Remember when Peter Brady found that tiki statue in Hawaii and was compelled to copulate with anything wearing a grass skirt? Judge Bill Gibron does.
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Brad is the manager of the Bikini A Go-Go, a beachside surf shop that specializes in swimwear and attractive, sex-starved employees. His big-busted sales staff just can't wait to take a break and head into the backroom for some interpersonal inventory. But Brad's love life is locked down in libido Loserville. He is in love with Janet, his "so straight she's perpendicularly prudish" girlfriend, who thinks a hot date on a Saturday night consists of popcorn, bad B-movies on The Late, Late Show, and absolutely no heavy petting. To put it another way, they don't have sex.
But when Brad stumbles across a Tiki idol necklace in a shipment of Hawaiian shirts, his luck starts to change. This mystical medallion of Weyamea gives any woman who puts it on the sudden urge to purge her clothing and endlessly ride the baloney pony. After Brad gives the tropical trinket to his bland-as-beige babe, old Jan turns into a regular horndog, giving her boss the bounty of her body and hoping to hump anything that produces a pulse. Oddly, Brad takes this forward fornication-forcing completely the wrong way—meaning he cowers from sexual congress like an over-extricated eunuch. So when the vile villainess who lost the lusty locket sends her horny bohunk robot out to collect the trippy talisman, the machine man's corporeal programming keeps him busy "interrogating" the Bikini's help. It all ends up in a poolside confrontation between evil and enticement as a lesbian three-way (!!!) indicates the power and the peculiarity that permeates the Curse of the Erotic Tiki.
Curse of the Erotic Tiki. You've got to love that title. No matter if your sensibilities run to breathlessly black-and-white French new wave or certifiable classics from the golden age of Hollywood, such a moldy moniker stirs a great many sensational cinematic sentiments. There's the cheesy camp concept of a "curse" with all its supernatural shuttlecocking. Then there is the vision of the Tiki god, glorious in its squashed-head hilarity. Add in the term "erotic," and all manner of sensual symbols start shooting off in and around your short hairs. The imagination runs wild. The temperature tracks to the sultry. A myriad of mysteries begins to take shape. Why is the Tiki cursed with the idiom of Eros? Is the Tiki itself a steamy screaming Mimi—a zoomed-up version of the Zuni Fetish from Trilogy of Terror (after all, that Karen Black battler has a name just ripe for the ribald)—or does it just inspire genital gesticulation in others? Who exactly falls under its hypnotic, hip-swiveling spell? Does it affect men and women equally, or is this a gender-specific icon that brings out the inner bodacious babe in the local boudoir set? As the queries quiver and quake, a partial clarification is discovered—and Saints be praised—it's gals who get their glands in a gaggle when that naughty little nipper comes in contact with their cleavage. The minute the miniature melds with the mammaries of a madam, self-control is kicked to the curb and it's time to sample some oversized melons. We even learn that a new cinematic device—the Hooter Horn—will be implemented, so that we will nary miss a bare-bodkin moment of the top-and-bottomless bonanza.
So this must mean that Curse of the Erotic Tiki is a tacky, tasty treat, the kind of modern-day lampoon of old-fashioned exploitation that hits all the right wrong notes, right? Well, let's not jump that far ahead in the hyping of this tantalizing title. Actually, Curse of the Erotic Tiki is hardcore pornography shorn of all its XXX antics, a cornucopia of counterfeit copulation that wants to be a fiery festival of firm flesh frisking. And the actors and actresses have all their modern adult dynamics down to a sweet science. They understand the mentality of the average body-action aficionado and pander to those pocket poolers perfectly. A little more aggressive than the pay cable carnality you can experience on Showtime or Cinemax (or MTV for that matter), but far below the reverse cowgirl craziness of most big-name porno, Curse of the Erotic Tiki may be trying to create some manner of satire out of the softcore sex flick. But there is nothing new or novel offered, no humorous insight or clever element exploration. This is a typical '60s-'80s pork product, utilizing a basic clothesline plot (the aforementioned and fretted-over Tiki god) as a wraparound device to the reach-around antics. True, there is a retro constituent to the film, a real feeling of '50s sermonette (a narrator character, always shown in black and white, adds his moralizing admonitions as kind of a galled Greek chorus) mixed with nudie cutie goodness. But when the attempted archetypes from cinema's past (the good girl, the evil villainess) strip down to their bikini lines and bump uglies, the movie transmogrifies into a fairly aggressive groin grabber. The title may merely tantalize, but the goods go gonzo in this overheated perch plucking.
