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I guess I just like liking things

This week’s Dire DVD comes to you from the good people at Mills and Boon. You might know them better by the name Harlequin. They print approximately 9,000 skinny romance novels every month and while they claim there is no “formula” for a romance novel, there is. A friend of my late Grandmother wrote one and had to stick to strict guidelines, which explains why every single one of them is the same.

The thing I never thought about when I commenced this descent into madness known as Dire DVDs was that someone in a shop might think I wanted to watch a movie for the sheer joy of watching it. Which is exactly what happened when I bought this one. I ended up having to have a chat about Mills and Boon versus Danielle Steele because I was too polite to say to the nice lady “I am hoping this movie will be completely terrible.” I’ve never read a Danielle Steele, but I shelved a lot of them when I was library working so it’s the same thing.

Anyway, on with the show! We open with light, fluffy piano music played over black and white photos and a close up of a music box with an egg on top. I mean a fabergé egg, obviously. Someone hasn’t tried to cook breakfast on their music box. The black and white photos are all of Russian people living Russian lives in the past, so quite grim.

The opening scene, set in a New York Office Building, is packed with information so I’m just going to give you the things mentioned. This conversation takes place between an efficient brunette wearing too much make up, and her blonde PA wearing more make up than that. The boss has recently divorced her latin husband Ramone. She has a job offer from her Aunt in a multimillion dollar cosmetics company, but despite being left with nothing after the divorce she’s instead going to stick with her Family History research company.

The statue doesn't want anyone to know she was in this movie

The statue doesn’t want anyone to know she was in this movie

Ah, the brunette is named Jordan, and she’s visiting with her Aunt . Aunt Kitty has a garden with lots of white chairs, hedges and stone statues because she is very very rich. She also has a maid, in traditional maid outfit. Aunt Kitty is not impressed by Family history, but she needs her family tracked down. Aunt Kitty explains that she was an orphan, abandoned in Hungary just after the first world war, she has never told anyone that she was an orphan, but now that she’s terribly old she wants to know about her family. Jordan is up for the case, and asks Kitty what she remembers. Not much, as it happens. Not much apart from her birthname, date of birth, location of the orphanage, the fact she was found in the streets of Budapest and the photograph she was carrying at the time. Nothing helpful there, then.

The photo shows a little girl standing beside the Eggy Music Box, but Aunt Kitty can’t remember anything about that. Except for the bit about it being worth $10million today. That’s all she knows. Oh also there was a necklace, which she gave to Jordan on Jordan’s 16th Birthday. The necklace is a key shaped charm, and I’m willing to bet this key will open some kind of Eggy Music Box.

Back at the office, Molly (the PA with all the make up) hands Jordan a passport and tells her she’s on the overnight to Milan. Jordan is off to meet an expert on Fabergé eggs. As she leaves, Molly warns her to be aware of tall dark strangers, but Jordan has learned her lesson about men and isn’t interested in them any more. I am hoping she will stick to this, because it will make this movie pleasantly short.

After some stock footage of a plane flying, followed by some stock footage of Milan, Jordan arrives at the house of the expert. The door is open and no one comes when she calls out, so she just walks right on in. Dr. Antonelli is lying beside his desk with a rope around his neck. Clearly he knew too much… about Fabergé eggs. Just as Jordan spots the body, a guy grabs her from behind and covers her mouth. “I’m on your side, I won’t hurt you” says the guy. How he knows who she is or what side she’s on is unclear. Grabby guy tells Jordan the police are coming and they have to go right away, so Jordan does. I don’t know why either, who can fathom the actions of a woman in a romantic movie? Not I. As they leave, there is another shot of the dead Dr. Antonelli, and he’s breathing quite obviously. A Dire DVD trademark!

