Five Deadly Venoms (1978)

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“Five Deadly Venoms” is a classic of Hong Kong cinema, a film which further cemented director Chang Cheh’s reputation and made such stars of its six main cast members that from that point on, they were known as “the Venom Mob” (appearing in a number of films together). It’s got a number of celebrity fans, including RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan; and Shaw Brothers released a cleaned-up print of it a few years ago, so now we fans in the West can see just how good or otherwise it was.

 

The Five Venoms Clan is hated by the rest of the martial arts world, for reasons which go unstated. The boss of the house has decided that, as he’s dying, it’s about time he atoned for his house’s sins and sends his last student, Yang Tieh (Sheng Chiang, one of the great Hong Kong leading men) to find the five former students and, if they’re good, leave them be, but if they’ve become evil, to kill them. He’s trained, sort of, in the five styles that the other graduates mastered – Centipede, Snake, Scorpion, Gecko and Toad styles – which gives us a potted history of the five he’s about to go up against and give us handy demonstrations of their skills.

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So far, so good! As in so many of these movies, they didn’t bother hiring anyone for whom English was a known language to do the subtitling, so there’s tons of oddness there. The Police Chief is called “Lord” throughout, implying some sense of him being a religious leader; and there’s a ton of extremely specific detail about the relationships of the five former students at the beginning too, none of which makes the slightest bit of difference to the rest of the movie.

 

But the plot is the king with this, which is extremely unusual for a martial arts movie. Yang has been instructed to get the hidden treasure of the Five Venoms Clan and to give it to charity, to fix their reputation, but the guy who has it, a former classmate of the Clan boss, has gone to ground too. So, Yang has to find him as well as the five former students, fight one, more or all of them, and save the day. The shifting allegiances among the groups, and the way the local Governor gets involved, are what makes this film the classic it undoubtedly is.

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Because, honestly, there’s not too much fighting in it. The final battle is fantastic, of course, but there’s a lot of torture and discussion about the murder of the old classmate, which you’d think would slow things down but in this case doesn’t. The bright colours and not-too-OTT comedy all play into it as well…for a film where good guys get cut down and the end victory only comes with substantial sacrifice, it feels really light and fun to watch, an escapist story of ancient China.

 

I’d definitely recommend “Five Deadly Venoms”, if you’ve not already seen it. Possibly not one for your first ever martial arts movie, but it definitely should be near the top of your list.

 

Rating: thumbs up

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The Sword And The Sorcerer (1982) aka “Why I Hate Albert Pyun”

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I’m pretty sure everything at the top of the picture is a lie

There’s no name who can bring a chill to a room of people expecting a nice, normal genre movie like Albert Pyun. We’ve dealt with him on numerous occasions – “Cyborg”, “Captain America”, “Dollman”, and “Nemesis”, to name a few – and he’s become known for a certain sort of movie. I want to go into a bit more depth about his directorial quirks, but there’s also plenty of fun stuff to talk about with “The Sword And The Sorcerer”, his directorial debut, too.

 

Right away, the font of the opening credits gets you in the mood – pure gothic fantasy, veteran of a million similar movies. Much the same could be said for the plot, which starts off with a chap called Titus Cromwell summoning Xusia, who’s…maybe a demon? Cromwell wants to take over the rich, peaceful country of Adan, and needs a demon sorcerer to do it, apparently. Then, because Albert Pyun read “show, don’t tell” the wrong way round, all the conquering happens off camera and Cromwell realises that he doesn’t want to honour his end of the demon contract. So he “kills” Xusia, and traumatises Talon, a young boy, who manages to escape. I think he’s a Prince or something, but it’s really not important. What is important, sort of, is Talon’s sweet-ass three-bladed sword. The left and right blades can be fired like deadly projectiles, and…actually, I’m not sure it’s ever used in combat in its three-bladed variety.

