Despite minor commercial success, the film was critically panned, earning nominations for nine Golden Raspberry Awards at the 5th Golden Raspberry Awards and "winning" six, including the Worst Picture.
Set in the 1920s, Ayre "Mac" MacGillvary (Bo Derek) is a virginal 23-year-old young American who graduates from an exclusive British college. An orphan heiress to a vast fortune, Ayre is determined to find the right man for her first sexual encounter wherever he might be in the world. Rich enough not to venture forth alone, she brings along her best friend Catalina (Ana Obregon) and the family chauffeur Cotton (George Kennedy).
Ayre first travels to Morocco where she meets an ideal lover, an Arab sheik (Greg Benson) who offers to deflower her. He takes her away in his private airplane to an oasis in the desert, but during foreplay while rubbing her nude body with honey, he falls asleep almost immediately. Giving up on the sheik, Ayre goes on to Spain, where she meets the toreador Angel (Andrea Occhipinti), and sets out to seduce him. Into this group comes Paloma, (Olivia d'Abo), a 14-year-old local Gypsy girl whom Ayre and Catalina take under their wing. A minor subplot involves Catalina meeting and pursing Ayre's lawyer, Robert Stewart, a kilt-wearing Scotsman who Catalina chooses to deflower her.
After several days of courtship and flirting, Angel makes love to Ayre one morning and he manages to stay awake. Unfortunately, after she has succeeded in her quest to lose her virginity, Angel is gored while bullfighting the next day.
The injury leaves Angel unable to perform in the bedroom, and so Ayre makes it her mission in life to see to his recovery. Along the way, she takes up bullfighting herself as a way of getting her despondent lover motivated to stop moping. During this, the Arab sheik flies to Spain to abduct Ayre, but she manages to convince him that she has already lost her virginity and he lets her go.
Eventually, Ayre is successful in aiding Angel to full recovery which leads to a climatic lovemaking session between them. The film ends with Ayre and Angel getting married at a local church.Bo Derek as Ayre “Mac” McGillvaryGeorge Kennedy as CottonAndrea Occhipinti as Rejoneador Angel SacristanAna Obregon as CatalinaOlivia d'Abo as PalomaGreg Bensen as SheikIan Cochrane as Robert StewartMirta Miller as EvitaMickey Knox as Sleazy Moroccan guidePaul Stacey as Young Valentino #1James Stacy as Young Valentino #2
Executive producer and Cannon Films co-head Menahem Golan urged the Dereks to make the sex scenes more explicit, despite the latter party's objections on the basis that the scenes were strong enough. The film was initially to be distributed by MGM as part of an ongoing deal with Cannon, and Bo Derek screened the film to the studio's then-CEO Frank Yablans hoping that he would intervene with Golan on the matter of the erotic content. Yablans disliked the film as much as all the other films Cannon was delivering to MGM.
When the producers refused to cut the film to avoid an X rating by the MPAA, MGM dropped the film due to standards policies and Cannon released Bolero themselves. The quality of Bolero and the other Cannon/MGM films led to Yablans using a breach of contract clause to terminate the distribution deal with the two studios in November 1984. Bolero was ultimately released with no MPAA rating, with a disclaimer on ads that no children under 17 would be admitted to the film. Despite this, many theater chains that normally refused to screen X-rated films did the same for Bolero.
The film is officially on DVD with an "R" rating with no cuts.
Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 0%, based on 17 reviews.
It was nominated for nine Golden Raspberry Awards and won six, including "Worst Picture", "Worst Actress," "Worst Director" and "Worst Screenplay". In 1990, the film was nominated for, but lost the Razzie Award for "Worst Picture of the Decade." The movie was nominated for a Stinkers Bad Movie Awards for Worst Picture.
The film earned about $8.9 million in American ticket sales against a $7 million production budget.
In 1985, U.S.A. Home Video released Bolero in both Unrated and R-Rated versions to the video rental marketplace. In 2005, MGM Home Entertainment released Bolero on DVD, after the rights to the majority of Cannon Film productions reverted to MGM, an ironic move, considering the events that transpired between MGM and Cannon over the original theatrical release of the film. The MGM release, although rated R, is the full, uncut version of the film.