Andy Sidaris season! Stacey (1973)

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I hope you enjoyed the Andy Sidaris reviews – he certainly liked his nude ladies and redneck humour, and wasn’t all that interested in writing new ideas for his movies, but there’s a charm to most of them and I’m really glad I watched them. Now, we’re mopping up with a couple of his early movies, made while he was still directing Olympics TV coverage and Wide World of Sports.

Just to show self-plagiarism wasn’t something he picked up later, “Stacey” was remade as “Malibu Express” in 1985, with the central plot being the same, but the gender of the main character being switched. Just what it was about this story that compelled him to tell it twice, I have no idea, but here we all are. Both are private eyes, both race cars on the side, both live in a boat on a marina.

To recap, briefly – Stacey (Anne Randall), described at one point as a “centrefold private eye”, is hired by a very rich old lady, Florence Chambers (Marjorie Bennett), to sort of investigate all the family members who are living in her mansion, to make sure they’re worthy of being put in the will. There’s three of them – nephew John (John Alderman), his wife Tish (Anitra Ford), and their daughter, I think, Pamela (Cristina Raines). There’s also chauffeur / general assistant Frank (James Westmoreland).

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The general gist is mostly similar – Frank owes money to a bookie and is blackmailing Tish, by sleeping with her and making sure he has photos of the deed. He also blackmails John by threatening to reveal his homosexuality – in “Malibu Express”, he goes places in full-on drag, but it seems Sidaris was a little bit more accommodating in 1973, as he’s much less of a caricature, although the words used to describe him aren’t great – he’s called the “faggy heir”, and “queer” and “faggot” are both used. Pamela was a bit older in the later movie too, as here she’s 16 or so, and therefore is off limits sexually; she was blackmailed in “Malibu Express”, here she’s just seen as under the influence of a weird Manson-esque guru.

Talking of him, he and his two friends seem to want to maul every woman around them – one of them just gently fondles Stacey’s boob before he’s even said hello to her. Okay, she grabs a bottle, smashes the end of it and threatens the would-be rapist with it, but it happens again and the definite implication, despite a strong female lead, is that women are objects to be admired or owned but not to have their own agency.

Like I said, the plot is largely the same – there’s twists and turns, a murder and a very strange gunfight at a busy racetrack where no-one seems all that bothered that two goons with shotguns are chasing a gorgeous woman through the car park.

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Right from the beginning of his career, Sidaris used Playboy models for his leading ladies. The weird thing is, Anne Randall is pretty good, and I can only assume her nude modelling was the thing that stopped her from getting more mainstream work. She’s really really beautiful, too, like distractingly so, and even manages to keep her clothes on and dress appropriately throughout most of the movie (okay, there are a few nude scenes).

Sidaris’ technical abilities were not great at this point in his career. There are a number of conversations in cars, and he didn’t record live sound in any of those scenes, leaving them very oddly dubbed later. There’s a bunch of terrible editing, and oddest of all, stereotypically Greek music playing during all the action scenes. All I can say is, the two things really don’t go together. The ending feels like it came out of nowhere too, with the villain being afforded way too little screen time before the big reveal.

This has been called “whitesploitation” by a few commentators, as it mirrors the beats and style of the blaxploitation cinema so popular at the time, just replacing the black lead with a woman. I can see the point, although I’d rather just call it good old fashioned exploitation cinema, with its nudity, violence, and twisty plot. Calling attention to the whiteness of the cast (100%) is probably something I’d advise against if you’re trying to defend this movie, honestly.

Okay, not from this movie, but I couldn't find a good screenshot of her

Okay, not from this movie, but I couldn’t find a good screenshot of her

It’s all a bit silly, but ultimately it’s good fun, much the same as the director would go on to do with his later movies. It’s strange how many of the things that would obsess him appear here – helicopters, Playboy models, explosions, light comedy – so it appears he emerged fully formed from the world of TV, ready to give us stories full of girls and guns.

Rating: thumbs up

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Andy Sidaris season! L.E.T.H.A.L. Ladies – Return To Savage Beach (1998)

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It’s extremely difficult to hate on a movie which is so self-aware, as if, at the end of a fun career, Andy Sidaris realised just how silly it had all been. “Return To Savage Beach” just keeps ending, like they wrap one plot up but then decide to let the villain have a ten-minute monologue about his life, then go and arrest someone else, etc. But rather than just happening, one of the characters goes “how many times is this going to end?” and the closing credits music is the truly amazing, one-in-a-million dirge, “Which Ending Does This Story Have?” I salute you, sir, and of all the long series we’ve covered here at the ISCFC, this is by far the best.

