Tuesday, July 7, 2009

H.O.T.S. (1979)

Directed by Gerald Seth Sindell
Starring Angela Aames, Lisa London, Lyndsay Bloom, Susan Kiger
Rated R

"I thought you told me he was killed by the Green Gang?"
"No stupid, by Gangrene."
"Oh. Well, either way, he was an awful shade of green."

The origins of HOTS remain a mystery to me. There is nothing in director Gerald Seth Sindell's slim resume that would suggest he is capable of a teen hornball classic like this, and he quit the biz soon after, probably assuming that he'd already creatively crested with this one. Much of the credit for HOTS' success has to go to the excellent perv-eye view camerawork of Harvey Genkins, the photographic giant who lensed the Garbage Pail Kids Movie (1987), Perhaps the most hallucinatory children's film since Santa Claus Meets the Ice Cream Bunny. Were it not for Genkins' obsessive boob-bobbing camera, perhaps HOTS wouldn't crackle with such boner-popping electricity. HOTS' most notable credits, however, are its writing/producing dream team: Cheri Caffaro and Don Schain. Still husband and wife at the time HOTS was produced, Schain was the mastermind behind the Ginger Trilogy/ Sorta-Quadrilogy, and Cheri its platinum blonde star. Simply speaking, the 70's would not have been half as entertaining as they were without Cheri and the Ginger movies. In these mind-boggling films, Cheri played Ginger Mcallister (in the fourth film, 1977's Too Hot to Handle, she was 'Samantha Fox', but the song essentially remained the same), a kinky, frequently naked super-spy who often found herself in awkward bondage set-ups, or topless Kung Fu fights, or clumsy dance-offs. Politically incorrect in the extreme and gorgeously tacky, the Ginger films were huge drive-in/grindhouse hits, and Cheri was a bonafide B-movie star.

One thing the Ginger movies lacked, however, was a sense of humor. Sure, they were unintentionally funny, but nothing about them suggested that Schain and Cafarro were laff-makers behind the scenes. And yet, our girl Cheri crafted (along with never-heard-from-again co-writer W. Terry Davis) one of the funniest flicks in the 70's T&A teen cycle, and penny-pinching Schain laid out enough production dough to make it look decent. I don't know how any of it happened, I'm just glad it did.

HOTS works so well is because it knows exactly what it is and where it's going. HOTS knows is going to end in a topless football game, so every step along that journey is breathless and giddy, as if the movie itself is psyched to be there and can't wait for the big climactic party. Stylistically, it thumps with the same zippy new-wave energy as 1981's Lunch Wagon, but it actually borrows a lot of its gags - animal antics, impromptu musical numbers, cartoony authority figures - from the 60's Beach Party movies, stuff like Pajama Party. It also features enough casual nudity to rival the early/mid 70's cheerleader movies, which is probably why, confusingly, The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974) and Revenge of the Cheerleaders (1976) were briefly re-released as HOTS II and HOTS III, respectively.

HOTS in an episodic film, more interested in gags than a cohesive plot, but the basic storyline is established succinctly in the opening, pre-credits scene. Said scene also contains our first flash of nudity, which bodes well for the next 90 minutes. In fact, the first tits in H.O.T.S - in a shower scene, no less - occurs 30 seconds into the film. The ripe, well-formed whoppers belong to one Honey Shane (Susan Kiger), a new student at Faireville University (AKA F.U.), who endures ridicule in the locker room by a gang of snotty sorority girls led by Queen Bee Melody Ragmore (Lyndsay Bloom, Six Pack Annie), because she lacks their blue-blood backgrounds. As the uptight hussies storm off, Honey finds herself surrounded by a gang of supportive young ladies who were also rejected by the sorority chicks for various reasons. Honey swears revenge on Melody. One of the girls, southern-belle Terri Lynn (Pamela Jean Bryant, Lunch Wagon) tells her that the 'country way' is to steal her enemy's man. Honey thinks this is a capital idea. In fact, she suggests they steal all the sorority girls' men. And so, the hustle is on.

Honey, Terri Lynn, O'Hara (Lisa London, Private Resort) and Sam (Kimberly Cameron) form a sort of anti-sorority sorority house. They rent a dilapidated old shack and place an ad in the local paper: "Turned down by a sorority? Turned off by their mentality? Then turn on to H.O.T.S.!" A handful of girls respond to the ad, and so they recruit a small crew of wacky pledges - a fat girl, a butch chick, a mousy girl, a slob - and commence to fix up the place, proto-80's montage style.
The new recruits have to wear shirts that have "Warm" emblazoned on their chests, and go through a rigorous exercise regiment and beauty treatments to work towards "HOT" status. Then it's off to the plastic surgeon - the big nosed girl gets rhinoplasty, the flat-chested chick gets a boob job, the fat girl...well, lipo wasn't invented yet, so she's still fat, but they keep her around anyway. Umm, this sorority seems just as shallow and judge-y as the one they're rebelling against, doesn't it? Anyway, after all that, the pledges take their oath to do their best to win every man from the Pi Sorority girls. And then they get their HOTS shirts.

