Thursday, 10 May 2018

Hard Ticket to Hawaii (4 Stars)

This is the second film in the Andy Sidaris collection, made in 1987. It's a sort of sequel to "Malibu Express". Cody Abilene isn't in the film, but it's mentioned in conversation that he's left the agency. What's this Agency that they're talking about? The only clue is that it's a federal agency. Based on the evidence of the film it could possibly be the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), but that's anyone's guess. Andy Sidaris was making it up as he went along. In "Malibu Express" the only agency mentioned was the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), but Cody wasn't a member. He was a private detective who was hired by the CIA for a covert operation. Wherever Cody has gone, he left his yacht behind, and it's now the home of his cousin, Rowdy Abilene, who also works for the Agency.

As usual, it's a complicated story with various plots that influence one another. The film starts with the discovery of a large marijuana farm on a Hawaiian island. This is hardly mentioned in the rest of the film. The story continues with the introduction of two other Agency operatives, Donna and Taryn, both of whom are played by former Playmates of the Month. They're working undercover as pilots for a small company called Molokai Cargo. This isn't a pseudo-company like Universal Experts in the James Bond films, for which Bond had visiting cards but no desk. Donna and Taryn work delivering cargo whenever they're not on missions, and they're proud that their business is making a profit. They don't just deliver goods; they fly a honeymoon couple to a sparsely inhabited island.

This introduces the next two plots. While on the island they accidentally release a highly dangerous snake that was intended for another destination. They also intercept a delivery of diamonds flown to the island by a remote controlled miniature plane. The girls are never sent on an official mission in the film. They have to defend themselves from the drug gang that wants its diamonds back. They call on Rowdy and other Agency members to help them.

This film features Rodrigo Obregon as Seth Romero, the deputy head of the drug organisation. He appears in 10 of the 12 films in the Andy Sidaris collection, always as a different character, almost always a bad guy. That's one of the biggest problems in the continuity of the films. The same actors appear playing different characters. On the other hand, the actress Dona Speir always plays a character called Donna, although it's arguable whether she's the same Donna in all seven of the films she appears in.

Here are the Agency's female operatives: Hope Marie Carlton as Taryn, Dona Spier as Donna and Cynthia Brimhall as Edy. Secret agents never looked so good. Forgive their 80's hairdos. What do you expect from a 1987 film?

The girls need to be careful when they go to the bathroom.

You can tell what Rowdy is thinking. "Hers is bigger than mine".

The film ends with the usual champagne party on a yacht.

Wikipedia calls this a cult film. As much as I enjoy it, I don't think that the description fits. To be a cult film it needs to be more popular and have an army of fans proclaiming its merit. I hardly know anyone who's a fan of Andy Sidaris' films. If anything, they were popular in the 1990's but have been forgotten now.

However, Wikipedia cites a 2014 article in Paste Magazine, in which "Hard Ticket to Hawaii" has the first place in a list of the 100 best B-Movies of all time. John Vorel writes

"There are dozens of films just like Hard Ticket to Hawaii, if we’re talking about plots. Director Andy Sidaris directed 12 himself, all starring gun-toting Playboy and Penthouse models as busty secret agents, largely in tropical locales. These sorts of films were staples of early cable, commonly premiering on USA Up All Night or Cinemax. They’re all trashy. They’re all stupid. But Hard Ticket to Hawaii is the most fun of all of them, the perfect mixture of classless sexuality and hyper-macho 1980's action. Its action sequences are insane, from the inflatable sex doll-clutching skateboard assassin to a henchman named Shades who is executed with a razor-tipped frisbee. Oh, and have I mentioned that the subplot revolves around the girls hunting a deadly, escaped snake that has been infected with toxins from cancer-infested rats? On its own, the snake could make this an awesome movie, but it’s just one reason why Hard Ticket to Hawaii is the most enjoyable B movie of them all".

Do other fans agree with this praise, if they even know the film at all?

All 12 films feature an introduction by Andy Sidaris and Julie Strain. Julie only appeared in the last five films, but she became close friends with Andy as well as acting as an unofficial spokesperson for his films. The short introductions are amusing, usually consisting of Andy trying to explain the film's background while Julie distracts him by jiggling her naked breasts.

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