Monday, December 19, 2011

Hard Ticket to Hawaii/Picasso Trigger (1987/1989)

Directed by Andy Sidaris
Starring: Dona Speir, Hope Marie Carlton, Harold Diamond, snakes, model airplanes, razorblade frisbees, and tits-lots of tits.
Malibu Bay Films 

Andy Sidaris (RIP) was just as obsessive and accomplished a film maker as Russ Meyer, with  (sadly) none of the hipster accolades or high brow literary dissection, but that might all change with his comprehensive 12 volume DVD series. Sidaris had a lurid but imminently marketable vision of a bleach blonde Shangri-La, with bikini-stretching government agents and their muscle-tearing Kung-Fu sex toys taking on the most vague forms of machine gun evil imaginable in lush landscapes of extravagant beauty, and this 80's born Sidarisian wonderland found a happy home in the blurry-eyed world of late night cable television. Still does, in fact. Click on anything form USA to Cinemax at 2 AM, and the next popped top is most likely Andy's doing. What makes his films so watchable, even after many repeated viewings, is their complete lack of pretense, their campy absurdity played as straight as humanly possible, and of course, the chicks. His unwavering faith in "Bullets, Bombs, and Babes" became such an exact science, that the DVD booklets come with a handy guide for how many of the three B's are included in each chapter. And of course, at least one and sometimes all three come rolling in without fail, every time.

Hard Ticket to Hawaii is his first film in this gonzo series. Try and keep up with me on this. Donna (Dona Speir) and Taryn (Hope Marie Carlton), two chesty blondes that couldn't possible exist in any other time than the cocaine and silicone fueled 80's, are government agents. I'm guessing the US government, but God knows what division hired and trained these two. They're working undercover as cargo plane pilots, secretly ferreting out dope smugglers and the like. Right off the bat, they're up to their bra-stuffing tits in trouble, as not only is a contaminated snake running amuck, thanks to their inept handling of clearly marked snake boxes, but they discover a sinister cabal of diamond smugglers and dope dealers on the far side of the island. I'm not sure how much you have to worry about diamond thieves that attempt to move their stolen ice by model plane, but they do have plenty of machine guns. But before we get ahead of ourselves, I must explain the snake. See, he's been shot up with some kind of cancer, and if bitten, his victims will be infected as well. That particularly nasty fact doesn't even matter much, since the serpent is so berserk, he just tears his prey up into bloody shreds, as a couple of hapless honeymooners soon find out. Anyway, Seth Romero (Rodrigo Obregon), the drug dealer whose as mean as the contaminated snake is on to our bubbly supergirls, thanks to an entirely unconvincing transvestite bartender/spy, so they call for back-up, and some old pals show up, including a pony-tailed Kung Fu guy (Harold Diamond) and a weapons expert (Ron Moss) who rigs up the most implausible looking incendiary devices you've ever seen. Like a skateboard bomb, for example, or a razor-tipped frisbee. Between showers and skinny dipping and drunken revelry, the unlikely team of undercover Feds concoct a scheme to bring down the bad guys- it involves motorcycles and bazookas, with a surprise appearance by that goddamned snake-and it all ends in a flurry of explosions and kicking. Of course, the good guys win, and the girls live to blunder and jiggle another day.

Despite the over-reaching tongue-in-cheek plot contrivances and the gratuitous nature of...well, everything, "Hard Ticket" is a seriously well-crafted film, aided greatly by the amazingly lush location and Hope Carlton's Playboy bunny charm. I wanted to kick the pony-tailed guy's teeth in the second he showed up on the island, but that was probably part of the plan as well. The DVD has a host of extras, including Andy and gravity defying miracle of nature Julie Strain clowning around in an impromptu intro, a complete set of trailers, a still gallery, and some handy b-movie making tips from Sidaris. The whole thing is a blast, both literally and figuratively speaking, from start to Finish.

Picasso Trigger is Hard Ticket's high concept follow-up, featuring many of the same players including lethally blonde agents Donna and Taryn and their Kung Fu fighting pal. First, though, their is intrigue in Paris to ponder as vaguely sinister arch-criminal Salazar decides to turn his back on his evil ways and give back to the city that he's taken so much from, donating a priceless painting of a big blue fish- The Trigger, naturally, to some swanky museum. But wouldn't you know, as soon as he strolls out, his new life as an honest citizen sprawled out in front of him, he's assassinated by some dirty sniper. Or is he? Well no, he isn't. Saddam himself must of have picked up some pointers from this film, as Salazar has merely dispatched an unlucky look-a-like to take the bullet for him so that he concentrate on his life's work without interference. His life's work being revenge on the g-string wearing secret agents that killed his brother- you know, the diamond/drug guy from Hard Ticket to Hawaii.

And so, the team gets back together, amidst much crazy talk of snuff films and a few sub-Vegas vaudeville T&A acts, to take on the Picasso Trigger and his swarthy henchmen. PT contains much of Hard Ticket's plot elements- including the Mcguver-esque weaponry. This time out, you get missile launching crutches and a boomerang bomb. The latter you could think about for days- if it's got a bomb attached to it, why the Hell would you want it to fly back? The model airplane hijinks are back too, as a payload bearing craft blows up Taryn and Donna's rather boss cigarette boat. It all ends in a climactic showdown at Salazar's remote hide-out, and in lieu of no cancerous snake, a well-placed surfboard helps out the cause. Explosions and a hot tub after-party ensue.

Being a sequel- or at least a semi-sequel- Picasso Trigger is more formulaic than its anything can happen predecessor, but Sidaris wisely upped the ante on the cheap thrills quotient by littering the film with no less than 7 Playmates, and all of them find the time to get at least half-naked somewhere in the mix. All in all, it's another righteous display of 80's excess, as loud and as implausible as the decade it was made in. The DVD contains much of the same extras as "Hard Ticket", with the addition of some sexy Julie Strain out-takes from some of her films further along in the series. The best part of it all is watching Andy himself living it up with Strain at his side, flashing freely and declaring her love for the T&A auteur as his long-time muse and business partner, wife Arlene, looks on, bemused at the whole silly affair. He's obviously a man that lives the dream and for that- not to mention all the tits and bazookas- Sidaris deserves a rousing round of applause.

Or just buy his movies, either way.

PS: Andy passed away in 2007. I was honored to speak with him a couple times, and I am happy to say that he was a prince of a fellow. He will be missed. Bazookas are just no fun  without him.

- Ken 

1 comment:

  1. The skateboard scene in Hard ticket to Hawaii is the most insane thing I've ever seen:


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