The Bad Movie Report


Fish Without Bicycles
And You Call Yourself A Scientist!
Opposable Thumb Films
Stomp Tokyo
Teleport City
The Unknown Movies

This has been a tough one, a movie I've beaten my head against more than once.

Longtime readers will recall that I try to review a Cheri Caffaro movie once a year, generally around Valentine's Day. That hasn't happened this year, for one reason and another. A major one is the fact that the lady only made about six movies, and I've reviewed four - it doesn't help that I've reviewed the four fun ones first. Actually, I can't pass judgement on Savage Sisters yet, since it was only recently that the Web-Fu Master pointed the way to an affordable copy of it. That will likely be next year's review.

No, this year's movie was slated to be H.O.T.S., for which Caffaro has Associate Producer and screenplay credits. (Hubby and one-time director Don Schain has full Producer credit) The movie may be familiar to male viewers of a certain age strata, as it was a fixture on late-night cable for quite some time. In fact, to paraphrase Dennis Miller, for a while HBO seemed to stand for "H.O.T.S. and Beastmaster Only".

Originally, this last roundtable of the year was to be on the subject of "Masochism - Reviews We've Been Putting Off", which could mean only one thing for me: the Pia Zadora vehicle Butterfly, which I had seen once - come to think of it, on HBO- and although thus forearmed, I was still loathe to revisit that overflowing pool of sleazery. So when we came to our senses and realized that masochism was a relative term (especially considering the sort of films to which we normally subject ourselves), I sighed in relief. But as we all know (again, from the types of movies we watch), whenever a character sighs with relief, he immediately turns to find himself face-to-face with something horrible.

With a broad heading of "Amazonian Society", I decided that the sorority battlefield of H.O.T.S. could fit in (especially if I used a lot of vaseline and a shoehorn), and thus I would get in my Caffaro review for the year - if just barely - and still fulfill any masochistic karma incurred by dumping the original theme. Little did I know I was letting myself in for an experience that would leave me pining for the presence of Stomp Tokyo's favorite chubby-cheeked vixen.

So. H.O.T.S..


KOMEDY!!!!!Whatever else, you have to admit that, in the first minute, H.O.T.S lets you know exactly what you're in for. The introductory image, backed with appropriately academic music, is of a nude male statue, as a superimposed title informs us this is "FAIRENVILLE UNIVERSITY". The statue's modestly concealing fig leaf falls away, as the title changes to "Fondly known as 'Good Ol' F.U."

These are the jokes, folks. Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

We then dissolve - at 39 seconds into the movie - to a gym shower room scene, causing one to believe THAT THIS MIGHT TRULY BE THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE. It is here that we are introduced to Honey Shayne (Playboy's Miss January 1977 Susan Kiger) and her breasts. Nearby hateful rich girl Melody Ragmore (Lindsay Bloom) complains about the poor crop of sorority rushes that year, many of whom "could barely afford the initiation fees". Especially held up for ridicule is Honey, who "had to work three years as a car hop to go to college. Can you imagine? A car hop!"

Again, with an enviable economy, the movie sets up its dynamic. As Ken Begg has pointed out, in such movies, The Rich cannot possess The Life Force - only The Poor. Therefore, The Rich must be a hateful, spiteful bunch until taught better by The Poor. Oh, wait, this isn't a heartwarming John Hughes movie - what was I thinking?

Okay, let's then look at the bizarre denigration of Honey for the crime of working her way through college. I say bizarre because I know damned few people who didn't have to do this in one way or another. I knew many fellow students on food stamps. But, as we have seen before in these very pages, any movie in which Cheri Caffaro is involved likely does not take place on this planet... then again, that goes for practically any comedy that takes place on a college campus. Or, in this case, Komedy, as I like to refer to enterprises that aspire to humor but fall terribly and tediously short of their mark.

Hell, I give up. Let's just go back to the movie.

Honey is comforted by three other women denied sorority status: O'Hara (Lisa London), Terri (Pamela Jean Bryant, Miss April 1978) and Sam (Kimberly Carson), who must be the Smart Chick, because she wears glasses (ever so briefly, the tease) and claims that the sororities are all "brainless conformist snobs". The four decide that the best way to get back at Melody and her Pi sorority is to steal every man on campus away from them, until "the Pi sorority looks like a convent!" Thus is born the organization H.O.T.S., and before we spend too much time pondering what that stands for, we'll just pop everyone's hopeful balloons by pointing out that comes from the ladies' names: Honey, O'Hara, Terri, Sam. Sorry, acronym fans. There'll be enough supposedly risible interpretations of those initials during the course of the movie.

