Here’s another installment featuring Joe Dante’s reviews from his stint as a critic for Film Bulletin circa 1969-1974. Our thanks to Video Watchdog and Tim Lucas for his editorial embellishments!
Corny melodrama has tame sex and drug angles for passable ballyhoo value in drive‑in and sex markets. Rating: R.
Ads for this exotic potboiler, which is being promoted in some areas as DIRTY DOLLS OF KATMANDU and in others as THE STRANGE WORLD OF KATMANDU, bill the Nepalese capital (Buddha’s birthplace) as “A Place Where It’s Legal to Do Many Things That are Illegal in Our Society‑Where Minors are Permitted by Law to Engage in Weird Experiences!” The lure of sex and drugs may be strong enough to attract undiscriminating teenage drive‑in regulars and the more easily pleased sex fans (distributor Trans American has been doubling this with KAMA SUTRA), but the actual treatment accorded such elements in this French‑Italian import is a bit too subdued to qualify it as a better-than-moderate ballyhoo prospect.
Director André Cayatte, who once had something of a reputation (WE ARE ALL MURDERERS) slickly pilots a shamelessly cornball screenplay by himself, René Barjavel and C. Scott Forbes in which two insipid youngsters find and lose each other among some rather colorless location backgrounds. Parisian student revolutionary Renaud Verley, tired of seeing his fashion model mother Elsa Martinelli humiliating herself for money, heads for India to demand loot from his rich father Serge Gainsbourg, who turns out to be not rich, but a good guy at least. Along the way Verley sees the Horror of Poverty and makes it with English hippie chick Jane Birkin. He loses her for awhile, then finds her among the stoned hippie colonies of Katmandu, zonked out on horse.
To get enough money to take her away, Verley steals priceless temple statues for his father’s partner, a bad egg who rapes Miss Birkin and then overdoses her, driving her mad. As he and Verley fight, she falls out a window. The villain is shot by his wife, and Verley goes back to India to help the poor. Both Miss Birkin and Miss Martinelli bare their chests occasionally, which helps the time pass, and a rather chunky Arlene Dahl shows up briefly as a sex‑starved American tourist. She doesn’t take anything off though, and who can blame her?
Les Chemins de Katmandou. 1969. Trans American Films (Franco‑ London/Two Worlds/ Mandiel). Movielab Color. 90 minutes. Pascale Audret, Jane Birkin, Serge Gainsbourg, Elsa Martinelli, David O’Brien, Renaud Verley. Directed by Andre Cayatte.