Mill Creek Entertainment brings bullets, bombs, and babes to Blu
As a kid in the late 80s and early 90s, tv shows like Baywatch and Acapulco H.E.A.T. were frequently televised on pre-cable tv. I was just the right age to be interested in these “babes and bullets” shows while potentially also not really having much of a clue as to what sex really was. I was certainly too young to conceive that there was a level of fantasy wish fulfillment (with a side salad of ridiculous melodrama) at play here. Baywatch seemed like a totally plausible law enforcement show that also featured ladies that made me feel funny. I probably assumed my adult life would be quite similar to the characters in those shows.
While Baywatch was being beamed into my living room, writer/director Andy Sidaris was busy making a series of films that took 80s & 90s wish fulfillment to a whole new level. I wouldn’t become familiar with Sidaris’ name until after his passing and long past his heyday. But that didn’t stop him from jovially peddling his unique brand of tropical, softcore action films featuring legions of beautiful, barely clothed women (and men) kicking ass then heading to the sauna to relax.
My buddy John Ary actually introduced me to Andy Sidaris when we did a video review together of his 1992 title Hard Hunted. It wouldn’t be until Mill Creek brought Malibu Express and Hard Ticket To Hawaii to high definition that I would experience more of Sidaris’ work.
A few things are true and fascinating about all three Sidaris films I’ve now seen. For one thing, while these are absolutely softcore sex films, there’s a very mild-mannered and playful tone to the Sidaris-verse. Sure, some regressive sexism/consent/racism/homophobia are present in these films. And it’s unfortunate. There’s a cross dressing character in both Malibu Express and Hard Ticket that’s played for laughs and spoken of in a derogatory fashion. But more often than not, the women of the Sidaris-verse are empowered, lead characters with agency, guts, guns, and control over their lives. Every human being, male or female, is hornier than anyone I’ve ever met in the real world and it feels like a Tex Avery cartoon more often than not. But there’s a childlike approach Sidaris brings to these titles that certainly reeks of American excess, but also trades in a kind of harmless fantasy wish fulfillment that feels quaint here in 2019. The fact that Sidaris’ producer was his wife Arlene and that all of these models and centerfolds that featured in these films felt like a part of the Sidaris family of players gives you the hope that these bizarre works of filmmaking might still have a place in the #MeToo era.
Sidaris’ ode to Agatha Christie, Malibu Express features a mind bending and head scratching murder mystery set almost entirely in a mansion filled with a large cast of characters who could all be suspects (and who will definitely all bone).
Starring Darby Hinton as Cody Abilene, Malibu Express puts a cowboy private eye in the middle of a California case. Meandering at best, a Sidaris murder mystery will happily set aside several minutes for Cody to shower with his two gorgeous neighbors before he jumps in his custom red Delorean to track down a clue. There’s also a b-story in which a family of hillbillies are constantly tracking down Cody and forcing him to street race. It’s like an episode of Dukes Of Hazzard was edited into this murder mystery. Humorously, Cody can’t shoot worth a damn and relies on his many female companions to get the action bits handled properly. While hormones rage in Malibu Express, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of misogyny.
Despite race cars, helicopters, body builders, and gun fights, it’s hard to call this film propulsive in any way. Sidaris crafts a leisurely tale in which the mystery will eventually unravel in a most confusing and over-expository way, but no opportunity to watch someone shower or do naked yoga will be passed up. And despite all the sex… it isn’t particularly sexy. It’s more silly, playful, and almost painfully of its time. It feels earnest, though, and perhaps true to who Sidaris really was.
Hard Ticket To Hawaii
Featuring all the same key elements as any Sidaris film, Hard Ticket feels like perhaps the most distilled of those I’ve seen. There’s still plenty of time for all the bullets, bombs, and babes you could ever ask for in Hard Ticket, but there also seems to be a semblance of build up to an action packed climax.
Character development is largely irrelevant in a Sidaris joint, so it’s almost hard to say who the main character even is in this movie. There’s a pair of beautiful blonde women (Dona Spier and Hope Marie Carlton) who are pilots. One is some kind of law enforcement agent and another is in witness protection. But they also fly Hawaiian charter flights, throw ninja stars, and wield automatic weapons. Ron Moss plays Rowdy Abilene, who must be related to Malibu Express’ Cody. He actually pilots the same boat Cody did… it’s even still named Malibu Express. Hell, there’s a Malibu Express poster in the background and the characters actively discuss it! My point is to say that these three are probably our leads, though there’s a whole bunch of muscular dudes and bikini’d babes that turn up and have just as much character development as our leads do.
Donna (Spier) and Taryn (Carlton) transport a couple to a remote Hawaiian island for a getaway. They also accidentally transport a giant “contaminated” snake to the island unknowingly. Yes, you read that last sentence right. While on the island, they accidentally intercept a diamonds-for-drugs deal involving an unmanned remote control helicopter and a shootout ensues in which ninja stars are utilized. Soon Donna, Taryn, and Rowdy are up against both a crazed drug dealer AND a contaminated snake. It’s pretty great stuff.
Hard Ticket To Hawaii infuses enough James Bond gadgetry (or just plain rocket launchers) to ratchet up the action that was missing from Malibu Express. Throw in the hilarious giant snake puppet, a skateboarding assassin, and you’ve got yourself a finely tuned distillation of exactly what makes Sidaris movies have such a unique charm. One cannot simply dismiss a film in which the hero needs a rocket launcher to hit anything, and who eventually uses that rocket launcher to dispatch a giant snake puppet just in the nick of time.
Both Malibu Express and Hard Ticket To Hawaii come with digital copies on top of their physical blu-ray releases. These were shot long enough ago to have utilized film, so they actually look kind of fantastic on Blu-ray despite being such lowbrow fare. Both films also feature introductions by Sidaris, behind the scenes featurettes, trailers, and even commentary tracks. It absolutely must be noted that the chapter menu includes a visual chart letting you know, on a per chapter basis, if bullets, bombs, or boobs (or all three) are featured. I didn’t know chapter menus could be ingenious.
The commentary tracks are what truly give you the sense that Sidaris was the embodiment of his art. So much of the commentary track consists of his reflections on how good people look, how gorgeous their bodies are, and how everyone wishes they could live the lives his characters are living. It’s sophomoric if affable. His wife seemed to be his perfect foil and co-creator.
Myself, I’ll stick with Hard Ticket To Hawaii as the Ultimate Sidaris adventure and won’t ever feel the need to revisit either Hard Hunted or Malibu Express again. I’m also not sure I need to see any further Sidaris films. While there’s a silly joy to these pictures… they’re also remarkably similar. I get the idea at this point, and celebrate Sidaris. I just doubt any of his other work will ever top the rocket launching, snake exploding climax of Hard Ticket To Hawaii. Please let me know if this stance is a grievous error.
And I’m Out.
Malibu Express and Hard Ticket To Hawaii are both available now on Blu-ray from Mill Creek Entertainment