Custom-written songs are one of my favourite things about B-movies, and this has one at the beginning and end, with the one at the beginning just sort of filling you in on the plot and that, yes, we’ll be returning to Savage Beach. It’s also a return for that ludicrous gimmick of using the local radio station to broadcast secret messages, despite there being no practical reason to do so (several of their plans are made more difficult because someone’s listening in. Would it have been so difficult to give them a secure phone line, or a special walkie-talkie or something?)

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Perhaps Sidaris just loves classic spy movie tropes. There’s a bit near the beginning where L.E.T.H.A.L’s offices are infiltrated by a woman dressed as a pizza delivery girl (well, a pizza delivery girl in skin-tight red leather), and everyone is fooled by her. Come on, guys! Step your damn security up!

For reasons completely unknown, they give a bunch of fairly hefty monologues at the beginning to the worst actor of the lot, Cristian Letelier, who helpfully explains the plot of “Savage Beach”. There’s chunks of footage used from it too, and a surprising amount of respect / admiration for the work of his two original stars, Dona Speir and Hope Marie Carlton. They tweak the story a little to make out that the gold is still there (didn’t they take it? Didn’t Carlton’s character leave the series to spend all the gold she’d kept?), but that pales into insignificance when we come to the best of all…

Buff Bagwell is back! You know how he was a murdering gold-obsessed lunatic in the last movie? Well, and I can’t quite believe I’m typing this, the person we saw him murder on-camera was a serial killer, so he got a commendation from L.E.T.H.A.L for doing it! All the other killings are ignored, and his three months in jail turned him into one of the good guys. I love it! While I didn’t hate him in the last movie, he’s a bit under-used here, in classic Sidaris fashion – Sidaris must have hated firing anyone so his cast lists got a bit unwieldy towards the end.

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Buff’s bona fides are established when, pretty much as soon as he’s introduced, he has to fight three ninjas who’ve all had face paint to make them look like pro wrestler Sting. It’s too similar to be a coincidence, but it makes no sense whatsoever and I think it’s brilliant. His performance in this fight also sets Julie Strain’s heart a-fluttering, and wow are there some crazy sex scenes to come. I mean, Buff looks like he couldn’t give a damn about the beautiful naked woman writhing in front of him – I’ll give him a pass, I guess, as this is his second ever movie? It’s an odd visual, though, like a stereotype of a gay bodybuilder and an Amazon trying to make things work. Oh, and at one point Buff says, apparently without irony, “I was born for watersports”, so I presume it didn’t have quite the same meaning back in the late 90s.

There are a couple of computer discs with the location of Savage Beach on it, that our villain Rodrigo Martinez (Rodrigo Obregon, Sidaris’ most regular actor) is trying to steal. But then he says later on that he knew where the gold was all along. Huh? I guess the story needs a reason to exist, and for our heroes to go to a variety of exotic locations. One of them is a swamp. In Hawaii. If you’re thinking “that looks nothing like Hawaii” you’d be right – it turns out Sidaris shot the vast majority of his movies in and around Shreveport, Louisiana, which has lots of swamps.

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As they’re straight-up showing the old footage, they can’t be blamed for repeating stuff this time, but it took “Return To Savage Beach” to make me realise just how much Andy Sidaris loves blowing people up. Given the choice between shooting someone and designing a needlessly complicated method of destroying them with high-explosives, they always go for option B. And they’re always so happy to do it! You monsters!

I haven’t mentioned the cast, beyond Strain and Bagwell, at all. Julie K Smith is excellent again, and I’m sad her career is largely limited to this and Jim Wynorski movies. Shae Marks is wooden, but if you look her up on IMDB, you’ll be treated to people upset that, after this movie, she got a breast reduction due to health concerns. Yes, upset. All the men in the movie are, once again, brain-meltingly terrible.

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There’s a real sense Sidaris knew he was retiring after this. Obregon, his favourite actor, gets a huge monologue at the end where he talks about the plot of the first “Savage Beach” (plus, there’s an insane spy-movie twist in there too) which is only there because he wanted to give his friend his moment in the sun – it’s certainly not because anyone was wondering “what happened to that bloke we saw get blown up in that 10-year old movie?” And, of course, there’s a classic Sidaris ending – everyone stood around with champagne, discussing how much sex they’re going to have that night.

I’m sad to see him go. I’ve had a lot of fun with these 12 movies (okay, not all of them), and while I’ve got two of his old ones to go, I’m not sure they’ll be quite as much fun. But we’ll see. Get that box set, my friends, and revel in a simpler time.

