The Girl from Rio [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Blue Underground
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (11th September 2023).
The Film

Jeff Sutton (The Strange Door's Richard Wyler) arrives in Rio de Janeiro just in time for Carnival with a briefcase filled with ten million dollars in stolen cash. This information catches the interest of local gangster Masius (Rebecca's George Sanders) and his kinky accountant mistress Irene (The Maneater of Hydra's Elisa Montιs). As Jeff and his manicurist escort Lesley (Ten Little Indians' Maria Rohm) dodge Masius' thugs – lead by local undertaker Carl ('s Herbert Fleischmann) – all of them are unaware of another interested party: Sunanda (Goldfinger's Shirley Eaton), a sadistic femme fatale bent who has built a fortress up in the mountain known as Femina where she and her female army entrap wealthy men in order to exploit their finances with the aim of world domination. When Jeff is captured and imprisoned by Sunanda – along with Ulla (The Bordello's Herbert Fleischmann), abducted daughter of a banker who has thus far resisted the brainwashing attempts of Sunanda and her chief guard Yana (Barbed Wire Dolls' Beni Cardoso) – his only hope of escape may be Masius who finds Sunanda's impenetrable gold vault more interesting than a paltry ten million dollars.

Of the nine collaborations between director Jess Franco and producer Harry Alan Towers, their Sax Rohmer Fu Manchu pics The Castle of Fu Manchu and The Blood of Fu Manchu are usually regarded as the lesser works. Watched alongside The Girl from Rio – loosely based on the Rohmer character Sumuru who Eaton had previously essayed in Towers' The Million Eyes of Sumuru (directed by Lindsay Shonteff) – however, all three appear hampered in their action scenes by both the budget and Franco's disinterest in staging gunplay and hand-to-hand combat. Instead, the strengths of all three films are in their live action visualization of comic strips with striking wide angle compositions, an emphasis on expressive faces over expository dialogue, and bare, writhing female flesh (usually with blood applied "cosmetically" rather than realistically). Scenes of torture and bondage are played less for intensity and seem more like the hypnotic floor shows of Franco's various stripper characters in films like Succubus and Vampyros Lesbos.

Sanders and Montιs fare the best with unabashed scenery chewing while Eaton's sinister performance is undercut by the obvious use of a body double in a lukewarm lesbian scene – in which all the character is required to do is bare one of Cardoso's breasts – as well as inserting disconnected close-ups of her in scenes in which the actress was obviously not present, as well as the decision to alternately show her with her natural blonde hair or in a brunette wig (which might be evidence of recycling footage from another project since Eaton was inserted without her knowledge into The Blood of Fu Manchu in unused footage from this film and billed as the "Black Widow"). Wyler fares worst as a rather bland and callous sixties Bond clone who is inexplicably irresistible enough to disarm one of Femina's soldiers with a kiss and for Ulla and Irene to just express exasperation when they catch him putting the moves on another woman in the midst of a firefight. The end result is visually-striking but rather dull, presumably as much due to the budget and schedule as the diverging exploitation interests of Towers and Franco. Towers exploited Rohmer again in the more overtly sci-fi 2003 film Sumuru.


While the likes of Eugenie, the Story of Her Journey into Perversion and The Bloody Judge became harder to see after their U.S. theatrical releases – 99 Women, Count Dracula, the Fu Manchus, and even Justine all wound up on home video stateside – The Girl from Rio was difficult to see from the start – apart from in co-production country West Germany where Sunanda was redubbed Sumuru due to the success of the Shonteff film and the general popularity of pulp author creations in German post-war cinema – with uncredited financier American International not even dumping it onto Commonwealth United or directly to television. The film instead ended up with smaller exploitation/hardcore distributor Gerald Fine who retitled it "Mothers of America" (in "Screenovision: The 4th Dimension") for a mid-seventies release followed by a reissue version titled "Future Women" which went to television shorn of more than ten minutes – the credits were slightly rearranged and the climactic raid on Femina was punched up by footage from the climax of Sinai Commandos – with that version turning up on video from budget bin label Liberty Video as well as the usual gray market mail order distributors. The horrendously-cropped and cut "Future Women" version did turn up on a couple Mill Creek multi-movie boxed sets; however, that was after the original international version had its official release on DVD in 2004 from Blue Underground while the shorter West German version – which included exclusive footage (see below) turned up on DVD in Germany a couple years before Blue Underground reissued the film on Blu-ray in a double feature with The Million Eyes of Sumuru (which was not released on DVD at the time of the Franco/Towers film and had its own solo DVD release alongside the double feature).