Meanwhile, over at the Pi house, the new pledges are being sworn in to their snooty sorority. It's one of those candle-lighting deals. Melody tells her new sisters that Pi stands for "Perfectly Ideal Girls", but then somebody points out that the acronym spells PIG. Still, despite that hiccup, it's a very nice ceremony.

Back at school, the HOTS girls are promoting their first party. The poster promises a special appearance by Boom Boom Bangs (Angela Aames, Lost Empire). Who the fuck knows who she is, or what she does, but her giant tits are featured prominently on the poster, which pretty much ensures a full house. Melody walks by and snorts. "Hots? Does that mean they're in heat? It must, since they're dogs." That's cold, Melody. Sweetening the deal, campus cool guy Richie Walker (Danny Bonaduce) offers to bring his band to the party to play for free. There's a kissing booth, and a swimming pool, and even a merchandise stand. Bonaduce bashes out a semi-rockin' tune called "How Hot Can You Get", and everybody has an awesome time.

Meanwhile, in a very late 70's plot twist, two aging gangsters, Charlie (Dick Bakalyan) and Bugs (Louis Guss) bust out of jail and go on the lam. Turns out they've had a quarter of a million dollars stashed away in a broken-down old house all these years, and now they can finally go and pick it up. Bugs is a little worried, though.
"What if someone's living in there now?" He asks Charlie.
"Are you kidding me?" Barks Charlie. "Who would live in that dump? Who?"
Well, fucking guess who?

So then a bunch of zany stuff happens:

A couple Pi girls sneak into the party and pour hot sauce in the chili. This seems more helpful than hurtful, but it does cause HOTS official chef Mad Dog (Larry Gilman, The Yum Yum Girls) to jump into the pool.

Charlie and Bugs show up at the party. They buy HOTS t-shirts to try and fit in with the college students. Despite being in their sixties, the plan mostly works. They skulk around the place, intermittently partying with coeds and looking for their hidden dough.

Boom Boom Bangs jumps out of an airplane. On the way down, her top falls off. She's supposed to land in the HOTS party pool, but gets blown off-course, and ends up disrupting the dean's party next door, where Melody happens to be shmoozing with the college bigwigs. She lands right in the dean's pool, which causes a fat opera singer to fall into the water.

Not surprisingly, the girls end up in the dean's (Ken Olfson) office, where he chastises them for their unruly behavior. He also tells them that he knows what HOTS stands for - "Hold On To Sex", and that he finds that unacceptable. Never mind that "Hold On To Sex" doesn't even make any sense, it's not even the truth. Turns out, HOTS actually stands for "Help Out the Seals". Seems they're actually an environmental organization. They even bring in an actual seal to prove it.
The dean is not entirely convinced. Despite HOTS assertion that they are not a sorority, he tells them they have to abide by sorority rules, which means they need to get a house mother and, perhaps more importantly, further 'shenanigans' are strictly forbidden.

The "No shenanigans" thing doesn't last for long. Pissed that the Pi girls over-spiced his chili, Mad Dog rents a hot air balloon and sails over to their house, where they all happen to be sunbathing topless.

In a very Three Stooges sorta move, he bombards them with banana cream pies and seltzer. And then he flies away.

At least they got a house mother. Ezetta (Dorothy Meyer, RIP), is a large black woman who smokes with a cigarette holder and constantly threatens to quit "This crazy house!"

While the girls are out hatching various revenge schemes - Honey makes sweet 70's love to Melody's boyfriend, the HOTS team tapes Melody's right hand-girl Cynthia (KC Winkler) and her boyfriend up in their van and deposits them naked on the front lawn of the school, etc. - Charlie shows up at Ezetta's door pretending to be a representative from the Acme Corporation.
"Ma'am, this is your lucky day," he tells her.
"It's about time," she quips.

She's lucky, he explains, because he's got a space-age housekeeping robot that he's going to let her try out for free. Said robot is actually Bugs in a barrel, but what the hell, free is free. Bugs the Robot starts cleaning while Charlie prowls the joint looking for their money, but things go awry when Bugs blunders into the bathroom, where Boom Boom is taking a bubblebath with Slinky the seal.

