Monday, January 19, 2015

A Ghoul Versus The Andy Sidaris Collection: Malibu Express

My wife Arlene uses all of these fancy words like 'motivation' and 'story'. Where the fuck did you learn those words? I couldn't spell 'story' if you spotted me the 's' and the 't', for Chrissakes.” - Andy Sidaris

The late, great Andy Sidaris had a dream, and that dream was to push the T and A barrier into the stratosphere. Sidaris originally worked as a television producer and director for the ABC television network where he oversaw their sports coverage. Calling himself “the best television director that ever lived”, he was a pioneer of sports broadcasting and helped to develop techniques such as slow motion replay and split screen angles. It's not these revolutionary ideas he's best known for however, as he also involved what is called “the honey shot”, something you've seen a million times if you've ever watched televised sports.

Quite simply he'd zoom in one attractive cheerleaders on the sidelines or beautiful women in the stands, and was completely unapologetic about it despite his style earning much criticism from his peers. His justification was that not only hardcore sports fans watched games, and he wanted to reward the people who weren't obsessed with every single detail of a huddle. Lascivious? Yes, but it's virtually unheard of to hear that kind of honesty in sports.

After nearly three decades on television, Sidaris decided the medium wasn't meeting his creative needs so he decided to branch out into the world of film. He famously described it as “after three million kickoffs, every game is not the end of the world”, which should be transcribed on plaques in every arena across the world. Having already worked on television dramas such as Kojak and Gemini Man, Sidaris tried his hand at action movies. What followed is the legendary “Bullets, Bombs, and Boobs (or Babes, when in polite company)” series of films, twelve action movies that make up the Andy Sidaris Collection.

We're going to spend the next month taking a look at all twelve, with their bevy of Playboy Playmates and Penthouse Pets “acting”, their endless car chases and explosions, and their deeply nuanced plots. First up is 1985's Malibu Express, written, produced, and directed by Sidaris himself in his film debut.

The film opens with one of the stranger credit sequences I've ever seen, a woman sits down at a 1980s computer and... types them out? Huh? Does that mean this entire movie is just a computer game she's designing, making it an early forerunner of Inception? It doesn't help this is all scored to hillbilly music, which doesn't exactly SCREAM an action movie set in Malibu to me. When this finally ends, we are introduced to our heroes: Cody Abielene and his mustache. He pulls up to a building in his SWEET AS HELL red DeLorean, which is the only thing capable of upstaging that magnificent mustache he's rocking.

He strolls into a shooting range for some target practice, missing his target all six times. Well, that's not the best heroic introduction I've ever seen. After missing he blows his gun off like he's accomplished something and leaves. He goes to see his friend, June Khnockers (ha!), who works as a race car driver and just happens to be a gorgeous blonde. She is played by Playboy's Miss July for 1982, Lynda Wiesmeirer. They talk briefly about her driving, she gets topless, and then Cody teleports back into his car thanks to some jilted editing. Alright, that accomplished a lot!

Cody drives on, talking into a tape recorder that lets us know he works as a private detective as well as the fact he loves the ladies. He heads to the marina where he lives on a houseboat, the Malibu Express.  After taking a shower, he emerges to get a gun held to his head. But it turns out to be a squirt gun wielded by two bikini clad ladies, May and Faye. They introduce themselves as his new neighbours, wondering if they can use his shower since theirs isn't working yet. May is Barbara Edwards, the 1984 Playmate of the Year while Faye is Kimberly McArthur, Miss January 1982.

The film doesn't show if he agrees or not, because dammit it's been ten minutes and there's got to be a plot! No one's going to watch a movie that is just a bunch of women getting naked, honestly! We cut to a blonde bombshell in a tight red dress meeting with a man in a suit, as they're apparently federal agents discussing the Russians getting sold advanced computer technology illegally... or something. The dialogue goes by way too fast to make any sense, the long and short of it is the man wants to hire Cody to infiltrate the world of high tech espionage to find out who is giving the Russians a leg up. Oh, and just kidding about not getting to see May and Faye showering because that's the entirety of the next scene! It's particularly fun to watch May keep looking directly into the camera, as she probably thought this was a Playboy photo shoot and not an actual movie.

