Monday, January 19, 2009

Hamburger the Motion Picture (1986)

Directed by Mike Marvin
Starring Leigh McCloskey, Debra Blee, Dick Butkus, Chuck McCann
Rated R

"Excuse Mr. Belknap, but there's a dead woman in the drive-thru lane."
"Well then, cancel her order."

There are those among us that will swear, without irony or apology, that Hamburger the Motion Picture is the greatest, erm, motion picture ever made. And while they are obviously crackpots, they are not entirely wrong. The truth is, Hamburger is goofy 80's junk, but it's one of the finest examples of goofy 80's junk imaginable, a veritable smorgasbord of eye-rolling gags, gratuitous nudity, inappropriate stunt casting, and headache-making soundtrack music. As such, at the very least, it is clearly the greatest 80's fast-food themed teen-comedy ever made. And while it is too competent to compete with the likes of Troll II, it is also a worthy competitor in the 'Best/Worst' film sweepstakes as well. So yes, it is pretty fucking great.

First sign that you're in for a good time: the theme song is awesome. "Hamburger for America" by Michigan rock legend Bill "Blue" Mueller is a maddeningly catchy blues-pop song that really does say it all about hamburgers, and about America: "Sliced tomatoes, cheese and bacon/Soda pop, and shakes a shakin'/And while you're listening and lookin'/It makes them proud, that they're a-cookin'/Hamburgers, for America!"
Once heard, you will probably never forget it. For better or worse.

Second sign that you're in for a good time: Hamburger the Motion Picture actually opens with a shower scene. Russell (magnificent bastard Leigh McCloskey, who would later become an enduring soap opera heartthrob) is caught banging a coed in the girl's shower. He is sent to see the school psychiatrist, Victoria Gotbottom (exploitation vet Karen Mayo-Chandler, RIP), who, of course, has sex with him. That's his problem, you see. Chicks dig him, and he very much enjoys boning chicks. So, the dean walks in on them, and he gets expelled.

Back at home, Russ's dad (Bob Hogan) explains to his cocksman son exactly why he must change his randy ways. Seems he stands to inherit $250,000 from his grandfather, but will not receive a cent until he gets a college degree. Unfortunately, he's already been expelled from four universities for sexual misconduct, and now his parents have no money left to send him anywhere else. The two men sit there, pondering this sticky issue, when an ad pops up on the television for hamburger college. It's sponsored by a fast food chain called Busterburger. Graduates receive a real degree, and it's free! Prayers answered, Russ heads over to the nearest Busterburgers to apply.

Busterburgers is a yellow and red monstrosity of a place, with gimmicky steer horns poking off of the roof and jutting from the employees' caps. Clearly, Kevin Smith looked to Hamburger the Motion Picture for inspiration when he wrote Clerks II, because the look of Busterburgers and Smith's fictional burger joint, Mooby's, is nearly identical. One thing Mooby's did not have, however, was a smart-ass six-foot pickle at the drive-thru. Buster's order-taking pickle calls women "Toots" and sounds like a sarcastic Snagglepuss. He sasses one old woman so badly she has a heart attack and dies right there. Sarcastic Pickle is awesome.

Russ picks up an application and hops on a bus to burger college. As you would expect, it's filled with screwballs and misfits, including a twitchy nun, Sister Sara (Barbara Whinnery, Stewardess School) a militant Latina, Conchita (former Playboy bunny Maria Richwine), a suspenders-sporting nerd named Nacio (Jack Blessing), a fat guy, Prestopopnick (John William Young) a clueless, would-be ladies man, Fred Domino (Sandy Hackett, Buddy's son) and a Rick James doppelganger named Magneto Jones (Chip McAllister). Chuck McCann is a goggle-eyed professor. Dick Butkus is Drootin the drill sergeant, which is a weird thing for a college to have. Also lurking around the joint: skull-faced Lyman Vunk (Charles Tyner), Busterburger's founder, his helium-voiced, bra-straining trophy wife (Randi Brooks) and his daughter Mia (b-movie queen Debra Blee), Russ's obvious love-interest.