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Boom! 20 years later! Or thereabouts! Talon (Lee Horsley) has become a famed mercenary with a magnificent mane of hair, and Cromwell has taken over Adan. I think. You may notice something of a trend as I recap this movie. Titus has invited all the Kings of the neighbouring countries, or maybe he’s just kidnapped Prince Mikah (Simon MacCorkindale, “famous” for his role in Manimal). Talon is hired by the almost unfairly beautiful Alana (Kathleen Beller) to rescue Mikah, defeat Cromwell and generally save the day. It’s also screamingly obvious that Xusia isn’t dead, so you know he’s going to show up before the end too.

 

You may think this recap has missed quite a lot of the important setup of the movie out. Oh, ye of little faith! We’ve still got that to get to. The raid on the castle is magnificent in its oddness, with Cromwell’s amazing sparkly armour not even making it into the top three.  There’s the way the guards know exactly where our heroes are, at all times, but are unable to use doors, smashing their way through unlocked ones on multiple occasions. There’s the way Talon meets the castle’s architect in the prison, put there because Cromwell didn’t want him sharing details of the secret passages. Why not just kill him then? It’s not like Cromwell hasn’t murdered people for less!

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If you’re wondering about the acting, then don’t. Simon MacCorkindale has one scene where he’s clearly trying hard, and it’s a decent scene; but then he realises he’s working for Albert Pyun, and everyone else is just reading the lines however the hell they like, and he relaxes. It’s packed to the rafters with odd shouters and random emoters and other Acting 101 don’ts.

 

If any of this made sense, then I’d suggest it was made originally as a family film, and after the first half had been shot, one of the producers went “what on earth is this rubbish? Give me sex and violence, now!” Talon runs through a harem of nude ladies, and one of them is so immediately taken with him that she leads the rest of the concubines into danger to help him out. After a first half of cutting away just before the killing blow is landed, the second half has blood and guts galore (including one poor chap getting his head split open). At least one fella gets eaten by a horde of rats too. It’s sort of gross.

 

But let’s talk about Albert Pyun. He’s compared to Ed Wood Jr on his IMDB page, but Wood loved cinema and loved making it – and honestly, I’d rather watch “Plan Nine From Outer Space” a hundred times than anything of Pyun’s twice. I don’t think Pyun has the slightest skill at making movies, and I’m not even sure he likes watching them; if he did, there’s no way he’d continue to make the same mistakes, over and over again. The primary one, and this is one we’ve mentioned before, is his complete indifference to showing how scenes connect to other scenes. We see a group of mercenaries preparing for a fight, then in the next scene, with no explanation, they’re all in prison. Characters will be on their way to do one thing, and in the next scene they’re off to do something else. The exciting stuff, the fights and wars and magic, happens off screen and all we see is the buildup or the aftermath.

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It’s so bad, and so obviously bad, that it annoys me none of Pyun’s future employers bothered to tell him to sort it out. It suggests a lot of people in charge of making potentially great genre cinema only care about getting 90 minutes of *anything* on the screen, to make a tiny bit of profit and move on to the next one. Albert Pyun has one skill – he can deliver a finished movie, under budget and on time. He does this by ignoring the connective tissue – showing how scenes connect to other scenes, how characters might have motivation to do something, or explaining why the stuff on screen is happening. While it might not seem important, it’s the difference between enjoying a movie and wanting to beat the director to death.

 

“The Sword and the Sorcerer” could have and should have been fun, but ended up being intensely annoying.

 

Rating: thumbs down

Endless Bummer: Spring Break (1983)

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Sean S Cunningham, called “one of the most despicable creatures ever to infest the movie business” by famed critic Gene Siskel, never saw a movie bandwagon he didn’t jump on. Because he started off the “Friday the 13th” series, he’s given a weirdly large amount of respect, but we here at the ISCFC know better. After “Porky’s” graced the world with its presence in 1982 and made an absolute fortune at the box office, the floodgates were opened – as long as you had horny teens, sunshine and women willing to disrobe on camera, you were set.

