Directed by Chuck Vincent
Starring Jewel Shepard, Donna McDaniel, Paul Gunning, Edy Williams
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"Oh god, what a time to lose my Valium!"
A legend amongst 80's skinema aficionados, Hollywood Hot Tubs is simultaneously wonderful and wretched, a cheap and often ugly film so far off in it's attempts at ribald humor that it almost plays like anti-comedy. On the other hand, it also offers perky naked breasts approximately every ten or so minutes, and a handful of scenes so absurd they border on the surreal. A devil's bargain, then.
In accordance with the established rules of 80's sex comedies, the plot is both simple and implausible. Shawn (Paul Gunning) is teenage ne'er-do-well who runs afoul with the law in a confusing opening scene involving two of his buddies, a car, a camera, a sexy girl, and...well, it's not important, although the opening dialogue is pretty funny:
Shawn's dorky friend number 1: "Can we stop at my house? I need to get my Asthma pills."
Shawn's dorky friend number 2: "Yeah, and I have to pee."
Shawn: "And I need to get new friends."
After getting nabbed by the police, he is escorted back home, where the cop and his parents discuss his fate. Turns out, it's either jail, or go to work for his Uncle Al, the plumber. And he's too pretty for jail.
Mom: "I'm only trying to save you from the butt slammers."
Uncle Al's plumbing company specializes in hot tub repair. Apparently, California was in the grips of Hot Tub Fever in 1984, because there's plenty of work to go around. Shawn is dispatched to various establishments to fix their hot tubs. Sex naturally ensues.
In one scene, future Carrie II director Katt Shea, playing a young starlet named Dee Dee, has sex with a Hairy Harry Reems lookalike on top of a hot tub while Shawn tries to fix the leak underneath. Later on, he visits an "Oriental Massage" parlor. Former Russ Meyer siren and perennial Z-movie fixture Edy Williams nearly rapes him. When she jiggles her ample, aged boobs, they punch in a sound effect of two balloons rubbing together.
There's also a giant penis lamp in the room. It's disturbing.
All of these jobs are small change, however. The real money is in scoring the Hollywood Hot Tubs account. HHT is an ever-expanding pleasure emporium that offers private rooms equipped with hot tubs and, apparently, whatever else you might need. The company is run by straight-laced Pam (genre vet Remy O'Neil), who employs her dizzy daughter Crystal (Jewel Shepard) as her secretary/Girl Friday.
It is at this moment that Hollywood Hot Tubs reaches a crossroads. Up until now, it is a pleasantly cheeseball 80's comedy. None of the jokes work and the music is dismal, but the constant threat/promise of tits keep things moving along nicely. And then along comes Jewel Shepard.
Miss Shepard needs little to no introduction to trashfilm fans. She is most easily recognized as Casey, the neon-mohawked punkette in Return of the Living Dead (1985), to say nothing of her voluminous nude modeling career. Agonizingly gorgeous and much smarter than her roles, Shepard was a bonafide exploitation movie goddess in the 80's. And this stunning role provides ample evidence why.
To say that her acting here is bad...that's like saying nuclear war is merely a bummer. Her acting her is phenomenally bad, jaw-droppingly awful, the stiffest, most awkward attempt at a bubble-headed 'valley girl' imaginable. And that's not all. Besides the teeth-gnashing "Like, you know" dialogue, Jewel performs every scene braless, her then-26 year old boobs jutting straight ahead like fleshy torpedoes armed and ready to strike. In one memory-searing scene, a half-shirted Jewel forcibly jiggles them up and down for five minutes straight, vibrating like a jackhammer for no other reason than the obvious.
Here, watch this. It'll blow your mind.
It's quite possible that Jewel's hamming is on purpose. After all, the worst actor in a film is even more memorable than the best. But whatever possessed her, we can only sit and stare and bask in her untamed badfilm glory. She is a colossal force in this film, and whenever she's in a scene, the rest of the cast dissolves into dust. There are other reasons to watch this movie, surely - the all-girl soccer team, for example, or Edgar Blood - but the reason to own it, savor it, and share it with friends and neighbors is because of Jewel Shepard's performance. It will rock you to the core.
Oh yes, the soccer team. The fellas fix a hot tub at HTT and somehow get an entire female soccer team topless in said tub. Well, all except for one headband-wearing blonde, who, oddly, wears a towel while soaking in the sudsy water. Watch this scene closely, because when Shawn tosses the soccer ball across the room, it ricochets back and accidentally smacks her right in the mug. It's an awkward gaffe that really should have been cut out, but...well, that's just not the kind of movie we're dealing with here.
There's another weird encounter with Edgar Blood (Victor Marko, who, sadly, never acted again), a Vincent Price-wannabe aging horror actor with a hot-tub equipped stretch limo. They drop him off in a cemetery, so that he can do 'research' for his next role.
And so on. I should mention Donna McDaniel, who plays Shawn's love interest. This is Donna's sole acting credit, but she is well-known in heavy metal circles for serving in the surely thankless role of back-up singer for Motley Crue. She was one of the 'Nasty Habits' during their late 80's tours. Her role here is pretty thankless as well. But probably less embarrassing.
What else? There's a three-man biker gang with one guy who appears to have escaped from the Hair Bear Bunch. There's a gay bath-house scene. At one point, two horny grannies buy a hot tub - the deluxe party model - to "orgy in." There's also the expected nutso party at the end, which features a Burt Reynolds impersonator, a beer swilling chimp, rubber monsters, a Mariachi band, and people just randomly running back and forth.
This all sounds like the most fun ever, especially when you consider that it was directed by porn-maven gone semi-legit Chuck Vincent, the hallucinatory anti-genius behind Summer Camp (1979), Hot T-Shirts (1980), Wimps (1986), and Slammer Girls (1987), and written/produced by Mark Borde, who also wrote Summer Camp and produced the Chuck McCann/Louisa Moritz jiggle-fest Lunch Wagon (1981). The reality - at least without the benefit of booze, weed, or LSD - is that it lumbers along in a rather clunky fashion, and only really brightens up when either a woman doffs her top or Jewel rolls her eyes and says something inane. Luckily, both things happen quite a bit.
Hollywood Hot Tubs is not on DVD. The VHS is pretty rare. Most people remember it from repeated viewings on USA Up All Night. It's not a good movie. Most of the time, it sucks. Chuck Vincent is, of course, dead. Mark Borde has gone on to produce A-list material, like...uh...Kickin' It Old School. Donna McDaniel sings back-up for Glen Frey now. Jewel Shepard is a mostly-respected culture reporter. Only old people and coke addicts sit in hot tubs anymore. Quite obviously, this film's time has come and gone. And yet, it remains mandatory viewing for sleaze-beasts and trash-fiends, and it probably always will be. Why?
Well, like, you know.
Availability: Hollywood Hot Tubs is available on VHS.
Buy Hollywood Hot Tubs from Amazon.
Link: Jewel Shepard