Awkward Brotherly Love: White Fire (1984) on Blu-ray
“He takes good care of you, your brother.”
Has there ever been anyone who wanted to bang his sister more than the dude from White Fire? The answer to that question is no.
I first saw White Fire at an Analog Sunday screening at our local cool kid theatre, the Screenland Armour. We were all taken with its absolutely nonsensical plot, its Fred Williamson, and its utterly bonkers incest vibe, which the back cover of the Arrow Video Blu-ray stunningly describes as “awkward brotherly love.”
Here’s the “plot,” such as it is: The child versions of Bo (Robert Ginty) and his sister Inga (Belinda Mayne) escape from…some bad people in army fatigues during the film’s opening credits. Who exactly they’re escaping from is unclear. Their parents aren’t so lucky, perishing at the hands – or, more accurately, bullets and flame throwers – of the bad guys before the credits roll.
(The IMDb and Letterboxd synopses of the film inexplicably credit these bad guys as “a mysterious stranger,” which is puzzling for a number of reasons, not least because there are a bunch of them.)
Flash forward to the present day, and Bo and Ingrid are diamond thieves, taking advantage of Ingrid’s job at a mine – where they apparently extract diamonds that are already cut and polished – to make off with bags full of the precious stones in order to finance…something, which is also left opaque.
Bo and Ingrid also really, really want to bang, which is made clear in a sequence where they flirt shamelessly while she is starkers after taking a nude midnight swim and before taking another swim because editing? It’s unclear.
Unfortunately, some other people, led by Mirella Banti, who had made her film debut just the year before in Dario Argento’s Tenebre, cotton to their plan and want to be cut in. For some reason that isn’t entirely comprehensible, they end up killing Ingrid, which seems to put the brakes on their scheme, at least until Bo accidentally stumbles across another woman, Olga (Diana Goodman), who is Ingrid’s spitting image.
Against his better judgment, Bo and his business partner cut Olga into the deal, complete with sending her off to get plastic surgery from a doctor who seems to live on the Isle of Lesbos in a house that could’ve come straight out of Suspiria.
The surgery transforms Olga from the spitting image of Ingrid into her exact double – plastic surgery is easy when you just switch actresses! She also falls in love with Bo, in spite of him having the charisma of a turnip, and so he can finally indulge his apparently lifelong fantasy of banging his sister, which isn’t creepy at all, especially when he’s massaging her breast and the film decides to cut to shots of them together as children.
If all of that sounds confusing, I haven’t even introduced half the film’s characters yet. For one thing, Fred Williamson hasn’t shown up, nor has the eponymous White Fire, a diamond that’s “been there for a million years” and is so big and diamond-y that it is actually radioactive, burning anyone who touches it, which is exactly how radiation works, as we all know.
(There’s a scene late in the film where everyone is standing around the White Fire staring at it, and I quipped aloud, in my own living room, “Radiation only works when you touch it, right?”)
Fred Williamson plays Noah Barclay, an enforcer for a crime boss (I think?) who is after Olga for reasons that are never made entirely explicit. “We misplaced some baggage,” he tells Bo, at one point. After he finally pops up halfway through the film, Williamson steals the show by lounging around in whatever room he happens to be in, effortlessly having more charisma than the rest of the cast combined.
There are plenty of double-crosses and people who we aren’t sure who are getting killed, sometimes offscreen. A guy gets a table saw to the crotch. There’s a fight on the docks involving a chainsaw, which got immortalized on the movie’s suitably bombastic VHS cover art (which is also on the reverse sleeve of the Arrow Blu).
There’s gratuitous nudity, like the topless woman sunbathing on a speedboat that our heroes commandeer at one point. There are lots of people standing around, talking about what the plan is, and lots of shots that remind us that we’re in Istambul (sic), Turkey.
Naturally, there’s also a theme song, performed by the band Limelight, which the film makes…extensive use of. The band also recorded another song for the film, “One Day at a Time,” which acts as the film’s (brotherly) love theme and also the theme for any scene that’s too slow, sad, or morose for the “White Fire” theme.
The main theme says “White Fire” a lot, and each time it says it, it gets repeated as “White Fi-ya!” Which means that every time anyone else in the movie says “White Fire” – which they do, constantly – your brain fills in a chorus of “White Fi-ya!” You just can’t help it.
And you’ll be doing it a lot, because there might be no movie I have ever seen that says its own title more often than this one does.