Robert Ginty is Slightly Kinky in White Fire (1984)

*contains spoilers

French director Jean-Marie Pallardy (1940-) made softcore erotic pictures for a while including Emmanuelle 3 (1980) often under the pseudonym Boris Pradley. Then he made some films aimed at the B-movie mainstream market including the slightly kinky White Fire (1984), an adventure which is considered his most ambitious film.

Director Jean-Marie Pallardy

Pallardy has more or less retired now and his career ended shortly after his 2004 film The Donor which had a cameo by David Carradine (1936-2009 auto erotic asphyxiation or murder) around the time he appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill movies (2003 and 2004).

Pallardy was a male model in the 1960s who became bored with his profession and turned to filmmaking. In the credits of White Fire, he signs his director’s credit with a signature, a flourish which was used similarly by South African director Jamie Uys (1921-96 heart attack) for his sequel to The Gods Must be Crazy (1981) simply titled The Gods Must be Crazy II (1985) which I saw around 1985 or 1986 as it got a release in Australia before its US release in 1989. I remember that me and a buddy as cynical teenagers laughed, thinking: “Who do you think you are?” of Uys affectation. I hope I’m a little more forgiving these days as famed director Don Siegel (1912-91 cancer) similarly signed his later pictures. But it still seems to be a bit of an ego trip to do so.

White Fire (1984) poster

Anyway, Pallardy wrote and directed White Fire using the pseudonym Edward John Francis for the script.

It kicks off with a family escaping what is a totalitarian state, possibly communist Russia, only for the parents to perish, orphaning two children, an older boy named Boris and a girl named Ingrid. They are saved by an American who adopts them who is played by the American born actor Jess Hahn (1921-98) who appeared in several of Pallardy’s movies. Hahn adopted France as his homeland, becoming a citizen in 1949, after serving in Europe in World War Two and he died there. The actor appeared in many French movies in the 1950s through to White Fire and had the role of Hans Fisher in Jules Dassin’s (1911-2008 influenza) English language heist film Topkapi (1964).

Jess Hahn (centre) in a scene from Topkapi (1964)

But the main stars of White Fire are Robert Ginty as the grown Bo which is short for Boris and Belinda Mayne (1954-) as his sister Ingrid. Mayne also plays a lookalike of his sister in the movie as well, but more on that kinkiness later…

Belinda Mayne as Ingrid in White Fire

Mayne is the daughter of actor Ferdy Mayne (1916-98 Parkinson’s disease) who fled the Nazis for Britain in the 1930s. His main claim to fame was for playing Count Von Krolock in Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) and he would continue to work into his 80s with a small role in Warlock: Armageddon (1993).

Ferdy Mayne with Sharon Tate in The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)

As for his daughter Belinda, White Fire would be one of her only starring roles in movies, although she appeared in smaller roles in the 1980s in cult films such as Nightkill (1980) and Krull (1983) and the Edmund Purdom directed, well some of it, slasher Don’t Open Til Christmas (1984) which all told had three directors and really isn’t too good. It was probably her larger role in this film and the reception it received along with White Fire that same year which ended any hopes of a successful career as a leading lady.

Don’t Open Til Christmas (1984) trailer

Mayne is a good looking blond and the apple of Ginty’s eye in White Fire. In fact, when she bathes naked at night in their large pool, he rips off her towel half-jokingly so he can get a good look at her naked.

“You know,” says Ginty. “It’s a pity you’re my sister.”

Brother and sister and their adoptive father keep themselves wealthy by pulling heists and the latest is at the diamond mine where Mayne can get in and out of security thanks to her association with the company.

Mayne is about to have her towel ripped off by Ginty

It is there somewhere in the diamond fields that an underground cave is discovered where the ‘White Fire diamond’ of legend is found. It seems to glow in the dark and has some sort of radioactive power or something… One of the mine’s bosses, played by another American abroad, this time actor Gordon Mitchell (1923-2003 heart attack), kills the finder of the White Fire diamond in the cave in front of Mayne with a pick axe in the guy’s back.

Gordon Mitchell in a 1960s Italian muscleman epic

Mitchell’s physique made him a natural for the Italian sword and sandal epics which followed Steve Reeves’ success with Hercules (1958). He carved out a career in those films and a number of spaghetti westerns and the same year as White Fire, Mitchell played Hector in the post-Apocalyptic Sandahl Bergman (1951-) starrer and howler She (1984).

It is shortly after her naked swim in the pool that Mayne, as Ingrid, is murdered, something which sends Ginty on a bender where he meets actress Diana Goodman (no info) who is playing a girl called Olga at a bar. She’s blond and pretty and looks more than a bit like Ginty’s late sister Ingrid. She saves Ginty from a fight and takes him home where Hahn gets the idea that they can use her with plastic surgery to pass as dead Ingrid so they can get rich, get even and get away from the bastards that killed Ingrid. They offer Olga $50,000 to participate in their plan.

Is Ginty really that much in love with his sister? The kinkiness of White Fire!

“Who do I have to lay?,” she responds, her interest instantly piqued.

Of course, Ginty has eyes for Olga and when he looks at her it goes in and out of focus as he sees Ingrid’s face instead of Olga’s for a moment. This slightly strange incestuous fetish rears its head ever so gently. Is it a bad thing? Director Pallardy doesn’t seem to judge.