As they walk away from the house, Jordan understandably wants to know why they have to leave, what happened to the doctor and who Grabby Guy is. There is a siren as the police approach, so Grabby Guy throws Jordan against a fence and kisses her so the cops can’t see their faces. Jordan sort of slaps him weakly on the shoulders, like a mildly irate kitten. I would have gone the knee to the groin, each to their own I guess. He drags her away from the house and introduces himself as Nicholas, an expert in Russian Artifacts. Turns out, Dr. Antonelli had asked Nicholas to help him out with the Eggy Music Box, but instead of just saying that in the first place he has to be creepy Grabby Kissy guy. He doesn’t want her to talk to the police because he knows Aunt Kitty doesn’t want any publicity, and if she talks to the police she’ll be in all the papers. Not much happening in Italy I presume.

Various Italian stereotypes are milling around a town square as Jordan waits to meet Nick at a cafe. Jordan has done her research, Nick is loved and adored by the Louvre and the Smithsonian. He warns Jordan that there’s a lot of murders and stuff in the art world and then asks to see the original photo of the Eggy Music Box. The music goes all dark and broody as he gives her a Meaningful Look. He takes a look at the photo and tells her it’s a famous music box, the Borodan Music Box, but I can’t be bothered to spell that all the time so I’m going to stick with Eggy if that’s okay. The box dates to 1914 and was lost during the Russian Revolution. Nick is pretty nice, offering to help her find the box but warning her not to contact the Borodan family because they also want the box. Everyone’s been on an epic quest for this thing since 1917 apparently. Nick’s last name is Rostov, by the way. I think he’s supposed to be Russian but he hasn’t even given the accent a go at all. Slack!

Jordan, having been warned not to go to Budapest because they all want the box and won’t be as nice about it as Nick, goes to Budapest. As she’s walking along the platform beside the train, Nick is on the platform on a pay phone talking to someone about the Eggy Music Box and how he has a lead to the location. Jordan sees him and lies about going to Budapest, claiming to be on her way to Vienna. Nick stands around brooding for a bit, but then spots a devious looking chap jumping onto the train. The music goes all dark again. Someone’s life is in danger. Whatever.

More stock footage, this time of a train. Jordan is typing away on a 90s laptop, Nick is brooding in a different carriage. The sketchy looking guy opens his black briefcase. It’s full of photos of the Eggy Music Box. Under a false base in the case is a gun and a bunch of photos of Jordan. He takes out a rope and practices his strangle move on thin air, even though he has a gun.

Stock footage of Budapest. Jordan is talking to another woman, who explains that checking the paper and processing on the photo will tell them when it was taken. Jordan goes a bit prissy face and tells this woman she already thought of that and there’s a lab in Vienna doing some tests on the photo for her. The photo she has in her possession. The one that isn’t at all in a lab anywhere. I think the lab missed an important step in the testing process. The woman with all the ideas says that the little girl (who might be Aunt Kitty, keep up) can’t be a member of the Count’s family because he didn’t have a little girl at that time. Jordan, after being told she can see the Count any time she likes, leaves. Miss Thing who’s name I didn’t catch pulls the same face Nick did before when the music went all dark. Everyone’s out to get Jordan!

Miss Thing jumps on a phone and calls someone fancy with a maid and a big table. These are the signs of fanciness. He thinks Jordan knows where the box is, everyone thinks that even though the whole point of Jordan doing anything in this movie is to find family history, not a box. Maybe this is two movies, but the scripts got mixed up. This guy with the big table is the Count, who wants the music box. Everyone wants the music box.

The charm/smarm line has been crossed

The charm/smarm line has been crossed

Jordan is off somewhere on the train and Nick turns up having been spying on her. There’s some chit chat, Nick is smarmy but thinks he’s charming (it’s a fine line, chaps). They’re off to see a priest in the town where Aunt Kitty was cared for by a priest in 1917. Nick elbows in on the basis that Jordan can’t speak Hungarian, but the priest speaks English so he’s barged in for nothing. The priest shuts the door in his face.

While Jordan is looking at old records with the priest, Miss Thing turns up. Nick sees Miss Thing turning up and follows her. They meet at the station and Miss Thing accuses Nick of doing deals with Jordan and he says he is but she’s in Vienna.. look I don’t really care and I’m not expecting you to either. They chat, they don’t trust each other and everyone still wants the Eggy box.

