Starring Ashlie Rhey, Sarah Bellomo, Nikki Fritz
"I'm gonna take you to jail. I might also shoot your friend. But first, I'm gonna get a Coke."
When you think of all the garbage that's been dumped on DVD over the years, it's a tragedy that Olen Ray's magnum opus Bikini Drive-in is still awaiting it's digital rebirth. An amiable, everybody-wins homage to goofy 70's T&A flicks, Bikini Drive-in packs the screen with cult-star cameos, wall-to-wall breast-baring, and a barrel full of groan-worthy gags. It is literally all you could possibly ask for in a B movie, and it probably only cost Fred about fifty bucks to make. He's returned to the bikini well many times since, and will most likely continue to do so, but with this one, his heart really appeared to be into it. In fact, this could almost pass for a particularly saucy entry in the 60's beach party series.
As our story opens, Kim (Ashlie Rhey) and her best friend Carrie (Sarah Bellomo) are sunbathing, topless, on the beach, and contemplating what to do with their summer.
"We could get jobs," Kim suggests.
"Get real!" Says Carrie.
They're not the most productive bimbos on the beach, these two.
Luckily, fate intervenes in the shape of a shlubby lawyer, who stomps up to our half-naked heroines with good-ish news. Seems Kim's grandpa, who died a month before, left her his business, a creaky old drive-in just outside of LA. And, just like that, she's a business owner.
"What am I supposed to do with a drive in?" She asks Grandpa's lawyer. Seeing as it's 1995, a good fifteen years after most drive-ins went bust, it's a reasonable question.
The El Monte is a once-glorious Ozoner that's gone to seed. Kim and Carrie (wearing impossibly high-waisted Levis) go to check the old place out. At first it appears abandoned but then Oscar (Ed Wood alumni Conrad Brooks), the weird old projectionist, pops open a creaky window and hands her the keys to the joint.
"Now that you're here, things will run much better," he tells her. But what does he know?
Meanwhile (there's always a meanwhile in these things), a ruthless land developer, JB Winston (exploitation legend David F Friedman) has been buying up every piece of land around the drive in to build a Super Mall. The shabby old El Monte is the only bit of property that he doesn't own. Grandpa wouldn't sell it to him. After hearing about Kim's inheritance, Winston dispatches his two old-school stooges, Harry (Ross Hagen, Satan's Sadists) and Carl (Peter Spellos, Dinosaur Island), and his young, business-minded son Brian (Richard Gabai, director of Assault of the Party Nerds and Virgin High) to try and 'gently persuade' her to sell.
So while that's going on, Kim's arguing with her blockhead boyfriend Darryl (George Cost, who's hairline recedes practically to the back of his head) about helping her fix up the drive in ("It's summertime, babe. I got stuff to do") while Carrie bones her boyfriend in a hot tub upstairs. By the way, softcore hot tub bonings are generally pretty lame, but I must tell you, Bellomo fakes it quite well. This might be the hottest softcore hot tub boning ever. Anyway, Darryl storms out, which makes Kim cry.
"How can you do this to me?" She whines. "I gave you the best three months of my life!"
Soldiering on despite her broken heart, Kim starts her first day as the new owner of the El Monte, and finds out that her grandfather was $25.000 in debt with the bank. If she doesn't come up with the money in three days, she loses the drive-in. Kim finds out from her two geeky employees Tom (Tom Shell, Surf Nazis Must Die) and Susan (softcore legend Nikki Fritz, dressed in a dowdy library-nerd get-up) that the drive-in averages about fifty bucks a night, but she still thinks spit-shining the joint might save the day.
Carrie calls up her sorority sisters (who else?), who show up in Daisy Dukes to help out during the classic 80's style cleaning-the-place-up montage. Somebody pulls out a hose, and naturally, the girls end up wrestling around topless.
Brian and the boys show up to put the pressure on Kim, but she sends them packing, feeling confident that everything's going to work out just fine.
Despite the makeover, no one shows up for the Friday night showing of The Wilderness Gang. Dejected, Kim strolls solemnly along the beach in the dark, searching for answers. Brian shows up and professes his love for Kim, and tells her wants to help, regardless of what his dad wants. And so they make out on the beach and, after a few seagulls close-ups, they end up at Kim's, where they make sweet 80's love, providing you with ample opportunity to ogle Rhey's hard plastic Frankenboobs.
The next morning, Brian takes over as creative director at the El Monte. He tosses out all the family films and digs through the archives, promising a quadruple feature of blood n' boobs epics like Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, I was a Teenage Tree, The Apeman Cometh, and Sorority Sister Slaughterouse.
And then he books a guest celebrity to make an appearance: scream queen Dyanne Lynn (real-life scream queen Michelle Bauer). Of course, you can't just get a scream queen of Lynn's stature to show up at your ratty drive-in, so Brian lies and tells her he's from 'Hollywood Tonight', and that they've planned an 'extravaganza' for her. She does not know what extravaganza means, but likes the sound of it, and when Brian tells her that the President of the United States will be there - he's a big fan - how can she say no?
You may be wondering, with all of this nonsense going on, where, exactly, the bikinis come in. Well, Brian's got that covered, too. He hires Candy (Becky Lebeau, Joyticks, Hollywood Hot Tubs) and Mandy (Tane McClure, Death Spa) to drum up business. In bikinis.
Mandy visits local FM DJ Randy Rocket (director Fred Olen Ray), and after nearly choking him with her oversized bra, he agrees to promote the drive-in on the air. When she gets back, Brian hands out bikinis to all the girls - including Kim, Carrie, and Susan - and gives Tom a rubber monster suit to wear.
Oh, and if you're wondering: the Nikki Fritz transformation is, indeed, awesome.
And so, the El Monte is transformed to Bikini Drive-in. Mandy and Candy go-go dance on the marquee platform while the sorority sisters take tickets dressed in itty-bitty bathing suits and Kim, Carrie and Susan - all half-naked, of course - run the concession stand.
On screen, a non-stop orgy of pure trash, including trailers for wish-they-were-real Z-epics like "Gator Babes" and "Goliath Versus the Cheerleaders" (starring Hercules himself, Gordon Mitchell!), and in the crowd, all manner of weirdo and cult hero, including Forrest J Ackeman, who nearly blows up his car with bug repellent from 1964, and Claire Polan (Angel's Wild Women), as his date. There's also a horse clopping around, for whatever reason, plus what looks like a very playful biker gang.
At one point, Mandy dances on the hood of some dude's car while cartoons are projected on her chest, and afterward, she wails on Carl (who is now in the monster suit) and then douses him in gasoline. Oh, and Susan and Tom make sweet love while covered in loops of film. Essentially, it's every cult-film geek's wildest fantasy come true.
The money starts rolling in, and it looks like Kim might just get to keep the drive-in after all.
But then Harry and JP and crooked ol' Sheriff Bloodstone (Steve Barkett) show up to bust the party up. Will they succeed in bringing down Bikini Drive-in?
Not likely. Everybody knows villainous land developers and crooked cops are no match for well-intentioned trash film fans, bubble-headed bikini girls, and Conrad Brooks.
Quite possibly Fred Olen Ray's greatest moment, Bikini Drive-in is well worth the effort it will take to dig it up from the VHS graveyard. Funny, warm, sexy and weird, it's an affectionate tribute to a bygone era that will have you pining for the good ol' days of drive-ins, monster-flicks, and big-haired girls in acid-wash jeans, whether you've actually lived through them, or not.
Thanks for this one, Fred.
Availability: Bikini Drive-in is available on VHS.
- Ken McIntyre