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Retro Review: WHITE FIRE (1984)

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WHITE FIRE
(Turkey/UK/France - 1984; US release 1985)

Directed by Jean-Marie Pallardy. Written by Edward John Francis. Cast: Robert Ginty, Fred Williamson, Belinda Mayne, Jess Hahn, Mirella Banti, Diana Goodman, Gordon Mitchell, Benito Stefanelli, Jean-Marie Pallardy. (Unrated, 102 mins)

You know you're in for something special when you're watching a Turkish co-production and an establishing shot caption can't even spell "Istanbul" correctly. I must've looked at the box for the 1984 actioner WHITE FIRE a thousand times at the video store back in the day and never pulled the trigger on renting it. It's just been released on Blu-ray by Arrow (because physical media is dead) and in these unprecedented times of great uncertainty, it actually warms my heart to discover a small miracle like WHITE FIRE exists and to realize that there are still some movies out there that have the ability to leave me awestruck with wonder, mouth agape, asking questions like "What the fuck is this?""Am I imagining this movie, because it can't possibly be happening, can it?" and "Was this made by human beings from planet Earth?" Also, for reasons that will become clear, any mention of "White Fire" in any capacity will henceforth be immediately followed with a italicized "White Fi-yaaa!" You can make a drinking game out of how many times someone in WHITE FIRE (WHITE FI-YAAA!) declares "White Fire," and instantly follows it with an exclamatory "White Fire!" ("Look! It's White Fire. White Fire!"). And the same thing happens in the chorus of the insanely catchy earworm of a theme song by NWOBHM-turned-AOR band Limelight that plays approximately 650 times over the course of WHITE FIRE (WHITE FI-YAAA!).






Directed by French soft-and-hardcore porn vet Jean-Marie Pallardy, WHITE FIRE (WHITE FI-YAAA!) has a plot that defies all logic, plausibility, and reality, but here goes: Boris, aka "Bo" (THE EXTERMINATOR's Robert Ginty) and Ingrid (KRULL's Belinda Mayne, daughter of cult actor Ferdy Mayne) are siblings who were orphaned as children and taken in by Sam (a profusely sweating Jess Hahn as George Kennedy). Cut to 20 years later in "Istambul" where Ingrid is employed by a high-tech diamond mine that looks like the repurposed set of a Turkish STAR WARS ripoff, complete with security personnel in full SPACEBALLS/Dark Helmet head gear and attire. Her boss (Gordon Mitchell) and the staff all wear weird red jumpsuits like staffers in a Bond villain's secret underground lair. Bo and Ingrid have remained inseparable into adulthood, and still live with Sam and his wife, but they also have a side gig: Ingrid has been secretly stealing diamonds from the mine and fencing them with Bo and Sam. The siblings are abducted by Italian criminals Sophia (TENEBRE's Mirella Banti) and Barbossa (Benito Stefanelli, looking like Terry Gilliam's stunt double), who know what they're up to and want a piece of the action. Around the same time, a mine employee informs the boss that they've excavated the legendary "White Fire" (White Fi-yaaa!), a massive, radioactive, million-year-old diamond with magical powers long thought to be a myth. Word of White Fire (White Fi-yaaa!) gets out and Sophia and Barbossa want Ingrid to obtain it for them. The siblings refuse to play along, and Ingrid is killed during an attempted kidnapping. A devastated Bo goes to a bar to drown his sorrows and he meets Olga (Diana Goodman), a near dead-ringer for Ingrid. Sam is the man with a plan: pay Olga $50,000 to undergo plastic surgery to turn her into Ingrid, convince her boss that reports of her death have been greatly exaggerated, and get her back in the mine to steal White Fire (White Fi-yaaa!). Another benefit: Bo is falling for Olga and it would be super-cool for him if she looked exactly like Ingrid, because he really, really wanted to bang his sister.





