In their mission to illuminate the filmography of Sylvia Kristel, Cult Epics releases one hell of a fun hidden gem.
Cult Epics, in their mission to illuminate the filmography of Sylvia Kristel, is releasing her third film, the little seen Dutch comedic noir Naked Over the Fence (Naakt over de schutting), based on the book by Rinus Ferdinandusse. The film’s title is honestly a bit misleading, and it was retitled in some regions and passed off as an Emmanuelle riff in others. But this charming murder mystery that has less than a few minutes of rather tame nudity in its runtime and is such a weird amalgam of things that all somehow fall into place. The film combines two huge trends at the time in the Netherlands: pinball and karate. Along with Krystel, the film stars a real Nazi hunter, Rijk de Gooyer, and a real Karate Grandmaster, Jon Bluming, who try to solve the crime. The film also digs into a weird gray area the country had with pornography in drama after a 1971 law promised to no longer criminalize it; the law wouldn’t actually come into effect until 1984.
The plot sees Rick (de Gooyer), the street smart owner of an arcade, accidentally thrust into a world of murder, undergound pornography, and blackmail. Rick is tasked by his girlfriend, Penny Lane (Jennifer Willems), to check in on his karate champ buddy (Jon Bluming) and his new pop star girlfriend, Lilly (Kristel), who are shooting a film that she thinks might be an illegal adult film. Rick hides behind a fence and witnesses Lilly—who has been pressured into making the film by her manager—getting cold feet. When her boyfriend scoffs at his costume and stops the shoot, Lilly follows suit and requests her footage back. This doesn’t go well for the pair, who then must escape in the nude over the fence where Rick is hiding out (hence the name of the film). When the cameraman turns up dead the next day and there are whispers of the film being used as blackmail, Rick tasks himself with getting the reel of footage back.
Naked Over the Fence, simply put, charmed the hell out of me. In the Netherlands, some of the action spectacles feel almost alien, with canals and bridges giving a claustrophobic feel to the set. The film’s third act trolley car chase is completely bizarre but feels refreshing. Most of the cast members are middle-aged, which gives the story a bit more weight, since an American film would see everyone in their mid-twenties. The cast balances the humor with the dramatic just flawlessly, without discounting the stakes. Kristel is a platinum blonde femme fatale who performs her own songs and gets to give a much more dynamic performance than her Emmanuelle character, even though her screen time is limited.
The disc released by Cult Epics is a new 4K transfer from the original negative and looks fantastic. There is pleasing color and grain throughout the 4:3 presentation that sports a very film-like presentation, really showing off the eye-catching cinematography by Theo van de Sande, who would transition to Hollyword and shoot films like Blade and Cruel Intentions. The film is presented in its original Mono in a regular Mono and DTS-HD flavor as well. The first 1,000 copies include the CD soundtrack that, of course, features Lilly’s pop anthem “A Letter Came Today.” We are also treated to a few interviews with star Frans Weisz and composer Ruud Bos, Kristel trailers, and interesting extra 16mm behind-the scenes-footage with a focus on the day of Kristel’s TV performance as Lilly. The Kristel we see here is fresh-faced and wide-eyed, much like her character on the cusp of stardom.
Before watching this, my knowledge of Kristel was limited to the Emmanuelle series, and in between reading Jeremy Richey’s book (co-written with Kristel), and watching this film, I’m disappointed that she was so pigeonholed as an actor. It doesn’t hurt that this film is just so much fun and is a perfect time capsule. But aside from a few minutes of nudity, Kristel’s performance is solid and you can tell she just has that elusive thing that would eventually make her an icon. That said, I can’t recommend Naked Over the Fence enough—it’s truly a hidden gem and makes me wonder about the lack of films I have now seen from the Netherlands.