Starz Home Entertainment // 1979 // 98 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // June 5th, 2007
Some like it H.O.T.S.!
Cheer up, Danny Bonaduce. This still isn't the most embarrassing thing you've ever done.
A group of college gals, angry at a bitchy and exclusive sorority, decide they're going to do "whatever it takes" to win over every guy on campus. That pretty much means taking their shirts off.
Yes, the story of H.O.T.S. is that simplistic. I can't even elaborate on the characters or the actresses that play them, because the movie doesn't give you a chance to know them. There are only generic blondes and generic brunettes. I know that Sandy Johnson (Halloween), Pamela Jean Bryant (Private Lessons), and Susan Kiger (The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood) are all in it, and that they are all former Playboy centerfolds, but only because the disc jacket tells me so. I also noticed that one of the boyfriends is played by Donald Petrie, who would go on to direct films like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Just My Luck. Knowing that he got his start acting in movies like H.O.T.S. helps to explain a great deal about his approach to comedy.
The 1979 T&A epic H.O.T.S. is one of the strangest movies I've ever seen. It is not well written or well acted. It is a meant to be a comedy, but it is not funny. It is not a good film. And yet it is almost never boring, despite the fact that it is nothing more than a series of set pieces strung together, at the end of which someone takes her shirt off.
I once wrote a review for a family comedy called Hello Down There, a 1969 film starring Tony Randall as a scientist who takes his family and a rock band to live underwater. It was and is an incredibly silly movie, but I remember commenting in my review that it was clearly a product of its time, and should be taken in that spirit. Well, now I'm presented with H.O.T.S., and I'm compelled to say the very same thing. H.O.T.S. (the meaning of the acronym is held -- such suspense! -- until the last shot, though several other possibilities are suggested throughout. My favorite? Help Out the Seals!) is a film very much of its own time, coming as it does on the heels of the sexual revolution. It is single-mindedly focused on sex, but is oddly innocent about it all despite its juvenility. This is the kind of movie where seeing a girl topless is the ultimate achievement for both the characters and the viewer; compared to the sex comedies of today, where characters are routinely covered in or ingesting bodily fluids, the movie is positively benign. And there are topless girls, to be sure. In fact, I'm not sure there's a female in the movie that doesn't end up exposing herself at one point or another (save for the sassy black cook, who's on hand -- I think -- because the movie wasn't racist enough). And since the cast is comprised of Playboy centerfolds, Miss USA contestants, and future porn stars, there's plenty to be exposed.
That's probably the best I can say for the movie: it isn't totally sleazy, and it has pretty girls who are naked. When trying to articulate what's bad about the movie, I find myself in a difficult position. There is so much in the movie that isn't just bad, it's downright bizarre -- leaving me unsure as to where to start. This might be the first bad movie that I would encourage readers to see, if only because that shared experience will give us something to joke about for years to come.
On the surface, it is an absolutely formulaic sex comedy, with your basic slobs vs. snobs framework (though seeing as this is one of the first, I suppose it had a hand in creating the formula...could H.O.T.S. possibly be that influential?). It's around the edges that movie reaches the heights of the surreal. I must make mention of the climax for proof: a Playboy centerfold, two old gangsters, and a grizzly bear are flying in a hot air balloon before landing on a football field, where a game of strip football is already in progress.
Please -- read that again.
I haven't mentioned the pet seal. Or the characters that actually go by the unironic names of Mad Dog, Clutz, and Macho Man. Or the naked skydiver named Boom-Boom Bangs, who is credited to two different actresses in the film's opening. Or the wet t-shirt contest that turns into a dance number, while Danny Bonaduce (The Partridge Family) leers on singing "Shake It." Or the pantsless Dean of Students attempting to rape one of the girls. Or the endless mention of "H.O.T.S.," which is also plastered across nearly every hard surface in the film. Or Danny Bonaduce getting it on with the pet seal. Or the whipped-cream-pie fight. Or the itching powder. Or the bald sorority girl. I could continue, but I think my point is made. Keep in mind that I do not recommend the film on the basis of its quality, but would suggest that if your sense of curiosity is not piqued by that description, you clearly have no sense of curiosity.
The DVD comes courtesy of Starz Home Media (formerly Anchor Bay), and it is an unspectacular effort -- fitting, I suppose. The film is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio and has been enhanced for 16x9 playback. Considering that the movie is nearly 30 years old, it looks reasonably good; it's clear that the studio put some effort into cleaning up the dirt and grain. There's still a good deal of that on hand, mind you, but it's a watchable presentation. The mono soundtrack is a little troublesome, though; it's a faithful reproduction, but the dialogue comes across garbled and muddy at times. The only extra included is the movie's original theatrical trailer, which is a lot of fun if you're in the right spirit.
There's little I can say about the film that could be considered "constructive" criticism. It is, for its genre, a bizarre kind of "classic." It is also an incredibly stupid, obnoxious (by design, to be fair), unfunny movie. And I still think people should see it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Starz Home Entertainment
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1979
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer