Judge John Floyd goes through puberty again! As if it wasn't awkward enough the first time?
This time, the Welcome to the Grindhouse Double Feature showcases a pair of hormonally charged teen sex comedies.
Facts of the Case
Ah, for those glorious days of youth, when life was all about beach parties with topless Playboy Playmates and illicit affairs with your sexy female basketball coach! Those were the days?
Though the films on this disc do not invoke the atmosphere of the grindhouse, they are representative of the two markets that ultimately led to the demise of such establishments—home video and cable. In the early 1980s, premium movie channels and video rental stores offered viewers the opportunity to see films previously relegated to rundown theaters in the comfort and privacy of their own homes. Sexploitation films of all types, from jiggly T&A farces to hardcore porno efforts, boomed during this period. They were cheap to produce and easy to sell, and their audience had grown exponentially, because teenagers who had previously been unable to view such movies now had only to stay up late enough for mom and dad to go to bed. Any guy who went through adolescence during this period will tell you (if he's honest, that is) that he did just that on more than one occasion, in hopes of catching at least a glimpse of what teenage boys spend most of their time thinking about.
The Beach Girls is typical, post-Porky's fluff about a reserved young woman named Sarah (Debra Blee) who throws a giant party in her rich uncle's beach house without his permission. Uncle Carl (Adam Roarke) comes home to lay down the law after the neighbors complain, but has a change of heart when presented (and that is the correct word) with the ample "charms" of his niece's two sexy, uninhibited friends, Ginger (Val Kline) and Ducky (Playboy Playmate Jeana Tomasina). While Carl frolics with the comely co-eds and blows his engagement to an uptight socialite, Sarah must learn to break out of her shell—and, eventually, her bikini top—to impress a handsome, free-spirited traveler. Amidst all of this comic carnality, there's also a clumsy subplot about an inept Coast Guard Captain and the panicky drug smugglers he's pursuing, and an even clumsier groundskeeper who can't seem to focus on his work with all of the nubile cuties stripping to their birthday suits every chance they get. Though there's absolutely nothing in this film that you haven't seen done before and better (in fact, several scenes are actually lifted from the 1978 feature Malibu Beach, the trailer for which is included as an extra on this disc), The Beach Girls is still an enjoyable concoction.
Much of the credit has to go to the incredibly hot, rarely clothed Kline and Tomasina. They aren't great actresses, but they are perfectly cast as curvaceous, post-adolescent sex kittens on an endless quest for a big buzz and buff boys. Similarly, Blee (Hamburger: The Motion Picture, Malibu Bikini Shop) is right in her element as the shy, bookish "good" girl who finds her inner hedonist before the festivities conclude. A sort of Annette Funicello for the '80s, this busty, big-eyed brunette has an amiable, girl-next-door innocence that somehow simultaneously compliments and belies her voluptuous good looks. She also has better comedic timing than her costars, though the filmmakers don't exploit it with the same vigor that they do her pouty lips and shapely figure. The rest of the cast is likable enough, but it is this attractive trio that (quite fittingly) elevates The Beach Girls above other, similar-themed films of the period.
Coach is an interesting combination of post-feminist sports movie and adolescent male wish fulfillment. In it, Cathy Lee Crosby (That's Incredible!) plays Randy Rawlings, an Olympic gold medalist mistakenly hired to coach an underachieving high school basketball team. While striving to overcome the sexist objections of the school principal (Keenan Wynn) and build a winning program, she develops a May-December (January-August?) romance with the team captain (Michael Biehn). With the exception of a strange hypnotism sidebar, the basketball storyline is largely formulaic and unremarkable. Crosby stares down her detractors, makes her players believe in themselves, and is carried off in triumph in the end. What makes the movie intriguing (and worthy of this DVD series) is the love story, which is both titillating and sweet in spite of its inherent impropriety. Biehn and Crosby make an attractive couple, their rapport with one another easy and natural, and their chemistry undeniable. Male viewers who remember teenage crushes on older women will certainly identify with the future star of The Terminator and his irresistible attraction to his new coach, and director Bud Townsend (who also helmed The Beach Girls) never allows the pairing to become a sophomoric punch line (ala Stifler's mom in American Pie) or a soulless exercise in softcore pornography. The most unique element, however, is the fact that this taboo coupling is never exposed to the rest of the cast or employed by screenwriters Nancy Larson and Stephen Bruce Rose to derail Coach Rawlings' on-court success. The film actually portrays the intimacy between student and faculty member as real, mature love rather than simple animal lust, and even appears to condone such a union.
The acting is quite good in Coach, with Crosby, Biehn, and lanky Jack David Walker (as a somewhat slow-witted teammate) standing out from the crowd. Though the rest of the team predictably begins the film as a bunch of oversexed chauvinists resistant to a female coach, they quickly prove to be basically likable and three-dimensional characters who are easy to root for. The basketball scenes are realistic and reasonably exciting, and there is an endearing minor subplot about a clumsy nerd and the girl he is attracted to. Wynn's obnoxious character is really the only false note here, his narrow-minded diatribes and unwavering bigotry outmoded even by 1970s standards. Despite his one-note performance, Coach is a light, engaging coming-of-age fantasy that deftly balances exploitation and emotion, never quite overdoing either.
Both films look and sound great. As on the other Welcome to the Grindhouse releases, the only extras are trailers which can only be viewed as part of the contiguous "Grindhouse Experience" menu feature. Unlike on other discs in the series, however, these previews are less entertaining than the films they precede. Malibu Beach and My Tutor are average pubescent fare with equally average trailers. The Van and Jocks are every bit as bad as their featured "Coming Attractions" clips make them look.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The only real attractions here are the half-naked starlets. If that's enough to hold your interest for over three hours, or if you're just feeling nostalgic for Benny Hill-style humor and Reagan era cinematic sexuality, you will enjoy this disc. Everyone else, however, will likely find it a cheesy bore.
While this particular double feature is more reminiscent of a late night Cinemax line-up than an actual grindhouse bill, it still offers viewers who matured into adulthood as the heyday of exploitation movies was drawing to a close an opportunity to return briefly to their hormone-driven youths.
The case presented here today paints a troubling picture of teenagers engaged in lewd and carnal acts with each other and with legal adults. This court has heard testimony of recreational drug use, wanton destruction of private property, and blatant disregard for the rules of proper institutional conduct. In light of all of this damning evidence, I have no choice but to find Welcome to the Grindhouse: Coach/The Beach Girls guilty on all counts, and sentence it to life imprisonment in the DVD collections of all fans of late '70s/early '80s teen sex comedies.
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