Rating: thumbs up

Andy Sidaris season! Day Of The Warrior (1996)

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We’re now in the home stretch of our reviews of the movies of Andy Sidaris (along with a few from his son), and we hope you’ve already invested in the “Girls, Guns and G-Strings” DVD set – in terms of fun per $, you’re not going to get a better bargain. This is the penultimate instalment, chronologically speaking, and after that, as a little lap of honour, we’ll be covering his first two movies, 1973’s “Stacey” and 1979’s “Seven” (and maybe, if I can find it, his 1969 documentary about James Garner’s attempt to form a motor-racing team).

But today’s movie is 1996’s “Day Of The Warrior”, with one of my favourite pieces of stunt casting, as much as you can call a movie packed full of Playboy playmates normally cast. The Warrior the title refers to is played by none other than Buff Bagwell, pro wrestling legend and one-time gigolo. He might be a really nice guy, no idea, but he was a rubbish wrestler so it’s been loads of fun mocking him for the last twenty years. The really weird thing is…he’s sort of alright in this. If he’d had an agent and not been under some wrestling contract, he could very easily have had a decent career (better than “failed pro wrestler” anyway).

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But before we meet Buff “The Stuff” Bagwell, we’re treated to the most Sidaris-est intro of all time, a slow-motion bit of boob-jiggling which manages to look completely un-erotic. This re-introduces Cobra (Julie K Smith) and establishes a link between the movies of Dad and Son, should you be one of the zero people who spent any mental energy on imagining if they were part of the same cinematic universe or not. She’s deep undercover as a stripper, because of course.

It’s also a welcome return for Julie Strain, who’s done with playing villains and is now head of L.E.T.H.A.L. By the way, this is the first movie where they’re identified by that name, and we also get a super-unhelpful acronym, which made me laugh and which I will no reproduce for you:

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So yes, Strain is the very boringly-for-her named “Willow Black”, but mercifully her outfit for being in charge of a huge spy network is a tiny leopard-print bikini, and we first see her while she’s working out, also jiggling (although not in slow motion). She’s learned to act a little in the intervening two years, though, so that’s nice. Let me see if I can remember the paper-thin plot to relate to you…

…It’s a collection of scenes you’ll remember from other Sidaris movies, re-ordered as if he never expected anyone to see the earlier ones, as if he was unaware of the existence of VHS tapes and TV and people’s ability to see his old movies too. There’s the comedy assassins, who get blown up but never die; the cane that doubles as a rifle; and the blowing up of a shack with “Fuel Dump” crudely written on one side. It’s more like a drink with an old friend, where they tell the same stories but you don’t mind because they’re still funny.

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Buff is “The Supreme Warrior”, a former agent of L.E.T.H.A.L who then became a pro wrestler, and now is a booty-collecting super-villain. You know, that old career procession! Fighting him are our ladies with a succession of shockingly bland leading men, including Major Ward, played by a fellow called Cristian Letelier who’s down there with the worst actors we’ve seen in a Sidaris movie, and you know how much competition there is for that award. Gerald Okamura, the villain in dozens of 80s and 90s b-movies, here plays a good guy, who’s Willow Black’s sidekick, loves her unrequitedly and is also undercover as a Chinese Elvis impersonator. Yes, that’s right, and he does it with such relish that you can’t even be annoyed by it.

You’ve got a super-obvious double agent, two different people getting knocked out by Julie Strain’s boobs, and a final confrontation of a two-on-one wrestling match which is hilarious. Oh, and the villains are genuinely running a video piracy ring! I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen that used as a plot point, and it’s great.

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We’ve sat through the good and the bad, but I think this could be the best of all the Sidaris movies. He’s just having fun here, with a central pair of actors who understand how ridiculous it all is and have fun with it – and it needs stating, but Strain and Smith are vastly superior actors to Speir and Vasquez. It rips along, everyone’s having fun, and while the nudity is both far too prevalent and not remotely erotic, I reckon you’ll have a really good time with this one.

Rating: thumbs up

Andy Sidaris season! The Dallas Connection (1994)

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“The Dallas Connection” and Christian Sidaris’ other movie, “Enemy Gold”, might as well be parts 1 and 2 of a documentary about the dangers of nepotism. After using his Dad’s connections to get a few TV gigs in the 70s and 80s, he then briefly took over the reins of Malibu Bay Films when Andy decided to take a few years off.

Sidaris Jr’s movies sort of look like his Dad’s, but every possible bit of craft, or intrigue, or simple ability, has been dialed back to 1 (you decide where on the dial Sidaris Sr would sit, but it’s definitely higher than that). They made me bored of seeing attractive women in the nude, and even made me feel anxious and upset when a sex scene was about to start. This is absolutely not what he should have been doing with his life, and I’m a bit sad Sidaris Sr didn’t just pick someone at random out of the phone book to write and direct this, chances are it’d have been just as good if not better.

