Color, 1985, 91m.
Directed by Herb Freed
Starring Betsy Russell, Gerard Christopher, Kristi Sommers, Richard Erdman, Philip Sterling, Eric Douglas
Scorpion (Blu-Ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC), Mill Creek (DVD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), BCI/Eclipse (DVD)
One of the most enduring '80s drive-in and cable classics from the busy folks at Crown International Pictures, Tomboy is part of the string of teen sex comedies the studio churned out like My Tutor, My Chauffeur, and Jocks. This was actually their second wave after the success of Porky's, as they had already perfected their own brand of high school hijinks with movies like Coach, Malibu High, and The Pom Pom Girls, among others. What really sets this one apart is the leading turn by Betsy Russell, a charismatic, stunning actress who had just appeared in Avenging Angel and had given Phoebe Cates a run for her money for the decade's most indelible skin scene via her horseback ride in Private School. Of course, she also did her share of horror roles in the daffy slasher film Cheerleader Camp and, more recently, a recurring role in the Saw series. However, if you want to see Betsy get the spotlight in her own starring vehicle, this is the place to go.
Tomasina (Russell), better known as Tommy, has dreams of becoming a stock car driver and works as a grease monkey, though her bleach blonde best friend Seville (Sommers from Hardbodies and Savage Streets) encourages her to stop being "such a tomboy" and shake her stuff in a leotard to ridiculous pop songs just like everyone else. Tommy ends up working on a car belonging to rich guy/racing investor Ernie (Douglas), which in turn gets her invited to a party where she meets and falls for star racer Randy Starr (The Adventures of Superboy's Christopher). However, since she's a girl, no one will take her seriously as a driver -- at least at first. After veering through several obstacles in her way (sometimes literally, even on a motorcycle), Tommy's persistence lands her the opportunity to become a racer, but will it jeopardize her growing relationship with Randy?
Obviously the main draw here is all of the ingredients necessary for an R-rated '80s comedy: catchy tunes (with a title song by Souvenir you won't forget anytime soon), big hair, cheap laughs, an exaggerated "hi-tech" action climax (that weirdly plays like a precursor of sorts to the revamp of The Fast and the Furious), and tons and tons of T&A, all packaged with a girl power slant that comes across with far more sincerity than usual for the time. It's complete fluff, of course, but the winning attitude of the whole film has made it a longtime video and TV staple with good reason.
Tomboy has been available on home video on and off since the VHS era with a popular release from Vestron, followed by a standalone DVD from the defunct BCI/Eclipse in 2006 (with an appearance one year later in their School Dazed box set). Then in 2009, Mill Creek naturally had to give it a shot along with pretty much everything else in the Crown library in one of their bargain sets, in this case the 12-film Too Cool for School Collection in a pretty good anamorphic transfer. (For the record, the VHS is completely open matte which means you see a lot of accidental peripheral info at the top and bottom ranging from boom mics to, as several fans have noted, much more of Ms. Sommers in the group shower scene than the DVD.) However, the 2013 Scorpion release gives the film a boost up to Blu-Ray and easily fares the best; Crown has always kept the elements for most of its titles in prime shape, and this is no exception. The colors are bright and, well, representative of their decade, and the level of detail is excellent without any smudgy noise reduction. The slo-mo footage and the opticals of the main credits have some dirt in them like they always have, both otherwise it's a clean, sharp presentation, and for the record, the framing is adjusted so you get the full Sommers again in the shower. And don't miss the menu screen, which gets a lot of mileage out of one signature song: "Curiosity / It's killin' me..."
Scorpion's regular hostess Katarina Leigh Waters branching out from her usual horror duties with a few horror and fantasy titles, and here she expands again with a "Kat's Meow" brand. Naturally, she starts off by racing a car straight into the camera before diving into the background of the film, covering the backgrounds of the actors, going through the career of director Herb Freed (who also helmed Graduation Day), pointing out the brief cameo by scream queen Michelle Bauer (who, not surprisingly, provides one of the many nude scenes). Russell, who still looks fantastic, shows up for a 27-minute video interview in which she covers some of the highlights of her career, spending a lot of time on Private School (including some advice from Cates), discussing her more recent career choices, and sharing her most vivid memory of Tomboy: seeing herself on a billboard on Sunset Boulevard. The theatrical trailer and TV spot are also included along with bonus ones for titles like The Pom Pom Girls, Day of the Animals, and House on Sorority Row.
Reviewed on July 18, 2013.