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DVD Review: Flareup

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Too ridiculous to be a compelling revenge thriller but not nearly ridiculous enough to be a campy guilty pleasure, the 1969 Raquel Welch vehicle Flareup is a little-known relic, and ought to stay that way. Newly released on burn-on-demand disc from Warner Archive, the film stars Welch as Michele, a Las Vegas go-go dancer forced on the run by a murderous psychopath.

FlareupWhile Michele and her friends are lunching outdoors one day, the estranged husband of one of them (Luke Askew, sporting a horrendous bowl cut) shows up and shoots her in broad daylight. He blames Michele for driving him and his wife apart, and soon, he makes it his mission to take her down too.

Relocating from Las Vegas to Los Angeles in one breathless dash, Michele finds employment at another nightclub and falls for the parking attendant there, Joe (James Stacy), an ultra-generic dreamboat type who’s interested in bullfighting and functioning model airplanes.

Michele and Joe fall into an utterly unconvincing romance that escalates from a late-night conversation to true love overnight. Never mind the fact that Welch can’t seem to conceal a look of mild revulsion every time Stacy kisses her. But their idyllic situation can’t last forever — when a nervous junkie who works at Michele’s old club (a young Ron Rifkin in one of his first roles) spills the beans on her whereabouts, Askew is soon back on her trail.

Director James Neilson — best known for a string of live-action Disney flicks like The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin and The Moon Spinners — is clearly not the right guy to handle a job like this, but he does his best to interject a swinging sensibility with some handheld camerawork and frequent zooms. He captures a few nice images of bygone Las Vegas and L.A., but the blocking and editing is ugly and haphazard.

Welch certainly looks the part of a showgirl, even if her dance moves in her centerpiece scene are way more laughable than sexy. She was never a great actress, but she’s OK here when asked to convey a sense of fear, even if nearly all of her line readings are either leaden or way too hysterical.

The Warner Archive disc of Flareup includes a hilariously bad trailer (sample line: “What does [Welch] have that makes all the others look average? Let’s check the inventory: the hips, the legs, the torso. All moving and grooving together.”) If only the film itself were on the same wavelength.

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About Dusty Somers

Dusty Somers is a Seattle-based editor and writer. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and Seattle Theater Writers.
  • Dave

    Enjoyed your review. I watched the film last night and I loved it — but I love stuff from the 60s that is B-rate and dated! And Raquel is so beautiful,I could watch her read from the phone book. I find a certain innocence in 60s movies, even when I am watching pap. And this was definitely pap. Again, good review.