After making sure they're nice and clean, they come out to Cody and ask him to investigate their privates. HA! He declines though, because he just got a page from his friend to meet with the Contessa Luciana about a job. Luciana is revealed to be the blonde in the red dress, having traded that in for what can loosely be described as a dress although I think it's just a silk bathrobe she forgot to tie shut. Luciana is played by the legendary Sybil Danning, star of B-movie classics such as Howling II: Stirba Werewolf Bitch (best movie title EVER!), Lou Ferrigno's Hercules, and even hosted her own video series of wonderfully campy movies called Sybil Danning's Adventure Video. She also posed for Playboy in 1983 because I'm pretty sure that was a prerequisite for appearing in this film.

Cody brings Luciana a gift, which is another red dress that seems to be missing the chestal area. Maybe she put it on backwards? He takes her to a fancy restaurant to talk business, except that segues into them having sex. As they lie in bed she finally remembers she has a job for him, but the movie skips ahead to the next day because who wants to be bored by a plot? Things take a turn for the strange when he gets challenged to a drag race by his longtime redneck rivals and promptly gets blown away by an inferior car. He takes the car to his mechanic and exchanges it for a black Ford, then heads to get around to doing that pesky job thing he's getting paid to do: watch Luciana's friend Lillian Chamberlain for a few days to make sure she's okay as there's hi-jinx going on at her place. Gee, what are the odds Lillian turns out to be a model with huge breasts? WHOA, SHE ISN'T! Now THAT is a plot twist!

Lillian is a slightly older woman, currently confined to a wheelchair due to a broken leg. She tells Cody she wants him around because there's something strange going on at her estate, and wants him to find out what it is. What... does ANY of this have to do with Russians and computer technology? Lillian lives in her house with her nephew Stuart, his wife Anita, her niece Liza, her butler Shane, and her maid Marian. Heh... Maid Marian, cute. We get our first introduction to this colourful cast of characters by seeing Shane is sleeping with Anita behind her husband's back. Cody joins the Chamberlains for dinner, during which Anita and Liza both flirt with them. Wonder where THAT'S going?

After dinner Cody leaves to meet with his friend Beverly, who is a cop. Beverly is played by Lori Sutton, who never posed for Playboy but played a Playmate in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, so close enough. They go to the gym so she can work out and he can ogle the women, but they're all wearing clothes so the movie decides to return to the Chamberlain estate so we can watch a topless Anita write around on the floor. That's kind of weird. Anita is played by Shelley Taylor Morgan, who is most famous for being in soap operas and having a tiny part in on of my all time favourite films, Scarface. She continues to crawl around for no good reason, so the film decides to see what Liza's up to. Oh hey, she's having sex with Shane in the shower. Or possibly getting raped, it's kind of hard to tell. Liza's actress is Lorraine Michaels, yet another Playmate who proudly represented the magazine as Miss April 1981. Unbeknownst to Liza, Shane is secretly photographing their encounter with a time delay camera.

We see this is something of a habit of Shane's, as the next day he films Anita having sex with him. Cody takes Liza driving so he can get to know her, learning she has a friend named Johnathan Harper who sells computers worldwide. Oh hey, that IS actually a thing in this movie and I didn't dream it! The end up going to see Johnathan, who just HAPPENS to have three bodyguards that we saw earlier at the gym glaring at Cody. Liza says she's going to stay with Jonathan, Cody leaving after things start getting tense. The bodyguards follow him in their car, getting him to pull over so they can “chat”. We get another totally logical scene where Cody takes his shirt off, prompting two of the men to do the same. We gonna fight or are we gonna have a sex scene?

Ah, a fight. Cody gets beat down and his car shot up for good measure, and all I can think is thank God it wasn't the DeLorean getting bullet holes put in it! Cody walks through the desert, finding a used car lot ran by... GASP! An attractive woman! He asks for the fastest thing she has, which she responds is herself and takes her shirt off. I don't- I don't think that's how you're supposed to haggle. After getting what he calls “raped”, Cody ends up getting a junker and driving back to the Chamberlain estate, where he spies on Shane talking business on the phone with Anita in the room.

Shane is talking to some thug getting a massage from a topless woman played by two time Adult Video News Best Actress Shanna McCullough, telling Shane he wants his $30,000 soon and threatens Anita's life. Probably not the best tactic to use on Shane, who tries to blackmail her for the money by showing him the sex tape he made of her and saying he'll show Stuart. This is turn isn't the best tactic to use on Anita, who says she hopes the gangsters get a hold of him and leaves. Shane then chauffeurs Stuart to a club where he... performs as a drag queen? Alright, everyone needs their hobbies I guess. They talk for a bit, Shane then trying to blackmail him with photos of THEM sleeping together. GODDAMN, is there anyone in this movie Shane ISN'T fucking? If it turns out he had an affair with the DeLorean, I am OUT OF HERE. Also, why in the hell aren't the Chamberlains starring in their own reality show, Chasing The Chamberlains?