Look!  Sluts Inc. is hiring!After taking over an old house with a "Condemned: Fire Hazard" sign (how safe - or legal - can that be?), they run an ad in the local paper: "GIRLS: TURNED DOWN BY SORORITIES? TURNED OFF BY THEIR MENTALITY? THEN TURN ON TO H.O.T.S.AND BUILD... A FUTURE" This provides them with a number of girls - given T-shirts with the slogan "Warm" - to use as slave labor in cleaning up the house, which is in surprisingly good shape for a fire hazard. The new recruits also have to endure makeovers to be more fully suited to H.O.T.S.' mission statement: "I promise to do everything within my power, using all my abilities, talents and assets, to win every man on campus away from Pi sorority, so help me H.O.T.S." This lineup includes the token Fat Chick (Mary Steelsmith), because the Komedy will be needing punchlines.

After this, the horror just begins to mount. Geeky white boys trying to exchange complicated hand-slappin' handshakes (at which point I scratched out the GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE note). Former Partridge and future transvestite assaulter Danny Bonaduce as the hip rock-and-rolling love interest * . An attempt at an actual plot, as two escaped convicts (Dick Bakalyn and Louis Guss) try to retrieve their loot stashed in the house years before. That, however, takes a very distant back seat to a series of skirmishes between the two sororities, most of which seem to involve nudity of one sort or another (golly, what a surprise!), culminating in a catfight at a wet T-shirt contest, and the ensuing challenge to settle everything with a game of strip football.

That got your attention, didn't it? Most people who have seen this movie... wait, most men who have seen it... remember that scene. I defy them, however, to remember anything else. They likely won't, because there is nothing else of substance or quality on display. Even then, the concept of quality is a slippery one, here: This isn't The Longest Yard or even the final act of M*A*S*H*... .let's face it, the participants play football like girls. But I can almost guarantee you: it's that scene that clinched the production budget. (and the huddle scenes are... interesting, in a very male-oriented sort of way)

Future-building, H.O.T.S.-style.It's the central concept of using men as currency which caused me to cram this movie into the roundtable, though it directly contradicts the Steinem "Fish Without Bicycles" dictum, starting with Terri's helpful suggestion that the best way to get even is to steal your enemies' menfolk. Honey does indeed seduce and make off with Melody's boyfriend, but it should be noted that although they seem to be a couple thereafter, there is never any intimation that their relationship goes beyond the physical. Were this movie made today (dream on, fanboy), Honey's act of concupiscent vengeance would deepen into real love and respect, everyone would learn a lesson, blah blah blah. Damn, we're back in John Hughes territory again. How did that happen?

This reversal of "normal" sexual roles - male pursuer, female pursued - is fertile ground for story possibilities and examination of social mores, which might have been achieved if H.O.T.S. aspired to be anything more than a distaff version of Animal House or Revenge of the Nerds, and if not for the sad truth that it doesn't even hit the heights of those two movies. possessing neither their warmth nor charm. It's a titty flick, pure and simple, working the last gasp of the vanishing drive-in theater, and later working the fledgling cable market for all it was worth. Even the one real episode of gender reversal , when H.O.T.S. stages a "jockstrap raid" on a fraternity (which, conveniently and economically enough, is populated by all their love interests) comes about simply as a strategy to get Melody's boyfriend back after the Evil Rich Bitch manages to reassert some measure of control over him. Melody has to use a contrived social function to get him back; Honey, however, possesses the Life Force, manifested here as a great set of gazongas.

Flat vs Fat in the Battle of the Century!  (God I am SO going to Hell for that one...)It could be pointed out that the screenplay was written by two women, but then the pointer would be hard-pressed to explain why two women would write such an anti-feminist movie. Perhaps anti-feminist is too strong a label - neither gender, regardless of species*, comes off well in this flick - but there is a scene very early on, during the "Warm"s segment, where two of the pledges (and one is The Fat Chick) are using a tape measure to compare their, um, bust size, and they are found lacking. This leads to a scene of the pledges using those spring tension chest exerciser thingies, and then...

Heavy sigh.

Three of them go to a plastic surgeon. Two walk out, enhanced in the pectoral region, quite happy and proud of this development. Then the third woman walks out, unchanged - it's The Fat Chick, and the surgeon shakes his head, not sadly, but in a dismissory and slightly disgusted manner. It's about this point in my viewings that I felt my soul beginning to singe around the edges. It's just so damned wrong in so many ways ...