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But we can’t spend all day insulting someone who’s not worked in the movie business for almost 20 years (because it makes us look cruel, and it appears the world’s movie people largely agree with my analysis above). We’re in the home stretch of the Sidaris-verse, the main overarching story has been dealt with, and we can just kick back and relax.

We’re treated to a bit more of the world than we normally get to see, as a group of scientists from various exotic locations are murdered by gorgeous women in moderately implausible ways. Of course, because this is Sidaris movie, we have a remote controlled car stuffed with explosives, and (my favourite) an exploding golf ball. Turns out these scientists have four quarters of an important equation that’s supposed to do…something or other? It really doesn’t matter, it’s just your generic world domination plot.

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Masterminding this wave of assassinations is Black Widow, an almost restrained name for a Julie Strain character. She and all her ladies are strippers at Cowboys Nightclub, which we’ve seen before (possibly in the last movie? I’m not going back to check), and are all sort of okay actors, especially for former Playboy and Penthouse models. Wendy Hamilton is “Scorpion”, Cassidy Philips is “Platter Puss”, and best of all, Julie K Smith is “Cobra”. Smith was last covered by us in “Popatopolis”, the documentary about low-budget scumbag Jim Wynorski, and the real sad thing about that movie, and how she struggled with the miserable conditions of a 3-day shoot and a mega-sexist director, is that they’re still working together, years later (her only appearances are in Wynorski movies, and I’ve no idea why as she’s a totally decent B-movie actress).

After what seems like an hour of random scientists getting killed, we meet our heroes. Returning are Mark and Chris (Mark Barriere and Bruce Penhall). They still act completely like a gay couple who are forced into the closet by the masculine world they work in, but I’m guessing this wasn’t the director’s intention. Joining our boys is new agent Samantha Maxx (Samantha Phillips, another actor / character name match). We’ve met Phillips before, in “Phantasm 2” and “Dollman”, and – again – she’s not a terrible actress. Relatively speaking. Anyway, her character is that she has big breasts, but she does the best with what she has, and with no tedious agency politics weighing us down this time, we’re free to be bored and disappointed in a whole range of new ways!

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You know how it goes. Our heroes each have a computer chip, and the hot lady assassins want those chips. One scientist survived, and he’s being chased by the ladies too. Boobs, bad acting, and even worse music. No Hawaii either – the title was a giveaway, obviously – and the locations they did pick are pretty dull.

The plot being out of the way, let’s deal with how terrible Sidaris Jr is at pacing. The golf scene goes on to absolutely unbearable length, there’s car scenes that really want to let us know every step involved in getting into a car and driving off, and the scene where they enter all the codes into the computer! What the hell were they thinking? It feels like it came in 20 minutes short and they had no money for reshoots, so just stopped editing. Add in a staggering amount of nudity, scenes of stripping so dull they must have affected the bottom line of “Cowboys” club for years and you’ve got a movie that almost defies you to pay attention to it.

I’m going to have to spoil the ending of “The Dallas Connection” for you, I’m afraid. So, skip ahead to the inevitable “thumbs down” rating if you were intending to watch it yourself, but if not read on.

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So, Cobra is an undercover agent, but even when she’s on her own with another agent, with no possible benefit to be gained by keeping her cover, she keeps her cover. When she could warn the good guys that a bunch of people are coming to murder them, she says nothing, and when a couple of agents are in fact killed, everyone treats it as if it couldn’t possibly be her fault. It’s really curious, and feels like a first draft that no-one paid attention to.

That’s it for Sidaris Jr, and we’re back with Dad tomorrow, after a break of a couple of years and a replacement of a large section of the main cast. It’s a relief, because this was no fun at all.

Rating: thumbs down

Andy Sidaris season! Fit To Kill (1993)

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I’m sure you’ve been hanging on my every word about the Sidaris-verse, but for those of you who haven’t, this is the last of the “classic” movies starring the L.E.T.H.A.L. Ladies, Dona Speir and Roberta Vasquez (Vasquez replaced Hope Marie Carlton, who was in the first three movies). In the early entries, they seemed to just stumble on huge drugs or arms deals, but recently they’ve been fighting Kane, who started off Asian (as played by Pat Morita) but then suddenly became Caucasian (RJ “son of Roger” Moore).

To say his movies are a bit samey is almost an insult to samey things. Occasionally, you’ll get a scene which is identical to one in a previous effort, like he forgot he did it and had the idea again. There are actors who he employed in multiple movies because he was their friend, I guess, because he certainly didn’t write a part for them – poor Michael Shane, who was almost the star of “Savage Beach”, is here little more than a background guy, staying behind to staff radio station K-SXY while the other agents go and do stuff.

