Jul 31 2017

Joy of Sex (1984)

Based on Dr. Alex Comfort’s best-selling sex manual (but not really), Joy of Sex is, irony against ironies, a film as largely joyless as it is sexless. Paramount Pictures thought it had a potential National Lampoon’s Animal House on its hands; the Lampoon thought otherwise and took its name off the title — a smart move the brand would not do today.

The story, as it is, can be described in two lines: Mistakenly thinking she’s terminally ill, high school good girl Leslie (the appealing Michelle Meyrink, Real Genius) desperately wants to lose her virginity. Meanwhile, classmate Alan (Cameron Dye, Out of the Dark), being a young man, also desperately wants to lose his. As staged by Valley Girl director Martha Coolidge, the movie is not so much driven by plot as it is a series of one-joke, one-note sketches of scenes held together with wads of bubble gum from underneath desks.

What any other teen comedy would develop into a subplot, Joy of Sex tees up and lets sit there to die. Chief among them is the lovely Colleen Camp (Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment), a police narc working undercover as a transfer student. Not only do we not see her bust (pun not intended, yet now I cannot resist) a kid, but her character disappears. Another: Back to the Future’s Christopher Lloyd plays the school coach who also is Leslie’s overprotective father; he makes it known the harm he will inflict on anyone who messes with his little girl. This, too, is never paid off.

Yet perhaps the best example of the script’s deficiencies — and a statement on the movie’s overall freshness date — concerns foreign exchange student Farouk (Danton Stone, Crazy People), who is told by Alan’s all-American buddies that the proper way to show appreciation to his host family is to compliment the evening meal by saying, “Thank you for the shit.” Cut to a dinner scene, where the utterly predictable (and wholly unfunny) punch line is kept from being delivered for such a needlessly extended time, you wonder why Coolidge even bothered. In essence, Farouk’s line functions as a microcosm of Joy of Sex as a whole: something that was finally let loose and put out of its misery. —Rod Lott

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Jul 10 2017

Winter a-Go-Go (1965)

Virtually the Ski Patrol of its day, Winter a-Go-Go marks an attempt by a major studio to muscle in on a minor’s success — namely, the cash cow that AIP was milking and milking among the collective teats of the youth market with its blanket of Beach Party romps. But leave it to the Columbia suits to not quite comprehend the simplicity of the can’t-miss formula; ignoring AIP’s surefire Frankie-and-Annette dynamic, Winter a-Go-Go opts for Frankie and, well, Frankie.

Jeff (William Wellman Jr., High School Confidential) has just inherited the ramshackle Snow Mountain Lodge in Heavenly Valley, and his horny best bud, Danny (James Stacy, Double Exposure), possesses the entrepreneurial skills to help launch it, starting with recruiting female employees solely off qualifications of the 36-21-36 kind — a scene so lecherous, it’s practically a preamble to the TV series Mad Men. (Would you expect less of a comedy whose opening credits follow a bikini-clad skier down the slopes?) They arrive to find the lodge under layers of dust and disrepair — one stop more inviting than The Overlook Hotel, and nothing a quick, coed cleaning musical number can’t fix!

With segregated rooms (by gender, so save your outrage until the end of this paragraph, SJWs) and a bar serving nothing harder than Coca-Cola, Snow Mountain 2.0 is open for business! That business would be monkey business, if this movie had been made 20 years later. Since it wasn’t, T&A is absent, leaving director Richard Benedict (Impasse) to make do with a double-slipper pedestal bathtub’s worth of soapy subplots, ranging from Jeff being unable to pay rent to Jeff being clueless that his adorable, dream-girl secretary (Beverly Adams, Torture Garden) is all a-goo-goo over him. There are even some that don’t involve Jeff, like Danny stealing a stereotypical Chinese chef (H.T. Tsiang, 1966’s The Swinger) from a competing hotel — okay, now you can be outraged!

Audiences unaccustomed to this style of teenpic may be caught off-guard by any number of elements in need of carbon dating, from the pajamaed characters’ spontaneous group decision to rush downstairs to do the “Hip Square Dance” in the middle of the night, to now-antiquated lingo, such as one young man’s compliment that the spiffed-up Snow Mountain Lodge “is a gassy place!” And if today’s viewers can’t get past such instances, Winter a-Go-Go’s charms will be lost on them. AIP could have churned out this kind of thing in its sleep — and had, just half a year earlier with Ski Party, the fifth Beach Party sequel. While Winter is the lesser of the two, plenty of room for both exists in your heart … as long as you don’t Google whatever became of Stacy. —Rod Lott

Get it at Amazon.

Jul 5 2017

Kiss Me Monster (1969)

An immediate sequel to the same year’s Two Undercover Angels, Jess Franco’s Kiss Me Monster again stars Janine Reynaud (The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail) and Rosanna Yanni (Hunchback of the Morgue) as the Paul Newman-lusting Diana and Regina, the striptease-cum-detective duo known as The Red Lips. As is the case with its spy-spoofing predecessor, prepare for the monster-free Monster to make zero fucking sense.

Also prepare to be perfectly okay with that.

While in some glamorous Spanish city to perform their act, which involves playing the saxophone while clad in costumes right out of Bob Fosse’s cocaine dreams, Diana and Regina run into murder, spray-can narcotics, cool jazz, leisurely swims and bad guys clad in cloaks that, in the dark, could be mistaken for KKK uniforms. But please don’t ask me to relay the plot, because story points are, unlike most Franco starlets, impenetrable.

