Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bikini Summer (1991)

Directed by Robert Veze
Starring Melinda Armstrong, David Millbern, Kelli Konop
Rated R
USA

“Chester and his friends seem like fine, responsible young adults.”

bikini-summer-david-millburn-dvd-cover-artBikini Summer is not a film of many surprises. In fact, the most surprising thing about Bikini Summer is the fact that it took until 1991 for someone to make a film called Bikini Summer. Bikini Summer is about as generic a beach sex comedy as you could possibly make – and with all the fluoro bikinis and bleached blonde hair going around in 1991, you could make a very generic beach sex comedy indeed.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. Not every film needs to be filled with intratextual meta-referencing. Really, given the complete hash of that sort of thing most films tend to make, it might be better if very fewer films even attempted it. Luckily, Bikini Summer is so straight-forward that you could probably lay out the plot right now without even having to be told what it is.

It’s about bikinis. In summer.

It does, in its favour, look particularly good. That’s very likely less to do with one-time writer and director Robert Veze than it is to do with cinematographer Ken Blakey. The film was his first full-length feature after leaving the world of fashion and glamour photography, and it shows. Girls in bikinis are filmed in unbelievable, graphic close-up, with stringently careful lighting. If there was a blu-ray version, it’d blow your fucking mind, man.

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Later on, things get a little less careful and more gloomily lit, as if the producers were running out of money and time. “Fuck the lighting and get this thing in the can, Blakey! We gotta ship this VHS out to video shops tomorrow!”

Anyway, there’s plenty of movie before the gloom sets in. The credit sequence alone features more jiggling and jogging bikini clad girls than some lesser sex comedies.

Sadly, it’s all a dream. Absurdly blue-eyed, good natured slacker Chet (David Millbern, Slumber Party Massacre) has been asleep, and wakes to this:

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Old Mr Patterson, whose beach front property Chet and his friends are house-sitting and repainting over the summer, is going through the virtues of horizontal brush strokes versus vertical brushstrokes when using oil based paints. His wife, by the way, is played by Katherine Victor (RIP), star of The Wild World of Batwoman.

Chet rushes them out the door – and throws their bags after them. While they’re packing the car, Mrs Patterson says something you should really never say in a sex comedy: “Chester and his friends seem like fine, responsible young adults.” It’s like the antics and mayhem equivalent of saying Candyman into the mirror.

Back inside, Chet has lost his camera, which proves a convenient chance to introduce the rest of the characters. There’s annoying preachy environmentalist Richie (Alex Smith), rock and roll chick Jazz (Shelley Michelle), bikini designer Renee (Kelli Konop), blonde hottie Cheryl (Melinda Armstrong) and, last but not least, burping but otherwise silent fat party dude Mad Dog (Kent Lipham, RIP).

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Even at this early point, you can already safely assume that Renee will end up making out with Chet and also wear a bikini by the end of the film, because she’s blonde and wears glasses.

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Chet and his camera head for the beach, and so do Richie and Cheryl, though they all do so separately; it’s a segmented kinda film like that. Richie annoys innocent people by preaching about the dangers of UV rays and – bizarrely, given his environmental stance – handing out fliers to everyone he sees. Chet meets some girls and convinces them to pose for him, but forgets to take the lens cap off.

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Cheryl meets a muscly guy with white shorts and a mullet named Brad. “Hi. I’m Brad,” he says gruffly. He asks her out to a party later on, and she accepts.

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Also on the beach are requisite sex comedy nerds Larry (Thom DeLorenzo) and Gary (Tommy Heisler). Larry has, hands down, the funniest lines in the entire film, and says all of them in this single clip. Then he remains woefully underused for the next hour.

Incidentally, the girl they’re checking out is porn star Missy Warner, who had a similar beach related cameo in Bikini Car Wash Company.

Meanwhile, Jazz has just found a new rehearsal room for her all girl hard rock band, Jailbait. They’re renting a room in a warehouse from a sleazy landlord named Max (Ken Davitian), who looks very much like two Dom DeLuises jammed into an office chair.

Chet finds some more girls to photograph, and while he manages to run out of film, things do take a turn for the saucy. “Listen,” one of them says, “this is okay and everything, but if we could go back to your studio, we could do some really sexy stuff.”

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He immediately heads out and buys $200 worth of studio equipment in anticipation of the girls coming over the next morning.