She find him adorable, and mooshes her giant soapy jugs against his flimsy trash can shell, causing him to overheat and spew smoke everywhere. This pisses Ezetta off, so she throws them both out.

Meanwhile, more hijinks:

Professor Williams (Scott Ellsworth) is failing several HOTS girls in his class, so they trap him in an elevator and make out with him until he promises them all A's. This pisses Melody off, because she's been trying to crack the prof's nut for ages.

Mad Dog and his buddy kidnap the rival school's mascot, a big black bear named Sugar Bear. Of course, the bear escapes pretty quickly and ends up prowling the neighborhood, taking a dip in someone's pool and climbing in random windows looking for treats.

The Pi's throw a party, but all their boyfriends are busy back at the frat house. The HOTS staged a "jock strap raid", and it was so much fun, they just decided to stay and get loaded. Melody calls the house looking for Doug, and gets Honey instead. She's pretty pissed.

"May I have Douglas, please?" She asks.
"I've already got 'em," Honey laughs. And then she fuckin' hangs up on her.

Eventually, the dean has had about all he can take, so he marches over to the HOTS house to straighten them out. When he gets there, Boom Boom offers him a bloody Mary, and he's so flustered by her cleavage, he ends up spilling tomato juice all over his suit.
The girls offer to clean his clothes, so he ends up in his boxer shorts. He sneaks up to the attic, convinced that the girls have a moonshine still in there, but as always, they're one step ahead of him, and he finds nothing.

Then he goes berserk and starts chasing Terri Lynn around the roof, presumably to have sex with her. He catches her and starts pawing at her, but then Mad Dog sails by in his hot air balloon. He's still looking for the lost bear, and this seemed like a reasonable way to go about it. The balloon freaks the dean out, causing him to try and climb down the side of the house. He gets stuck there, ass-out, on the roof. Mad Dog seizes the opportunity, and snaps a few photos. So, no more problems from that douche.

Then there's a wet t-shirt contest/disco party at "Club Climax". Bonaduce's the DJ/MC. That cat gets around.

The contest ends in a tie between Honey and Melody, but these two arch-rivals cannot accept that decision, so they roll around the dance floor, punching each other in the head. If you're keeping count at home, that's a wet t-shirt/cat fight combo, perhaps the holy grail of teenage masturbation fantasies.

Since a simple girl-fight will not solve their differences, superjock Macho Man proposes a manly sort of solution - a football match. The girls agree, but Honey ups the ante: every time one team scores a touchdown, the other team has to remove a piece of clothing. And so, all-girl strip football is born. Goddamn, this is a good movie.
But first, they have a midnight bonfire at the beach, complete with Terri Lynn strumming a guitar and miming a truly horrible folk number called "Make Me Your Woman." Macho Man was so moved by it he almost professed his love for her right afterward. Instead, he wandered off and ran into Richie, who lied about having sex with Terri. Mad Dog decides he's sick of Richie's bullshit, so the HOTS girls device a whole revenge scheme involving Salt Peter, video cameras, and Slinky the seal. Yeah, great, but c'mon already, we've got a strip football game coming up!

While the HOTS girls are goofing off with Bonaduce's dick, Melody and Stephanie dress up like HOTS and try to sneak into their house to put itching powder in their uniforms. Melody is mistaken for Honey and gets kidnapped by Cynthia and a couple of football players who plan on shaving her head, while Stephanie ends up doused with old soup. So that doesn't go to well.

Finally, it's the day of the big game. The gang all head out together, but super busty O'Hara snaps a bra strap, and has to go back to find something else to wear. While she's getting dressed, she stumble on Charlie and Bugs, who took the opportunity to look for their money again.

She screams and makes a run for it, but gets even more frazzled when Sugar Bear pokes his head in. They all end up trapped in the attic with the bear and are, presumably, eaten by him.

Meanwhile, the game is on. The Pi girls score the first two touchdowns, forcing the HOTS to play in their bra and panties. So that's pretty cool.

The rest? Well man, there's bears and hot air balloons and car chases and cops and seals and fire engines and all sorts of crazy shit. But most importantly, there's a topless huddle. Two of them, in fact. Also, you finally get a gander at Lindsay Bloom's teacup-shaped floppies.

And that, my friends, is how the 70's ended.

I've certainly said it before, but it bears repeating: Cheri Cafarro, I love you. Truly and desperately. HOTS is one of the very few true classics of the teen sex comedy genre, and it has lost none of its luster over the years Highly recommended.

- Ken McIntyre
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