Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sizzle Beach USA (1974)

AKA Malibu Hot Summer
Directed by Richard Brandet
Starring Terry Congie, Leslie Brander, Roselyn Royce
Rated R

"Let's celebrate. I'll fix you one of my famous raw egg and liver shakes."

Unlike many of the films in this book, I have no history with Sizzle Beach USA. We're not tight bros from way back when. We have not consoled one another during the lean times. All I knew about it before a week or so ago was that it was a Troma Team release, and that it featured a young Kevin Costner. And while Troma does, occasionally, make good on their mostly empty promises of an awesomely sleazy time, this Costner creep never does. I mean, Field of Dreams? Tin Cup? Fuckin' Message in a Bottle? I see that guy, and I'm headed the other way. As such, it's been pretty easy to avoid this one all these years. So, have I been right all along in letting Sizzle Beach USA rot at the bottom of the 70's softcore trash heap, or have I missed out on a sparkling gem of early Tromatic super-sleaze? Only one way to find out.

And away we go. First off, the theme song is terrible. It sounds like Kenny Rogers. Like a hippy Kenny Rogers with a flute. Is that anyway to pump us up for hijinks? There's some decent opening credits imagery, though. Three chicks in a hot tub. A blonde in white hot pants aerobicizing on the beach. Stuff like that. Cut to the set-up:

Two ditzy broads: pint-sized Dit (Leslie Brander, presumably the director's wife/daughter/sister) and breezy blonde Cheryl (Suzanne Somers doppelganger Roselyn Royce) get stuck in a small-town diner because the doorknob on the ladies' room door came off, causing their Greyhound bus to take off without them. Usually this means they will soon be skewered and eaten half-alive by inbred desert mutants, or run down by some unseen maniac in a black pick-up truck. But that's just not the kind of movie we are watching. In this universe, they run into yet another woman who can't figure her way out of a bathroom, and so the three bond over it. Girl number three, Janice (Terry Congie), has a convertible. Better still, Dit just inherited a beach house in LA with her cousin Steve. Who inherits houses with their cousins? I can't even remember most of my cousins' names. Anyway, Janice offers to drive them all to Los Angeles, and Dit suggests they all stay with her at the newly inherited beach house. This is precisely when - if the Charlie's Angels outfits have not already tipped you off - it becomes obvious that Sizzle Beach USA was made a lot earlier in Costner's career than Troma would like you to believe. Nobody invited anybody anywhere in the 1980's.

Sizzle Beach USA was actually shot in 1974 under the title Malibu Summer, and initially released to drive-ins and grindhouses as Malibu Hot Summer. There was no script. The actors made most of it up as they went along. Hence, the bullshit about the doorknobs. It was made with no money, on the weekends, with amateur talent. At one point, just to try and squeeze a few more bucks out of it, producer Eric Louzil thought about retitling it Silicone Summer, since all three of the female leads were chestically enhanced. It was re-released on VHS in the mid 1980's with the name change to capitalize on Costner's involvement, since he'd gone on to super-stardom. At one point, Mr. Waterworld attempted to buy the film outright from Troma's head schemer Lloyd Kaufman, so he could bury it in the desert somewhere and avoid future Mr. Skin appearances. Nobody bests ol' Lloyd, though. He cleaned up for six or so months on the back of Costner-mania.

So yeah, it's the early 70's. As such, we can forgive the lack of plot. There was very little plot anywhere in 1973. Back at the beach house, cousin Steve (Robert Acey) is slobbering over a heavy-breasted brunette named Candi (Victoria Taft) who says, while they are making out on the couch, "Why don't we go upstairs to see your John Travolta poster?"
"Yeah," Steve answers. "Great idea."
Unfortunately, Dit barges in with her friends, effectively ruining the afternoon.

From here on in, Sizzle Beach USA is just a maddeningly random collection of scenes and images that your brain works overtime to try and connect, lest the very universe start collapsing around you. Some Russ Meyer-esque Asian chick saunters around her bedroom completely and gloriously nude for five minutes before Steve calls her to tell her he's leaving town for two weeks. She flops down on her waterbed and says, "Well, I guess I'll have to find someone else to make love to me while you're gone. I can't let a body like this go to waste."
Cut to: Dit and Cheryl frolicking with a dog on the beach.
Cut to: Janice with an acoustic guitar, singing a song that goes "A world's creation dies of cancer, a tender rose hides it's thorns/Breasts of destiny hold no answer, again feelings of scorn". I'm assuming she ate half a bag of mushrooms and then freestyled those lyrics.

Cut to: Dit watching TV in bed while Cheryl works out, topless, on a stationary bike.
Cut to: Ranch hand John (Kevin Costner) taking Dit out horseback riding. Suddenly his pal Pete (Peter Risch, RIP), a two-foot dwarf dressed like Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter, pulls up in a convertible.
"Nice work, boss," he says to Costner. "I like a tall woman."
"But I'm only 5 feet tall," Dit points out.
"Baby," says Pete, chomping on a cigarillo, "That's tall to me."

Cut to: Janice in the recording studio, playing more of her awful mushroom-head folk songs.
Cut to: A lingering shot of Cheryl's ass on the beach.

Cut to: Dit in an acting class, pretending she's a banana. "I want you to let go of your inhibitions," the acting teacher tells her.
"I don't think I have any," Dit says. And then she takes off her shirt. Peeling the banana, I guess. Then she goes home and fucks Kevin Costner.

Etcetera, etcetera. Stuff happens - Janice enters a fixed talent show; the midget's in on it. Cheryl gets a job as a high school gym teacher and starts dating a middle-aged, molester-mustachioed asshole in a tracksuit. There's a big party where this fat fucker pretends to be a Hollywood agent to have sex with a pendulous-breasted blonde chick from Rhode Island (Sylvia Wright, Terror on Tour, Bloody Birthday).

Janice gets dosed and starts hallucinating. Kevin Costner wears a suit jacket with leather elbows and guzzles booze with the dwarf. Later on they hijack a car by gunpoint.

Is there a happy ending? Honestly, how could all that bullshit not end happily?

In conclusion: although I initially had my reservations about Sizzle Beach USA, I can now say without irony that it is full-on amazing, for all the wrong/right reasons. All three leads are constantly disrobing, there's ear-gouging folk songs, a scheming dwarf, disturbing improvised dialogue ("I didn't do too good in acting class yesterday. She told me to be a pillow, but she couldn't tell whether I was a... foam pillow, or like a feather pillow"), even more disturbing anti-comedy, and no plot whatsoever. It's fucking nonsense, but gloriously so, a minor masterpiece of stoned-immaculate, pseudo-Dadaist, 70's fuck-everybody filmmaking. I don't know where this Richard Brander character is now - this was the only film he ever directed - but wherever he is, I hope he's rich, still weird, and happy.

PS: Roselyn Royce, who later went on to form an "erotic wrestling" video company called Golden Girls, died in 2007. Rose, we hardly knew ye, but all signs pointed to awesome. RIP, golden girl.

Clip: Roselyn Royce whalin' on some dude named Juan.

Availability: Sizzle Beach USA is available on DVD from Troma.
Buy Sizzle Beach, USA from Amazon.

-Ken McIntyre

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