MALIBU EXPRESS

Color, 1985, 92m. / Directed by Andy Sidaris / Starring Darby Hinton, Sybil Danning / Ventura (US R0 NTSC)


HARD TICKET TO HAWAII

Color, 1987, 96m. / Directed by Andy Sidaris / Starring Ronn Moss, Hope Marie Carlton / Ventura (US R0 NTSC)


PICASSO TRIGGER

Color, 1988, 99m. / Directed by Andy Sidaris / Starring Steve Bond, Dona Speir / Ventura (US R0 NTSC)


SAVAGE BEACH

Color, 1989, 92m. / Directed by Andy Sidaris / Starring Dona Speir, Michael Shane / Ventura (US R0 NTSC)


GUNS

Color, 1990, 96m. / Directed by Andy Sidaris / Starring Erik Estrada, Donna Vasquez / Ventura (US R0 NTSC)


DO OR DIE

Color, 1991, 97m. / Directed by Andy Sidaris / Starring Pat Morita, Erik Estrada / Ventura (US R0 NTSC)


HARD HUNTED

Color, 1992, 93m. / Directed by Andy Sidaris / Starring Dona Speir, Roberta Vasquez / Ventura (US R0 NTSC)


ENEMY GOLD

Color, 1993, 90m. / Directed by Drew Sidaris / Starring Bruce Penhall, Julie Strain / Ventura (US R0 NTSC)


Okay, let's talk about Andy Sidaris. Anyone who's tuned into cable TV after 11 p.m. or browsed through a video store dating back more than five years will recognize many of this man's titles, all plastered across video boxes crammed with bikini-clad babes toting massive firepower. Exotic locations, absurd plots, and debatable acting are just the icing on the cake here while Andy focuses on what these DVDs succintly refer to as his three "B"s: babes, bombs, and bullets... all given their own icons on the DVD chapter listings to boot.

The Sidaris legacy really began with Malibu Express, a fun, gender-reversed, semi-remake of his moderately popular '73 drive-in hit, Stacey!. The mixture of bright locales, ample women (including Sybil Danning as a voluptuous contessa spy), buff dudes, and senseless action established an immediate pattern for success, and while there is something resembling a storyline, most viewers have been too distracted by the luscious candy colors, half-naked centerfolds, and giddy explosions to notice. Here we meet the first of the Abilene detective dynasty, Cody (soap actor Darby Hinton), who is pressed into service to investigate secret international conspiracies involving a computer equipment pipeline to the Soviet Union which threatens to make America's most vulnerable secrets prey for the enemy. His search leads to the hoity toity Chamberlain estate, run by the lady of the house, Lady Lillian (Niki Dantine). Soon the randy butler (who also has a few secrets) winds up dead while Cody's splashing around in the pool; with the bad guys closing in and the super-stacked women piling up, Cody quickly finds himself running out of time. (In case you were wondering, the title comes from the detective's boat.) Danning fans tend to revere this film, and with good reason; despite her supporting role status, she easily swipes all of her scenes thanks to an eye-popping parade of outfits and a surprisingly funny script, peppered with silly one-liners and bizarre slapstick comedy which makes the plentiful violence impossible to take seriously. The film is also one of Sidaris' slickest on the technical front, with its cheeky '80s fashions, cars, and weaponry captured in razor sharp detail. (Shame about those tacky computer opening credits, though!) Even if you're too young to remember the Reagan years, this one offers a time capsule of the era's All-American entertainment.

The success of Malibu Express on the drive-in and video circuit naturally inspired a sequel two years later, Hard Ticket to Hawaii (the first Sidaris title released on DVD). In the weird postmodern Sidaris universe, Hard Ticket takes place both within and outside the world of its predecessor, where hero Cody Abilene has taken off to become a Hollywood actor (with a Malibu Express poster adorning one character's houseboat boudoir). Now we have Rowdy Abilene (Ronn Moss), sent by the Agency to help out regular crimefighting duo Donna (Dona Speir) and Taryn (Hope Marie Carlton) after they stumble across a cache of gems being routed to ruthless bar owner and crime kingpin Seth Romero (Rodrigo Obregon). When the ladies aren't too busy hopping in and out of their skimpy costumes, various deadly instruments are used against the bad guys including a gory razor frisbee trick and, most memorably, a huge killer snake pumped up with toxic chemicals. Oh yeah, and lots of stuff blows up for no reason, and you get lots of Hawaiian travelog footage to justify Andy's business expense sheet. Pure late night heaven.

