Saturday, January 3, 2009

Beach Balls (1988)

Directed by Joe Ritter
Starring Phillip Paley, Heidi Helmer, Amanda Goodwin, Steven Tash
Rated R

"I've got a gun!"
"Well, I've got a fishing rod. Let's go camping."

First of all, if you've been wondering all these years about what happened to monkey-boy Cha-Ka from Sid & Marty Krofft's berserk 70's kidventure series Land of the Lost, rest easy, because here he is, Phillip Paley, grown to sturdy adolescence and ready to conquer the world of beachsploitation films. Phil's our conflicted protagonist Charlie Harrison, a straitlaced teen recently run afoul with the law. He's a good kid though, and spends most of his summer days hanging around the beach with his wisecracking sidekick Scully (Island of Blood's Steven Tash), dreaming about jamming in some superduper rock band and bedding the inevitable blonde-of-his-dreams, Wendy (Heidi Helmer). But Wendy only digs dudes in bands, man, particularly dudes in her favorite band, glam-metal scuzzballs Severed Heads in a Bag (AKA real-life lipstick warriors Dr. Starr). Charlie just can't compete. The fuckin' jerk doesn't even have long hair. In 1988, for chrissakes!

Charlie: "All I want is that girl and a guitar. Is that too much to ask?"
Scully: "Yeah."

So that's Charlie's life. Throw in religious-nut parents who are consumed with the supposed satanic messages on back-masked heavy metal records, a dismissive sister who thinks Charlie is a dork, and three criminal-minded clods (including Gary Schneider, the bully-retard from Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke 'Em High) who are making his otherwise carefree life miserable, and you've got your standard babes & bedlam teen-flick cocktail.

Oh, and there's twins in bikinis at the guitar shop. So that's cool.

Beach Balls was quite obviously produced during the hair-band era - the soundtrack is rife with crotch-grabbing nuggets from obscure flash metal suicides like Castle Blak, Puss n' Boots, Mox Nix, and Hans Naughty, and the bullshit about playing records backwards was ripped straight out of the headlines, back when the senators' wives-led Parent's Music Resource Center was trying it's damnedest to have rock n' roll outlawed. It seems almost impossible, in these relatively saner days, to think that lawful institutions were really taking this stuff seriously - that presumably intelligent adults were actually spinning Judas Priest and Twisted Sister records backwards, in court, no less, to see if there were any 'hidden messages' in the resultant white noise - but that's really the way it went. It is doubly mind-boggling when you hear - as you do, relentlessly, on the Beach Balls soundtrack - the kind of music that so incensed the moral majority twenty years ago. Spandex wearing numbskulls with cocaine brains and sock-stuffed crotches yelping about backstreet women were actually threatening once. The 80's really were fucking nuts. Anyway, back to our story.

Fate slams Charlie in his beachy balls when two momentous events occur at once. His parents head out of town for a week on some record-burning crusade, and Severed Heads in a Bag have to play a showcase gig for some record exec. Their scheduled set at Gazzari's was canceled and every other hairspray dive in town is booked. Chuck's already on probation for driving a stolen car (long story, and not a good one), so he should probably refrain from a cop-baiting event like a booze-powered heavy metal show in his backyard, but seriously, how else is he gonna fuck this Wendy trollop? A horny young man has gotta do what a horny young man has gotta do. And so, the party is on.

The band plays, seemingly forever. Wendy finds out her rockstar dreamboat is just another groupie-abusing jerk. A bunch of asshole lifeguards show up to yell at the metal dudes. Gary Schneider and his slimy cohorts rob Charlie at gunpoint while the party rages on. There's a climactic, everybody-in fist fight complete with Three Stooges sound effects, the rollerskating twins, and a blow-up sex doll. And at the end, everybody's happy. Except for you, if you were expected some tits.

I am unsure why Beach Balls received an R rating, because there's nothing here to justify it. Some blonde loses her top for five seconds (counted 'em) on the beach near the beginning, and a groupie gets banged (in the dark) backstage at a Severed Heads gig, but otherwise, you could pretty safely watch this film with your grandmother. I mean, if your grandmother liked 80's screech metal. It does serve as lite, breezy entertainment, and the band is suitably charismatic, but for a Roger Corman production, Beach Balls is seriously lacking in...well, balls. And boobs.

Availability: Beach Balls is available on a barebones DVD from Buena Vista. The soundtrack is also available, on cassette and vinyl, at better record and tape emporiums everywhere.

Link: Dr Starr!

-Ken McIntyre

1 comment:

  1. Phillip Paley, not Halley. Chaka was the undisputed king of LA graffiti artists in the 80's and 90's. Long live Chaka's sharpie and spray can.


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