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I guess I just like liking things

The entire plot is printed on the back of the DVD case for “Bull Dance”. I’m going to assume this is as a warning to people who might be thinking of either buying or watching it. It’s convoluted, so try to stay with me here.

This movie is listed as “Forbidden Sun” on IMDB, but I can only go by what’s printed on the case in my hand. That’s a lie, I can do what I like, but let’s pretend I have rules to live by. Do you know who’s in this? Cliff De Young is in this. I’m pretty excited about Cliff being here – he played Brad in “Shock Treatment”, the Rocky Horror follow up which is almost universally loathed but I happen to love. Judge me if you must, it’s a great movie. It’s also got Lauren Hutton, but the last time I saw her she was trying to sell me make up at 3am, so I’m less invested.

The credits open with some Greek myth babble from some teenage American girls, played over lingering shots of Greek ruins and other things that are also Greek. They’re discussing the Minotaur and the history of the Greek Myths surrounding him. They are also giggling a lot because that is what teenage girls do. There’s a shot of what appears to be a body in a weird helmet, floating in the ocean.

Through a bustling Greek village, a blonde girl dressed in white (Paula) is following a Greek man who is carrying her suitcases. He takes her to a boat where he completely fails to have a Greek accent. Another girl (Elaine) joins them, and they travel over to an island which is apparently a gymnastics training school of some kind. It’s called “The American School in Crete” so gymnastics is obviously what it does, and the sign informs us it’s also a Center for Greek Studies. The girls establish via conversation that they are most excellent gymnasts and the school is gold medal standard. Paula has a gold medal from the LA Olympics, but has been sick and is trying to get back into form.

Once at the island, the boat driving guy (who is named Ulysses) tries to grope Elaine and then carries Paula’s bags for her to her room because girls who do gymnastics are too feeble and weak to carry their own bags. Paula is worried about going off with Ulysses because of his wandering hands, but Elaine reassures her by saying Greek men think the girls are not covered enough, so they think it’s okay to grope them. She says this with a giggle and my eyes roll out of my head.

The common room is full of American teenage girls as Paula follows Ulysses through to an office. He suddenly remembers he’s supposed to be Greek and has a go at the accent, but needn’t have bothered. Charles Lake appears suddenly to welcome Paula to the school. Hey look, it’s Cliff De Young! Yay! Lauren Hutton bursts in, she’s Mrs Lake and is uncomfortable with how cheerful and nice Charles is being. Mrs Lake also has a gold medal from some Olympics too unimportant to mention by year or city.

A girl called Jane turns up in Paula’s huge bedroom. The building is never shown from the outside, so there’s no way to see just how many bedrooms there might be, but if they’re all the size of Paula’s room the school must cover a couple of acres at least. Jane says has to stay at the school forever because she has nowhere else to go and Paula couldn’t be less interested in the story.

In the gym, the coach (who has all the athletic grace of a brick and is named Jack) is helping the students throw themselves around on stuff like mats and bars. I’m not really up with the world of gymnastics, you may be able to tell. Paula wanders in and is all dewy eyed about the place. She does some strenuous warming up by flopping her wrists about. There’s a long (so long) slow motion montage of girls being gymnastic and some pretty obvious body doubling for the actresses who aren’t so bendy. Paula’s body double isn’t even the same general shape as the actress. I have plenty of time to notice because there’s such a lot of slow motion montage.

Early public transport prototype

Early public transport prototype

Paula spots a statue at the end of the room. It’s a snake goddess, belonging to Mrs Lake. Paula is obsessed which she indicates by wide eyed staring. In the classroom, Mrs Lake is passing around a mini statue of the same goddess. She then takes the students to somewhere else which I guess is also on the island and shows them a mural of the bull dance, which involves leaping a charging bull and turning a somersault off the bull’s back. Those who didn’t survive the feat and were gored to death instead were counted as sacrifices to the Gods.  Mrs Lake states that no modern gymnast would be able to do it so Jane says “I am totally going to do this” because she’s moody. No pun intended.