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After a good old training scene to start things off, including a paintball fight and a brand new model helicopter – did he have shares in a radio-controlled toy shop? – the movie lumbers into “action”. The gimmick of “Fit To Kill” is that Chang, a seemingly benevolent Chinese businessman, wants to give the Alexa Diamond to the people of Russia, because it was stolen from them in WW2 and he figures they could use the money. This is no ordinary diamond, you understand, it’s as big as a clenched fist and is presumably worth tens of millions of dollars. So, he asks L.E.T.H.A.L to help him out with security and the handover, because not only does Kane want it, but there’s an evil Japanese fella and his goons too.

Brought in to help Kane is the extraordinarily named Blu Steele, played by Julie Strain, former Penthouse Pet and B-movie regular. She’s not fetishised to the same level as in “Enemy Gold”, but we do get a nice scene of her exercising in tiny underwear for absolutely no reason as an introduction. Strain, alongside every other woman in this movie, is nude so often I wondered if it was a bet of some sort, because it cruises past the point where it stops being titilating and just becomes white noise. Does it set a record for most sex scenes in a non-porn movie? I think it just might, and if not it definitely tried its, er, hardest.

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The centrepiece of the movie is a party at Kane’s house, where the exchange is going to take place. At least I think it’s at Kane’s house, I could have just said “some mansion” but I want you to know, dear reader, that I’m straining with every fibre of my being to remember these pointless details. The ladies go undercover, there’s fighting and double-crosses and suchlike, until eventually the dust settles and Kane is left in their custody. Now, they act like he’s been a sort of friendly thorn in their side up to this point, or that evidence gathered in previous movies doesn’t count; because rather than arresting him for constantly trying to murder them, they just have a bit of a chat with him and all go their separate ways. Okay, I guess?

Oh, I forgot my favourite thing about the party, the crowbarred in singing performance from Edy (Cynthia Brimhall, my favourite of the lot). She’s gone from C&W to tropical pop to cheesy ballads, but that’s not the important thing. The important thing is who hired her? The guy organising the party tried to kill her in the previous movie!

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There’s a return for the two comedy assassins from “Do Or Die”, who I’d have been happy to see a spin-off movie about; they have a conversation straight out of Tarantino, about Fred Flintstone vs Homer Simpson (their conclusion, that Homer is a flash in the pan, sounds a bit weird now we’ve had 24 more years of their adventures, but whatever). There’s also an enjoyable, if moderately convoluted, return for the crystal necklace from “Hard Hunted”. Most curious of all is a dream sequence which blatantly rips off the opening credits from the old James Bond movies, and features RJ Moore as Bond. I have to assume that Dad didn’t care (because he doesn’t appear to have cared about anything, including acting, for a long time) but they must have skated very close to getting sued with that combination of scene and actor. Although, remember “Operation Double 007” from the 1960s, with Sean Connery’s brother playing a character called Bond? Sidaris’ plagiarism was mild in comparison!

There’s a surprisingly fun final fight, as all problems get resolved, with a little segment that’s sort of a metaphor for how low-rent Sidaris’ movies are – a midair battle between two remote controlled helicopters. Perhaps it was a joke, as he knew he couldn’t afford the real thing. Or maybe RC helicopters were way more popular back then.

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We reviewed these slightly out of order – “Fit To Kill” should come before “Enemy Gold” (although it really doesn’t matter), but there’s a slightly interesting comparison. “Enemy Gold”, directed by Christian Sidaris, was lousy with homosexual subtext, but here there’s none at all. Donna (Speir) and Nicole (Vasquez) are frolicking round in a tropical pool right at the beginning, way closer to each other than they need to be, yet they don’t appear to be sexual beings at all, like a light switches off in their head when there’s no man around to impress. Given the sheer volume of nudity and sex in “Fit To Kill”, it’s interesting how un-erotic the whole thing is.

There’s more Sidaris to come, dear reader, even after the conclusion of this story. There’s one more from the son, then another couple of Andy’s movies (after he took a few years off), and I might even do his earlier movies too, as a lap of honour.

But re: “Fit To Kill”, just enough laughs and action to entertain, and it’s easy on the eye too. You could do worse, and if you’re this deep into his movies, you’re going to watch it anyway.

Rating: thumbs in the middle

Youtube Film Club – Banzai Runner (1987)

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The risk you take when watching cheap movies, or ones you’ve never heard of, is false advertising. Big-budget movies can’t really mess around too much, because if they billed something as a knockabout comedy and it had a load of murder and misery in it, they’d get mocked endlessly in the press and their investors might be unhappy. There are no such worries for our low-budget friends, and in fact making something rather dull and cheap to produce look as exciting as possible is pretty much their business model.

