Directed by Mark Pirro
Starring Jim Hanks, Rikki Brando, Suzanne Ager, Monique Parent
“Jeeter just needs to find a home for his lost prairie gopher.”
If writer/director Mark Pirro is even vaguely famous for anything, it's the ultra low budgets he's worked with over the years. His first work, 1985 comedy horror A Polish Vampire in Burbank, was filmed for somewhere around $2,500 and immediately became the lowest budget film to reach cable television. By 1992, Pirro's star was on something approaching the rise, and he received the opportunity to work together with Axis Films International – a softcore production company looking to branch out into sex comedies.
You'd be hard pressed to put a figure on Buford's Beach Bunnies' cost. It's clearly not the ultra-low budget extravaganza that Pirro's name has been built on, but there's not exactly a whole lot of expansive beach shots either, which seems something of an omission considering the title and all. They did manage to rustle together enough to cash to pull in slightly-creepy-youngest-Hanks-brother Jim Hanks however, so that's something.
Basically: it's the closest Mark Pirro ever managed to get to a mainstream film. I use the past tense there because, well, it's hard not to play a little game of connect the dots with Pirro's filmography and the five years between Buford's and his next film doesn't exactly speak of a great success.
That's a bit odd, really. What's not to like? I mean, who wouldn't want to see a film in which the opening number details how the titular bunnies have the stuff that “makes your weenie wanna grow-whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa”? Check out the following clip at around 1:20, and if you can tell me exactly what the line beforehand is I'll be super grateful, as I've listened to the damn thing tens of times trying to decrypt the preceding mumbling to no avail. In fact, not only can I still not understand what is said, I can't get the song out of my head. (Also, yes, the movie's title is spelled incorrectly in the titles, which is ultra classy.)
The story that follows from there is pretty simple: Jeeter Buford (Hanks) is pathologically afraid of girls, to the point of having psychedelic freakouts in purple and red tint every time he comes into contact with one. His old man Harry (Burt Reynolds-alike Barrett Cooper) is particularly unhappy with that, given that he's the proprietor of Buford's Bunny Hole; the local rabbit-dominated fast food joint which happens to be staffed by scantily clad girls dressed as bunnies. Oh, and a couple of guys in cut-off shirts, khaki shorts and straw hats. Because, I suppose, it was the early '90s.
Anyways, in order to cure Jeeter he presents his three favourite bunnies with the challenge of taking his son's virginity, and offers $100,000 to the first to do it. Probably happens all the time.
The film gives us a little background as we're introduced to a young Jeeter who is dragged by his friends to a brothel, rather naturally run by Kitten Natividad and her massive boobs. Jeeter's there to learn the “facts of life”, but he's only brought along $5. “What am I supposed to do?!” exclaims Kitten. “Buy donuts for the girls?”
She relents – after being informed Jeeter's saved “three days of lunch money” - but warns him not to expect much. Cue foreboding music. Jeeter's led upstairs, handed a blindfold (which he's told will make what's to come easier) and: screaming.
Cut forward ten or so years, and we find out a little about the elder Buford. Namely, the fact that he makes ads like this:
So that's probably something to be proud of. Hell, I'd eat there, and I'm not even into rabbit - “come by for a piece of tail” indeed.
Unfortunately, the news isn't good for old Harry – he's had a mild heart attack and is in the hospital. Also, he has to have his temperature taken via rectal thermometer, though as we all know; this is comedy gold material, and Pirro's not about to disappoint: “What's the difference between taking it there and in the mouth?” Harry asks. “The taste,” replies the utterly believably named Dr. Van Horney (Robyn Webb).
It's the day shift down at Buford's Bunny Hole and bookish Lauren Beatty (Rikki Brando) is late again. Harry's morbidly obese niece Beula Lugosi (Ina Rogers) just happens to be the manager and isn't taking any excuses – she wastes no time in telling Lauren that she just hasn't been paying attention to her work since she started seeing “slimeball boyfriend” Karl (Adam Wahl).
We also meet the co-workers: blonde Boopsie Underall (Suzanne Ager) and red-haired Amber Dexterous (Monique Parent), who is off and having sex with a customer in the toilet within her first three minutes on screen simply because he compliments her on her crystal necklace. Fact: early '90s crystal enthusiasts might be the worst people ever. Amber mumbles something about spiritual closeness because of said crystals, though her new friend is less enthusiastic. “Yeah, yeah,” he says. “Me too. Turn around and bend over.”