The concept of Spring Break is a weird one to us Brits. It seems an almost entirely American phenomenon, as during Easter week, our students are too busy taking their clothes home to their parents to get them washed, or working in a local pub to earn a few £££ for the next term, or studying. There was a brief spate of spring break movies in the early 60s (most famously, “Where The Boys Are”) but that mini-trend died away quite quickly, only to return when movie producers, inspired by “Porky’s”, “Meatballs” and so on, realised that teens had disposable income to spend at the cinema. Nowadays, it’s more likely to be used as the inspiration for a horror movie (“6 teens decide to spend spring break at a deserted cabin in the woods”), but in the mid 80s we were treated to many examples of college kids off to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to drink in the local culture and take part in many broadening pursuits. Sorry, misprint in my notes there – I meant to say “to drink their own bodyweight in beer and have sex with as many women as possible”.

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This is a movie about people from different walks of life meeting each other, getting along pretty much straight away, and having a fine time. Wait, what? A cheap nasty hotel room in a cheap nasty hotel is double-booked by uptight college “inbetweeners” – neither nerd or jock – Nelson and Adam (David Knell and Perry Lang) and New York working stiffs Stu and OT (Paul Land and Steve Bassett). Rather than flip out, they all get drunk together by the pool, and decide the next morning that they should share the room and have a great time together. Stu and OT are naturals with the ladies and immediately work their magic, but Nelson and Adam, while a little on the nervous side, are both fine too, which I can’t state enough is extremely surprising for a teen raunch movie.

The plot is as perfunctory as possible, and is absolutely crammed with the most ludicrous coincidences, indicating one should ignore it and go back to the movie. Adam’s stepdad, Ernest Dalby, is a senatorial candidate, and for some reason is bribing a sleazy local guy to force a hotel to close so he can buy it and turn it into…a mall maybe? It’s a little unclear on that point. Adam, out of all the hotels and spring break locations in the world, picked the exact same hotel (the hotel owner is sleazy local guy’s sister-in-law). There’s a scene later on where our four heroes, walking from a bar back to their hotel, decide to walk on the docks and happen to run into Dalby’s boat, as he’s found out that his son has gone on spring break, against his express demands…a scandal could ruin his campaign, is the reason given. Drinking legally and having a good time was a scandal in 1983? Ah, how times have changed. Although, even though the stinger of the movie is someone – no spoilers – getting arrested for drink driving, the attitude of the rest of the movie is very casual, with drivers of cars visibly chugging beers, and a drinking-all-day Nelson driving the streets of Fort Lauderdale.

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The friendship of the main four is kind-of refreshing, and you can tell they’ve bonded when, for no reason, they all use the same urinal – I don’t want to give this movie too much credit, but all that stuff was really well done. And, while there are plenty of boobs in this movie (although none til 25 minutes, an almost unheard-of length), it’s really almost (dare I say it) equal? OT wears nothing but short jean shorts the entire movie, attracting many a happy look from the ladies, and the women appear to be just as happy as the guys to get drunk and have one-night stands. As well as the wet-t-shirt contest, there’s a Wet He-Shirt contest too, and Nelson discovers while taking part that some women like a confident guy (having perhaps the least plausible threesome in movie history). Adam bonds with his love interest over Galaga, even if he does have to take over the console to show her how it’s done…perhaps I’m judging its sexual equality relative to other teen raunch movies, but there you go.

As has become almost standard in these movies, there’s a future famous person in a tiny, uncredited role – this time, it’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star and standup Jeff Garlin as “Gut Gut”, the champion of the pool bellyflop contest (6 years before his next credit of any kind, which indicates he was probably just a drunk frat guy hired as an extra). And, former Penthouse pet and future “Amazon Women On The Moon” video date segment star Corinne Wahl is OT’s love interest, and we get the delight of her sub-Runaways band performing two of the worst songs known to humanity. Saying that, the entire soundtrack is beyond terrible (with the honourable exception of 38 Special, so my wife says).

