Endless Bummer: Pick-Up Summer (1980)

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The mission of our “Endless Bummer” feature is to find the weird, the wonderful and the unappreciated among the “summer T&A” genre (also incorporating spring break movies). We’ll hopefully uncover a few forgotten gems, and re-bury some long-dead garbage; and our journey down many odd rabbit holes brings us to “Pick-Up Summer”. There’s a reason there’s only one good pinball movie, and it’s not really about pinball (“Tommy”, of course) – because it’s almost impossible to make a game so heavy with chance into anything dramatic. But they try, gol-darnit!

This film keeps the “super-awful theme music” run going, with a beautiful ditty called “Pinball Summer”. The seemingly random collection of images that accompany this song actually sort of introduce us to the cast and themes – two guys who look like they’re in their late 20s, but have apparently just graduated high school; two women who they either know or want to get to know; a biker gang who try and raid a pinball hall; a rich asshole and his girlfriend; some fast food location or locations (not sure); a simple-looking pervert; and some local politicians. Don’t worry, though, the “local politicians try and spoil the kids’ fun” subplot is dropped at about the halfway point and never mentioned again.

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Childish sense of humour? What now?

Greg and Steve are the two horndogs, throwing their books out of the window as they’ve done with their last day of high school (I’ll take a wild guess and say they’re not college-bound). Their brightly painted van pulls up alongside the car containing Donna and Suzy, and they act like this is the first time they’ve seen these two smokin-hot ladies, although it would appear two of them (I honestly can’t be bothered separating the four) have been in a relationship, sort of. They don’t leave their home town, just hang around the two shops the town has to offer – a pinball arcade and a burger place. The biker gang, who are a pretty gentle group of ruffians, decide to steal the trophy for the upcoming pinball trophy – incorporating the extremely un-sexist “Pinball Queen” beauty contest!

That’s your plot, really. The biker gang are a mild nuisance, the romances between the main four develop, “Whimpy” stares at womens’ breasts and acts like a complete moron throughout – doing a decent impression of that weird, gross, stupid kid you knew at school, or maybe that’s just how he was; women are carried about so often I began to suspect none of their legs worked properly; there’s at least two old perverts (one of whom who wears womens’ underwear) to go along with the young pervert;  and the actual “plot” of the pinball tournament turns up at 1:20 of a 1:40 movie. Only the big tournament isn’t anything of the sort – it’s just the head of the biker gang taking on Horndog #1, with the prize being a trophy and a date with Horndog #1’s girlfriend, who just won the hotly contested title of  Miss Dingy Pinball Place.

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There are three interesting things to talk about, relating to this movie and the time it was made though. First up is the amount of male closeness– Greg and Steve hug a lot and seem entirely comfortable with being physically intimate; and the biker gang at one point are staring in a window to see Whimpy have sex with a prostitute. One of the bikers gets so turned on he grabs his friend’s ass and starts humping him; five years later, that move would have got him shot, but here all it elicits is mild annoyance.

Second is the video arcade. “Space Invaders” was released in 1979, “Pac-Man” in 1980, “Donkey Kong” in 1981, and the number of video arcades doubled between 1980 and 1982. I would lay good odds on the pinball arcade featured in this movie, in real life, either converting to video games or going out of business in a few years – and that lends it a rather quaint quality.

That quaintness brings me to my last point, and that’s “Porky’s” and the influence it had on this sort of movie. I assumed (correctly, as it turns out) that this movie was originally called “Pinball Summer”, but when the pinball craze died out and the teen T&A craze picked up, a little repurposing was done and this movie was probably re-released. “Porky’s” was insanely popular, mostly due to its worship of its teen male audience – it’s about people like them, but who stand up for themselves, prank the teachers, get illicitly drunk and see naked ladies. Wish fulfilment, in other words. “Pick-Up Summer” is nothing like that, at all – our two heroes are only interested in the two ladies, even the main bad guy is faithful to his lady-friend (who does provide most of the movie’s T&A quotient), and the plot, such as it is, is king. While “Porky’s” was set in the early 60s, this movie could have been made in the early 60s – okay, it’d have had no nudity, but that would have to be the only change.

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A couple of random thoughts before we go – firstly, directed to the photo above. To make her horndog jealous after an argument, Donna asks evil biker Bert (Tom Kovacs) to take her for a ride. She starts off secretly resenting it, only doing it to spite her man, but as you can see, she seems to discover something about herself and really gets into it. This potentially interesting subplot is, of course, completely dropped the instant she gets off the bike. Shame, that.