Stuart also shoots down Shane, leaving the limo to enter the club. Cody, who is still following Shane, gets a kick out of this. Sadly we don't get to see what kind of act Stuart puts on, as the scene changes to the next night to a dinner party Lillian is holding at her house. We get our first good look at maid Marian, who is more platinum blonde hair than woman and doesn't seem to believe in pants. She's played by Robyn Hilton, immortalized as the redhead secretary in Mel Brooks' groundbreaking comedy Blazing Saddles. She mentions something about working for Jonathan, who is at the party trying to get Lillian to invest in his computer business. Also attending the party is the man Shane owes money too, who jumps our Lothario out in a guest house. He declares if he doesn't get his money by the end of the night, Shane's face is going to have an unfortunate appointment with his knife.

The party ends, Shane going back to his quarters where he turns on his TV. A talk show with REGIS AND JOY PHILBIN is on, whom are the last two people in the world I expected to turn up in this movie. He gets stabbed and shot by a mysterious figure that looks very feminine in nature, my suspicions that it's Anita growing when she takes the blackmail video and pictures out of Shane's cabinet. He manages to snap a picture of her before he dies, his assailant awkwardly running away. The next morning Cody and Luciana find his body, and seem about as concerned as if they'd found a dead ant on the sidewalk. Case in point, they start making out while standing over his body! Wow, and they say the current generation is desensitized to violence!

Cody enters Shane's cabin to find Anita searching for the the blackmail evidence, so there goes my theory that it was her. I'll give this movie credit for not being COMPLETELY predictable. He sends her away to gather everyone in the house for a meeting, looking through Shane's stuff and finding the camera. He takes the film out of it to be developed, noticing Marian the Pantsless spying on him. He shrugs this off, walking poolside to where the Chamberlains have assembled. He excuses himself to... call a phone sex line? Time and a place dude, time and a place! He speaks with a woman named Sally, asking if she has any news for him. She instead talks about how much she wants to fuck him, pulling her breasts out of his shirt because it's been awhile since we've seen some nipples. He cuts her off and tells her to call the police because... uhh, maybe our genius hero can't remember the number for 911?

Beverly and a Lieutenant Arledge show up not long after, Arledge looking like he stumbled out of a 1950s cop movie. Arledge meets with the Chamberlains, showing Lillian an envelope he got this morning full of the sex pictures of Anita. Lillian is as outraged as her poor acting will allow. Cody and Beverly head to the beach house where Shane lived in search of more clues, Marian calling Jonathan to report this. Instead of looking for evidence of Shane's killer though, they decide to have sex. Yeah, that's what I would have done as well. Shane was booooooooring! Two of Jonathan's thugs arrive at the house, armed with shotguns. One hears the shower running and enters the bathroom, only to find Cody pointing a gun at him.

Cody cracks some classic one liners and then pulls the trigger, MISSING BY A MILE. Bwahahah! Beverly is much more competent and shoots the thug dead, yelling at Cody for his idiocy. He tries to save face by reminding her there's another goon outside, heading after him. Cody misses AGAIN, Beverly stepping in to make the save one more time. This movie is now TOTALLY AWESOME. They suspect Lillian might be behind the hit, as she's the only person who could have known they were headed to Shane's. Yeah, because THAT makes sense. Cody only saw Marian tailing him, no reason to be suspicious about that AT ALL. Private detectives are famous for their non-curious nature, after all.

He heads home for some reason, along the way getting challenged to another race by the redneck family and losing thanks to his junker car. These sequences better have a HUGE payoff, but for some reason I'm kind of doubting that. He goes home, now aware he's been followed by Jonathan's three bodyguards from earlier. He enters his boat to find May and Faye waiting for him, but there's no time for a threesome, we have another battle to get to! Cody shoots off the ear of one of the men, even though he was aiming for his chest. The thugs flee, I guess to get their injured friend medical attention even though they could have totally taken Cody out.