Apparently the island also has the actual Minotaur maze. Jane is all “I wish I’d killed the Minotaur” because she’s also hard core. Some of the gymnasts have climbed a wall of the ruin and are turning cartwheels along it, but Paula loses her nerve and has a freak out about a gap. She makes it over the gap (which is about a foot wide and could be stepped over instead of cartwheeled over, but gymnasts are contractually obliged to cartwheel whenever possible). Turns out Jane decided it was a good idea to be up on the wall, and Mrs Lake has a grump about how they are not even real athletes.  Though really if you’re going to have students leaping about on walls it’s better they be gymnastics students than, says, woodworking ones. Jane does some pouting and stomping because she got told off.

Elaine’s boyfriend is in a band and provides the music for the beach party. It’s horrendous, but he’s pretty cute so we’ll let it pass. Jane is sitting on a log, and is joined by coach Jack who is concerned about Jane who is just not paying her dues to the Lakes who rescued her from reform school. A snake appears and Jack picks it up because he’s a manly man and it’s made of rubber. Jane bites the head off the snake and Jack almost kisses her because that’s pretty hot apparently and also he’s a teacher so that’s gross.

Jane tells Elaine they should to a Bull Dance for the end of term show, over someone in a bull mask instead of an actual bull. Elaine dashes off to ask her boyfriend to design it, while Betsy barges in to say there’s peepers outside again. The peepers are in a boat, and only one of them remembered to bring binoculars. Turns out it’s Ulysses who is giving the accent a real go this time as Mrs Lake discovers him perving on the girls. Despite them being only three feet from the shoreline, Mrs Lake shouts her face off at them.  Jane has decided to give the perverts a scare by appearing as the Snake Goddess on the roof. In order to discourage the perverts, she has dressed exactly like the Snake Goddess, which is basically topless. The logic of this seems somehow faulty. “Hey perverts! In order to punish you for perving here are my breasts!”

The following morning, Mr and Mrs Lake explain they have to send her back to Texas. At the mention of Texas Jane develops a Texan accent. Maybe the actress should have read the whole script so she’d know she was supposed to be.. wait it’s gone again. The Lakes do a lot of head shaking and sighing and then give her one more chance. Later, Coach Jack tells her he’s disappointed in her and her performance in class, so she offers to sleep with him to cheer him up. He declines (I am relieved).

Elaine rocks up to the house her boyfriend is staying in with his massive band of about 20 people and asks him to make the fake bull, showing him a picture of a bull in case he’d never seen one before. Meanwhile, the rest of the class is swimming in a waterhole. They’re discussing a party they want to go to but aren’t permitted to attend for some reason. Being rebels, three of the girls swim to the mainland to attend the party, and manage to keep dry sarongs to put on over their suits once they arrive. The party is at the bands house. Someone wanders through and says “It’s all Greek to me!” while being snuggled by two women. Hilarious.

Boyfriend guy has made a bull mask so Elaine sleeps with him on the spot. First a headless snake, now a bull mask – these people are turned on by the oddest things. Meanwhile the Lakes are having an argument about how Mrs Lake doesn’t want to sleep with Mr Lake any more. He doesn’t try biting the head off a snake, which is a Rookie mistake. He’s even more annoyed that Mrs Lake loaned his book to Jack. Mr Lake wants to move back to Texas, but Mrs Lake is determined to stay at the school and is also a little bit obsessed with Greek myths. She’s not ever going back to Texas. Ever. You can just shove that idea right up your jumper. Okay she didn’t actually say that, but it was strongly implied.

Jane is on her bed in her underwear, wearing the bull mask. She takes it off and puts on a robe, staring at herself in the mirror. Running out onto the balcony, she finds Mr Lake who is sulking about his mean wife. Jane sneaks away before she’s spotted and goes to visit Coach Jack who is in bed with Mrs Lake. Mrs Lake sneaks out the back door and runs around to sneak up behind Jane. “Are you sleep walking Jane?” she says. Instead of just saying “Stay away from Coach Jack at 2am,” Mrs Lake leads the ‘sleepwalking’ Jane back to her room, but they meet Mr Lake on the way and he’s in such a mood I can’t even tell you. He has a tantrum and storms off.

The students are all on a long run around the island. At least it’s not in slow motion. It’s such a long run that the light changes from afternoon to sunset back to afternoon, so I guess they time travel or were out all night. Paula is grabbed from the group and taken into the woods. Jane and Betsy are sent back to look for her. She is found in a cave, unconscious and with torn clothes. Jane has seen Ulysses’ boat heading away from the island.