If that's not enough of Donna and Taryn for you, luckily Andy and the gang returned the next year with Picasso Trigger, featuring our third Agent Abilene, Travis (soap star Steve Bond). This time the busty pair are called into action by the Agency after their Hawaii houseboat is blown up, an event which inexplicably ties into a Parisian assassination of the owner (and title character) of a really awful "Picasso triggerfish" painting. Meanwhile Travis puts the moves on fellow agent and former teen flame Pantera (Roberta Vasquez), while the evil Miguel Ortiz (Obregon again) conspires to avenge the death of his brother from the last film. More stuff blows up. Women get naked. And in the film's most infamous scene, Travis hobbles in and confronts Miguel with a bomb-activated crutch. Really.

Our foxy duo returns one last time for Savage Beach, a return of sorts to Malibu Express territory (even down to the poster art) and one of Sidaris' most omnipresent home video titles. This time the action centers around the outlying islands of Hawaii, where Donna and Taryn take time out from their fun in the sun to transport a valuable, emergency supply of vaccine via charter plane, which naturally has to make a crash landing on a mysterious island. They hook up with Captain Andreas (Matt Houston's John Aprea) in a plot to find sunken World War II ship guarded by the Japanese that has become the target of a gang of villainous fortune hunters. Much bikini-clad mayhem ensues, including a rousing, surprisingly gory finale topped off with some hara kiri for good measure. One of Sidaris' most visually accomplished films, Savage Beach features even less plot than usual but makes up for it with some amazing on location footage and a perfectly sculpted cast, including Playboy Playmate and future porn actress Teri Weigel. (For the record, it's also one of the rare Sidaris outings with frontal nudity, though it's pretty discreet.) Don't miss the bittersweet ending, either. It's also worth noting that this film introduces yet another Abilene, Shane (played by Michael Shane, of course).

The next year in Sidaris paired up Donna with a new partner, Nicole Justin (Roberta Vasquez, in a completely different role from Picasso Trigger), for Guns. More significant is the casting of CHIPs star Erik Estrada as a bad guy, namely murderous gunrunner Juan Degas. Known as the Jack of Diamonds because of the playing card he leaves at the scene of a crime, he's now the target of LETHAL and tangles with the ladies in a series of explosions, near misses, and gunfights. Apparently he's trying to smuggle in deadly Chinese superweapons for a nefarious scheme. Okay, that's about it for the plot, really; the fun of Guns lies as usual in those zany incidentals, like a crossdressing, gun-toting henchman. The film moves at an unusually zippy clip, which would be a good thing except you get less time to savor the nudity, locales (much of it takes place in Vegas, not exactly a visual oasis), and goofy comedy; instead this one lives up to its title by cramming in a economic action bit every couple of minutes. No wonder this was a perennial cable favorite; just be sure to shift gears going in and you'll have a fine time indeed.

Estrada apparently enjoyed the surf and babes so much he reunited with Sidaris in 1991 for Doe or Die, though he's overshadowed by a new twist: Mr. Miyagi goes evil! That's right, Pat Morita of The Karate Kid fame takes over villain duties as Kane, a crime boss prone to speecifying in front of palm trees. This insidious foe has lined up a team of assassins to take down Donna and Nicole, who spend much time running around in bikinis. That's about it for plot, except that Estrada plays helpful, gun toting agent Richard Estaban, who comes to the girls' aid with an array of ridiculous gadets. Add to that the usual story-stopping sex scenes, sport boating, late hour Russ Meyer starlet Pandora Peaks, and a lot of Vegas and Lousiaina bayou scenery, and you've got the usual recipe for surefire entertainment that won't tax your brain.