So we come to “Banzai Runner”. Look at the picture above. Pretty exciting looking, right? Super-powered sports cars, hot ladies, probably a few good fight scenes, men shouting at each other about honour and friendship. Right up my street! But the reality is, it’s a fairly low-key drama about a couple of broken-hearted men (Uncle and nephew) trying to come to terms with loss and move on with new relationships, with a distant b-story of the Uncle trying to break up an illegal street-racing ring.

Highway patrolman Billy Baxter (Dean Stockwell! Did he think this would be his post-Blue Velvet star-making role?) and his nephew Beck (John Shepherd, who was the main guy in “Friday 13th: A New Beginning”) are still haunted by the death of Beck’s parents in a drunk-driving accident a few years ago. Unless you’ve personally been affected by drunk-driving death in this world, you think it’s absolutely fine, as pretty much everyone drives hammered whenever they like. At the beginning, Billy rescues a baby from a burning drink-induced car wreck, although “baby” is putting it a bit strongly, the kid he wraps in a blanket is like three years old. Could they not find a real baby? Anyway, he spirals downwards a bit and is eventually fired.

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There are lots of curious supporting characters in “Banzai Runner”. There’s the Highway Patrol’s mechanic, Traven (Charles Dierkop) who’s apparently also a criminal, as he has a case about him due up before a judge very soon. Billy, upset that his patrol car can’t keep up with the illegal racers, asks Traven to help him illegally soup up the car, offering to get his case dropped. But he never really does, he just takes him for a few rides in his pickup truck which he’s modified so it can go above 150 mph. Sure, why not? Oh, the judge is a hipster who wears a t-shirt in his chambers and was almost busted once by Billy for smoking weed.

Talking of weed, there’s a really curious scene where Beck and Billy are driving back from somewhere, and Billy’s asleep in the passenger seat. Beck decides now is a good time to have a quick smoke, you know, next to your sleeping guardian who’s also a cop! I have literally no idea why anyone thought the jumble of scenes I’ve described in the last few paragraphs made any sense, but they’re all there (heck, you can check for yourself if you like).

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Instead of fun scenes with the street-racers, we get lots and lots of scenes of Dean Stockwell looking sad, or dealing with his on-again, off-again girlfriend. Perhaps the director wasn’t remotely interesting in telling the fast car story, but wanted to do a meaty drama? Then the producers said to him “we love you, seriously though, make this a fast car movie or you’re fired”. I sort of thought from the description that we were going to get a proto-”The Fast and the Furious” (the plot seems heavily reminiscent of part 2 of that wonderful franchise). If Paul Walker had sat around for most of the movie getting drunk and feeling bad about his life, well, we’d have never had a part 3. Actually, if Paul Walker had done those things, and had a nephew who was a complete asshole throughout the movie, then I’d call ripoff.

Eventually, Billy sort of goes undercover and gets involved in this street racing world, but it’s not really that either. There’s only two guys, and their business model is driving cocaine through the desert to Las Vegas at speeds so fast the cops can’t catch them. Although, as they appear to have paid off the cops, I’ve got no idea why they’d need to drive fast anyway? They also sort of dabble in bets on races, so Billy takes on a comedy German stereotype, then the main bad guy himself. I think, I’d honestly stopped paying attention by that point. If you were expecting actual fast cars actually racing fast, then be prepared to be disappointed – although your disappointment tank may well be tapped out by that point – as it’s just sped up footage of cars driving totally normally. They don’t even really make an attempt to not have it look like sped up footage either, and it’s terrible.

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I thought the description of the factory-modded Porsche as being able to go 200mph was stupid too, but it turns out 2017 models can do exactly that, so I’ll give them a pass. Driving that Porsche is one of the very few interesting actors in the movie, Billy Drago (who we’ve covered in such gems as “Cyborg 2” and “Tremors 4”). He’s the main goon but he’s really under-written, like they had to fit in a five minute scene where Stockwell wanders round his house trying to play a trumpet, but can’t be bothered to have a scene of Drago being awesome and evil.

Please don’t be like me, dear reader. And not in any of the normal, “oh my god he’s wasted his life” ways! Don’t be fooled by the blatant false advertising of “Banzai Runner” – and don’t ask what a banzai runner is, because this movie will not tell you – and watch something fun instead.

Rating: thumbs down

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Andy Sidaris season! Enemy Gold (1993)

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If you’ve read any of these reviews before, you’ll know one of my favourite things is weird ordering of sequels, confusing continuity and so on; we have a little treat for you here, in the shape of the first of the “Girls, Guns And G-Strings” series to have not been written or directed by Andy Sidaris. Sidaris apparently saw “Fit To Kill” (also made in 1993, and annoyingly I guessed wrong as to which of the 1993 movies came first) as the end of the tales of the L.E.T.H.A.L. Ladies – it was the last one starring Dona Speir and Roberta Vasquez – so his son, Christian Drew Sidaris, took over the reins. It may not surprise you to know that the entirety of junior’s career in the movies is in his Dad’s stuff, and when Andy finally retired in 1998, Christian never worked in the business again.

