Sunday, September 24, 2023

Catfight College - Les Pétroleuses: Brigitte Bardot Vs. Claudia Cardinale

 Live Journal

November 23, 2007

Two of the most iconic Sixties überbabes ever go at it just a little past their prime in veteran French director Christian-Jacque's 1971 Franco-Italian western.

The title translates as "Petroleum Girls" (it's also known as "The Legend of Frenchie King"), which goofily captures the essence of the plot: busty cowgirls claw and scratch over the rights to an oilfield, spilling a few corset-fulls of sweaty cleavage and flashing a lot of frilly petticoatage along the way.

Jacque's spaghetti-western-à-la-Français stews "Cat Ballou" and "Viva Maria" into a bawdy, ballsy, tongue-in-cheek take on the girl gang legends of the Old West. The cheeky scripting, executed by a seasoned Spanish and Italian crew, makes for a surprisingly entertaining ride. And the two star belles look great in chaps, garters, and laced corsets! When watching the lead clip up top, check out the way CC's gun belt rides on her hips. I'm surprised all those slugs don't start going off just from being that close to her!

Our story begins when a train runs afoul of a legendary bandit named Frenchie King and his uniformly costumed gang of tough-but-stylish, masked ruffians. Frenchie and Co. rob the passengers — including one "Doc" Miller who figures heavily in the opening sequence — and high-tail it across the desert.

Later, in their camp, we learn that "Frenchie" is the feisty, ass-kicking Louise (Brigitte Bardot), and her gang in reality is her four (remember that number!) sisters, all stunningly beautiful young Vadimesque women of vaguely European extraction. (Later, we're treated to them bathing in a creek.)

We share their criminal jubilation as amongst their booty they find the deed to a ranch called Little P. owned by our friend Doc Miller. This is indeed a windfall, as it means the women can finally put aside their pistol (and vibrator?) -toting ways and settle down with a man and make a home after years of poker and pillaging. They're hankering to take his boots off, fetch his pie and pipe, and, in my mind, enjoy some bustier-busting, sisterly six-way action.

Meanwhile, the pilfered train steams on to the strictly French-speaking tumbleweed town of Bougival Junction. Here, Doc Miller's discarded, empty bag falls into the hands of the rowdy, ass-whuppin' Marie Sarrazin (Claudia Cardinale).

Hold on a minute! What's this hidden in the lining of Doc's bag? Why, it's a map of that abandoned ranch just outside of town, showing where a huge deposit of oil is! Marie has only to raise some money and buy the Little P., and she and her four dumb-but-handsome, black-clad brothers (remember that number now?) can finally leave their little shack and wrangle horses legitimately ... until the feisty, ass-kicking "Doctor Louise Miller" and her four pretty sisters show up in Bougival Junction to settle on the same land, that is.

What will the domineering Marie and her wimpy bros do to counter the machinations of tough Louise and her tougher sisters?

Can the loveable, bumbling ("hey, dude, where's my pony?") town marshal — played by "Bonnie and Clyde's" Michael J. Pollard — deal with such shenanigans in such a way that no one gets killed in the crossfire, but Louise and Maria somehow end up kissing? (Pollard spends much of his time trying to learn French so he can do some-uh proper wooin'.)

Can the other lusty ladies of Bougival Junction keep their slavering menfolk at bay in the "B" storyline?

 And when do we get to see Brigitte and Claudia duke it out in their frilly unmentionables and catch a glimpse of their ... ahem ... petticoat junctions?

"Banks? I believe in beds. Money should stay where it's made." That's Aunt Amelie (the venerable Micheline Presle), the town Madam, speaking. She's not the only minor character to get lines like that, courtesy of the team of five — count em', five — scriptwriters (including writer-director Guy Casaril, who goes uncredited whether he wielded a pen or a lens on PG). The film scintillates with both funny and corny dialogue, much of it as cringe-inducing as anything Richard Maibaum wrote for Bond to say, and it's all delivered with delightfully dead-pan earnestness. There are even a few "Paint Your Wagon-y" musical numbers, anchored by Cardinale's sexy strip-down as she sings "La Fille De La Prairie" to Bardot.

The supporting cast is excellent, especially the quirky Pollard. But just as watchable are Leroy Haynes and Valéry Inkijinoff, dutifully playing such 1880s stereotypes as, respectively, Louise's Negro servant (Marquis) and Marie's Injun go-fer ("Spitting Bull"). Naturally, the two look past their allegiances and bet with each other on the outcome of the climactic catfight between their bosses. I've always said that a good catfight could make men forget their differences if only for a few minutes.

Hellcats Bardot and Cardinale manage to wring a ton of fun from both the spaghetti-western and Euro chixploitation conventions "Petroleum Girls" is liberally drenched in.

MooTGeekInfo: PG's original 1971 release was in French, but in 1973 an English dub was made and released as "The Legend of Frenchie King." My copy is an R4 DVD from Australia titled "Petroleum Girls" (and marked a "Silver Screen Classic," which strangely doesn't offend me — PG is infinitely more watchable than, say, "The English Patient"). PG's English-speaking rights are owned by K-Tel (the speed-up-hit-songs-so-you-can-cram-more-of-them-on-a-record people), so if you find a copy it'll probably be something from another part of the world, a little cut-out-binny in cheap-lookin' packaging.

The good news is that PG on DVD is available quite regularly for a few dollars via eBay or iOffer. The double good news is that the Australian version appears to be an unedited strike of the first American release, which, in turn, would appear to match the original French cut. The dubbing is actually quite well done — a decent effort was put into the voice-acting synchronization. Also intact is composer Francis Lai's wonderfully silly, electric-bass-heavy Euro-Texan soundtrack.

And, if all of that wasn't enough, this post is a MooT first! You get a "Catfight College," "Smokin' Chicks," and "Girls with Guns" entry all in one!

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