The priest finds Aunt Kitty’s registration form, which is mostly blank but does say which hospital she was transferred from. Jordan will go and talk to the hospital people. Nick and Jordan jump on the train to Budapest and Nick basically flirts and sleazes. He touches her knee and she kicks him out of the cabin. As he leaves she does a “I am falling for that man” face. Later, as Jordan returns from the toilet or somewhere, there’s a guy going through her stuff in the cabin. She shouts, he shoves her, everyone’s running. Jordan and Nick run off in the complete opposite direction to the guy, and are surprised to not find him anywhere.

Miss Thing turns up at Jordan’s hotel to take her to visit the Count. The dodgy looking guy who was on the train with the rope is hanging around looking dodgy. Nick follows the car to the Count’s house and drives off again. The Count, who is supposed to be Russian, or perhaps Hungarian, has a British accent and serious eyebrows. He’s never heard of Aunt Kitty, but wants the Eggy box please. Jordan has developed an interest in the box now, and the Count informs her that Nick’s grandmother claims to be the rightful owner of the box. The plot thickens, which at least means there is a plot. Jordan is upset that Nick is so devious because, as we know from her face before, she’s all about the smarmy charm.

With the Count’s referral, Jordan can access the hall of records to find the hospital. Nick is there of course, and he offers her a bunch of roses. Jordan is cold and resists his flowery advances, but as we know from any Mills and Boon book or story ever, it’s just a matter of time before she thaws. The attendant at the Hall of Records is also sporting a British accent. She leaves Jordan alone with the records from the first world war. Nick waits outside, working on his sleaze for when Jordan returns. The dodgy guy runs up the stairs into the Hall. Nick sees the attendant closing the doors and rushes to see what’s happened. The attendant doesn’t know there’s a dodgy guy in the building. Inside one of the files, Jordan finds Aunt Kitty’s hospital admittance form which is lucky considering most of the records had been blown up. The lights go out. There’s some tense music, and a lot of wobbly shots of book cases in the dark. Jordan makes it to the door and is grabbed by… Nick. He broke in to check up on her. Just as she’s accusing him of sneaking around in the records, the dodgy guy pushes her over and takes the papers she found.

After deciding not to trust Nick earlier, Jordan has decided he’s probably okay now. Her loyalty is quite flexible. Nick says he needs to know what she found. Having glanced at the document briefly, Jordan tells him it was an admittance form from 1920, with Kitty’s father’s name on it, and the fact that Kitty had typhus.

Nick has gone to visit his grandmother with the full name of Aunt Kitty. Nick’s Godmother Maria is also there, and is actually giving the accent a stab which is good of her. Somehow, the ownership of the Eggy Music Box will prove that Nick’s grandmother is a titled person. Maybe it’s engraved or something. Maria tells Nick to invite Jordan to the ball she’s throwing. He says he’ll try, but his heart is still broken after some woman dumped him. Or maybe died.

Over a picnic in the park, Nick tells Jordan that he’s found a bunch of people named Peter who could be Kitty’s father. He’s still checking where they’re all from. He pours a glass of wine for Jordan who spills it down her shirt because women be clumsy. Nick rubs her chest with a cloth which she doesn’t take kindly to. He really is a little too touchy feely. The picnic breaks up after this, and Nick invites Jordan to the party thing. Jordan wants to know why Nick’s Grandmother wants the box, and it’s to prove she is heiress to the title. She was born out of wedlock, and the box is proof she deserves the title. I’m still not sure how. I could claim I own the Crown Jewels of England but it wouldn’t make me Queen.