Shot flat in mostly bright settings with cinematographer Manuel Merino (Horror Rises from the Tomb) keeping a tighter rein on the zoom lens and the only diffusion from on-set elements like netting, dry ice, and panes of glass rather than filters (along with some telephoto shots with paper thin depth of field), The Girl from Rio has always looked good on DVD and Blu-ray from the original camera negative. Blue Underground's latest Franco 4K upgrade features the film in a 2160p24 HEVC 1.66:1 widescreen encode on the UHD and a 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.66:1 widescreen encode on the Blu-ray (which also contains the bulk of the release's special features). While the previous Blu-ray was quite nice, the DolbyVision 4K version offers slight but appreciable improvements, better delineating the hair and flesh of characters from the gel lighting, the swimming film grain and dry ice fog recognizable as separate elements rather than a hazy mix, and even an uptick in shadow detail in harsh daytime shadows and some moodily under-lit night exteriors. An obvious jump cut early on in the film was present in all previous transfers including the "Future Women" TV version, so it appears to be something Towers and Franco did not feel was worth fixing rather than a missing cutaway or archival damage.


The sole audio track is the English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, with post-dubbed dialogue well-synced – it is quite obvious that the actors were saying the name Sumuru on set and the name change happened in the dubbing – conventional sound effects like footfalls, cars, and gunfire sound flat whilte more fantastic effects like the alarms and sirens on Femina have a bit more presence. The score of Daniel White (Female Vampire) - in place of Bruno Nicolai (A Virgin Among the Living Dead) who scored Franco's other Towers films – is rather unmemorable apart from a rather silly theme song that Towers might have been hoping got radio play and LP sales. Optional English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are included. The former is generally accurate, although one character called Carstairs has his name transcribed as "Castez".


Both the UHD and Blu-ray accompany the feature with an audio commentary by film historians Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth who provide some background on the Franco/Towers period collaboration, their Fu Manchu adaptations, and describe the film as only "notionally an action movie" while also arguing its case as a comic strip film. They discuss the film's good points – including Sanders' performance and the presence of lesser-known Franco fetish actress Cardoso – as well as its weaker elements incluiding Wyler's bland performance. Although they argue that the previous Sumuru film's openly gay male lead George Nader might have given the film a campier air sparing with both Sanders and Eaton, they attribute much of what fails in the film to script, the budget, and the rushed scheduling; although Franco did finish a week ahead of Carnival, leading Towers and Franco to come up with script for 99 Women so Towers did not have to pay the cast and crew to just wait around for the scenes intended to be shot during Carnival, and they ended up with roughly a third of a completed film to be finished in Spain with AIP funding. The pair also discuss the "Future Women" version and the German version, with some disagreement over which of the different approaches by the English and German versions to the backstory is more successful.

The rest of the extras are on the Blu-ray disc starting with "Rolling in Rio" (14:26) ported over from the DVD edition and featuring the separate contributions of Franco, Towers, and Eaton. Franco discusses his love of comic strips and the film genre emulating them, Towers recalls the economical choice of shooting in Rio where there was not yet a strong film industry or union, while Eaton recalls relishing in the chance to play a villain, not knowing about Franco's sexploitation career or that she was body-doubled until seeing the film the day before the interview, and her decision to leave acting to spend more time with her family.

New to this release is "Rocking in Rio" (40:35), an interview with Stephen Thrower – author of the hefty (in price and weight) two-volume Franco work "Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco" and "Flowers of Perversion: The Delirious Cinema of Jess Franco" – who is of the opinion that Franco and Towers had a strong hook but failed to exploit it, also suggesting that the chauvinism and misogyny inherent in Rohmer's work (and his opinions of women in the post-war world) were more or less shared by Towers but not by Franco (describing Femina as less feminist than fascistic in its North Korea-like display of military pageantry). Of the Sunanda/Sumuru/Sumitra confusion, Thrower ponders whether it was a matter of rights – Towers sometimes only getting the rights to a character rather than a specific story – or to do with how the Shonteff film was performing theatrically during the production of the "sequel."

Also new to this disc are scenes from the German version (9:43) including the German title sequence, the introduction of Ulla's father (The Face of Fu Manchu's Walter Rilla) who does not appear in the English version at all, and the heist of the ten million dollars from an armored car, all of which happens before the story proper of the English version which saves its twist for very late in the film (which as the effect of making Jeff seem more passive and indistinct as a hero). The footage has presumably been upscaled from the German DVD transfer going by the 1.85:1 aspect ratio while English subtitles have been burnt-in (presumably so some less scrupulous company abroad cannot use the new master and the upscaled footage to reconstruct the German version in HD or create an "uncut" version).

Also included is a trim reel (6:06) found with the original camera negative featuring camera test color chart shots, fleeting additional nudity (as well as revealing one Femina solder wearing a bra under her cowl), and spinning opticals of the German title card presumably created for the film's trailer. This montage of bits unfolds without any audio.

Also new but of less interest is the 2019 "RiffTrax Edition - The Girl from Rio" (77:48) featuring commentary by Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy. This version runs shorter than even the TV version of the film, and not all the cuts involve the film's fleeing nudity; however, Jess Franco fans can appreciate his films for all their faults without being told what to laugh at by comedians (but it's there if you want it).

The poster & still gallery has been ported from the earlier release.


The two discs are housed in a black keep case with a glossy slipcover.


The Girl from Rio is rather a dud as a sixties action thriller, but its comic strip qualities are showcased at their sterling best in this 4K restoration.


Rewind DVDCompare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to,,,,, and . As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.