Meanwhile, Beula sits on a cook for calling her “fatty” while a rabbit sits in the salad.
After all that excitement, the three bunnies leave work to see Harry, apparently wearing the goofiest damn outfits they could find.
Turns out the incident with the cook wasn't the first time Beula had sat on someone – Harry tells the girls he thinks it's because she's jealous of the attention they get. And finally, we get to meet the adult Jeeter, who has very high pants. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, Lauren checks him out in the most obvious fashion possible. Unfortunately, she makes the mistake of shaking his hand soon after, and he goes into tinted freakouts (although, frankly, it seems somewhat less than debilitating, since he's fine about two seconds later).
Still, it's enough to get Harry mad, and he yells at Jeeter for a while about how none of the treatment he's had over the years seems to have fixed his problem and how there must be something out there to make him normal. Then he offers Dr. Van Horney $10,000 to sleep with Jeeter. Naturally, she accepts and drags him off to the morgue under the pretence of a medical examination.
Even though the tell-tale signs of sex are there – soft lighting, smoke machine – he's reluctant to get his clothes off, so Dr. Van Horney has to convince him.
“I'm a doctor,” she declares, pacing around him. “I went through five long months of medical school, and I've read every book from Dr. Joyce Brothers to Dr. Seuss and I saw every episode of Marcus Welby MD! Now, are you gonna take your clothes off, or am I going to have to get hospital security in here?” That's enough to convince Jeeter, so she listens to his crotch with a stethoscope and then makes out with him a bit with her top off until he freaks again.
Harry isn't going to give up that easily, though. He sends a telegram - everyone in the '90s was nuts about telegrams - to Boopsie, who is interrupted mid-shower. When she hears of his mysterious “profitable” offer, she gets so excited her towel falls off.
Although she picks it back up before her boyfriend Scud Blackplowman (Charley Rossman) walks in, he still decides to throw the messenger into a bookshelf. “I caught you this time! Don't you deny it, you filthy stink-whore!” he cries, though he quickly forgives her once she explains, following which he tells Boopsie her nakedness has “inflamed” his “manly parts to unbound heights”.
Jeeter, it turns out, has catastrophic recurring nightmares, which involve a lot of travelling down the brothel hallway dopily looking around. This is invariably followed by a celebrity impersonator (Humphrey Bogart, Clint Eastwood and Marilyn Monroe respectively) giving him some reason to back away, and Jeeter wakes up.
Finally, it's time for Harry to announce his grand plan to the girls.
Harry: Jeeter just needs to find a home for his lost prairie gopher.
Lauren: What are you talking about?
Amber: I think he means sex.
Lauren: You think everyone means sex.
Boopsie: What did you mean, Harry?
Harry: I meant sex.
It's a sex comedy, you see. Anyway, the offer of $100,000 for sleeping with Jeeter seems to go down pretty well: even if Lauren says she's not interested, she still falls well short of being insulted or anything. Amber, on the other hand, seems downright enthusiastic.
However, they're overheard by Beula, who looks shifty and scampers off. Later, she reads an ad for a hypnotist, The Amazing Foreskin (David Robinson), which is probably the worst name any stage performer of any variety could pick. Meanwhile, Amber's using a Jeeter doll to conjure up good vibe gods by rubbing its crotch.
Having already pulled out of the competition, Lauren's at home with her boyfriend. He's trying to get her to have sex after two weeks of waiting, so he sneaks on a porno starring a dry-humping Pirro and Lissa Walters, who I assume was his girlfriend or something similar.
Despite the leading man's drop-dead gorgeous hair, she's not buying it. “It's...fascinating how they do that,” he says in a hugely strange attempt at convincing her to keep watching it.
At the theatre, Beula's sneaky plot continues, as she explains to The Amazing Foreskin (“call me Forey”) that she needs him to hypnotise Jeeter so that everyone thinks he's crazy.
The next day, Karl's still bothering Lauren about having sex with him, and she's still not interested. He storms off, so she sits down for a chat with Jeeter, who just happens to be walking along the beach at exactly the same time. Amongst other things, they discuss Jeeter's dream, and Lauren suggests that it might be caused by a traumatic event that he's trying to block. Which, uh, seems kinda obvious really.