The ball is that night, as it happens, so Jordan dashes off to get a gown and a hair do and then they arrive at a palace sort of place. Nick introduces Jordan to Maria and Nick’s sister. Maria spots the key necklace, to remind us it exists. Maria leads Nick off to the champagne bar and tells him Jordan is pretty. Nick’s sister is showing Jordan some photos of ballerinas when the Count arrives with his eyebrows. He takes Jordan off for a dance, where he offers her information on Kitty’s father. Nick sees them dancing, and goes out onto the balcony to have a brood. Jordan finds him there. They banter, then they kiss. You’ll be pleased to know the music goes all swelling and romantic.

They are interrupted by a woman with a camera, who threatens to have other photographers take pictures if he tries to get the film off her. Her name is apparently Bertina, and she’s a newspaper photographer. Nick and Jordan go back in for a dance around.

The next morning, Jordan arrives at the Count’s house to discuss his information. A dictaphone is playing Miss Thingy’s notes about the case. Miss Thingy herself is dead in her chair with a rope around her neck. In the hotel foyer, the dodgy guy (British accent) is telling whoever hired him that he will have to do the job his own way. Nick strides through he foyer toward Jordan’s room, and the photographer slips the guy on reception some money to get a copy of Jordan’s telephone calls.

Nick, hearing a snippet of Miss Thingy’s notes, goes all panicky and tells Jordan to lock her door and not let anyone in. The photographer, meanwhile, has taken Aunt Kitty’s phone number off the record sheet and calls her. As soon as Kitty says her full name, the photographer realises she’s the head of a big cosmetics company. Now she has a scoop!

Okay, now everyone is at the hotel. Nick has found a thing that proves Kitty’s father couldn’t afford to raise her and left her as a ward of the state. They discuss this on the balcony, giving the photographer plenty to take photos of. Meanwhile, dodgy guy is in a car staring up at them, getting ready to do some murdering. I wish he’d get on with it.

Aw dangit. He went for the gun and missed, but broke a window. The photographer snaps his picture and flees. He shoots at her from closer range and misses her too. He has a long future as a Stormtrooper ahead. Jordan is all flustered and upset, so Nick tells her not to be afraid because he’s right there. Then he goes on to say that he doesn’t care about treasures or titles because all he cares about is her. I feel a bit sick now. They make love to the strains of a tinkly piano.

The following morning, the new lovers are off to investigate the address that Kitty’s father moved to once he’d abandoned her. They’re going by boat without luggage so no one knows they’re going anywhere. The Photographer has left a message for Nick, so they go to visit her. She’s dead now, with a rope around her neck and an empty camera beside her.

On the boat to wherever they’re going, Jordan finds a copy of “Scoop! International” which is helpfully in English. She and Nick and smooching on the front page, and her connection to Kitty of the Cosmetics is on page two. Somehow they’ve been on the boat for a couple of days because the article also mentions that the photographer is dead. Nick hadn’t told Jordan that bit. She’s brokenhearted. Nick’s ex wife is an actress, hence the interest in him for the papers.

Oh they were going to Vienna, and they’re there now. Despite not taking any luggage, they have changed clothes. At a violin workshop in Vienna, Jordan meets with the daughter of the man who owned it back in 1920. Kitty’s father stayed there after leaving Budapest and the woman remembers him well. Kitty, however, wasn’t really his daughter. She was an orphan he’d found in Russia and smuggled out under a name he made up for her. However, the woman does have his suitcase still which is full of papers. There’s a photo of a ballerina which is the same as one of the ones from the ball, but I can’t be bothered rewinding to check who it is.

In the taxi, Jordan notices a car behind them. This sometimes happens on public roads, it’s called “traffic.” Jordan says the car has been following them since the store, and asks the driver to lose it. He can’t, so she takes the licence plate number and tells the taxi guy to call the police and report the driver while she goes into a store for three seconds to get safe. She heads back to the hotel, but the dodgy guy is in a phone booth outside so she runs away. He corners her in an alley and is about to shoot when Nick appears to save the day. They go back to Jordan’s hotel room and Nick is forgiven for all the lies and newspaper stuff. They make love again.