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Add in a large, completely out of place slapstick brawl and an extremely unlikely ending, and there you go. If this had been made a couple of years later, I imagine it’d have been orders of magnitude more cynical and sex-filled, but this feels charming and almost quaint. Watch this and only feel slightly ashamed!

Rating: thumbs up

Endless Bummer: Meatballs 4 (1992)

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Before we get going, this entire review, and any future watching of this movie, ought to have a layer of sadness on top of it. Co-star Jack Nance (“Eraserhead”, “Twin Peaks”) married Kelly Jean Van Dyke (part of the acting Van Dyke family) in May 1991…actually, let’s hand this over to Wikipedia:

On November 17, 1991, Nance, who was in Bass Lake, California, filming Meatballs 4 at the time, called Van Dyke to end the relationship. He attempted to console her on the phone as she threatened suicide, telling Nance that if he hung up the phone, she would take her own life. At that point, a lightning storm knocked out the phone lines in Bass Lake.

In the pouring rain, Nance went to the nearby lodgings of the film’s director, Bobby Logan, seeking help. Logan recalls in I Don’t Know Jack, ‘He says, “I think my wife just killed herself.” Jack and I had a relationship on the set where we were always playing practical jokes on one another. I figured he was doing that to me. So I said, “Being married to you, who could blame her?” And when I said that, suddenly a little tear trickled down his cheek, and I realised it wasn’t the rain that had hit him in the face…'[4]

With most of the phones in the area still out, it took Nance and Logan 45 minutes of driving around to find a deputy sheriff who contacted Los Angeles police and the apartment manager. They broke into her apartment and found that she had hanged herself.

Nance, who died himself in “suspicious circumstances” a few years later, will have filmed at least some of this movie while blaming himself for the death of his wife – there’s really no better introduction for a light-hearted summer-raunch movie about water-skiing!

“Meatballs 4” does not mess around. We get the fat nerd slapstick and a group of horny dudes spying on naked women in the shower in the first 8 minutes of the movie, then quickly discover, via him parachuting in holding a boombox, that Lakeside (Nance’s camp) has hired Ricky Wade (Corey Feldman) from Twin Oaks (the rich kids’ camp across the lake). A rich kids camp across the lake? Where do they get these insane ideas from? Next thing is, you’ll be telling me there’s some competition where winner takes all!

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So, there’s a water competition. If Lakeside loses, Nance gives up the camp, if they win, Twin Oaks pays off his mortgage and leaves him alone forever. Feldman rubs up Lakeside’s best water-skier the wrong way, who then defects to Twin Oaks’ side; there’s romance with Nance’s granddaughter; and the fat comic relief guy Victor (who goes by the name “Johnny Cocktails”, despite being the brother of Greg Grunberg) inexplicably ends up with the insanely beautiful Asian eye candy, despite showing zero personality or anything else that might impress a person. The usual. That everyone at this camp appears to be in their mid 20s, and are the same age or older than the “camp counsellors”, is only like the fifth stupidest thing about this movie.

In 1992, Feldman was still Michael Jackson’s best friend, and while he doesn’t dress like him (as he did in the first “Dream A Little Dream”), what we do get is an extremely long Jacksonesque dance sequence, set to a song which is just different enough to “Black Or White” to avoid getting sued – best guess, Feldman just played that song on the set, and convinced the producers he’d be able to get the rights to it. One gets the feeling that several of Feldman’s sequences were him going to the director “seriously, let me do this, it’ll be brilliant”.

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This film is a miserable failure, though, and not just because Nance was dealing with the death of his wife, and the director was dealing with a Michael Jackson-obsessed star. The jokes, if you can call them that, are unbearably lame, like the writer found a 50 year old “after dinner speech jokes” book and just used the worst ones from that. There’s a “pull my finger” joke to amuse the kids, too. The good guys win a tournament halfway through the movie, which makes absolutely no sense in terms of building drama for the ending. No-one wonders why Victor (the clumsy guy), who shows zero aptitude for water-skiiing, paid to go to a water-skiing camp.

