Flare Up - 1969

Raquel Welch on the run from maniac Luke Askew

Flare Up - 1969 - art by Weems

Flare Up - Released November 10, 1969. Directed by James Neilson

Go-go dancer Michele (Raquel Welch) is on the run from Vegas to Los Angeles after the jealously obsessive Alan Morris (played by Luke Askew) kills his ex-wife Nikki (Sandra Giles) because... well, he's a maniac. He then blames Michele for "making him do it," convinced in his malfunctioning head that his dead ex-wife's female associates (they're all dancers) had been poisoning her mind against him.

Immediately after the first murder, Morris attempts to shoot Michele and his dead wife's other friend, Iris (Pat Delaney) but fails, he exits but is determined to try again later. When the police offer protection to Michele, she scoffs that it would not be of any value, telling them "Nikki had a restraining order and you see what good it did her!"

Michele then leaves town incognito and travels to Los Angeles, getting a job at a "topless and bottomless" club, and is befriended by the parking lot car valet (James Stacy). A whirlwind romance commences and soon the two characters share an intimate horse ride on a sunny California beach, splashing about with the wind kicking their hair up.

Meanwhile Morris has figured out where Michele has gone and is in Los Angeles to finish his crazy revenge plot.

The film is at its best when Welch and Stacey are alone together and awkwardly getting to know each other, and that is where the often stiff acting in Flare Up works to their advantage. But too many scenes contain a lot of people shuffling in and out of rooms and prosaic dialogue moving the plot forward until we get the final confrontation between Luke and Raquel.

The script (by Mark Rogers) seems patched together. At times the story is trying to be about a subculture of topless dancers, drugs, thugs, and true love amid the dirt, but interjected are glittery exterior shots of Vegas casino palaces which has nothing to do with the story. I concluded that this thin scenario ended up serving as a simple setup for the loose-limbed Miss Welch to dance, which, thankfully, is not topless, but is impressively athletic. But, like most of Flare Up, is a scene that is way too long, as if the director is running out the clock.

Flare Up has some high points. Luke Askew's very first scene has a long monologue where he gives us all the back story on his obsessiveness and his mental state, and it's nicely compact. Askew presents a portrait of a dangerous but pathetic loser, one of the idolators that worship and yet hate the dancers they're fixated upon. Askew makes the most of this miniature biographical scene, but this is about as demonstrative as Flare Up will allow him to be before mechanically sending him on his obsessive chase to kill Raquel.

Raquel Welch improves parts of Flare Up by just walking across the room and smiling. She has a great wardrobe ensemble in scene after scene. The dialogue in Flare Up doesn't serve anyone very well, though, particularly Welch, who has to carry a lot of the movie by herself. Too many scenes sound like they've had the audio re-recorded and Welch's breathy line readings do not match the physical activity on the screen itself.

Is Flare Up supposed to somehow be reminiscent of Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow Up? Besides the title, Flare Up co-star James Stacy (as Joe Brodnek, car valet) holds a camera in the movie, shooting film of super-model movie star Raquel Welch (as Michele) once or twice, and then there's murder.

Flare Up borrows lightly from a few other places, too. The film begins with a credit sequence which takes off in a James Bond style montage with Raquel (and multiple duplicate Raquels) gyrating go-go style while being superimposed within and over silhouettes of a pistol that vanishes, shrinks and enlarges. It doesn't actually have anything to do with the story, and being like a Bond film, implies something that isn't in the movie, either. But, it does have Raquel dancing, which by the end we must conclude is the whole point of this project in toto.

Flare Up does contain a lot of great location shots of Los Angeles, which I enjoyed. There is much driving around in the movie and a nice display of 1960s automobiles are on the screen, especially Welch's character's Fiat Spider. This is the best thing in the film.

The stunt work, especially at the end which features a man on fire, is impressive, but turns the film title into a pun.


Original Page October 2017 - Updated Dec 2018

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