They go over what they know about the family and the Eggy box. A letter is slipped under the door. The lab who was testing the photo they didn’t have have dated the emulsion to 1916 and delivered the results to the hotel they couldn’t possibly have known Jordan was staying at. Hope she paid them well. As Kitty was born in 1916, it’s not her in the photo.

Nick is talking to his grandmother who has developed a belated accent. Jordan shows her the photo and it turns out it’s Nick’s Grandmother in the picture. She had given it to her sister to remember her by when they fled Russia, making Aunt Kitty the sister of Nick’s Grandmother.  Jordan and Nick decide if they are fourth cousins, it’s probably okay to keep smooching. The Count brings his eyebrows to invite Jordan to lunch.

Over lunch, they discuss the history of the revolution and how everyone claimed to be blue blooded afterwards. Jordan tells the count she thinks there’s someone else looking for the box and that person is trying to kill them all. As they’re about to get into the car to leave, Nick spots a bit of wire on the ground. There’s a bomb under the car. The dodgy guy runs into the bushes, because having placed a bomb in a car most people would hang around a while I’m sure.

Nick gives chase, catching the dodgy guy with a high tackle. They scuffle, the dodgy guy pulls a gun but is shot by the Count. He grabs his shoulder and falls to the ground, but the next shot shows “blood” on his chest so he misread the script I suppose. Jordan says she’s figured out who has the box, and it’s Maria but she doesn’t say that bit . We know though because Maria rushes to a locked cupboard in the ballet studio and drags out a suitcase. As she’s leaving, Nick stops her. Apparently she was supposed to sell the music box to get everyone out of Russia but she’d kept it. They got out of Russia anyway, so there’s that. Maria had some ambition in the Russian ballet and wanted to keep everyone in Russia so she could dance. Or something. I don’t know. Make it up yourself. Maria is also the person who hired the dodgy guy, so she’s really not a sweet old lady at all.

Worth 10 million and the egg is wonky

Worth 10 million and the egg is wonky

Aunt Kitty has arrived in Budapest to meet her long lost sister. She doesn’t know why she’s there though, it’s all a lovely teary surprise. Nick’s grandmother also has a key on a necklace. The two keys open the music box to reveal a porcelain ballerina, and yes it’s engraved so the title is now back with Nick’s family and Count Eyebrows has lost his title.

That night, Nick and Jordan walk through the park. Jordan says it’ll be hard to leave Europe, so Nick solves that by proposing. He’s a Count now, so she’s a Countess and fireworks happen (yes really) and this movie is over.

Girl meets boy, girl hates boy, girl and boy get together, girl and boy have some random conflict, girl and boy get married. There’s your formula, and if you strip all the nonsense about titles and music boxes away from this movie that’s what you’re left with.  Throw in a couple of people who have sworn never to fall in love again, and an engagement after knowing each other for about 5 minutes and you have a perfect romance.  Oh, and throw in a “strong protective man” to protect an otherwise independent and strong willed woman, because all women really want and need a protector.

I have to say, the actors were actually very good. The trouble was these very good actors were handed a terrible, cliche riddled script made of complete dross and fluff. I found it slightly hilarious that this movie did the usual terrible thing of having anyone foreign have a British accent instead of Italian or Hungarian, as though the audience wouldn’t be able to cope with anything more exotic than posh British.  The stuff with the Russian Revolution was potentially interesting but didn’t really make sense if you thought too much about it, and the idea that dear Maria was keeping her beloved friend away from her title out of ancient spite was unbelievable and tosh. It was tosh. Also piffle.

Would you like to know a secret? Because the plot was so slow, but so predictable at the same time, I ended up watching the second half of this movie at double speed. It made for a much more entertaining movie, and the sex scenes were literally hilarious – do try it sometime if you feel your movie needs cheering up.

Anyway, as a direct result of this movie I no longer believe in the concept of love. I am a husk. A shell of my former self, with nothing left inside me but ashes and dust. Let me be a warning to you – if someone offers to show you a Mills and Boon movie, scream and run away.


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