Falling asleep, Cody gets woken up by a phone call from Beverly at the Chamberlain estate, telling him Arledge has arrested Stuart for Shane's murder after finding their compromising photos. Cody finally tells her about the roll of film he stole, arranging to meet with her later to get it developed. First though, he has to have sex with May and Faye because PRIORITIES! The film shockingly doesn't show this, cutting instead to him driving to the speedway June works at with Beverly riding passenger. They're going to have the film developed by Rodney, a beautiful woman who works there as a photographer. Things start getting complicated as the thugs start following them, tipped off by Marian who was eavesdropping on Beverly's phone call.

Rodney develops the film, handing them a picture of Shane's murderer but OF COURSE we don't get to see who it is. The thugs ambush them and shoot Beverly in the shoulder, Cody trying to return fire but misses thanks to his aiming skills... or lack thereof. A VERY LAME shootout follows, Cody eventually jumping into June's car and taking off with her along for the ride. The thugs jack a helicopter to take off in pursuit, forcing a pilot to fly for them. June, who must have popped some ecstasy before this scene, gets off on Cody driving her car, takes her shirt off, and tries to have sex with him. PRIORITIES!

They race along, passing a Winnebago on the highway being driven by one Mr. Andy Sidaris. Creator cameo, check and check! The thugs order the pilot to drop them off on the road ahead of Cody so they can cut him off, which proves to be a bad idea when the earless one gets RUN THE FUCK OVER. June's car chooses this moment to run out of gas, forcing her and Cody to run on foot from the two remaining thugs but soon end up cornered with a thug advancing on either side of them. Cody admits to June that he only has one bullet left and has never hit a moving target in his life. This gives June the proverbial light bulb, who bares her breasts to one of the thugs to freeze him DEAD IN HIS TRACKS. Hahah, I think we all saw that coming. The power of boobs can overcome all!

This naturally allows Cody to shoot him in the side, taking his shotgun to get ready for the last remaining thug. Miraculously Cody manages to shoot him in the knee, allowing the two to escape back to the highway. June uses her Magic Boobs to stop the Winnebago so they can hitch a ride back into town, Sidaris MORE THAN HAPPY to oblige. Arriving at a gas station, Cody calls Beverly to update her on his plan before taking off for Jonathan's. Jonathan is holding a party which happens to feature a lot of topless women, Liza among the guests in attendance. Cody shows up and clears the place by firing his gun, confronting Liza over why SHE killed Shane as the woman in photo looks a lot like her.

The police arrive right after this and arrest the two conspirators, so movie over right? Not quite, as Cody narrates he's made one mistake. He arranges for the entire cast to meet him on his houseboat, driving there... only to run into the redneck racers again. Ohhhhh boy. Cody wins this time, closing that HIGHLY RIVETING SUBPLOT And now back to our movie, where everyone is gathered on his boat ala classic detective “whodunnit” style. He shocks them by bringing out Liza, going into a lengthy flashback about how it was really LUCIANA that killed Shane. It's needlessly complicated and nonsensical, but basically she... actually, I have NO FUCKING IDEA.
Jonathan and Shane were selling computers to the Russians, Shane going too far when he started threatening the Chamberlains so she killed him and framed Liza, only just enough so Cody would figure out she was innocent. I watched the entire film twice and I'm still not sure I full understand it, seeing as how Luciana was a FREAKING CIA AGENT. But whatever, Lillian toasts Cody for his help and he has a flashback montage of all the naked women in the movie because it's always a good idea to end your film on its strongest suit.

Cue the credits.

You could pretty much call this B-Movie: The Movie, as it featured damn near every trope of the genre. You had your macho hero that slept with anything in sight, you had your customary gunfights and chase scenes with sweet cars, tons of naked women, all topped off with hilariously bad acting and a story that made NO sense. And yet there's something so sincere and genuine about it, especially when compared to today's garbage like the Expendables or the Fast and the Furious 22. The leads are all earnest and likeable, not trying to channel the cool disaffected heroes of the aforementioned action films. There are some issues with the editing and pacing, but when you consider this is the directorial debut of a 54 year old man who dealt almost exclusively in sports broadcasting, I'm going to cut it some slack.

The script is where the real issues arise, and yes I know complaining about that is like bitching about the story continuity in a porno. But seriously, WHY was this so complicated? Why not just make this a murder mystery about who killed Shane instead of shoehorning in the bizarre subplot with the Russians and the computers we never saw? It even makes less sense when you wonder why the CIA would recruit an idiot like Cody, especially since it WASN'T Luciana's idea to involve him? Overall though, a highly entertaining movie with the kind of fun that is nearly extinct in this day and age. If you want to see 1980s B-movie action done right, I'd give it a high recommendation.