So, we’re treated to another unnamed government agency with buxom female agents, and a few very clean-cut guys who don’t look particularly interested in the women; returning from daddy’s stock company are Bruce Penhall and Rodrigo Obregon, and making her first appearance is Julie Strain, who’d star in the remaining Sidaris movies. So, not too different from Dad, right?

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Well, I’ll never insult Andy again after seeing this. The title, “Enemy Gold”, refers to some Civil War gold which is seen in the cold open being stolen by a couple of Confederate soldiers in 1865 and then buried in Texas somewhere; it’s entirely irrelevant to the plot and is discovered by accident a little over halfway in, after being referred to casually once previously. It’s not even a MacGuffin because its presence doesn’t cause anyone to change their allegiance or plans, it’s just a thing that happens. It feels like it was rewritten crudely at the last minute.

Might as well tell you a bit about it, though. The Civil War battle at the beginning is filmed terribly (I presume it was him borrowing a group of re-enactors for the afternoon) – there’s so much smoke from the guns that there’s stretches where you can’t see a damn thing. But luckily there’s not too much of it to sit through, as we’re soon in modern-day Texas, and our two heroes, guys who wear vests constantly, Chris and Mark (Bruce Penhall and Mark Barriere, Barriere continuing the proud Sidaris tradition of being so bad at acting that he had to use his own first name). They’re joined by the splendidly named Becky Midnite (Suzy Simpson), as she’s Chris’s girlfriend as well as being an agent. I think.

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This triple threat put a drug manufacturing operation out of business, belonging to Santiago (Obregon), who’s been paying off the agency’s local boss, Dickson (a charisma vacuum by the name of Alan Abelew) for some time. Dickson suspends them for not following correct agency procedure, and if you’ve ever thought “what this action movie could do with is a really intricate discussion of the political structure of a fictitious government agency” then you’re going to have a heck of a good time. Santiago sends his goons after them, and off we go.

Not even the intervention of their friend and higher-level boss Noble (Tanquil Lisa Collins, similarly blonde and statuesque) can save them, so they decide to take their suspension casually and go for a camping trip – Chris and Mark have been camping together since they were boys, and have always been fascinated by the story of the lost Civil War gold. You might see the scenes with Noble and not be aware she’s their Washington-based superior officer, because in every single scene but one, she’s lounging round in her underwear, or naked in the hot tub. In other words, this is chuffing stupid.

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Getting a heck of an introduction is Santiago’s chief goon Jewel Panther (Strain). She’s a former Penthouse pet, as are most of Sidaris’ female cast (that or “Playboy”), and went on to a fairly busy 15 year career in terrible movies. We first met her in “Witchcraft 4”, where she does a special intro to the DVD, appearing entirely naked in her bathroom for reasons unknown. She tries, bless her, but she’s not helped by the movie thinking she’s the most amazing thing in the history of ever, giving her dozens of long, lingering closeups that the action doesn’t warrant. A particular non-favourite is when we’re treated to a few minutes of her doing a sword-kata, by firelight, while dressed in a tiny leather bikini that doesn’t actually cover any of her breasts up (just frames them).

So you’ve got these guys, stumbling upon the gold, and Santiago and his goons trying to track them down, not for the gold which they don’t know about immediately, but for revenge. Noble comes to town too, and she and Dickson also go to the wilderness to help out. The second half then becomes a people-in-the-woods movie, of which we’ve seen so many here at the ISCFC, with the added Sidaris family trick of having a helicopter constantly attack them.

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I had a little criticism of the directing before, but there’s a lot to hate here. “Enemy Gold” makes strip clubs look extremely boring, although perhaps they’re that boring in real life. Who knows? The ever-present sax-based soundtrack grates after 10 minutes, so by 90 you’re wanting to shove that bloody saxophone through the director’s skull. The exact same trick, of a hot woman tricking a bunch of goons into letting their guard down, is used twice. The assassins that Santiago hires (because of course) have maybe the dumbest plan in the history of plans.

Lastly, how about two of the most crowbarred-in sex scenes of all time? Santiago gets some mildly annoying news, so to cheer himself up he grabs two of his own prostitutes and has sex with them in the shower (which does have the great exchange – “what’s up?” – “I am”, so it’s not a complete loss). The other one? After the big shootout at the end! They basically interrupted the end of the movie to show a crappy sex scene!