Then we have Whimpy, one of the more repellent characters in movie history. He was played by a guy called Joey McNamara, who hadn’t acted before and never would again (an uncredited role the same year notwithstanding) – yet check out his IMDB page for a couple of photos clearly taken very recently. Respect to whoever decided to update the page of a guy with basically one credit to his name!

Also, in terms of T&A movies, this one gives the women a fair shake. Donna and Suzy drink and smoke weed with the guys, aren’t just there for sex, and are the guys’ accomplices much more than the shrinking violets their sort of characters would be portrayed as in thousands of later movies. Okay, it’s a long way from perfect (the shaming of rich asshole’s girlfriend is a little unpleasant) but it’s at least worth pointing out.

Lastly is the pleasantly surreal ending. The pinball machine that our two competitors have their big match on? It’s called “Pinball Summer” and has pictures of the main cast, their vehicles and stuff from the movie on it. It’s not drawn attention to, really, but it’s a nice touch. Perhaps it was an early directorial flourish from George Mihalka – this was his first movie, he’d do “My Bloody Valentine” the next year and then go on to a long career (still working , most recently on insane Canadian show “24 Hour Rental” in 2014).

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So, while it’s all sorts of rubbish, and doesn’t so much have a plot as a central location where people sort of pass through, it’s enough fun to warrant a watch.

Rating: thumbs in the middle

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Endless Bummer: Lauderdale (1989)

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While this might not be the worst movie we’ll cover as part of our “Endless Bummer” feature, I’d very surprised if it’s not right at the bottom when all is said and done. It’s lazy, stupid, features subplots which are almost unbearable to watch, a swathe of deeply unlikeable characters, rotten acting, nothing approaching a joke and crumbles under even the most gentle scrutiny. Are you as excited as I am to go through this?

Yes, it’s on Youtube so you can join in with the fun. I’m not recommending you do, of course, but I’m going to spoil the hell out of it. You might be one of those people who is worried by a reviewer spoiling a 25 year old T&A movie, but if you are then I suggest taking a serious look at yourself. Or, never going on the internet ever again? Anyway, we’ve got some garbage to dissect!

 

It’s a rare movie that will have a full length music video, with basically no link to the rest of the movie, in the first five minutes. But “Lauderdale” is brave, some might say foolish, some might say shamefully cash-grabbing, so we get that music video, with a slightly out of tune singer, for no reason at all that I can tell. Both before and after, some dull-looking kid called Larry (Darrel Guilbeau, who does voice acting for English translations of anime these days) is discussing with his friend “Animal”, a very very poor man’s Bluto from “Animal House”, about how he can’t wait to go to Fort Lauderdale for spring break in order to bag himself a perfect ten. Oddly enough, one such woman strolls past him almost immediately (while he’s in Southern California, no travel involved), and he comes on to her and is rejected. Then, minutes later, another one walks past, and here the plot wheezes into action.

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I suppose this bit isn’t all that unusual for the movies of the time, but just this sort of thing is now a battleground for sexual equality. Women, for some reason, think they ought to be able to walk round without being constantly hassled by men. I know, right? Importantly, paying them a compliment isn’t enough of an excuse to stop them, because chances are you’re the tenth guy that day that’s said exactly the same thing, and it’s not as if they should be so delighted to be paid a compliment by some dull-looking idiot that they’d agree to sleep with them, or something. All “Lauderdale” does is provide a particularly ugly example of it. Here’s a tip for guys: no great relationship has ever started by stopping a woman on the street to tell her how beautiful she is.

 

The second woman is Heather, played by Janine Lindemulder. She went on to become a famous porn star (her acting in mainstream movies was, to put it mildly, awful); but that was a whole year in the future. Her performance, and the direction she presumably received, is utterly baffling – absolutely nothing fazes her, as she’s kidnapped maybe four times in the movie and as soon as she’s rescued just blithely goes on about her day, or rides off with her new boyfriend (who didn’t seem to be aware she’d been forcibly taken from wherever they both were).

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I’m slipping away from this movie again. Right, here’s the plot. Two guys who live a stone’s throw from the beautiful beaches of California decide, for some reason, to head all the way across country to Fort Lauderdale for spring break. So far, so good. They see Heather, Larry hits on her, she appears oblivious, then they see two guys kidnap her. Okay, plot! They rescue her and she takes Larry back to her hotel for thank-you sex…then starts perhaps the most interminable scene in this or any other movie, where she sends him out for Dom Perignon because it gets her horny. Room service don’t appear to know what champagne is; he goes to the liquor store across the road and meets “Beano”, who I’m confident was a local comedian who wrote all his own lines; then meets porn star Ron Jeremy as “Cycle Psycho”, who tries to rob the liquor store; then, for some reason, walks back to the (high end) hotel through a filthy alleyway, gets his bottle stolen and then buys another one from a tramp; and gets back to the hotel room to find Heather, who had another bottle in her luggage, a few seconds from passing out. And scene! Oh, they pull the “horny guy forgets super-willing woman’s hotel room number” gag, old as the hills even by this point.

