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?)
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.
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.
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.
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