The awfulness goes deeper, though. There’s an angry ex-lovers conversation between Feldman and Nance’s granddaughter, and it’s the worst-written thing I could possibly imagine being in a finished movie. Getting more technical, about half the movie is shot from underneath, as if the cameraman was only 4 feet tall, and the lighting is subdued and naturalistic. This might work better if it were a drama, but the thing about broad comedy is it needs to look a little cartoony – everything ought to be bright, and the camerawork ought to be as unobtrusive as possible, to not distract from the performances, where all the comedy should be.

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This still isn’t the worst thing, though. The big ending centres around a “triple flip”, an almost impossible jump that only Nance, as a younger man, ever made. Feldman tries and fails, but then Nance is brought out of retirement to win it all with the last jump of the movie. They shoot this particular super-jump by…filming someone doing a single flip and just repeating the footage three times. WHAT? By the end of the first flip, he’s already on his way back down to earth…it’s just an insult to anyone who bothered spending money to see this movie. Heck, even the Triple Lindy from “Back To School”, performed by an elderly, grinning, not-taking-it-seriously Rodney Dangerfield, was better than this garbage.

So there we have it. If you’re following these reviews for some summer-movie recommendations, I’d probably watch parts 1 and 3 of the Meatballs franchise. 1 because it has Bill Murray in it, 3 because it’s one of the stupidest comedy movies ever. This is just an embarrassment.

Rating: thumbs down

Endless Bummer: Oddballs (1984)

These people aren't in the movie

These people aren’t in the movie

This movie answers the all-important question “what would it be like it Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker made a summer camp movie, while they were high?” I can think of no better way of describing this, yet another in the line of Canadian mid-80s teen comedies (no raunch in this one, unless you count the times when a bunch of young teens stare at fully clothed women).

The plot, such as it is, relates to some kids going to camp. Shocker! I wonder if I’m intrigued by this genre thanks to Britain’s complete lack of anything similar? I mean, we had weekends away with the Scouts when I was a kid, but it’s not the same. Anyway, Camp Bottomout, which was “won” by Hardy Bassett (Foster Brooks, a man who’s made a career out of being able to act drunk) after losing a card game, is sort of run down and is entirely populated by 13-14 year old boys. The evil camp across the lake (shocker again!), full of 16-18 year old girls, wants to take over the camp for, you know, the generic reasons these things happen in these sorts of movies. And that’s all the plot you need!

 

Every millisecond of this movie is crammed with jokes, or at least attempts to make people laugh. I’ll give you three phrases, and I’ll bet you’ll be able to guess just how they were used in this movie – “cat burglar”, “illegal aliens”, and “raining cats and dogs” (the cats and dogs thing is achieved by the camp bus running into a vet’s van, which is quite funny I suppose). The sound guy’s “wacky comedy sound effects vol.1” LP must have been worn out by the end of filming too, as approximately every ten seconds, someone will fall over, pull  a stupid face, see an attractive woman or something of that sort, and the “boi-oi-oing!” sound will let us know that yes, that was supposed to be a joke we just saw. The laws of physics are treated as an inconvenience, giving everything the flavour of a particularly gross cartoon.

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They ignore the rule of three though, sadly. Hardy fires into the air (accidentally) a lot, and the first two times it happens he brings down the Wicked Witch of the West , then Mary Poppins. They needed that third shooting! Quite a few of the jokes are bizarrely misjudged or just too strange to be funny, though. A couple of bushes get set on fire, and out of a nearby tent runs a Moses lookalike, shouting and gesticulating for a few seconds before disappearing from the movie. Camp Bottomout hires a Phys Ed guy called Billy Wankey (!), who’s a convicted child molester – Hardy justifies this by saying he’ll work for free; although Wankey dies during an aerobics session after doing amyl nitrate and ogling the barely pubescent boys. Played for laughs! Lastly, head counsellor Laylo Nardeen (Mike McDonald, a decent comic actor) runs a seduction class, having a written a book about how to pick up women (which he charges the boys for) – with the kids being so young, and trying to hit on adult women, it just doesn’t work.