 

The two guys, because they know where her hotel is, kidnap her again, but they’re so unbelievably stupid that Larry is able to outwit them (which he does on multiple occasions throughout the movie). My favourite is when, even though Heather has a full day’s head start on them and no-one knows where she is, the two dumbasses (names: Dick and Duke Dork) manage to kidnap her.

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Why do they keep kidnapping her? For some reason, she’s inherited a million shares of something or other, and needs to go to a meeting in New York to vote on…something? Trying to help her get there is…honestly, I’ve got no idea of the woman’s name, and IMDB is no help, so I’ll take a guess and say Rachel. She teams up with Larry, who ditched the spring break idea to go and help track down Heather, and the two of them track her down to somewhere else in California, then Texas, then two different places in Florida. She’s with surf legend “The Big Kahuna”, apparently, then she isn’t, then she sort of is again, by the end.

 

Larry and Rachel, even though they don’t like each other and don’t really share any nice moments during the movie, fall in love, “It Happened One Night” style; the baddie woman who’s in charge of the Dork brothers keeps leaving them alone with Heather, despite the fact that every time she does so it leads to an escape; and the evil woman’s boss…well, he has the best couple of scenes. We see him on the phone, with a couple of topless women just sort of dancing next to him, like the world’s most ennui-filled strip club. He presumably stands to benefit financially from Heather’s absence at the important board meeting – nothing like arcane business practices to get the blood pumping!

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What becomes apparent very quickly in this movie is how little care anyone put into making it remotely coherent. Animal shows up again at the end in Fort Lauderdale (although the movie barely spends any time there before going back to UCLA), with the two women who worked in the Texas lingerie shop that Larry and Rachel visited, perhaps because the movie ran out of money and needed a couple of hot women for a scene (one of them is Sherrie Rose from “Summer Job”, which is like Shakespeare compared to this movie). This is one example among many – there’s the time they track Heather down to an oil-wrestling bar in…Florida somewhere?…before having a quick oil wrestling match with three women (in a bar with a band), then Heather just leaving, finding clothes magically from somewhere and jumping on stage with another rotten 80s rock band in a different bar to do lead vocals on a song (which we see pretty much in its entirety). Ron Jeremy may well have played several different characters, as I’m not sure he’d have been thrilled to meet the guy who knocked him out and led to his arrest otherwise.

 

I don’t feel like I’ve peeled enough of the layers of this particular onion of stupidity, but you’d presumably get bored before I would. It’s rare to see a film as aggressively incompetent as this one, so if you’ve watched “Spring Break” and are in the mood for another movie which features someone going nuclear to win a belly-flop contest (presumably filmed at the same pool)m, or are doing some anthropological research on the real bars and bands of the Fort Lauderdale of the late 80s (a niche market, for sure), then pop it on. Otherwise, shoot anyone who suggests watching it.

 

Rating: thumbs down

Endless Bummer: Fraternity Vacation (1985)

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For some odd reason, our “Endless Bummer” series has featured a heck of a lot of future superstars, either in their first starring roles, or in tiny uncredited ones. “Fraternity Vacation” is no different, with future Oscar winner Tim Robbins right at the beginning of his movie career. By the way, someone who really hates Robbins wrote his IMDB trivia, as it’s full of mocking references to his political activism – way to be passive aggressive, IMDB person!

 

Iowa is so snowy and miserable in the spring that it’s in black-and-white, and out of that hellscape and into the airport come three likely lads from Iowa State University- “Mother” Tucker (Robbins), Joe (Cameron Dye, who was so generic I had to look up his name again between starting this sentence and typing it out), and Wendell Tvedt (Stephen Geoffreys, who’s probably called “Evil Ed” by his own family these days). Wendell is an “awkward” sort, the most uncoordinated nerd of all time, but he’s pledging to a fraternity anyway, and thanks to his rich Dad owning a condo in Palm Springs, he’s got the two coolest guys in the frat to come along with him. The Dad is a super-nice guy and asked Mother and Joe to look after him and perhaps help him out with the ladies, and off they all go.

