Fantastic Fest Review: WHITE FIRE Is An Incestuous WTF Diamond Heist
Nothing about White Fire makes a whole lot of sense, but it's a Turkish film from the '80s. So, when taking its filmic sideshow heritage into account, the '84 exploitation picture's baffling nature actually adds up (though don’t ask this writer to provide you with an equation).
Helmed by Jean-Marie Pallardy – a French filmmaker mostly known for softcore cheapies such as Emmanuelle Goes to Cannes ('80) – White Fire is a hodgepodge of action movie extravaganza, bright pink gore bonanza, and incestuous love charade, as Robert Ginty (of The Exterminator ['80] infamy) and Belinda Mayne (Alien 2 [‘80]) play Bo and Olga, brother/sister refugees who flee to Istanbul after watching their mother get shot down in sub-Peckinpah slow motion, only to end up working in the diamond mines. Slaving away in this vaguely futuristic hellhole, the siblings mastermind a plan with their American keeper (a sweaty-lipped Jess Hahn) to steal a mysterious glowing rock that emits radiation and singes the paws of anyone who touches it. Unfortunately, a ruthless Italian competitor (Mirella Banti) gets wind of their heist and murders Olga, leaving Bo a broken man, looking for a new sex object to not so secretly pine for/partner with.
That's just the first thirty minutes of Pallardy's whacked out opus, which also involves a beach-set machine gun showdown, a chainsaw battle, Bo and Olga's Bond villain boss (Gordon Mitchell) torturing employees he suspects of trying to rip off his diamond operation, and a ton of uncomfortable nudity, as Ginty and Mayne share a chemistry that's practically non-existent. However, no lack of pathos could ever stop this lewd workman from including an extended nude swimming sequence that would make Jess Franco swoon. Per usual, Ginty's baby face and porn star 'stache combine with his Jiffy Lube "Employee of the Month" charisma to mark him as one of the oddest choices for a heroic role in history, while Mayne balances a somewhat playful innocence with a hardened self-awareness. The actress most certainly recognizes she’s there to play a living, breathing Barbie Doll in this low rent genre mash-up, and rises to the occasion with honor.
It's really only once his sister dies and Bo meets Ingrid (also Mayne), a full-on doppelgänger for his fallen kin (who also gets plastic surgery just to ensure she looks identical to Olga), that the movie becomes a bizarro Turkish Vertigo riff. The heist plot almost plays secondary to the fact that Bo simply wants to fuck his pretty sibling, while Pallardy's camera lingers on their lips touching, and match cuts flash inserts of them smooching as kids, just to make sure we don't miss the point. It's all sold with the "tee hee" taboo-pushing titillation of a true smut peddler, as the director's background in "Single M" infamy – despite his Emmanuelle actually being spelled correctly to fool you into thinking it's "official" canon – shines through, making up for the sloppy, herky-jerk no budget set pieces.
As if Pallardy didn't think this milky exploitation soup had enough spicy flavoring, Blaxploitation legend Fred "The Hammer" Williamson enters the picture as an international pimp, looking to collect his "merchandise" (as Ingrid once worked for the swaggering hustler). Chomping cigars and scenery in equal measure, Williamson's presence is welcome in any picture, and signals yet another tonal turn into full-on serial adventure territory. Naturally, all of the players collide in the climax, as Pallardy begins staging full-tilt explosions during a rocky race toward the massive, glowing rock that's embedded deep in one of the mine's mostly unexplored caves. By the time barely paid stuntmen are throwing their bodies around like rag dolls while Bo tosses packs of dynamite at his would-be assassins, White Fire actually threatens to fly too close to the face of the sun, becoming an exhausting endeavor of "anything goes" lo-fi filmic craft.
Scoring the pulp proceedings are Foreigner Lite power ballads from British rock group Limelight, acting as a sort of Big Hair Greek Chorus via their mix of poppy riffs and slightly off-tune harmonizing. Including these tracks is quite a daft attempt at sleight of hand, as the themes are seemingly needle-dropped whenever the jagged editing and washed out cinematography (not to mention a dub job that's shoddy even by Italian horror standards) become almost too distracting for even the hardest core trash cinema crate diggers. Yet that's the whole joy of watching works like White Fire, as these movies were never meant to be "art", but rather cheapo means to make a few bucks before the next movie was queued up at the all-night revue. This is pure depravity, made by and for perverts: 100 minutes of disreputable bliss that ends with a brother and sister riding off into the sunset, just to get naked together all over again.