It is during the montage of Olga’s training to be the new Ingrid that there is the power ballad One Day at a Time by the British band Limelight and Vicky Browne. Ginty and Olga kiss but she is yet to have facial surgery… She should have asked for more money. The band Limelight is also responsible for the title song White Fire which is one of those cheaply catchy pop songs which reprises later in the film. I’ve got the song in my head now, it’s just one of those songs that don’t let go.

One Day at a Time by Limelight and Vicky Browne

The music was produced by Jon Lord (1941-2012 pancreatic cancer and pulmonary embolism) who co-founded the band Deep Purple in 1968. The White Fire songs were written around the time when Lord had chart success writing pop songs but complained he wasn’t making much money. He reformed Deep Purple shortly after White Fire was made and most probably raked it in for the rest of his life as a result.

Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord

It is about halfway through the film that the other headlining star appears in the form of macho actor Fred Williamson (1938-) with his large moustache looking for Olga, who by this time has made the full transformation to Ingrid.

Most of the men in White Fire have moustaches, probably because this American-French-Turkish production was shot in Turkey where much of the male population, at least back in 1984, seems to wear one. That goes for Ginty, too.

Fred Williamson searches for Olga who passes as Ingrid. Confused?

We know, at the beginning of the film, that it is Istanbul where the film is set – except it reads Istambul – which shows what the creators of the film’s titles probably thought of the quality of Pallardy’s film and the signature which precedes this opening title! Care was not taken with the international release of this film.

“The legend purports that the White Fire stone formation has fatal powers,” says one of the diamond mine baddies, reading from some old book that has no cover.

The bad guys don’t mind using eye watering tactics in White Fire

Williamson searches the brothels for Olga, upsetting the baddies… which also include Mirella Banti (1964-), who thinks nothing of using a bandsaw to cut through the crotch of men who don’t cooperate.

“I’m doing this for you…. Coz I love you,” says Olga, now the spitting image of Ingrid to Ginty, who groans at the incestuous possibilities of it all. But that won’t stop him as he kisses her fully on the mouth and says; “I love you.”

White Fire (1984) trailer

I won’t go into how the film plays out in case you want to see it, but I will just mention GInty’s screen presence… Apparently the New York actor trained for a time at the Actors Studio and did theatre work. He was also musical and played the drums with noted musicians. Director Hal Ashby (1929-88 pancreatic cancer) used him in a couple of his films in small roles including Coming Home (1978) which was a quality feature starring Jane Fonda that was nominated for eight Oscars.

Ginty got his first break on tv, appearing in a couple of series as a regular but it was when he scored the lead in the Deathwish inspired vigilante actioner The Exterminator (1980) directed by James Glickenhaus (1950-) that he got some traction as a leading man in low grade feature films.

The Exterminator poster inspired the White Fire poster among others

The Exterminator with its sordid set pieces rather than action, gained a cult reputation when it was criticised for its gratuitous violence and became a surprise box office hit. But Ginty had one of those faces which lacked the hard edge for action, it would seem his face was more suited to comedy although he had no timing, and his acting chops lacked the talent to make it as a great dramatic actor, something which isn’t a criticism… we weren’t all meant to be great stars! He has some charisma but it is not by the truck load which is probably why he was more of a success on the small screen.

His follow-up movies included the horror film The Alchemist which was made in 1981 but not released until 1985 in the United States. Not a good start to a star career if he was to have one. Ginty is hardly in The Alchemist which is bearable. He followed this with Gold Raiders (1982) which was shot in Thailand and was sold in Germany as a sequel to The Exterminator despite there being no connection. Perhaps it played grindhouses in the States but it went direct to video in Australia.

As cool as Robert Ginty got. Not a great presence but adequate for low-budget fare.

The same could be said for Scarab (1983) and the heist film The Act (1983) which were both of the same calibre and by the time Exterminator 2 began shooting in 1983 by Golan-Globus – Cannon Pictures – there was the possibility of career resuscitation for Ginty in terms of feature films. But that film was delayed by studio tinkering and reshoots which caused a totally different film to be released compared to the rough cut in 1984.

Warrior of the Lost World (1983) trailer

Despite small roles by John Turturro (1957-) and Ayre Gross (1960-) it failed to really register but it kept Ginty visible along with his role in the post-Apocalyptic Warrior of the Lost World (1983) where he played The Rider. This film was treated mercilessly by Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and was apparently shot without a complete script and it also features White Fire’s Fred Williamson who did the film solely to get his visa renewed in Italy where it was shot. Such was the films professionalism and importance.

Three Kinds of Heat (1987) trailer

Ginty then did White Fire, so the casting in Warriors must have been inspiring in some sense… But a late favourite of mine is Ginty’s role in the Cannon production Three Kinds of Heat (1987) where he shares the screen with a couple of globetrotting statuesque policewomen and maybe even the killer cyborg film The Retaliator (1987) aka Programmed to Kill with Sandahl Bergman. I must watch them again.

My beloved DVD cover

Not a career of notable titles to the average viewer of Coming Home but Ginty carried them off pretty well despite probably being an unwilling star aware of his own shortcomings.

He continued to direct on television once his acting career was over and died of cancer aged 60 in 2009.

A final word on White Fire and that is by Fred Williamson who described the film as “a bad film that’s good”. He got the picture as it ain’t Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) in terms of being a film about a body double – but there’s nothing quite like White Fire and, so, cult it is!

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