Incidentally, The Fat Chick's name is Clutz. But as the movie will never treat her with any respect, it's rather hard to not go with the flow, and simply call her The Fat Chick. She'll be a constant presence throughout the flick, though thankfully she stops being a punchline at about the one-third mark. In scenes where the rest of H.O.T.S. is sunbathing around the pool, Clutz is noticeably clothed. She also takes the field during the climactic strip football game, and even begins taking off her jersey when H.O.T.S. loses the first point; though after that, she mysteriously vanishes from the proceedings...

Behold!  The Legion of the Damned!As I said, it becomes hard to conceive that this was written by two women, especially in light of the commentary track of the slightly (very slightly) similar Swinging Cheerleaders *, in which director Jack Hill admits that its screenplay, also credited to two women, was actually penned by himself and the producer.

But we also have to admit that Caffaro herself was no stranger to the sexploitation trade, and there are certainly several tropes common to the lady's oeuvre on display here, the most notable being the challenge leading up to the strip football game. After Honey and Melody are separated in their catfight, and one of the few men still loyal to Pi (an evil jock, naturally) states that the women should settle this like men (Komedy!). "With what, pistols?" asks Honey. (Ha ha! Zing!!! Komedy!!!!!!) "No... football!" When the touch football challenge is accepted, Honey ups the ante by stating that the opposing team has to lose an article of clothing when a point is scored, and these lines are lifted almost verbatim from "the Citizen Kane of catfights" in Ginger. It doesn't help that when Susan Kiger says her lines, I can practically hear Caffaro's voice.

Or maybe I've just watched too many Cheri Caffaro movies.

<pause>. Naaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh........

Just like Ginger, the girls of H.O.T.S. are not shy about using their sexuality to achieve their goals. I have tried to wrap my head around whether this is empowerment or not, and trying to experience it from the viewpoint of the late 70s isn't helping either. I can't simply write it off as a device used in a drive-in movie to display more flesh, as I am also all too certain that this sort of thing would not only work in the real world, but that it happens all the time. In any case, Applied Sluttiness was a continuing motif in the Ginger movies, and likely as not, we cheered the lady on when the stupid thugs believed that by untying her, they would be getting more than a kick in the balls and a karate chop upside the head.

Danger, Will Robinson!  Crap movie in the vicinity!  Danger!  Danger!Though getting a passing grade in Anatomy by gang-slutting the professor in a stalled elevator really nudges the Komedy Meter out of the area of "Supposed Hilarity" into the red zone of "Increasing Discomfort". One has to wonder about that "future" that was promised to be built in that classified ad, when we mostly see our titular heroes sunbathing, behaving wantonly, or thinking up new ways to get other people naked.

Maybe I just went to the wrong college, in which case I do the Dance of Regret.

After attempting to attack this movie from several different directions, I find myself here: the only real problem I have with H.O.T.S. is that I have a problem with it. It mystifies me that this movie bothers me so much, while I can enjoy and sing the praises of movies like Coffy, the rest of Caffaro's movies, and - I know several readers will take exception to this - Legend of the Overfiend. All of these exploit their female characters just as fully (way more fully in the case of Overfiend), yet I find a fairly light-hearted - and totally empty-headed - enterprise like H.O.T.S. offensive. Likely it earned my wrath very early on, with a bevy of women - who are all damned cute, this is still a Hollywood movie - compare themselves to the head H.O.T.S. (which include two Playmates and a porn starlet), and find themselves wanting. That, and as a Citizen of Considerable Substance myself, I can only say: lay off the Fat Chick, a-holes. She has enough problems.

Am I over-analyzing H.O.T.S.? Possibly. Witness one of my notes, wherein I mention that the bikinis worn by H.O.T.S. during the football game are red-and-white stripes, invoking such all-American icons as barber poles, peppermint candy, and barbershop quartets. The Pi girls, being evil, are wearing black bikinis. Then I scuttle that premise by noticing that the red-and-white motif is carried over from their official dress code, which is more than slightly reminiscent of the uniform at that noted family restaurant, Hooters. Somebody ripped off somebody else, but I have no idea who.

Some will say that I am expecting too much of a cheap little sexploitation picture; that's an argument I've had before. Take a look around the archives of this site, and you'll find that I'm not that demanding a viewer.AAAAAA!  Attack of the censor blocks! All I ask of a movie is it entertain me; and when it doesn't, my wrath is mighty, everlasting, and - in this case - somewhat puzzled.

The biggest problem of all: nothing hurts like bad comedy. Most bad movies practically invite us to be willing participants in their own immolation. Bad comedies are like spoiled, bratty little children, constantly, shrilly screaming for our attention and validation, and never doing anything worthy of either. I don't care how many mammaries you shake in my face, nothing is going to change that.

Not that you should necessarily stop shaking mammaries in my face. I'm not that crazy.



Komedy with nudity: still Komedy.

- December 20, 2002