Oh yeah, Bo's got it bad for Ingrid. It's not every day that you see a vaguely futuristic diamond heist movie filled with catchy AOR jams, bad guys in crazy future-onesies with security dressed like Darth Vader, Robert Ginty picking up a random chainsaw on a loading dock and slicing through a bunch of goons PIECES-style, the villains graphically bisecting some unlucky putz with a band saw, the mine having an easily accessible torture chamber (!) for staffers caught making off with merchandise, and a female plastic surgeon who operates out of an exotic fortress filled with stunningly beautiful women like some Sapphic Playboy Mansion, with all of it blanketed in an overt incest fetish with VERTIGO undertones. Look no further than the bizarre and downright creepy scene where Bo watches a skinny-dipping Ingrid and they can't take their eyes off one another as Bo flirtatiously plays keep-away with a completely nude Ingrid's towel ("You know, it's a pity you're my sister," purrs a bedroom-eyed, feathered-haired Ginty). Then Fred Williamson (who had just co-starred with Ginty in the Italian ROAD WARRIOR knockoff WARRIOR OF THE LOST WORLD) shows up about an hour in as Noah, a hired gun pimp/mercenary leading a team of Borat cosplayers searching for the missing Olga, who's apparently the AWOL mistress of his powerful boss. All get involved in the search and all parties eventually converge as the plot to steal White Fire (White Fi-yaaa!) intensifies. That is, when Bo and Olga/New Ingrid (played post-surgery by Mayne) aren't too busy fucking.





WHITE FIRE (WHITE FI-YAAA!) really has to be seen to believed. It wastes no time establishing itself as a jaw-dropper of the highest order less than five minutes in, with one of the most reckless and shockingly irresponsible stunts ever captured on film. During the prologue, we see Bo and Ingrid's parents murdered, and her father is hit with a flamethrower, which completely engulfs the unprotected stuntman in flames from head to toe--his hair briefly ablaze--as he does a stop, drop & roll to put out the fire. The sight of this is incredible enough to make even an '80s Indonesian action director have an anxiety attack, but what takes it to next level insanity is that it wasn't a stuntman--it was Pallardy himself, playing their father and doing the shot on his own, making WHITE FIRE (WHITE FI-YAAA!) very likely the only film where a director lets himself be set on fire on camera to capture the perfect shot.


The behind-the-scenes personnel involved is just as bugfuck insane. In addition to Pallardy venturing outside his erotica comfort zone (except for the whole sister-screwing subplot), WHITE FIRE (WHITE FI-YAAA!) had a weird combination of financial backing from some unexpected places. A Turkish-British-French co-production, it was executive produced by Sedat Akdemir and Ugor Terzioglu, the Turkish team who briefly dabbled in the Italian exploitation industry with a pair of Antonio Margheriti projects (1983's YOR: THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE and 1984's THE ARK OF THE SUN GOD). Also involved were John L. Coletta and Alan G. Rainer, who had ties to Deep Purple's inner circle when they produced 1977's THE BUTTERFLY BALL, a concert film of Purple bassist Roger Glover's 1974 rock opera The Grasshopper's Feast and the Butterfly Ball. Furthering that association was WHITE FIRE (WHITE FI-YAAA!)'s soundtrack being overseen by legendary Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord, who composed the score and produced the songs by Limelight (in addition to the "White Fire" (White Fi-yaaa!) title track, there's the love ballad "One Day at a Time," the unintended anthem for incestuous siblings everywhere). To no one's surprise, WHITE FIRE (WHITE FI-YAAA!) skipped US theaters, getting a straight-to-video release courtesy of Trans-World Entertainment in 1985, its artwork and tag line ("EXTERMINATION is the reward for the world's richest prize") making an unmistakable reference to Ginty's EXTERMINATOR fame, though the jury's still out on whether his character's idea of the world's richest prize is White Fire (White Fi-yaaa!) or finally finding a way to bone his sister without everyone thinking he's a creep.





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