 

As the movie meanders to its inevitable “let’s save the camp” conclusion (although Hardy instantly accepting the first offer to sell the place is pretty funny), the law of averages tells us that at least some of the jokes will be great. A flashback is about to happen and both actors in the scene notice the scene is going wobbly; there’s a total “Airplane” gag (“town? What’s that?” “It’s like a city, only smaller”); and there’s an advert for Bergman’s “Cries and Whispers” at the camp too.

Good old Billy Wankey

Good old Billy Wankey

Like any movie of this sort, the only way to judge it is on hitrate, and this movie manages to get plenty of “hits” by being utterly relentless, and partly by breaking the fourth wall almost constantly. And I’m not just being positive because someone has a Pekingese puppy in this movie and I am the proud owner of Charlie the Pekingese! Even if you ignore all the jokes, it’s still a really weird plot for a movie. A drunk finds himself in charge of a summer camp and decides he’ll hold off on killing himself til the end of the season. His head counsellor takes the kids to a bar and, happy with them drinking and smoking, helps them hit on drunk women. The boys are much younger than the girls. There are no boobs.

 

I think this is worth watching, just for the sheer oddity of it all. An all-out comedy with not a single concession for plot or good taste. And you can watch it for free too!

Canuxploitation Review- Oddballs

Rating: thumbs up

Endless Bummer: Summer Job (1989)

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I started this series of reviews at least partly so I’d have the chance to talk about this movie. “Summer Job” is, to we Brits, a really obscure example of 80s summer raunch, never released on DVD, “no image available” on Amazon, plenty of actors for whom this is their only credit, with a very peculiar feeling all round. Even though the plot isn’t all that unique, pretty much everything else about it is.

Realising that no-one cares about establishing a reason for the cast being there (the lack of a “we need to save the resort” subplot is refreshing), the opening is just everyone on their way to Resort X (it may have a name, but I forgot to write it down). I know I don’t normally do this, but a list:

  • Kathy – the supervisor, cute and wholesome
  • Bob – the “cool” douchebag
  • Susan – the villain
  • Jack – the cowboy
  • Herman – the oddball
  • Bruce – the “chubby” loner
  • Karen – the airhead
  • Barbara – the rich bitch
  • Donna – the beach bum
  • Tom – the man who was too terrible an actor for me to figure out what his thing was

But Tom’s not alone in being a rotten actor, oh no. With the honourable exceptions of Kathy (Sherrie Rose) and Herman (George O), the cast is spectacularly bad, a sea of woodenness. But that’s part of the charm!

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One of the many other sources of charm is the OTT performances from all the supporting cast. There’s the amazing French waiter stereotype. There’s Cookie, the filthy sex pest; Mr Jacobs, resort social director, the filthy sex pest; and the woman referred to in the credits only as “The Big Woman”, the sex pest (but she just wants Mr Jacobs, which makes her okay). Jacobs is the sort of character that would trigger a shitstorm on Twitter if he appeared in a film today, who just mauls any passing female and threatens to get women fired if they won’t sleep with him. Back in the 80s he was an inconvenience that had to be tolerated – so he gets his ass kicked a few times and then raped towards the end by The Big Woman. Ah, the good old days!

I’d like to thank director Paul Madden for replying to my request for some stories. He’s still working, doing movies and corporate videos, so it’s decent of him to take time out to confirm a few of my pet theories about “Summer Job”, his first movie. One is that a lot of scenes were improvised – most obviously with George O, who delivers my favourite line (after pureeing a frog in a cocktail blender), “how about some lime in your slime?”

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Another is the essentially amateur nature of the cast. Looking at IMDB, at least half the people in this movie have this as their only credit, but they were all a pleasure to film with, apparently, and worked like dogs. The budget of the movie was an eye-wateringly small $500,000 (for a movie shot on 35mm, with multiple locations, this is essentially nothing) so they had to, I guess. I know I was literally just mean to them, but good on them for giving it a go as non-professionals.

