Friday, January 2, 2009

Pretty Smart (1987)

Directed by Dimitri Logothetis
Starring Tricia Leigh Fisher, Joely Fisher, Julie K Smith, Patricia Arquette
Rated R
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"Does this look like a salad fork, you silly cow?"

If we were standing on some street corner somewhere, preferably in the dope, gun, and fucking in the streets district, and I started spouting off the key plot points of Pretty Smart, you'd rush to the nearest sticky-carpet grindhouse showing it and slap down whatever it took to get in. After all, we are dealing with an all-girls school in Greece run by a maniac who secretly films his teenage students showering, pillow-fighting, and having sex with everyone from fat, hairy dope dealers to the gardener. Speaking of dope dealers, the dean is also using the girls to run drugs to Rome. The film is filled with cat fights, nude beaches, shower scenes and topless aerobics, including half a dozen eye-popping glimpses of future softcore queen and Penthouse Pet Julie K Smith, and even features a pubescent Patricia Arquette, hot on the heels of her star-making turn in Nightmare on Elm Street 3.

And then like two hours later, you'd find me throwing dice in an alley somewhere, and you'd punch me in the mouth, because I convinced you to see a chick flick.

I can only assume that Pretty Smart was created specifically for teenage lesbians. How else can you justify a girl power-centric story about two rival sisters sent off to an exclusive all-girl private school, who put aside their differences to take down the corrupt dean who's taking advantage of them, when it's sandwiched by a boing-ing boob scene every 7-10 minutes? Even with all the young bared flesh, the stuff in-between would send your average teenage boy screaming from the room: dance-offs, bunny-hopping, and ten minutes' worth of innocent, good-timey girl-frolicking on a Greek island. It's like a 90 minute slumber party with tits.

Tricia Leigh Fisher is the awesomely-named Daphne Zeigler, or "Zigs" to her freinemies. She's a difficult girl. She wears black and snarls a lot. Her sister Jennifer (Lisa Lorient) is the exact opposite, a blonde, pastel-loving good girl. They live in LA, and appear to be upwardly mobile. Although it is never really explained why, their parents obviously hate them both, since they send them away to Greece. As soon as they get to school, they are immediately divided up into cliques. Jennifer, being the prim and proper type, ends up in the "Preems", AKA the snotty...well, they're all rich, so I guess the snottier rich kids. Daphne joins the Subs, or the 'Subzeroes'. The misfits. Which, in this case means the black chick, the Asian chick, the chubby chick, and Patricia Arquette, who calls herself Zero and seems sorta suicidal all the time.

For most of the movie the two sects of schoolgirl clash, pouring wine on each other or getting into punch ups or pulling pranks. But once it becomes obvious that Dean Crawley (70's TV hunk/heel Dennis Cole) is using them to run drugs and make porn, the all band together and use their wits and pluck to bring him down. And then they dance.

Extremely frothy and amazingly sleaze-free, Pretty Smart is a strange and bewildering movie. The fashions are deplorable - I don't know if I've ever seen another movie that looks hideously 80's - and so is the plinking synthesizer score. There's also a short but painful performance by Greek spandex-abusing new wave band Bang. ("Please don't panic, we're professional musicians," says the singer/keyboard botherer before they launch into their sub-Human League squall. Thanks for the warning, pal.) And yet, it is so generous with its nudity that it is impossible to dismiss outright. Perhaps it's a test of some kind, a litmus test to see how much girly bullshit the average teenage dude will put up with just to see girl-nipples. If so, I guess the answer is 95 minutes' worth.

Pretty Smart was shot on location in Greece by Dimitri Logothetis, who also directed campy heavy metal horror Slaughterhouse Rock (1988) and, perhaps more importantly, produced seminal booby-bouncer Hardbodies 2 (1986). He also acted in Dracula's Dog (1978), so if you ever run into him, he probably has a lot of awesome stories to tell.

The girls of Pretty Smart were largely one-time actresses, which is pretty evident. Patricia Arquettte obviously went on to bigger and better things, like True Romance (1993), and...well whatever else she did. She hasn't been on the sleaze-beast radar in many years. Tricia Leigh Fisher - the daughter of 50's TV star Eddie Fisher and Connie "Scorchy" Stevens, by the way - has been busy doing mostly television all these years. She is probably most embarrassed by 1989's Chud II: Bud the Chud. I know I'm embarrassed for her. Joely Fisher (Tricia's sister), played the chubby "Sub" here; she's gone on to a wealth of TV roles, most recently as Brad Garret's bosomy, wise-cracking wife on sitcom 'Til Death.

Most significant to the T&A fan, however, is the career arc of busty "Preem" Julie K. Smith. From this film on, she's appeared in a dizzying amount of primo trash, from Andy Sidaris sexy-action flicks (Dallas Connection, 1994; Day of the Warrior, 1996), to the Angel series (Angel III: The Final Chapter, 1988) and Roger Corman produced sci-fi junk (Wasp Woman, 1995), and gobs of softcore spoofs (Survivors Exposed, 2001; Bare Wench Project, 2002; The Da Vinci Coed, 2007).She is a bonafide topless institution, and it all started here.

Availability: Pretty Smart is available on VHS from the usual suspects.
Buy Pretty Smart at Amazon.

Link: Julie K Smith

-Ken McIntyre

1 comment:

  1. Yikes, I just watched this one last night without reading your write-up first. I only picked it up because it was right between Pretty Maids All in a Row and Princess Academy on the shelf and it was 2 for 1 day. (I have to fly solo sometimes.) I must say I too was trying to figure out the target audience of a humor free - TNA rich - chick flick. FF to the rescue. Man was did I have my hopes up!


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