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As an outsider to all these US youth rituals, I tend to look a lot of things up if movies feel less than authentic. Right at the beginning, they’re cruising down the street with hundreds of other cars filled with hotties, and super-annoying DJ Madman Mac (Charles Rocket, former SNL cast member) talks about how it’s raining in Fort Lauderdale at the moment, so the only party is happening in Palm Springs. So, dear reader, I apologise for wandering off on a “there’s no way!” tangent.

 

The words “spring break” are never mentioned, at least partly because Palm Springs was never a spring break destination, being the home of the rich and famous and not wanting a bunch of drunk college scum raiding it. There’s lots of hotties of both genders around, though…but during several outside scenes in the evening, you can hear crickets. Where are all the partiers? Madman Mac makes reference to some end-of-season blowout party…what season? And hell, where’s the party? It happens entirely off-screen. And, going a little further down the rabbit hole, they’re in Wendell’s parents’ place, which is right next to a large pool, full (occasionally) of partying, horseplay and other shenanigans. Why would a middle-aged couple spend so much to live in such a place?

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It’s a frustrating movie, feeling like it was slapped together out of bits and pieces. Our three heroes meet two guys who go to a different fraternity at Iowa State, who have two women with them. Now…because of frat wars or whatever, they decide to play a prank on Mother and Joe, which involves sending the women to seduce them, get the guys naked together in the same bed, strip off for them, go into the bathroom and then loudly talk about having herpes before coming out, ready for sex. Mother and Joe freak out and leave the room, to find their laughing nemeses waiting for them in the lounge…let’s say the bathroom door had been thicker, or the guys had decided to put on a condom and risk it, or whatever. This is a terrible plan! Also, what relationship do these women have with the frat guys? Because I’m pretty sure no girlfriend I’ve ever had would agree to do this for me, if I wanted to play a prank on someone.

 

If you’ve wondered why I’m not getting on with the plot, it’s because there’s really not much of one. After seeing Sheree J Wilson in a neighbouring condo, looking beautiful but sad, Joe and Bad Frat Guy #2 have a $1,000 bet to have sex with her, and the way that plays out is as pathetic and creepy as all these bets in all these movies have ever been, with exactly the same result (she finds out and hates them both). Wendell meets Nicole (Amanda Bearse, future sitcom second-banana par excellence) at a bar and it turns out she just wants a pathetic loser to make her Dad angry – oh, and her Dad is the Chief of Police, so when Wendell gets accidentally arrested for attempted rape, then the next day is invited to meet Nicole for lunch…hijinks!!

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SIDEBAR: This lunch-date, and the subsequent disappearance of Wendell, happens a very short time before another “important” scene, at a party the Police Chief is holding at his home, because Nicole calls Mother and Joe in tears that he’s disappeared. Would you go for lunch to a restaurant an hour before hosting a large party? I feel like maybe the restaurant paid to be in this, and that’s the only way they could crowbar them in.

 

Anyway…we’ve got douchebags converting to the side of light, an unexpected visit from Wendell’s parents, Wendell finding love eventually, and all being well with the world. Plus, perhaps the worst soundtrack ever – as well as a bunch of songs which I hope were written specifically for this movie, there is a lot of Bananarama. Wow, Bananarama were terrible singers! As great a song as “Cruel Summer” is, if they’d done that on any talent TV show, the hosts would have been all “nice tune, terrible delivery, I’ll pass” (or whatever it is they say on those shows).

 

As I hope I’ve gotten across to you, this is a curious movie. When they arrive at the condo, the living room is completely unfurnished (yet the fridge is stocked with beer)…best guess, the production people found an apartment to film in but couldn’t get hold of any furniture? That sums up the entire movie, to me – it’s people wanting to make a movie to cash in on the trend of summer raunch, but not really having any other reason to. So much of it doesn’t make a bit of sense if you think about it for more than a few seconds, and for a raunch film, it’s surprisingly un-raunchy (lots of bare behinds of both genders, though, if that’s your cup of tea).

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It’s safe to say that Tim Robbins doesn’t give much indication of the Oscar winner he would eventually become. The rest of the cast range from excellent (John Vernon as the Police Chief and Max Wright as Wendell’s dad are both old comedy hands), to okay (the women are all picked for acting ability, not nudity, which is a nice change) to awful (third billed Cameron Dye, as Joe; and Matt McCoy as Bad Frat Guy #1, both painfully generic). Oh, and Britt Ekland pops up for what I can only assume was “I’m in town and have half an hour to spare” circumstances.

 

There’s a funny bit here and there, and when Wendell calms down a bit and his performance is a bit less…annoying?…the film warms up. But it feels like half a film – not enough people, not enough furniture, not enough comedy, not enough anything.

