Director - Gustav Wiklund
Cast - Christina Lindberg, Solveig Andersson, Kent-Arne Dahlgren
Country of Origin - Sweden
Discs - 1
MSRP - $24.95
Distributor - Synapse
Reviewer - Bobby Morgan
The Film: 3/5
I am of the belief that Christina Lindberg, the Swedish actress best known for starring in several sleazy and delirious exploitation classics of the 1970’s like Thriller-A Cruel Picture (a.k.a. They Call Her One Eye) and Sex & Fury (a personal favorite of yours truly), is a goddess walking among mere mortals trying to supercharge the inactive libidos of men and women the world over with just a lick of her lips so that one day humanity will evolve into a race of immortals able to build ships capable of faster-than-light space travel and cure every disease that existed since time began and a few that don’t. I don’t base my entire life around that belief, but it makes a lot of sense. Lindberg is a lovely creature but also a painful reminder of a time long ago when erotic cinema was not relegated to seedy video stores and the wee hours of the twenty-sic different Cinemax channels on your digital cable provider. So great is her international fan base that for the domestic DVD debut of the 1974 film Wide Open (a.k.a. Sangkamrater) Impulse has plastered his gorgeous image all over the packaging, even though she’s hardly even in the film. I didn’t realize this until I sat down to watch the movie, but I was surprised to discover that Wide Open doesn’t suffer whenever Lindberg isn’t on screen….much.
Former sailor Paul (Kent-Arne Dahlgren) spends his days driving a cab and his nights cheating on his loyal girlfriend Marianne (Solveig Andersson) and generally acting like a self-involved douche. One evening the troubled couple attend a drunken party, engage in some debauchery, and run into Marianne’s sister Beryl (Gunilla Larsson), an actress living down her latest film role. Later that night Beryl crashes at Paul and Marianne’s apartment and becomes intimately involved in their relationship, which is already being put to the test hardcore due to Paul’s wandering cock. Soon enough Marianne tires of the situation and takes off, leaving Paul and Beryl to get better acquainted. Shit happens, people get laid, Beryl falls in with an unsavory crowd and becomes entangled in a plot to smuggle dope inside mink coats, a nude model named Eva (Christina Lindberg) comes and goes (in more ways than one), and a sadomasochistic pervert known only as Mr. X (Jan-Olof Rydqvist) pursues his stolen drug stash until everything comes to a head in a finale as rushed and surreal as only the finest Swedish art house sexploitation can deliver.
Once I was finished watching Wide Open I was thankful the movie didn’t devolve into a poorly-dubbed Benny Hill sketch towards the end, although some humor would have been appreciated. Most of the time the movie was a dour affair featuring unsympathetic characters engaged in confusing predicaments that they could have avoided if they took a quick five-second break in the middle of the screwing and brooding to think about their actions before they did them. You feel like you’re spending a depressing evening in the company of people you try to get along with but secretly despise because they’re generally unpleasant and boring. Of course the characters could have been elevated to something more fascinating and worthwhile than they were conceived of in the script but none of the actors seem to be much interested in that. The men are verbally and physically abusive assholes and the women are submissive eye candy, and that’s about as deep and insightful Wide Open can get when the movie is at its best. The lovely Larsson resembles Valerie Perrine and obviously Christina Lindberg, who makes her first appearance 23 minutes into the movie, is a joy to behold whenever her character shows up, be it to make the beast with two backs with Paul in a barn (complete with cow sounds in the background) or vacuuming the floor of her dickhead lover in the nude. Director Gustav Wiklund does what he can with his thin narrative but the drug subplot never builds up any tension so its presence in the story is needless, and that lack of suspense permeates the entire film right down to the final scenes which feel rushed and confusing. When it’s all over you might find yourself wondering what it was all about, but hey how about them titties?
The audio and video quality of Impulse’s transfer shows evidence of a decent remastering although at times it’s clear they didn’t put much into it. The 1.66: 1 anamorphic widescreen picture looks very muddy and scratchy and it can be difficult to make out what’s going on during darkly-lit scenes but for the most part remains watchable. I’m guessing the film’s original Swedish soundtrack is lost forever because all we get sound-wise is a slightly muffled Dolby Digital 2.0 English dub track that more often than not favors the jaunty and infectious acid jazz soundtrack
A 20-minute video segment featuring separately-filmed interviews with Lindberg and director Wiklund is the major new extra here. Both speak extensively about how they became involved in Wide Open and their candor is refreshing compared to the usual inane babbling and back-slapping you would typically get from these kinds of interviews. Despite having worked together on 1971’s Exposed Wiklund and Lindberg never developed much of a working relationship and their opinions of each other seem to skirt the edge of “whatever”, and Lindberg cheerfully admits that the main reason for her being in the film was so it would have a marketable name appealing to potential distributors. I must say that at the age of 60 Lindberg remains as lovely as ever.
Christina fans will be foaming at the mouth over the photo gallery included in the extras. All the pics are either nude or mostly nude and they all appear to come from different films. I couldn’t spot any that look like they were taken for Wide Open, either for the movie or for promotional purposes, but a worshipful gallery of this timeless Euro-beauty is too good to pass up.
Closing out the extras is a selection of trailers from other sexploitation flicks released by Impulse: Flossie, Anita, the aforementioned Exposed, and Justine & Juliette. Both Anita and Exposed feature Christina Lindberg in her luscious prime, but Anita also featured an early performance from a very young Skellan Skarsgard. Exposed was also released in the U.S. in the 70’s as The Depraved and you can find a trailer for that release on the first volume of Synapse Films’ awesome 42nd Street Forever trailer collection series. Look closely in the trailer for Justine & Juliette (directed by future Re-Animator cinematographer Mac Ahlberg) and you may spot American porn star Harry Reems.
For a final added treat the DVD cover art can be reversed to showcase Ms. Lindberg in all nude, nubile splendor.
The episodic, languidly-paced Wide Open isn’t a found treasure from a lost era when the most off-the-wall movies made weren’t relegated to cable showings and being shoved behind copies of Star Trek: First Contact and Blame It On Rio at your local video store, but it contains enough lurid plot turns and bare female flesh to keep the most sexually-frustrated amongst us interested through the slower patches, of which this movie has plenty. The DVD contains a few choice extras as well, making this a good buy for fans of Swedish sin-ema from the “Me Decade” because it beats the Swedish sexploitation of the “Al Franken Decade”