More oddball celeb casting turns up in the next film, Hard Hunted, which features another villainous Kane - or is it really supposed to be the same one? - played by one "R.J. Moore," alias Roger "007" Moore's son, Geoffrey. This time he's gotten his slimy hands on a nuclear device (in the form of a jade trinket) capable of worldwide blackmail and terrorism. Thanks to secret messages sent by scantily-clad undercover radio hosts, the LETHAL team learns of Kane's plot and sends an operative to stop him. Unfortunately it all goes very wrong thanks to an evil sidekick working for Kane, and soon Donna and Nicole (along with their usual male cohorts) trek to Arizona to infiltrate Kane's headquarters, retrieve the valuable artifact, and blow up everything in sight. Unfortunately Donna falls into enemy hands and seems to fall in love with the other side... or does she? Stay tuned and find out!

Inspired by the success of Andy and his wife/producer Arlene, their son Drew decided to get in on the action in 1993 with Enemy Gold, a sleek entry in the same vein of boobs and bombs which could probably pass itself off as an Andy film without much difficulty. A bit more plot heavy than usual, this one recruits many of the usual suspects (including the hard-working Julie Strain and another CHIPs vet, Bruce Penhall) for an espionage yarn in which three intrepid agents stumble onto a gold cahce from the Civil War tucked away in the Texas bayous during a leave from work. Their arch-enemy, nefarious drug lord Carlos Santiago (Rodrigo Obregón), turns out to be after the same stash, and much Leone-style double-crossed and gunfire ensues. The real attraction this time out is Greek centerfold Suzi Simpson, who dominates most of the scenery as daring agent Becky Midnite (a Bondian name if there ever was one). The Civil War angle provides an odd wrinkle in the usual formula, and while the pace tends to lag more than usual for Sidaris product, fans will still find plenty here to enjoy.

Trying to explain the appeal of Andy Sidaris' films simply boils down to shrugging and saying, "They are what they are." Despite all the rampant death and ogling of exposed flesh, the tone of his films is persistently upbeat; even the worst actresses (mostly hand picked from Playboy magazine) are so chipper and eager to please that it's not hard to laugh along with them. Gorehounds will enjoy some of the more outrageous death schemes, where stage blood pours out after an unlikely gadget finds its target in a baddie's throat or forehead, and skin fans should find the injection of bare breasts every five minutes or so to be enough justification to keep watching. (Oddly enough, despite the near-constant peeling and love scenes, there's nary a glimpse of pubic hair to be found.) One of the greatest sources of amusement comes from the increasingly absurd lengths Sidaris goes to in order to keep recycling his favorite locales, namely Hawaii, Texas, and Nevada. Just try to keep track of how many times he recycles the same boat and plane, too...

Not surprisingly, the days of early telecine transfers were none too kind to Sidaris' early efforts, resulting in washed out, smudgy cable broadcasts and VHS releases that defined the "cheap cable TV" look most closely identified with Cinemax Friday After Dark fare. Therefore, it's with both surprise and delight that we can report these titles have been given completely new digital overhauls from the original negatives and look markedly different. Though still full frame with extra headroom (as opposed to the matted 1.85:1 transfers during the very brief drive-in runs), the image quality looks quite rich and stunning. Colors during both the scenery shots and interiors look saturated almost to the point of dripping off the TV screen; frankly, these look like they could have been shot yesterday. (Unfortunately that grinding '80s synth music is around to blow that illusion, however.) While each title looks pristine, the sound mixes tend to improve with each outing, no doubt to technological advances; Guns in particular has a punchy surround track that gives all of your speakers a respectable workout. Even Malibu Express, the earliest of the bunch, sparkles more than anyone would have a right to expect.

Sidaris is also on hand along with his wife and, more importantly to many collectors, centerfold and animation muse Julie Strain (a vet of five Sidaris titles) for new video intros and featurettes. The "making of" tidbits cobble together both individual footage and some generic Strain/Sidaris banter, along with archival interview footage of Vasquez and other actors hobnobbing with TV personalities like avowed Sidaris fanatic Joe Bob Briggs. Each disc also includes trailers for all nine titles in the Sidaris collection, which will presumably be completed on DVD one of these days. Malibu Express and Enemy Gold also contain a tongue-in-cheek "Andy Sidaris Film School" featurette (you can probably fill in the blanks there); inexplicably, Suzi Simpson also does a video interview for the former of those two titles, though she only stars in the latter.


Not enough boobs and bombs for ya? Visit the official Andy Sidaris website.

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