Richie continues to find more people to annoy. First he scares off poor Missy Warner by jabbering on about bacteria in sand. Then he finds two more girls to annoy, but it turns out they’re smarter than him.

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They anticipate everything he’s got to say on numerous topics, including rainforests, dolphins, UV rays and native Americans. He gets bored of being made to look stupid, so he wanders off and manages to find a protest. Seems like someone is planning on building condominiums or something.

There’s only six people there and no one around to watch, but Richie joins in with enthusiasm anyway. However, it’s not long before the cops arrive to break things up, along with the local assistant DA, Rachel Greene (Rebekah Alfred). You can safely assume that she’ll also end up in a bikini by the end of the film because she wears glasses and is played by someone who spells Rebecca with a ‘k’ and an ‘h’.

Richie’s all for hanging around, but protest organiser and white bearded hippy Moondog (Michael Silverback) isn’t having a bar of it. “Listen,” he says. “I spent half the ‘60s in the slammer. I missed Woodstock. I missed Monterey. I don’t plan on missing the ‘90s.”

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Sadly Richie can’t take a hint and ends up getting himself arrested. Renee bails him out and tells him that she can’t afford to do it again, but he just keeps mumbling about having to save the beach.

If Moondog knew the kind of music he was going to have to put up with for the rest of the decade, he probably wouldn’t have been so worried. As if to make that exact point, Jailbait’s rehearsal continues and Jazz sings a song with some of the most wretched lyrics outside of my high school notebooks: “Justice is blind, and you got cash/If you don’t, your head they’ll bash/Mr Bush does not tax the rich/Isn’t that sort of a bitch?”

Having perfected that number, one by one they celebrate with an after rehearsal shower. Max has a peephole installed in his office for just that sort of occasion, and we get to sit through each of them in there while he cackles away.

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They eventually find out and go and confront him and then go home or something.

Meanwhile, Cheryl is at the party, but can’t find Brad. Turns out he’s up in one of the bedrooms banging some other girl. “C’mon Cheryl, be cool,” he says. “Cheryl, don’t be a downer.”

She doesn’t seem to think that’s a reasonable request, so she goes and gets hammered. Next morning, she wakes up on a deck chair by the pool, then strips off and goes for a swim.

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Then we get five minutes of slow motion, fully naked splashing around. It’s pretty spectacular.

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After she gets out, she finds out that she’s been watched the whole time by a piano playing guy named Bert Harden (Carmen Santa Maria) who appears to have stolen Bobby Dall from Poison’s hair.

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He tries to explain that he was inspired by her nudity to finally finish the song he was writing, but she’s not into it and storms out.

Chet’s having more luck. The girls arrive for the photo session, only to find that they don’t have anything proper to wear. So Chet borrows two of Renee’s designs.

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This turns out to be such an inspiringly good idea he becomes a silhouette.

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Also a fancy backdrop and a water feature appear.

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Or maybe that bit is a dream. Who knows. Anyway, when he next speaks to Renee (in the totally dark lounge room with everyone else) she’s despondent because she thinks her bikinis have been stolen. Nope – Chet’s sold them to the girls for double the price.

This leads him to come up with an idea: they should hold a bikini contest. Renee could sell her designs to the entrants, and Chet could take pictures! And they could use the money to save the beach! And Jazz’s shitty band could play! And Cheryl could wear a bikini! And Mad Dog could drink beer!

So they do just that.

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Richie invites Missy Warner and the smart girls who made him look bad.

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And Cheryl takes an invite to Bert’s, while wearing a sling bikini.

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Then it’s time for the contest! Sadly, it’s the kind of gloomily lit part of the film, but nonetheless. Even Missy Warner enters, although she complains to Renee about her bikini in the dressing room. “There just seems to be so much fabric...”

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Unfortunately, they’ve barely finished going through the contestants when the assistant DA and the cops show up, along with sleazy landlord and apparent condo developer Max. Renee defends her bikinis to the DA in an admirably eloquent fashion.

But will they get to continue the party? Will Renee end up wearing a bikini and making out with Chet? Will the DA wear a bikini? And hey wait, weren’t they meant to be painting a house or something?

Predictably, the answer to all four questions is yes, but the manner in which it all comes together is brilliantly and insanely coincidental, and provides the movie’s few surprises. It’s generic, segmented and silly, but Bikini Summer is still a lot of fun. It’s far from the best beach sex comedy, but it’s a long way from the worst too.

- Alistair Wallis

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