After wrapping his first feature RUNNING HOT, currently available on DVD through Code Red, director Mark Griffiths wasted little time in tackling his next project, a sex comedy whose title alone preordained it to become a perennial T & A VHS rental. Wrapped in a paper thin plot, padded with 5th grade humor and tired innuendo and sectioned by brief but memorable displays of flesh, HARDBODIES is prototypical 1980s fare. It’s light, easy to digest and while I don’t once recall laughing at it, damn it if it wasn’t time well spent.
Scotty Palmer (Grant Cramer, KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE) and his best friend Rags (Courtney Gains, CHILDREN OF THE CORN) just want to hang out on the beach, drink some beer, smoke a little grass and check out the hardbodies as they stroll up and down the boardwalk, and who could blame them? But as much as Scotty would love to spend every waking moment under the sun, soaking up all that the beach has to offer, he doesn’t actually want to live on the beach. Unfortunately, being evicted from his trashy apartment for not paying rent in over three months has left him with little other choice. Homeless, Scotty walks the strip looking for an easy payday and an easier date, eventually stumbling across and into the recently rented apartment of three middle aged businessmen.
Rounder (Michael Rapport), Hunter (Gary Wood) and Carlton Ashby (Sorrells Pickard), all recent divorcées, have rented the most extravagant (which in the 1980s meant gaudy) condo on the beach, hoping to let off a little steam and reclaim a little bit of their long lost youth. The trio stumbles at first, finding their tired pickup lines have done little over the years apart from collecting cobwebs and liver spots, but after seeing the way Scotty is able to effortlessly attract the attention of the faire sex, they propose an arrangement with the young stud that would provide him shelter for the rest of the summer. All he has to do in return is teach them his technique for pulling girls, a skill Scotty calls “dialoging”. Scotty of course aggrees, after negotiating an additional addendum in which he is provided with a little walking around money, and while they stagger at first, it doesn’t take long for the old timers to catch on to Scotty's tried and true formula. Soon they are “dialoging” with the best of them, reeling in girls half their age and throwing wild, gregarious parties. All is looking up for Scotty and his new roommates, but when Hunter presses too hard while attempting to “dialogue” notorious cocktease Candy (Cystal Shaw, HARD ROCK ZOMBIES), Scotty begins to second guess their agreement, throwing his living arrangements and the relationship with his steady Kristi (Teal Roberts, FATAL GAMES) into turmoil.
Skirting the edge of camp but never quite reaching its mark, HARDBODIES plays well as a vapid excuse to show women taking off their tops. Ah yes, the 1980s. It was a magical time when comedies didn’t have to worry about jokes or punch lines to pull an audience. All that was needed was a few able bodied females willing to show their boobies. Even if a few gags did mange to hit their marks, the most memorable scenes of most 1980s comedies tend to be those in which flesh was bared. Case in point and I’m not afraid to admit it (although maybe I should) but I thought POLICE ACADEMY 4: CITIZENS ON PATROL was hilarious the first time I saw it and yes, I paid to see it. Upon retrospect however, I have no idea what I thought was so funny. Sure Michael Winslow making crazy noises and pretending to be in a dubbed Kung Fu flick never gets old, but the only scene I remember, and I remember it quite vividly, is Lt. Callahan rising out of a pool in a wet t-shirt screaming “Now who’s going to save me?”. While this is arguably a predominately male point of view of the era, you need but do a Google image search of Leslie Easterbrook (make sure SafeSearch is set to off) to see that I’m not the only one who holds such fond memories of 1980s cinema.
Compared to its modern contemporaries, HARDBODIES feels rather quant for a raucous sex comedy, particularly given the genre's recent trend of appealing to the lowest common denominator, but therein lies its charm. Somehow a film about a young stud teaching a bunch of old farts how to score with girls young enough to be their granddaughters comes across as almost innocent. Clearly designed as a way to parade as much tender young flesh as the budget permitted, the film has continued to stay on the radar of skin flick aficionados, thanks in so small part to a female cast that includes such cult faves as Kathleen Kinmont (BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR) and Darcy DeMoss (FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 6: JASON LIVES). Let’s face it, no one’s ever picked this one up hoping for an engaging storyline and thought provoking character development. There is one male performance that does stand out and to be honest I wasn’t a hundred percent sure it was him at first but the closing cast credits proved that I wasn’t seeing things. That’s Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhess in FRIDAY THE 13th Parts 7-10), credited as the "Older Geek", getting caught in a net during the picture's anticlimactic Jet Ski chase. Obviously an early role and probably one he would like to forget.
For HARDBODIES 2, Griffiths decided to try his hand at the tricky plot device of shooting a film within a film. Unfortunately neither is entertaining. The picture follows Scotty, this time played by Brad Zutaut and a far less ginger Rags, played by Sam Temeles, now both actors, as they travel to Greece to film a romantic adventure called "Foreign Affairs". The production is of course rife with blundering crew members and other obstacles that threaten to push the production over budget and into overtime, irritating the production's producer (James Karen, THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD) to the brink of madness. He is however able to hold himself together long enough to hire local beauty, Cleo (Fabiana Udenio) to play the film's female lead. A move that both cast and crew are grateful for, particularly Scotty who becomes instantly enamored with his new co-star, an affection which is reciprocated by the exotic beauty. Fear of having her heart broken or worse, her father finds out she has a love scene and prevents the waitress turned actress from falling for Scotty, a notion that becomes even less likely once she is made aware of his recent engagement.
Griffiths' direction is fine and based on the film's setting and cast (well, the extras anyway) I would imagine he enjoyed every minute of the production but was anyone really clamoring for a sequel? The first film, while juvenile and badly dated, is at least lighthearted enough to be enjoyable. HARDBODIES 2 however is blanketed in an all encompassing ineptness that makes its predecessor look like a Kurosawa film. The breasts are smaller, the jokes lamer and while it’s clearly nothing but a failed attempt at capturing the happy-go-lucky atmosphere of the first film, such a goal is never obtained. Yes, it has a lot of naked gals running around, but none of them, save for Fabiana who bares little more than a brief glimpse of a side boob, stand out. After HARDBODIES 2, Fabiana landed a role in Carl Reiner's SUMMER SCHOOL playing the sultry foreign exchange student, Anna-Maria, and has since remained active in the industry, more recently reminding cinema goers of her beauty and talents playing Alotta Fagina in the first AUSTIN POWERS picture.
Both HARDBODIES and its sequel initially saw VHS releases through RCA/Columbia, with the original even receiving the honor of a laserdisc release. Unleashing both films on DVD for the first time, Anchor Bay presents both pictures with solid, anamorphic widescreen transfers that appear to maintain their original (1.85:1) aspect ratios. The print sources used are relatively clean, with bright coloring and a fair amount of detail. Audio for both films is supplied by a Dolby Digital mono track that is quite clear, almost to a fault as I could have gone my whole life without being hearing 1980s rock outfit Vixen sing “Computer Madness” in such clarity. Both tracks are accompanied by optional English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired. The collection's sole extra, a self-deprecating trailer for the series first entry, is also its most entertaining and honest, as it clearly warns anyone curious enough to venture forward that the picture they are about to see isn't of the highest quality. (Jason McElreath)
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