I tend to mock these sorts of movies for the blatant T&A, but it’s also important to realise where these demands come from. As director, Madden was told by the distributors to make sure there was plenty of nudity (sort of the sex-comedy version of the low-budget horror maxim, “you need blood, boobs and beast to sell your movie”). There’s nothing less sexy than doing naked casting calls at 8:30 in the morning, I would imagine.

 

A quick look at writer Ralph Wilson – he wrote three movies, one in 1978, this in 1989, and another in 2000. Do you think it took him a decade to polish each one? That everything in this movie was deliberately crafted is an amazing thing to think about. Or are there three different writing Ralph Wilsons and IMDB messed up?

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As far as the plot goes, even being very kind to it you would say that not a lot happens. These people just work at a beach resort, really, with the worries about which section you’ll be working in, tips and so on. Awful pranks are played (dying someone’s skin blue, Deep Heat in someone’s jockstrap, that sort of thing); there’s the odd bit of romance, and Bruce decides to get in shape and train for his lifeguard certificate. This happens after a very unusual conversation with Kathy, where she calls him fat while stretched out in her underwear, stroking herself, wildly out of character. The film achieves this transformation by having him wear padding throughout the movie (he’s never out of thick sweaters, which must have been murder in Florida) until he’s finally in shape and can take it off…he’s partially inspired by seeing a guy work out by the pool. But this inspiration is filmed in the most insane way – we see a guy in a tiny thong doing pushups, then the camera pans to Bruce, staring at his crotch from a distance of about two feet, as if he’s never seen exercise before.

Kathy’s cruelty also inspires him. She basically has the thankless authority figure role, but every now and again, they’ll forget she’s feuding with wannabe supervisor Susan and they’ll switch from hating each other to laughing and plotting together, only to be back in the next scene to distrust. Sherrie Rose plays Kathy remarkably well, she’s head and shoulders above the rest of the cast, and is still busy today.

The only other thing you’d call a plot would be Herman and his journey to being a man. Karen throws herself at him but he turns her down, due to his inexperience with the opposite sex (when the girls discover this, they chase him round the resort, flashing him). To rectify this he goes to visit a local prostitute, who teaches him all about different sex positions and so on – but he actually does this to please Barbara, who’s such a horrible person that after she loses her job, she checks into the hotel as a guest and makes everyone’s lives hell. Luckily, Barbara finds this sexual awakening charming rather than insane and he wins the fair lady’s heart, after she has something of a damascene conversion to the side of light.

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So take these thin threads of plot, tons of B-roll of people doing beach things, and seemingly endless musical montages (one immediately following another in a few cases, so many that “Summer Job” could be called a music video collection with bits of plot in between), and you’ve got yourself a movie! Aside from the flesh on display, the women mostly give as good as they get, too, which is nice. It’s a wild, fun and fascinating failure, with something unique about it.

One final story from director Paul Madden – to close out the summer, the hotel throws a party for the summer staff, and they get a band. This is a real band – a spinoff from pop superstars ELO called “OrKestra”, and they were enticed to be in the movie by producer Kenny Dalton. Well, a PA saw the word “orkestra”, thought it was an orchestra and sent a huge bus to the airport…to pick up five guys. While it might reasonably be said they aren’t my cup of tea musically, they sounded like good sports, not minding that the movie was somewhat smaller than they expected and staying to party with everyone when they’d filmed their spot.

I hope I’ve gotten across just how wonderfully odd “Summer Job” is. While my wife absolutely hated it, I loved it every bit as much as I ever did (I’ve seen this film a heck of a lot, down the years). I think it deserves a critical re-appraisal – not, I hasten to add, to get people thinking it’s a good movie, but to get some of that “Troll 2” sort of money. Although, it was apparently hugely profitable for Sony, getting a theatrical release, making tons of money on video rental and from it being a feature of late-night cable for many years. A classic, of sorts, with enough little bits of weirdness here and there to encourage multiple rewatches.

Rating: thumbs up