The police arrive and the cop decides she probably went with the man willingly because all young ladies sleep around, especially half naked Americans. The cop (who has a French accent today) looks around at the girls on the dock and states they are practically naked. As they’re all in shorts, t-shirts and some have jackets on it doesn’t really work as an observation. He states that girls who go around half dressed like this deserve to be attacked and he won’t bother to look for the guy who did it.

The students are justifiably furious about this. Jane suggests some vigilante justice against Ulysses. Elaine and another girl take a rowboat over to the mainland (wait, there’s a boat? Why did they swim last time then?) and track down Ulysses in his workshop. Arming themselves with spanners, they flirt awkwardly with Ulysses and ask for his help at the school. He’s lead to the gym where Betsy is working out on the uneven bars (HA! I knew the name of that one). The girls get him to stand like a bull because they’re going to do the Bull Dance with him. Elaine hands him the bull mask.

Ulysses acts like a bull while the girls dance around him in a frenzy under the watchful eye of the Snake goddess and then he realises he’s locked into the mask as they attack him.  For reasons that are unclear, Ulysses is “charging” and running around on all fours – probably mysticy mythy stuff at work. Jane has found a sword and she’s about to stab Ulysses but Elaine stops her because Elaine isn’t moody and weird. Jane leaps over Ulysses and does a somersault off his back just like she wanted to at the start of the movie. She’s all stoked at being the first person in 3000 years to do the bull dance (really? What? No one has jumped over a dude in 3000 years? Does it even count if it’s not a real bull?). She’s so pumped about her amazingness and the other girls are so horrified that she jumped a dude that they don’t notice Ulysses picking up the sword. I still don’t know why there’s a sword. I wonder if there’s a directors commentary to explain these things to me.

Moove it or lose it (sorry)

Moove it or lose it (sorry)

Ulysses grabs Elaine, but is knocked out by Betsy lightly tapping the mask with her foot. Elaine runs up to call her boyfriend to come and collect Ulysses, but the school has one phone and there’s a queue. But oh no! The occasionally French policeman is on the island who has spotted Ulysses’ boat at the dock. Mr Lake doesn’t know why Ulysses is on the island so late at night. Having left the school boat on the mainland apparently, Elaine decides to swim for it. The others hide Ulysses in the gymnastics horse.

The Policeman wants to have a look in the gym, so Mr Lake goes off to find the key. The girls panic, thinking they’re trapped but then Jane remembers the Labyrinth which… has a door to the gym. Wow. Okay. The girls get lost in the labyrinth of course, but I have to say it’s quite well lit for a series of underground chambers. Mr Lake and the policeman hear a scream when one of the girls sees a bat, and so they follow the girls into the maze.

The girls manage to find the exit and run into the school just at the end of pre-lights out roll call where Mrs Lake informs them that Ulysses was seen on the mainland at the time Paula was being attacked. “Oh. Drat” say the girls, and sneak back down to the gym to free Ulysses from the bull mask. They pour wine all over him to make him think he’s been drinking and passed out (this never works in real life, trust me). The band arrives to row him back to the mainland.

Mr and Mrs Lake are discussing the attack on Paula. Knowing it wasn’t Ulysses, Mrs Lake says they’ll ask her when she’s slept off the sedatives. Mr Lake goes all weird about this and goes to bed. Mrs Lake wanders out to visit with Jack and is spotted by Elaine, Jane, Betsy and the other one who I don’t know the name of. Jane is crushed, she was sure Jack was going to be her squeezy love bear. She creeps up to the window and spots them in bed together. Weeping, she runs to her bedroom and has a tantrum.

The island, or perhaps the mainland, is having a festival with dancing, music and a bull. Jane is in the gym, dressed in a white tunic and doing that wrist warm up thing. She’s left a note for Jack, who turns up to see what she’s claimed is the “greatest gymnastic feat of all time.” She asks him to put on the mask, so he does because why wouldn’t he? She locks him into it of course, and then locks the door to the gym. He chases her around a bit with festival bits being inter-cut into the scene to make a point of some kind. Jane rings a bell and screams for help, somehow setting it up so he’s choking her when the door bursts open. The entire school chases Jack into the labyrinth, it’s terribly symbolic you know.