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What this manages to be is dull. It’s not stupid enough to be funny, not visually interesting in the slightest, packed full of performances that are terrible even by “Girls, Guns and G-Strings” standards, and shows how, just because your Dad is a director, doesn’t mean you should be one too.

Rating: thumbs down

Andy Sidaris season! Hard Hunted (1993)

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After a particularly rough last movie, “Do Or Die”, we’re back with another directorial effort from the late, “great”, Andy Sidaris, the man who pioneered getting the camera to look at attractive women in the audience at sporting events before moving on to showing acres of their flesh in movies.

Our MacGuffin today is a jade Buddha, perhaps top-ten all time in terms of cheesy tourist tat, but this one apparently contains a trigger for a nuclear device. I remember the good old days when nuclear triggers were very valuable things in the eyes of international criminal masterminds, nowadays of course they just pay to get evil people elected and make sure they enact laws that allow them to carry on making billions of dollars. Kane, the villain from the last few movies, has the device, which will bring him “power and money beyond even my wildest dreams”, which is evidently so powerful it made him change genetics, from Pat Morita to RJ “son of Roger” Moore (Moore’s entire adult acting career is this, another Sidaris movie and a small part in one of his Dad’s efforts).

Anyway, one of the L.E.T.H.A.L. Ladies (although the agency still isn’t referred to as that, or anything) steals it and we’re on for fun, as they try and keep it, Kane tries to take it back, and so on.

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Like a long-running TV series, you know who you’re going to see, so the interest then becomes what variations on the introductions are we going to get. We’re all fans of Edy (Cynthia Brimhall), the buxom C&W singer, but she’s gone from “country” to “island” this time, entertaining the people at a hotel with her tropical beats and song about waking up “first thing in the afternoon” and then just getting drunk and partying all day, a song which is so wonderful we hear it in its entirety three times.

Also returning is Ava (Ava Cadell, not quite a good enough actor to play someone with a different name to her own) who’s front is as a DJ for KSXY, the station where all the staff dress in bikinis (or speedos, if they’re Shane Abilene, who also works there). Her assistant gets her coffee while wearing nothing on her top half at all! She has the job of giving out the least subtle on-air code of all time, which would sound insane to anyone who was just listening to the show, and is a really stupid idea anyway – for instance, when one agent is on the run and phones Ava for advice on where to go, they broadcast the conversation on the air even though it’d make tons more sense for them to just have a phone call together. Her performance will not make you forget the DJ from “The Warriors”, it’s safe to say.

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Our two heroines, Donna (Dona Speir) and Nicole (Roberta Vasquez) are in Arizona, relaxing and working on their tans – you know, because Hawaii is notorious for people not being able to do either of those things. I sort of like them both, and Edy, which indicates my standards are dropping or they all decided to take acting lessons in between Sidaris movie gigs. Don’t worry, by any reasonable movie-fan’s standards, they’re still terrible.

Sidaris still loves his “Dukes of Hazzard” style redneck humour, and it’s once again supplied by a couple of wacky assassins, who are by a distance the least successful of all the wacky assassin teams he’s featured so far – there’s also a comedy sheriff, another classic stereotype, but he gets blown up fairly quickly. And there’s a couple of high-quality “That Guy” actors who clearly fancied a few days work in Hawaii – Al Leong, aka “that Asian villain from pretty much every 80s and 90s movie”, whose main character trait is “has a really ugly helicopter that Andy Sidaris thought was cool”. Also popping up as “boat captain” is Brett Baxter Clark, who we met in the amazing “Alien Warrior”.

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So yes, it’s back-and-forth action, with much less of the appalling “stay here like a good girl while I do all the work” sexism of the previous movie. Donna and Nicole get the jade buddha, and take it back to Hawaii, then Donna gets kidnapped, then the double agent reveals himself and all hell breaks loose. There’s even a decent stunt sequence, where Donna escapes from a plane in a pretty clever manner with fighting and all that. There’s another fight later on which my notes describe as “ridiculous, but sort of brilliant”, which could double as a description of the movie as a whole. I also admire how they’re unafraid to straight-up murder their enemies, too, rather than making too much of an effort to arrest them.

While it’s still full of nude ladies who are prepared to have sex with their men at the drop of a hat, even when they really ought to be concentrating on their mission, and just general female nudity, it’s less offensive than “Do Or Die” and even if you’re a staunch feminist, as I am, you can enjoy this, laughing with it almost as much as you’re laughing at it.

Rating: thumbs up

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PS – next up is a movie not directed by Andy Sidaris but his son (brother? I have no idea) Christian Drew Sidaris, “Enemy Gold”, which is very vaguely part of the Sidaris-verse, and brings in Julie Strain to the family.