Boopsie shows up too, and drags Jeeter off to her house, under the pretence of heading to see Harry. “I can't go to the hospital dressed like this,” she explains. But oh, it's a ruse and she's trying to seduce him! So Jeeter does the purple thing again.
Before he's even recovered, Scud's at the door and proceeds to throw Jeeter into a book shelf. Boopsie tries to explain that it's all for money, but Scud doesn't quite grasp the concept: “You take money for extra joy? You slut-hobo!” While they're puzzling it out – and Scud does eventually realise the benefits of the proposition – Jeeter walks off nursing his head.
He's not home for long before Amber shows up, but they're soon joined by Scud and Boopsie. While the girls are arguing, Scud and Jeeter share a bro-ment on the beach. There are, Scud says, five reasons why Jeeter needs him around to help with his “mental problems with girls”.
“One, you need a manly role model. Two, Scud manly man who make good role model. Two...”
“Three,” suggests Jeeter. “Three,” Scud concedes, “I introduce you to high class women. And five...”
“Four,” prompts Jeeter.
“Four,” repeats Scud. “I forget four. We walk now.” And so they do, right back to the brothel where it all began. This time though, it's run by a different madame, who asks about Jeeter.
“That's Joiter,” Scud explains. “He'll need A-number-one cavity to place his male organ wiener glans into.” The madame and Scud walk upstairs, where he has another purple moment after seeing the door from his dreams. Eventually managing to open it, he's confronted with the following sight:
It's not entirely clear what the hell that is, but it's there, and it's enough to make Jeeter run from the building. “Looks like my friend suffer from premature evacuation,” Scud remarks to some prostitutes.
Later on that night, Lauren and Karl are trying to patch things up on the beach. And things seem to be patching up pretty well, so Karl tries one last time to seduce her.
She's not so convinced, so Karl tries to rape her. Fortunately, Jeeter has been running around since daylight and wanders onto the beach in time to rescue Lauren. As a reward, she heads back to his place and tells him about another time she was almost raped. Jeeter's into that whole tragic scene though, so it gives him the courage to put his hand on her shoulder. Immediately after, they fall in love and there's a montage, during which they have sex.
Harry sees them asleep afterwards and smiles proudly, which is pretty creepy: imagine if your parent(s) did it. Yikes.
Lauren can't stay however – she's got to work. Bumping into Harry on her way out, he tells her not to worry about even showing up and hands her the cheque, but she's not interested. Instead, he gives her a lift to work and proceeds to happily tell the other two girls all about it while Lauren's out back changing, except for the bit about her not wanting the money.
Hours later, Boopsie and Amber are still talking about it, so when Jeeter drops by the Bunny Hole to give Lauren flowers, he overhears the whole proposition, and assumes the worst. So he goes home and stares at the world's saddest cupcake for a while before knocking it onto the floor.
Beula comes by and invites him to dinner, but it's all part of her plan to make him appear crazy. Sure enough, The Amazing Foreskin shows up to join them at the restaurant. He hypnotises Jeeter, who goes into the ladies' toilets and rips a girl's shirt off.
You might get away with that sort of thing in some sex comedies (most even) but unfortunately the cops are right in the restaurant ready to haul Jeeter off to jail. Will he be put away for life in a mental institution? Will he forgive Lauren? What happened to him in the brothel? All is revealed in half an hour of extraneous movie that really doesn't need to be there, including some bizarre sub-plot involving the girls getting jobs at the brothel and a court case that drags badly so badly it feels like a three hour telemovie. And has all the humour of one.
Buford's Beach Bunnies is even a pretty enjoyable blast up until that point. It's just the last half hour that kills any momentum the film might have been building - the Lauren-Jeeter love montage feels like too much of a climax for the conclusion to retain your attention, especially once the sub-plots just keep on coming.
Ultimately, it's not the worst sex comedy from that period, even if it is far from the best. The characters have some degree of depth, the direction isn't as awful as Pirro's reputation for cheapness might suggest, and the three lead bunnies are super attractive (especially Monique Parent, in one of her first roles). There's even something approaching chemistry between Jeeter and Lauren.
Plus, as a added bonus, Jim Hanks isn't even half as fucking irritating as his older brother.
- Alistair Wallis