Despite wearing a huge bull head, he manages to find the exit. Climbing out of the maze at the edges of the cliffs,  Jane is waiting to push him into the water with a stick. He lands on the rocks with a wet thud. While everyone is mourning Jack, Mr Lake has gone to visit Paula to apologise for attacking her. She’s still asleep so I suppose it’s as good a time as any.

Elaine, Betsy and the other one have decided to confess all to Mrs Lake, but on arrival at the Lake’s rooms they find the carpet doused in kerosene. “Jane burned down her step-father’s house!” says Betsy and I promise you if this has been mentioned previously I completely missed it. Jane’s trying to light a match when the girls find her, closely followed by Mrs Lake. She flees and everyone chases.

Meanwhile, Paula wakes up, sees Mr Lake and screams. The nurse rushes in but due to the convenient shape of the sick room, Mr Lake is able to slip out without being spotted. Mrs Lake is in the common room when he arrives, directing the girls to spread out and find Jane who is “very sick and dangerous.” The policeman takes a call telling him Jane is at the festival grounds with the bull.

Jane is sitting around on the mainland with the bull mask. How she got it back from dead Jack I don’t even know. Wizards did it. She’s found a real live bull and decides she simply must do the bull dance with it. Mr and Mrs Lake arrive just as she’s lining up to jump and Jack turns up because he’s not even dead. He’s got a limp and an arm in a sling, that’s all. Why he’s at the festival grounds just then is a mystery.  Mr Lake leaps forward with a jacket to throw over the bull’s face and is gored to death for his troubles. Someone should have pointed out the bull was tied up to a post in the ground anyway, and therefore only dangerous when rushing at it with a jacket.

The bull did all his own stunts.

The bull did all his own stunts.

“Watch me, Mrs Lake, watch me do the bull dance” says Jane and Mrs Lake doesn’t even say “That’s a bad idea,” she just watches. With the power of some shoddy green screen, Jane manages a perfect leap and somersault on the completely placid bull and the credits roll.

You know, the acting in this was actually pretty good. Apart from some seriously dodgy accents, the performances were overall fairly strong. There’s some biggish names in here apart from Lauren Hutton and Cliff De Young – the actress who played Paula was Samantha Mathis who you’ll know from “Under The Dome” and Renée Estevez was Elaine.

So it gets a point for the cast, and loses several hundred points for just being a massive pile of nonsense. I think the idea of having a gymnastics and Greek studies school in Greece was due to the long history of the Olympics or something, but it still made no sense. Who would send their kid off to such a school? “You know honey, your gymnastics is really coming along but you don’t know a thing about Greek Myths…”

So many “whys.” Why is this a girls only school? Chaps also do gymnastics. Why is the only Greek staff member of a school in Greece a servant? There’s two other teachers featured, one British and Coach Jack who’s American. Why are only American students permitted? Why is the Greek police boat marked “Police” and not “Ελληνική Αστυνομία” (I got that from Wikipedia so I apologise unreservedly if it’s wrong). Why was there a sword? Why was there a labyrinth under the school building?

As for “bull dancing” – well, it is a thing.  The fresco the students were shown is a real one, only obviously it’s not actually at some ridiculous gymnastics school. It’s actually called bull leaping, and I’m sorry to have to tell Jane that she’s not the first person to have done it in 3,000 years because people still do it, mostly in France. Cows are more often used these days because they are less likely to gore you to death. The animal being jumped is supposed to be charging anyway, so even though Jane did manage to leap the bull, she chose one that was not only tied up, but completely immobile. You suck, Jane!

I just don’t know what this movie was supposed to tell me about anything. Too many plots and not enough movie I think is the problem. There’s Crazy Jane competing with Paula’s story and neither story was small enough to be a subplot.  I can understand a bunch of teenage girls obsessing over Greek Myths, but none of the rest of it really works for me. Crazy Jane’s story was fractured in itself, with two strands competing for script space – revenge for the attack on Paula and also obsession with Jack. The death of Mr Lake was presumably in punishment for his attack on Paula, but if you blinked you’d miss his admitting he did it because it was a short line that was worded obscurely. I’m only sure he did it because it’s on the plot summery on the DVD case. There just wasn’t room to deal with everything properly without adding another hour to the movie.

Where did the dratting sword come from?


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