Buster University has strict rules. There is no alcohol, drugs, sex, or outside food allowed. The students are forced to sleep in hamburger shaped beds and talk into hamburger shaped phones. They take burger-related classes, like onionology (everybody sobs), cow-butchery class (Mia chops up a wooden bull with a chainsaw; the wooden 'testicles' roll across the floor and the fat kid pours salt on one and chomps into it), and, um...pickle midwifery. If these jokes sound lame on paper, just wait until you actually watch them. It's aggressively stupid stuff, and it's relentless.

At one point, Fred and Russ go out for Chinese food, where they see Mia and Mrs Vunk having dinner.
"Look," Fred says, "It's Mia and her mom. Mama Mia!"
They join the women. Mrs. Vunk says,"You haven't lived until you've tried their Sum Young Guy!"


So, they're eating when Dick Butkus shows up. Not only has he been dating Mia, but eating outside is strictly forbidden for students, so Russ and Fred dive under the table. Butkus, of course, imposes himself and gobbles down some ribs while the two idiots are hiding under the table. Fred, being at vagina level with the ladies, cannot help himself. He starts nuzzling Mrs.Vunk's crotch. She has a screaming orgasm, upending the table and revealing the two culprits. As punishment, they are both put in pickle jail, which is, in fact, a giant pickle.
"Oh no," Fred cries. "We're in a pickle!" Indeed you are, sir.

Russ tries to stay out of trouble. While Fred sneaks off to bang Mrs. Vunk, he stays in his room to study for finals. Unfortunately, his sexual charisma is so pervasive that Conchita busts into his room and forces him to have sex with her at gunpoint.

Also, the nerd guy starts turning into a chicken, for some reason (he lays an egg at one point).

Part of the final exam involves all the students running a Busterburgers for the day. A busload of fat people show up ("Oh no, it's the eating club!") and order hundreds of burgers. There's about ten minutes' of footage that is nothing but fat people stuffing burgers into their maws while pig noises play on the soundtrack. They try to get rid of them by putting laxatives in their food, but all the farting eventually blows up the restaurant.

Yes, you heard that right. And then some bikers show up and destroy whatever's left. And then two Mexicans with a truck full of chickens crash into the rubble. Haha, what a mess! Can the gang possibly find a way to fix this crazy jam? Of course, it's the 80's! In the end, everybody wins. Except for Dick Butkus. That guy is an asshole.

So, there you go. An utterly ridiculous movie about hamburgers. Not like today. Today, hamburger movies are dramas, like Fast Food Nation. Obesity is an epidemic in America, causing more Diabetes, heart disease, and death every year. But in 1986? Pure comedy. Almost makes you wish there was some sort of portal you could jump into and escape to the mid 1980's for awhile. Chortle at nerds and hide under tables at Chinese restaurants. But there is no such portal, so thank fuckin' Christ the VCR still works.

Hamburger the Motion Picture is a beloved cult favorite amongst 80's junkfilm fans, and will surely remain so. It is not actually funny, but it's still pretty fun, an eager-to-please dimwit of a film that will resort to anything, from aggressive gay pickles to farting fat people, to make you laugh. As for the crew and cast, although he mostly stayed away from comedies for the rest of his career, director Mike Marvin deserves some sort of merit for also producing Hot Dog the Movie. I mean, what a legacy! Most of the cast kept going after this one. 70's funnyman Chuck McCann is not dead, and is in fact still acting, most recently in Horrorween, which also features Alice Cooper, Jenna Jameson, William Shatner, and Flavor Flav. Debra Blee had a short but pretty incredible run in low budget exploitation flicks: The Beach Girls (1982), Savage Streets (1984), The Malibu Bikini Shop (1986), and Beach Fever (1987). Blee had excellent taste in film roles, and although she bared no skin in Hamburger, there's plenty more of her to admire in Beach Girls and Malibu Bikini Shop. Unfortunately, she has not acted in 22 years, and we miss her and her fleshly charms terribly.

Availability: Amazingly, Hamburger the Motion Picture remains unavailable on DVD. You can still find it on VHS for a reasonable price, though.

Clip: Hamburger the Motion Picture the Trailer!

-Ken McIntyre

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