Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Preppies (1984)

Directed by Chuck Vincent
Starring Dennis Drake, Steven Holt, Peter Brady Reardon, Cindy Manion
Rated R
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"I'm very big on oral."
"Well, you do have a big mouth."

I suppose there may be those among us unfamiliar with the term "preppies". It was a popular term-of-derision in the late 70's and early 80's, an accusatory slur aimed at people who attended private, "preparatory" universities. 'Preps' carried themselves with maximum snoot. They talked through their teeth in a halting huff and snorted whenever po' folks were around. The classic preppy look included a sweater wrapped around the shoulders, golf clothing in pastel colors, loafers, possibly a visor. Whether anyone actually wore these clothing combinations anywhere besides goofy movies like this is a mystery to me, as I have never known anyone that would fall into the preppy category. I barely even know any college graduates. In 1980, a satirical prep-guide, "The Preppy Handbook", hit the humor racks at bookstores and somehow became a smash hit. As legend has it, many did not care that the book was meant as a goof, and embraced it's fashions, fads, and upper-crusty notions, eventually resulting in a mini-cultural movement of people who were actually proud to call themselves preppies. Again, who the fuck knows. They say there really were 'valley girls' back then as well, but I don't remember any. All of this shit might have happened in California. Seems like a likely place for it. At any rate, in the 80's, any half-assed cultural movement would end in a bad b-movie - See Breakin'(1984), Thrashin' (1986), and Joysticks (1983) for three perfect examples - and so, 1984's Preppies, the final word on rich assholes in Izod Lacoste shirts.

Preppies was directed by Chuck Vincent, which should tell you a couple things right off the bat. First, lower your expectations. This is not going to be nearly as good as you'd like it to be. Second, squint a little, and you'll find a stray porn star or two in the cast. Famously, Mr. Vincent began his career as a director of adult films, and when he 'graduated' to z-level sexploitation, he tended to fill the productions with his old starlets and studs. That is certainly the case here, with veteran pipe-layer Jerry Butler in a small-but-vital role as elusive soap opera star Dick Foster, and a smattering of 80's goo-girls (Tish Ambrose, Sharon Kane, Annette Heinz) playing exotic dancers. The rest of the cast is made up mostly of first (and for most, only) time actors, which will become painfully obvious pretty quickly.

Our saga opens with three preppies - Chip (Dennis Drake), Bayard (Steven Holt) and Mark (Peter Brady Reardon, who really should've just used his own hilariously preppy-esque name) - getting a lecture from Chip's tennis-obsessed dad. Seems they've got exams coming up, and if Chip passes, he inherits the family's $50 million dollar fortune. If he doesn't, he's out on his ass, and his weird sexual deviant brother Blackwel (Leonard Haas) gets the motherlode.

Blackwel, by the way, is introduced to us in a scene straight out of Caligula, with dominatrixes, dog collars, topless stoned chicks, the works. It's pretty nuts. Blackwel is well aware of this situation, so on the weekend before exams, he dispatches a quartet of local party girls to seduce and distract Chip and the boys. It's not the world's hardest sell, as the prep-molls are strictly cold fish. About the most the fellas get from their girlfriends is when Margot (Hollywood Hot Tubs' own Katt Shea, in a very unconvincing blonde bob wig) strips naked and mashes her boobs against a glass door, allowing Mark to slobber on the other side. So, you know, they are certainly open to new options.

Oh, another thing about Chuck Vincent movies that you should probably know: there's always too many characters. Chuck is not happy unless there's half a dozen thinly written players jammed into the frame. I am surely baiting tedium here, but we must mention the good-time girls, since they are, after all, the film's real protagonists. There's Roxy (Nitchie Barrett), Jo (toothy, statuesque blonde Cindy Manion, instantly recognizable from Toxic Avenger), Tip (Kate Stelletello), and Suzy (Jo-ann Marshall). With the exception of Suzy, who is clearly the voice of reason, there is no nuance or affect that differentiates one of these characters from another; they are simply a bunch of girls who like driving around in a customized van and will, if you offer them $20,000, attempt to seduce some high-faluting jokers, even though they kinda-sorta hate preppies.

The girls attempt to snag their men, first by dressing up as waitresses at a country club and later as hot-to-trot stoner chicks at a disco ("This is erotic!" Jo squeals, as the six of them huddle in a men's room stall, smoking a joint and listening to other guys pee), but neither ruse works. Then they bait Suzy with the promise of a date with her favorite TV star, Dick Foster, if she dresses up like a preppy and infiltrates their inner sanctum. She does, allowing the other girls to decorate the place with streamers and a "Happy Birthday Jeff" sign ("What?" Roxy shrugs. "I got it from Jeff."), strip down to lingerie, and force their reluctant prey to party. But before they can completely destroy the college boys' lives, the prep-girls show up and ruin everything. This goes on for many, many minutes, so let us cut to the chase:

Yes, boners will be popped, particularly during the scene when stuck-up Margot and Trini (Linda Wiesmeier, Joysticks, Private School, and Playboy Playmate, July '82) practice hip-thrusting together.

Will you laugh, somewhere along the way? Depends on whether you think the following is funny:

Mark, staring at Jo's tits. "I really like those."
Jo: "Oh, thanks. I got them from my mother. And she got them from my grandmother."
Mark: "So, they're family heirlooms!"

That's about as fuckin' funny as it gets. It has a happy ending, like they all do. The acting veers drunkenly between over the top and woefully inadequate, although all the actors are very enthusiastic, and everyone is obviously working quite hard to pull off this ludicrous premise and barely-there script. Cindy Manion, who has crazy eyes, an even loonier smile, and a manic-panic energy about her that nearly bursts right through the screen, is particularly into it here; if this is anybody's movie, it's hers. Unfortunately for the world, this film and Toxic Avenger (also 1984) are her only significant acting roles. The music is terrible (Chuck Vincent also co-wrote many of the songs), the boom mic is clearly visible in a few scenes, and although there's a goodly amount of breast-baring (this was, after all, a "Playboy Production"), there is very little sex. And it's about preppies, which is a pretty fuckin' lame premise, even for the 80's.

Availability: Preppies is available on (murky) DVD from Jef. It's also available for rental from Netflix.
Buy Preppies on Amazon.
-Ken McIntyre

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