 

Rating: thumbs down

Endless Bummer: Private Resort (1985)

I think a few filmmakers in the 1980s realised that, as long as they had some nudity every ten minutes or so, they could do whatever the hell they liked, and this has led to some interesting movies as part of our “Endless Bummer” feature. I don’t want to say “good”, because that could be seen as praising the rampant sexism, homophobia, racism and just plain sociopathy on display, but a few of these movies have been almost a pleasant surprise.

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Such is the case with “Private Resort”, on the surface a boob-and-bad-joke delivery system, but really structured like a classic English farce, with all the hijinks that entails. And it’s pretty relentless, too – some of the setpieces go on for ages, where someone will enter a room, then our heroes try to sneak his drunk girlfriend out the other door, then he comes back out of the room so they have to drop her behind a sofa, pretend to hiccup when she does, then avoid the psychotic hotel security manager…it can leave you feeling pretty breathless at times.

 

Of course, this film is much better remembered (when it’s remembered at all) for its star Johnny Depp (and to a lesser extent, the top-billed Rob Morrow). Depp had made his debut in “A Nightmare On Elm Street” the year before, and this wouldn’t have clued anyone in to the A-lister he was to become, springboarding from 1987’s “21 Jump Street”. Before then, he bummed around in short films, TV movies and this, and on its own it’s sort of fun seeing Depp as a mega-horndog in his early 20s.

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So yes, it’s a farce, with a heavy slapstick element. Two guys (Depp and Morrow) go to a beach resort for a long weekend, and in doing so get themselves involved with a bunch of oddball characters. There’s Hector Elizondo as jewel thief “The Maestro” and his moll; the ludicrously angry head of hotel security and the German hotel barber; older horndog Andrew “Dice” Clay, just going by Andrew Clay at the time; the waitress who Morrow falls in love with and her evil supervisor; and the Grandma with the very expensive diamond necklace, who for some reason has brought her granddaughters along on a beach resort weekend – one of whom is the female equivalent of Depp, the other a religious nut (following the teachings of Baba Rama Yana). These people combine and bounce off each other in every farcical way possible – there’s misunderstandings about sex, identity, attempts at infidelity, the theft of the diamond, romance with the typical roadblocks, and an extended sequence where Depp and Morrow have to run away from two guys trying to kill them.

 

I think there’s such a thing as “too horny”. Depp and Morrow arrive at the resort and, almost immediately, their eyes are out on stalks as they see the bikini-clad lovelies all around them. Are there no women where they’re from? They don’t seem shy or hideous-looking, so it’s quite odd. There’s also such a thing as authority figures being too authoritative, too – everyone who works at the hotel seems angry to an almost psychopathic level. While Morrow romances the waitress, her supervisor (who has designs on her himself) assaults him, and it leads to a fairly substantial brawl. I’d have phoned the police right then and there, but when the head of security has a gun and fires it at guests, I suppose all bets are off.

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Now for the traditional “wow, I can’t believe they did that then” bit. Aside from a bit of mild anti-Japanese racism, the main offender is fat people jokes. I’ll admit, as a larger fellow myself, I have a bias, but it’s still really bad. The one woman at the entire resort who’s overweight pulls someone trying to help her out of the pool, in (and, of course, shows no shame in doing so); then at the end, in the middle of a firefight, she uses the lack of any other people at her table to eat all their food. Ah, the hilarity! I’ll give an assist to Depp’s suggestion of using Quaaludes to “loosen a woman’s inhibitions”, and not as, you may know it, a pretty famous date-rape drug.

 

Last-time director (he was much better known as an editor) George Bowers and long-time TV writer Gordon Mitchell lay the ridiculousness on thick and fast. You’ll find a maid trying to clean rooms in the middle of the night as not even the tenth least likely thing to happen in this movie; and, of course, there’s the classic of all men being irresistibly attracted to a man in fully-clothed drag (when the entire resort is full of hotties).

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Depp and Morrow are apparently ashamed of this movie, in the same way that George Clooney is ashamed of “Return Of The Killer Tomatoes”. But that’s rubbish, I think! Depp ought to be more ashamed of just about everything he’s done in the last five years, and Morrow ought to be pleased he was top-billed in his debut. Okay, it’s not the greatest movie ever made, and it’s not even the greatest mid-80s beach resort  movie ever made, but it’s fun, relentless with the farce, nice and short and features almost complete nudity from both male stars to go along with the parade of boobs. All told, not a terrible effort.

 

Rating: thumbs up

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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