Monday, May 9, 2011

Vice Academy (1989)

Directed by Rick Sloane
Starring Linnea Quigley, Ginger Lynn Allen, Karen Russell
Rated R
USA


“I'm a horny stud; let me in. I want to rape you til you split in two.”

viceacademycoverAt the time of its release, Vice Academy was not only the highest rating film on USA Network’s late night schedule, but also the winner of a B-Movie Awards for Best Picture. Frankly, it makes you a little curious as to what the competition it was up against was like, but it’s probably less to do with an engaging and superior level of quality from director Rick Sloane than it is the fact that Vice Academy stars a fresh-out-of-porn Ginger Lynn Allen. Well; probably? Okay, definitely. Sure, she’s not in the film a great deal, despite receiving co-top billing alongside Linnea Quigley, but she’s there, and you only have to put yourself in the shoes of a cable watching young American in the late ‘80s for a second to realise – you’d totally watch it too, even just on the odd chance you might catch a glimpse of Ginger Lynn’s boobs on TV.

And you would have walked away disappointed. Lynn is stubbornly (and even somewhat inexplicably) clothed the whole movie, with the exception of an underwear-exposing moment toward the end. Her agent in Hollywood, one Charles Clay, once described her as “sweet like the girl next door, but she did everything the girl next door won't do”, but it’s interesting the lengths this film goes to in attempting to divorce her from that stated image.

Lynn is Holly Wells, the daughter of the city’s police chief, and a student at the titular vice academy. She’s an overachiever who uses her nights to ramp up her arrest quota, and possibly even misuses city funds to this end (although technically you’d think seeing as how she does manage the arrests, there’s nothing really improper about it). She’s the prissy school antagonist cliché, ribbing and jibing Quigley’s character Didi to the point that she really has no other purpose in the film. Not only is she all but alone in this task, but while all the other leads are outwardly libidinous, she stands out as curiously asexual. It’s understandable in a way, but comes across as intensely weird.

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We’re introduced to the cast as whole after first witnessing one of Holly’s late night drug busts. She’s there in the vice academy classroom – its walls filled with driver’s ed signs, and its back rows filled with hilariously bored looking extras – to brag about it early the next day. Didi is late, along with the class’ sole male figure, Dwayne (Ken Abraham) and the outrageously hot Shawnee (Karen Russell).

The class, or academy – it’s never really made clear and doesn’t seem to entirely matter anyway – is run by Miss Devonshire (Jayne Hamil). She’s a strict, heavily made-up teacher stereotype whose comedic stylings seem to rest entirely upon speaking in a, well, strict manner. And, naturally, she has it in for Didi, Dwayne and Shawnee.

Graduation, she explains, is coming up, and it’s the duty of each academy attendee to make ten arrests in order to guarantee a position on the force. Turns out the class is only up to the point of teaching how to disarm an assailant though, which seems to be going about things a bit wrong. Either way, Dwayne and Shawnee are called upon to demonstrate proper technique. But Shawnee’s not exactly the brightest in the academy, so her technique is, essentially, just to pull down her top.

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To be fair, it does work (mostly because Karen Russell has amazing boobs) but isn’t the answer Miss Devonshire was hoping for, so instead we’re forced to watch entire room of bored extras lining up to knee Dwayne in the balls one by one, complimented by comedy ‘ding’ sounds.
Following class, Holly’s police chief father inexplicably (and probably illegally) hosts a line-up of the previous night’s drug dealers in the corridor. They run away while everyone just kind of stands around a bit and looks like they haven’t quite been directed properly. Holly makes a petulant face and sighs and accuses everyone of letting them get away. End scene.

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Next we’re treated to some trademark Rick Sloane padding: scenes of the academy attendees running around an obstacle course for a good minute and a half. Dwayne lies at the end of a line of tires peering upwards, despite the fact that all the girls seem to be wearing shorts. Then there’s some more training – a little bit more of Dwayne getting hit in the balls, and Shawnee fires a gun while the rest of the cast stand around behind her wondering what they should be doing.

