When you think of creepy old men, the name John Derek should spring obscenely to the top of your mental list, like a peeping Tom springs from the bushes when illuminated by a police officer’s flashlight. In the early 1970s, when he was 46, John Derek left his wife, a full-grown woman named Linda Evans, for a girl who was 16 years old, and who would soon be known as Bo Derek. This Bo Derek person was not an actress, though this did not stop her from acting, often in movies written and directed by John Derek, who loved nothing more than to film his jailbait bride in the nude. By which I mean she was in the nude, not him. Although maybe he was, too. Yeah, you know what? He was probably nude. I mean, if you’re making a movie where your hot young wife has naked sexytimes with some anonymous stud, you’d definitely slip out of your own clothes and get more comfortable.
One of the movies that John Derek nudely made of his nude wife while naked was “Bolero,” a film that boldly steps forward, thrusts its bosoms into the viewer’s face, and says, “Look at THESE!” The plot of this movie is that Bo Derek is a sexy minx who has just graduated from boarding school and now wants to lose her virginity. “Great!” you think. “This movie will be over quickly!” BUT NO INDEED IT WILL NOT. It will not be over quickly. It will not be over ever. Do not begin watching this movie unless you are prepared to watch it until the end of time, because that is how long it lasts.
Why would a sexy minx who has just graduated from boarding school and is played by Bo Derek have trouble losing her virginity? Does she live in a world populated exclusively by gay men? Is she afflicted with incurable body odor? Are her lady parts guarded by a fearsome troll who devours all who dare approach? It doesn’t matter. None of these conditions would prevent an 18-year-old blonde played by a 27-year-old Bo Derek from having sex if she wanted to. “Bolero” has already pushed its luck by asking us to accept Bo Derek in a role as anything other than a coma patient or a plank of wood. Suggesting that she has difficulty finding men willing to sleep with her is too much.
But that’s what we’re stuck with, so let’s make the most of it and get this over with. Bo’s character, an allegedly Scottish lass nicknamed Mac, gets a shload of money from her dead father the minute she graduates. To celebrate both the inheritance and the graduation, she cavorts topless on the school lawn. She is a free spirit! Also, she has breasts, and it makes her sad to think there are people in the world who have not seen them. Her father’s chauffeur, Cotton (played by George Kennedy), who I guess is obligated to be a servant to the family forever, shows up to be Mac’s chaperone for whatever she’s going to do now. And what she wants to do now is go someplace Arab and be deflowered by a sheik.
Why so specific? I am glad you asked! It’s the 1920s when this movie is happening, and Mac is a huge fan of Rudolph Valentino, the smolderingly handsome star of silent films who used to set ladies’ underpants afire in those days. Valentino’s most famous role was as a sheik in a movie called “The Sheik”; ergo, Mac wishes to have sex with a sheik, if not with Valentino himself. It is the same as when young women today yearn to lose their virginity to sparkly vampires (though less pathetic, since sheiks actually exist and are not lame).
So Mac heads off to the Sahara to find a sheik, with her best friend, Catalina (Ana Obregon), and Cotton the chauffeur serving as her wingmen. She locates a suitable sheik easily enough (the Sahara is crawling with them), and says these words to him: “I have come all this way to give you something you may not even want: my virginity!” She is not just being modest — heterosexual men are notoriously uninterested in going to bed with attractive virgins who have only recently graduated from high school, and Mac is well aware of this. But as luck would have it, this particular human male DOES want to have sex with her! The fates have smiled upon her!
Alas, what happens is that the sheik gets her naked, pours honey on her boobs, licks the honey off … then falls asleep. Poor guy was tuckered out from all that gross, gross foreplay. Mac figures, eh, so much for that guy. In fact, so much for that entire continent. Let’s try Spain!
In Spain is where the movie REALLY begins. The first seven hours were just for practice. Here Mac meets a bullfighter named Angel (Andrea Occhipinti), and he is very, how you say, sexy. Like the sheik, Angel is willing to have sex with Mac. (She is on a winning streak!) Angel is able to remain conscious long enough to perform the act, too, and at last Mac is unburdened of her virginity. This is where the star’s husband, writer-director John Derek, gets serious about his craft and films his wife having sex with this man for something like a hundred and seventy-five hours. It is the longest sex scene in the history of cinema, possibly in the history of the world, and also one of the dullest. Did you think it was not possible to get bored watching attractive people copulate? It turns out that it is! John Derek has seen to it! John Derek once heard someone say, “Well, at least the sight of good-looking adult humans fornicating will never grow tiresome,” and John Derek took that as a challenge, he did.
Well, now there is drama. You thought the movie would be over once Mac had sex, but that is only because you are accustomed to stories in which protagonists desire something, set out to attain it, face obstacles, achieve their goals, and then the story ends. “Bolero” follows a different structure, one in which the protagonist gets what she wants, and then dithers around for another nine hundred and thirty-eight hours. For no sooner have Angel and Mac completed their tedious assignation than Angel is gored by a bull. It is very sad, and depicted in slow-motion, for maximum sadness. One minute Angel is minding his own business, tormenting an animal for the amusement of others; the next minute he’s got a bull’s horn lodged in his upper thigh. Who could have guessed that a day of cruelty would end in tragedy?
The worst part is, now he can’t make with the sex anymore. This is not exactly explained. We are not led to believe that Li’l Angel itself was damaged, though the injury was definitely in that neighborhood. But for whatever reason, now Angel is impotent. The only solution is for Mac to become a bullfighter herself, thus inspiring Angel to quit being so impotent already and just have some more sex. This method of treatment for erectile dysfunction is controversial within the medical community, but Mac has always been on the cutting edge of science. For example, there is the moment when Angel asks her, “Do you know anything about opium?” and she replies, “Next to nothing — except that it sounds romantic!”
Mac, ladies and gentlemen! Mac.
While this ditz is trying to bullfight Angel back to bonerville, there’s some nonsense with her friend, Catalina, and a Scottish lawyer, who have sex and … well, I guess that’s really all there is to that subplot. Oh, but there’s also a 14-year-old gypsy girl named Paloma (Olivia d’Abo) who is betrothed to Angel? I guess? And she becomes friends with Mac and Catalina, even though Mac is stealing her man? Maybe? And John Derek films her taking a bath, fully nude, even though both the character and the actress are only 14? Yes, that part I’m sure of. The details of the plot are sometimes obscure, but Paloma and Olivia d’Abo are definitely 14, and they are definitely naked, and John Derek was definitely creepy, right up to the day he (creepily) died.
Still, you gotta hand it to the guy. He knew how to make his wife feel special. Ninety percent of the dialogue in “Bolero” consists of men telling Bo Derek how beautiful she is. (The other ten percent is moaning.) John Derek obviously believed his wife was gorgeous and a terrific actress, and he wanted to show the world how right he was, i.e., half.