. Watch the clip anyway:
(Click on photos for a larger view)
The movie clip:
We’re giving the final word on Rondo to resident pest Rip van Dinkle:
“OK I give up. I tried to interview Brenna for this article. We tried to reach her through the movie’s publicist. We tried through the film’s director. I even reached out to her on Twitter.
“Could. Not. Get. A. Reply.
“What riles me up is that line in the movie about her character’s preference for “big dicks.” That’s just not right. I’m guessing that if she sees this article and my picture, she will change her mind. So here you go, Brenna. This dick’s for you:”
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