An occasional spurt of exposition fills in more blanks than are gained by actually watching that action take place, e.g., “I was taken prisoner by a group of queer virgins and was put in a cage. One of them worked me over with a whip. Then they let me out again, then they gave me a funny kind of whistle or something as a farewell present.”

You’ll just have to take the ladies’ word for it. Since both are beautiful (although at some angles, Reynaud channels Peg Bundy), Franco assumes (rightly) that the average male viewer will accept said word at face value. Because what lovely faces! What exotic locales! What colorful compositions! What outlandish scenarios! What the hell just happened!?! —Rod Lott

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Jun 26 2017

Pajama Party (1964)

For the fourth movie in the Beach Party series (and the third sequel in 1964 alone!), AIP shook things up beyond the cast’s hips by adding a new director (Don Weis, The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini), a sci-fi element and many, many sets of PJs. While Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello indeed return, they’re playing different characters, but it hardly matters.

Seen only from behind until the final shot, Avalon plays a Martian who sends Go Go (Tommy Kirk, Village of the Giants), a teenager of the angry red planet, to Earth on an exploratory mission before a planned full-scale invasion. Go Go attracts the amorous attention of Connie (Funicello), who hasn’t been too happy with her current, lunkheaded beau (Jody McCrea, Bikini Beach), who’s hosting quite the shindig for the whole gang at the mansion of his dress shop-owning aunt, Wendy (Elsa Lanchester, The Bride of Frankenstein).

Coincidentally, all this occurs on the same weekend that Aunt Wendy’s hidden riches are targeted for theft by con man J. Sinister Hulk (Jesse White, Las Vegas Lady) whose balding pate and chomped cigar clearly mark him as a jokey dig at AIP co-founder Samuel Z. Arkoff. To assist him in his nefarious scheme, Hulk enlists a super-sexy Swede (Bobbi Shaw, Sergeant Dead Head) and a Native American named Chief Rotting Eagle (legendary silent comedian Buster Keaton, here reduced to lines like “Cowabunga. Make chop-chop”).

Pool Party would have made a more fitting title, as these 20-something teens dive, front-flip and cannonball into Wendy’s pool with reckless abandon — and often — throughout. But the word “pajama” carries the connotation of nookie, which no one onscreen was having, although drive-in audiences where Pajama Party was projected likely were. That’s not to say Weis and friends don’t try to wink at the deed as unsubtly as the MPAA permitted. Personifying the sex act in a start-to-finish running gag is not Funicello, for Uncle Walt never would have allowed it, but future AIP Co-Founder James Nicholson Wife No. 2, Susan Hart (Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine). The shapely brunette gets male castmates’ (and viewers’) motors running with a highly suggestive hustle of the hips that causes Dr Pepper to pop their caps, marshmallows to combust and candles to melt — the latter fate ultimately shared by the end credits!

Even with all these hinted-at erections and orgasms, Pajama Party remains good, clean fun. I imagine more adults may have had their panties wadded by a visual joke that sees two teens literally walking on water. Keep an eye out for that fun-in-the-sun sacrilege, as well as future stars Teri Garr and Toni Basil as backup dancers. —Rod Lott

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Jun 14 2017

Bikini Beach (1964)

Harvey Huntington Honeywagon III is on a mission: to prove that Frankie (Frankie Avalon), Dee Dee (Annette Funicello) and the rest of their group of sun-kissed, surf-lovin’ teenagers spending their days and nights on Bikini Beach harbor “an abnormal preoccupation with sex,” so much so that the rare jolts of activity in their brains are “only of a carnal nature.”

Yeah, and?

Honeywagon (a trim Keenan Wynn, A Woman for All Men) has an ulterior motive: to clear the way for a retirement village. That’s hardly a plot, but there is no plot — just a lot of “stuff” that happens, which is not a bad thing when a film radiates so much joy, not to mention counts a man in a chimpanzee suit among its supporting cast.

Oh, did I not mention the chimp? There’s also a chimp. Known as Clyde (Janos Prohaska, Pussycat, Pussycat, I Love You), Honeywagon’s pet hangs ten on the waves and chauffeurs the boss around in a Rolls Royce. See it to believe it.

There’s a rival for Dee Dee’s affection, in the form of British Invasion rocker Potato Bug (also Avalon, unrecognizable and demonstrating surprising comedic deftness), a mop-topped star whose vocab is riddled with only-in-the-UK phrases like “sticky wicket.” There’s a constantly mugging Don Rickles as dragster mechanic Big Drag. There’s a musical number by a 14-year-old Stevie Wonder. There’s a cameo by Boris Karloff, making a friendly in-joke at fellow horror royalty member Vincent Price. There’s the return of buffoonish biker Eric Von Zipper (Harvey Lembeck, The Gong Show Movie) and his gang, including a teenage werewolf and a billiards hustler named South Dakota Slim (Timothy Carey, The World’s Greatest Sinner).

And there’s lots of dancing, including a defensive move that can be described only as a “go-go ass attack.” See it to believe it.

Romp number three in AIP’s squeaky-clean Beach Party series, Bikini Beach doesn’t dare kick over the sandcastle that made the previous pair so stinkin’ successful. Again guided by director William Asher, who keeps control of the wall-to-wall zaniness like twisting a stick around spinning cotton candy, Bikini Beach culminates in a mad, mad, mad, mad go-kart chase — one that proves the exception to my rule that nothing good can come of sped-up film.

You get all this and Funicello’s belly button, exposed at last. See it to believe it. —Rod Lott

Get it at Amazon.