This is followed by another classroom scene, in which the girls are instructed on how to quickly apply make-up, as “no pimp is going to wait an hour for his whore to put on her face”. Holly leaves for the day to make more arrests, while Didi and Shawnee leave just to have a little fun down Hollywood Blvd.

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Just as in Angel, it’s a vivid setting that pulls you in with the promise of seedy life. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get quite the use in Vice Academy that it does in Angel (barely a minute of skipping, really) but it does set up a meeting between the two and a beaten young girl huddled in a theatre alcove.

She’s a thinly concealed underage Traci Lords parody going by the name of Cherry Pop (Allison Barron, billed as Christian Barr). “I recently tried to get out of the porno business,” she explains. “I released an exercise tape: ‘Boning Up with Cherry Pop’.”

Didi and Shawnee promise to help, and find themselves a target for their ten arrests. So off they head to the underage girl-employing porn studio.

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Inside, she takes part in an interview with the casting agent (Mark Richardson), and meets her co-star Chuckie Long (Steven Steward). There’s another good couple of minutes of padding, then Didi finally finds herself on set.

The movie’s director, Desiree, is played by one Stephanie Bishop – better known as ‘80s porn star Viper – in her one and only non-porn role.

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(Viper, tangentially, has an amazing life story: she was a dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, who went on to become a corporal in the Marines, but was expelled for ‘fraternising’ with superior officers. She moved to Baltimore, worked as a prostitute, got her trademark tattoo from a Philadelphia street gang member, headed to LA and made 70-odd pornos, then suddenly disappeared in 1991. It was only at the end of 2010, in her newspaper obituary, that it was revealed she’d gone back to her home town to work as a nurse.)

Didi has fully clothed sex with Chuckie, then Shawnee and Dwayne burst in to arrest the whole crew – although Didi drags Chuckie back to her place for mostly-clothed sex.

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The next day, Didi attempts to rub the arrests in Holly’s face, but Miss Devonshire reveals that they may not be able to prosecute anyone because of the whole ‘having sex on film’ business. Didi flips out, and there’s one of the all time greatest movie catfights.




According to Sloane’s commentary, Quigley and Lynn had enough animosity for each other that all he had to do was point the camera at them and hope no one got too badly hurt. You can even see one of Quigley’s earrings going flying at one point. It’s pretty much the high point of the entire film.

But with the fight over, it looks like it’s back to square one for our heroes – without the arrests from the porn film, they can’t make the quota and graduate. Miss Devonshire has a suggestion though: a master criminal called the Queen Bee (Jean Carol) is running a prostitution ring from somewhere in the city.

So the trio go out to find said ring. They bust a couple of street walkers (who, bizarrely, seem to be part of the ring) and then stumble upon the base of operations. “Look!” Dwayne exclaims, after they drive around for a bit. “A laundromat posing as a front for prostitution.”

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Sure. Easy enough to spot from the road. Dwayne heads in and does the kind of impression of a Middle Eastern man you could only have gotten away with in the ‘80s, then drags out every one of the prostitutes behind him. But while Didi is inside posing as a prostitue to rack up a few more arrests, Shawnee and Dwayne are captured and taken as prisoners to the Queen Bee herself.

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And then? Well, there’s an escape and a chase scene on foot through what looks like two rooms of boxes, all padded out to about 20 minutes. Shawnee flashes her boobs again and looks kinda feisty while doing it.

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And then there’s a graduation scene padded out to about 10 minutes. Although, as mentioned above, Holly’s clothes do fall off. So that’s something at least.

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But by that point, you’re probably past caring. There’s enough padding throughout the film – particularly in the last half – that it’s all a bit of a drag really. The dialogue isn’t crazy enough to be funny, or funny enough to be entertaining. And as great as Karen Russell’s boobs are, they’re not enough to make Vice Academy worth watching. It’s an interesting curio in terms of its stars, but mostly? It’s just dull.

- Alistair Wallis

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