The last installment of the Angélique saga is one of the better ones — good news for anyone diving into the entire five-film series. Set mainly in Morocco, where the abducted Angélique (Michèle Mercier) seems doomed to live as an unwilling member of the Sultan’s harem, the film once again relegates once-proud Angélique to the status of damsel-in-distress, but at least there are interesting goings-on elsewhere, as her husband Joffrey de Peyrac (Robert Hossein) — better known these days as the dread pirate Rescatore — leaves a trail of blood behind him as he struggles to discover her whereabouts. There’s some solid pirate action, a daring prison break, and a nighttime escape from the Sultan’s castle, and if Angélique’s has been somewhat subdued, at least she’s still spirited. Much is made of religious conflict, with Angélique refusing to renounce her faith to satisfy her captors, and earning the allegiance of a strapping blond Christian that the Sultan never quite decides to execute. The standout character this time around is Osman Ferradji (Jean-Claude Pascal), the Moroccan king’s right-hand man who is tasked, finally and unsuccessfully, with the taming of Angélique. Unsatisfying as the end of an epic, but a decent enough adventure yarn in its own right.
An Angélique pirate movie sounds like great, trashy fun, but Untamable Angélique is nowhere near as imaginative as Angélique and the King, and given Angelique’s status in earlier films as a beautiful, strong-willed female it’s dispiriting to see her thrown to the wolves in this fourth installment of the five-film series. The title is translated from the French Indomptable Angélique, partly because “indomitable” is roughly as unfamiliar to U.S. audiences as, well, “Synecdoche,” but also because “untamable” suggests an altogether more torrid affair. Indeed, this is arguably the raciest film in the series — not only does star Michèle Mercier offer more peek-a-boo nudity, but this film’s events are almost completely outside the control of poor Angélique, who is captured and raped by pirates, tortured by a pack of angry strays, stripped naked for sale at a slave auction, and eventually abducted again. Not only is Angélique a frustratingly passive character, but the film ends on an abrupt cliffhanger that promises more misery to come. By far the shortest Angélique film, Untamable Angélique is sufficiently energetic and compulsively watchable — the sea-faring scenes, including some ship-to-ship combat, are intriguing enough — but it’s odd to see how abruptly this popular series exhausted its emotional capital.
While the standard-bearers of the nouvelle vague were off making stuff like The Soft Skin, Contempt, and Muriel, le cinema du papa was cranking right along with this historical potboiler, a romance about the lavish and dangerous love shared between Angélique (Michèle Mercier), the daughter of a poor nobleman living in the French countryside, and Joffrey de Peyrac (Robert Hossein), a wealthy count with a reputation for deviltry who essentially buys her hand in marriage. Peyrac takes Angelique away from the common people she loves — and from Nicolas (Giuliano Gemma), the strapping young fieldhand who first took her fancy — but wins her over by declining to force himself on her. Instead, the cold, cold cockles of her heart are thawed when the limping, scarred Peyrac manages to perforate the chest of a rival in a swordfight. By contemporary standards, this is hilarious stuff — yet somehow it’s still stirring, swooning through its melodramatic paces with the speed and slippery, unstoppable heft of the proverbial greased pig. Think of a Francophone cross between Gone With the Wind and Barbarella.