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‘Raquel!’: Kooky, camp, and kitsch TV special starring Raquel Welch and friends

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Raquel Welch by Terry O’Neill.
 
In 1970, movie star Raquel Welch starred in her very own TV variety extravaganza Raquel! which was intended to showcase her talents as a singer. Raquel! featured Welch performing a selection of classic pop songs in different locales and hamming it up alongside the old-school talents of Bob Hope and John Wayne, and young buck Tom Jones.

In just over a decade, Welch had gone from cocktail waitress to A-list movie star. She first made her mark as a scientist in The Fantastic Voyage then knocked teenage boys (and dads) for six as a cavewoman dressed in a fur bikini in One Million Years B.C. The media made her name synonymous with the term “sex symbol.” But she was more than just a celluloid beauty, she could act. Welch co-starred with Frank Sinatra in Lady in Cement, proved her mettle by refusing to go nude in 100 Rifles , and confounded critics by starring in Gore Vidal’s tale of a transsexual Myra Breckenridge. Despite all this, Welch was still hailed by Playboy (who else?) as the “world’s most desirable woman.”

Billed as a “multi-million dollar” extravaganza Raquel! seemingly spared no expense (though it reputedly cost nearer the $350,000 mark).  There was a luxurious wardrobe by Bob Mackie with spacesuits by Paco Rabanne, some pop art and space-age set designs and a variety of exotic locations. Welch clocked-up her air miles performing songs to camera in London, Paris (where she sang “California Dreamin’” in view of the Eiffel Tower), Acapulco, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Yucatan, and Big Sur. Though Welch has a passable singing voice—one perhaps better suited to being heard in an elevator—Raquel! was a major success pulling in 58% in the Nielsen ratings. It’s a fine camp confection that has some strange and memorable moments—Welch and Hope (in Davy Crockett hat) singing the Beatles’ “Rocky Raccoon” being just one. 
 
Take a look after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.04.2017
09:33 am
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Draft dodger John Wayne made pro-Vietnam war propaganda
04.07.2014
09:23 am
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“Peace is Tough,” Jamie Reid

While perusing the YouTube channel of the fine and friendly folks at Troma Entertainment (the geniuses behind such subversive classics as The Toxic Avenger, Surf Nazis Must Die and ‎Class of Nuke ‘Em High), I came across a very different kind of B movie, the John Wayne-hosted “docu-drama,” No Substitute for Victory, and believe me, it’s way more disturbing than anything Troma ever put out. The structure is a pathos-rich tapestry of on-the-ground footage, interviews with soldiers, talking heads and military uppers, newsreels for “political context” (to show the impending threat of communism), and emphatic rallying from The Duke, himself. It opens with gunfire from a helicopter, then Wayne’s absurd drawl, setting the mood for the film in no uncertain terms:

“Ladies and gentleman, a long time ago, Abraham Lincoln made a statement; ‘To sin by silence when you should speak out, makes cowards of men.’  It’s time we spoke out about Vietnam, and the most obvious, yet the most ignored threat ever faced by free people in the history of the world. The street demonstrators demand that we get out of Southeast Asia so that there will be peace. Where do they get the idea that there’ll be peace just because we quit?

We can’t stop the war by givin’ up, and we sure can’t settle anything by tryin’ to bargain with a winning enemy at the peace table.This was a war that was going on a long time before Vietnam, and will go on whether we pull out or not. We can’t stop the war by giving up, and the way it is now, we’re not programmed to win, because of the politicians and civilians that we’ve let stick their nose in it.”

It then cuts to a soldier who was stationed in Vietnam, but now flies helicopters commercially. He opines that he “was there to fight the communists, and try to win. But our politicians wouldn’t let us.”

Then back to Wayne, who asks, incredulously, “What kind of a war is this that we’re not supposed to win?”

It’s a mesmerizingly vulgar little piece of work, with no more subtly or insight than a chain email forwarded from a Fox News-watching senior citizen. Director Robert F. Slatzer was also a B movie director, though with none of the wit or acuity one might see in a Troma film—his 1968 biker girl film, The Hellcats, is most famous for being skewered in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. To give you an idea of how contrived his direction is, there’s a brief speech by Sergeant Barry Sadler himself, while his hit, “The Ballad of the Green Berets,” plays in the background. It’s the sort of corny nationalist twaddle that you could laugh at a lot more easily if there weren’t a body count.
 

John Wayne with Marines in Vietnam, 1966
 
Of course, it’s fairly predictable that John Wayne, the archetypal all-American “man’s man” cowboy do a little bit of right-wing agitprop, but it’s worth noting that Wayne famously “deferred for [family] dependency reasons” during World War II. He said he’d enlist after a couple more movies, but he never seemed to get around to it. He did, however, manage to make thirteen films while the war raged on, many of which dealt with the subject of war—that’s kind of the same thing, right? (It’s also worth noting that at the time of this film’s release, 1970, public support for the war was rapidly waning, even among the white working class “hard-hat” types who were arguably Wayne’s audience.)

But John Wayne’s “performance” in No Substitute for Victory feels very little like a rote recitation of bellicose talking points. His colloquial disgust with “the reds” is downright overwrought, even histrionic at times, despite his characteristic folksy anecdotes and turns of phrase. I believe his faith in the righteousness of the war was genuine. Then again, he was an actor, and chickenhawks always crow the loudest.

Anyway, I was always more of a Lee Marvin girl
 

 
Via Troma Movies

Posted by Amber Frost
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04.07.2014
09:23 am
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Raquel Welch in campy 70’s TV variety show (with space dancers)
08.04.2010
02:33 pm
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Raquel Welch photographed by Terry O’Neill. Available at the SF Art Exchange.
 
Raquel! was a multimillion dollar 1970 TV variety special starring Raquel Welch, Tom Jones, John Wayne and Bob Hope. It’s a camp time capsule full of Bob Mackie dresses, Paco Rabanne spacesuits and Bob Hope singing Rocky Raccoon wearing a Davey Crockett hat. It was shot all over the world, in Paris, London, Mexico City, Los Angeles, the Big Sur coast and elsewhere. 

A treat for the eyes (in every way) it was. For the ears, not so much. Welch sings a number of pop standards of the day, often with dancers in fully choreographed production numbers. There’s often a thematic disconnect of the material to the visuals, such as when Welch croons California Dreamin’ with the Eiffel Tower behind her. This contributes greatly to the “offness” of the proceedings. One reviewer compared Raquel! to “a community college production of Barbarella.” A highlight is Tom Jones lip-syncing I Who Have Nothing as he gazes longingly at the jaw-dropping sex bomb in front of him.

This first came out on VHS in the early 90s and I used to give it frequently as a gift. I gave one copy to Pizzicato Five’s Maki Nomiya and she later told me that she had a dinner party in Tokyo when she screened it for a group of friends and it went down a treat. That’s how this it should be viewed, in a group, with at least 2 or 3 drag queens in the mix, and a lil’ herbal “entertainment insurance.” It’s a guaranteed recipe for party success! It’s out on DVD now.

Posted by Richard Metzger
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08.04.2010
02:33 pm
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