Your reaction to Curse of the Erotic Tiki, then, will be based solely on how well you handle a 90/10 split between booty rooting and cornball plot parts. For every two minutes of clever, comic story, we are witnesses to a twenty-minute stag loop of straight or same-sex proportion. If you like lesbianism (and while that's more or less a rhetorical question, it's always nice to be asked, isn't it?), there are some shockingly steamy Sappho situations here. When the guys get involved, however, the rules of unskilled retreating petering are prevalent. The android boy toy, all muscles and mucus, can fake the friggin' with the best of them. But neither lead load Brad nor Janet's tiny Tom Cruise Jr. boss could sex you up even if they were Color Me Badd. This ersatz Something Weird Video has too much mock monkey business, and not enough rude ridiculousness, on its mind. Curse of the Erotic Tiki takes its boot-knocking far too literally, creating a strange contrast of carnality within a supposedly stupid send-up comedy. The Hooter Horn concept (Yes, whenever a sex scene is about to start, a splendidly weird "a-ooo-ga" style horn announces the action) is cute and does undercut some of the 36 Marilyn Chambers mudflapping of the movie. But frankly, it could have been used from beginning to end.
Director Nicholas Medina (or is it really Fred Olen Ray?) doesn't rely on what made most exploitation films so fine in the first place: the patented pubic-free tease. Those glorious grindhouse classics didn't "expose the goat"—so to speak—when they made their excursions into erotica. They left a little to the imagination as the women (and men) had to contort and distort in order to avoid the cruel claw of censorship. But Curse of the Erotic Tiki lets it all hang out! If that's what you crave, then you will definitely savor this almost funny flavor. But so much more could have been done with this dopey premise besides showcasing rejects from a Digital Sin or Robbie D production.
Retromedia and Image give Curse of the Erotic Tiki a nice little DVD package, light on the bonus material but excellent in its sonic and visual qualities. Presented in a 1.33:1 full frame picture, Tiki contains a lot of bright colors and several acres of frightening flesh tones. The transfer here captures all the keister and kitsch with flair and detail. On the sound side, Tiki is a strange Muzak mystery. The generic music piped in over every so-called sex scene recalls a different genre ('50s ballad, rockabilly skank, calypso cool) as it loops over and over the multiple minutes of mons-handling. Actually, a fun little game can be played as the actors thump and mime. It's really quite simple: listen to the pseudo-melody, think of a song that sounds like it, and simply sing along. As the skin flute is flouted and the hinder gets a grinder, you'll be in Name That Tune heaven recalling those non-public domain hits from yesteryear. And the excellent Dolby Digital Stereo will make the melodic march down memory lane that much more harmonious.
We do get a trailer for Tiki, and it's probably not a good idea to watch it first. It highlights all the major plot elements (including the ending) within its total teaser time limit. Perhaps the best bonus is Fred Olen Ray, that master of B-movie disasters, giving us an intro to the movie and a description of the Hooter Horn's helpful factors. Too bad the movie couldn't have been as clever as this brief, brilliant prologue.
Curse of the Erotic Tiki will be a Viking to those looking for more vice and vicious va-va-va-voom in their cheap sex comedy. But for anyone sent into fits of nostalgia over the evocative title, the only curse you'll discover is the one coming out of your disappointed maw.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
• Introduction by Filmmaker Fred Olen Ray
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