Bill’s Bizarre Bijou
By William D. Carl
This week’s feature presentation:
Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made. If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it. Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open. Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.
It’s summertime, and my series on the Golan-Globus years at Cannon Films continues with something a little different for the Israeli cousins, Menehem Golan and Yoram Globus. Things were getting rough for Cannon, and they owed a lot of people a lot of money, especially after SUPERMAN IV (1987) flopped at the box office. They needed a cheap hit, something they could exploit and make a few million for capital. However, Pathe’, headed by Giancarlo Parretti, bought Cannon Films in 1989. Golan didn’t like the way the company was going, so he left Cannon. Globus, however, stuck around and put out many more dubious features.
But what about that hit? Even with the infusion of money Pathe’ brought to the table; the company needed something to give them clout. Menehem Golan and Yoram Globus had big hits with their dance musicals BREAKIN’ and BREAKIN’ 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO (both 1984). What if they went back to their 1980s musical roots (Menehem Golan had even directed THE APPLE, a ludicrous futuristic musical in 1980). Oddly, the cousins hit upon the exact same exploitable fad at the same time, releasing two movies within a month of each other about the same topic—Brazil’s “forbidden dance,” the Lambada! With Cannon and Pathe’ behind him, Yoram Globus managed to get BREAKIN’s director Joel Silberg and as choreographer, the immortal Shabba Doo (one of the original Soul Train Gang). The movie was titled simply LAMBADA, sometimes accompanied by the subtitle SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE! Goram created the jaw-droppingly awful THE FORBIDDEN DANCE, in which a Brazilian princess tries to save the rain forest by shaking what her mamma gave her. But we are here to discuss LAMBADA, universally considered the better of the two competing Lambada movies.
First, let’s clarify—just what the hell is a lambada, and can I get it with refried beans? The lambada is a two-beat based dance that became popular for about ten minutes during the 1980s, especially in South America. Originating in Brazil, it is similar to the salsa or the meringue, except the legs are kept arched. Men are to wear long pants and either no shirt or a wife-beater while the ladies are supposed to wear extremely short skirts which would twirl around and expose the still-popular thong underwear. This is most probably why the dance is forbidden.
Enough with the educational lecture. Let’s watch LAMBADA (1990), and let’s dance!
The movie starts at a huge pool party, with one annoyingly preppie guy emerging from the water, fully clothed, screaming, “Brewskies!” Everyone is waiting for Dean, your typical blonde, muscular jerk from every 1980s flick, played by Ricky Paull Goldin, a major soap opera star who was in THE GUIDING LIGHT, ANOTHER WORLD, ALL MY CHILDREN, and THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL. Everyone is dancing to a terrible rock and roll song, including one couple that gets so caught up in it that they end up underwater in the fountain.
At Stonewood High, math teacher Kevin ‘Blade’ Laird, played by J. Eddie Peck of DANGEROUSLY CLOSE (1986) and a regular on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS, teaches his privileged white class, the gals all drooling over his buns sheathed in his tight pants. Student Sandy, played by Melora Hardin—who played Jan Levinson on THE OFFICE as well as roles in movies like 17 AGAIN (2009) —even asks if he would consider posing for a calendar, but he gets her back on track to geometry excellence. Laird seems rather dull, living quietly with his pretty wife and his son, Rudy.
Sandy catches her boyfriend Dean with ‘some ditz’ with four looks and nine breasts. She slams her ice cream cone into his groin and joins some friends to go to a hot new dance club called No Man’s Land (no, it’s not a lesbian club). This place has a cop car hanging upside down from the ceiling, so you know it’s awesome! Aaaand, there’s our first thong sighting to the song ‘Gonna Set the Night on Fire.’ Everyone is doing the lambada to a Gloria Estefan wannabe!
Guess who pulls up to the club on a motorcycle? Yep, at night, Kevin Laird takes off his glasses, changes his name to Blade, loses his shirt, and dances like it ain’t forbidden anymore.
Sandy asks, “What is that?” and her friend answers, all agog, “The Lambada! Can you believe they outlawed it in Brazil?” And Sandy spots her math teacher dirty dancing with a thong-master (you could have a drinking game where you do a shot every time you spot a thong!). Sandy flees. Perhaps, she was afraid of being sent to the blackboard?
There is a master plan at work. After some lambada dancing, Blade takes a bunch of underprivileged kids into the back room and teaches them calculus! If only he could get his rival Ramone, played by Shabba Doo himself, to join them in their lessons. I mean, who wouldn’t want to do math problems when everyone is dancing and drinking in the next room. I know I’d pick math – NOT!
Sandy is finding it difficult to concentrate in her own math class, letting loose with some crazy fantasies involving various angles and salsa music and a shirtless teacher. It’s DIRTY DANCING (1987) meets STAND AND DELIVER (1988).
Principal Singleton appoints Laird to head math instructor, but he’s a prude who fires teachers for dating other teachers. What is he gonna think about Laird’s alter-ego Blade? Laird’s son, Rudy, has a discussion about ‘greasers’ and why Daddy is a ‘greaser’ because he is Mexican. The wife is even giving him crap about not seeing him enough. Pressure from all sides!
Back at No Man’s Land, Sandy decides to dance with Laird, as she’s hot for teacher. The feud with Ramone heats up. “You gonna make those girls coconuts, man? Brown on the outside and white on the inside?” Ramone taunts. That’s enough for Ramone’s girl to dance with Blade. And, yes, her name is Pink Toes. Sandy cuts in while the song lyrics go, “Say you got a big one? I’m the kind of girl who likes to do the nasty dance!” Yowza! At first, Blade resists her charms, but soon he’s teaching her how to do the forbidden dance. She says, “Math class is over. Next is biology, and if you’re lucky, anatomy.” He says, “School’s over, Sandy!” She ends up with Ramone. Shabba pulls a shiv, and there’s a fight on the dance floor. It ends with Laird taking Sandy home on his motorcycle, which he rides into and out of the club, parking it by the dance floor. I want to be this cool. I will never be this cool.
Dean happens by when Mr. Laird is dropping Sandy off at her house. He hates that she’s with some biker, but he likes that she’s dressed “like a slut”. Trouble is brewing for our favorite teacher/artiste.
The night class is going to get their GEDs in the pool room, including an African-American guy dressed like Jughead and called Ricochet. Ramone misses a shot at billiards, and Mr. Laird teaches him the rectangular coordinate system, aka the geometry of pool. Bets are made, and a protractor is pulled out of his pocket and used to calculate the angles needed to make a shot.
The next day in the all-white school, during computer class, some geek called Egghead programs one of the computers to play some beat box music, and the class erupts into a choreographed dance number you have to see to believe. There is a lot of leg grabbing and hopping. And every damn kid in the class can actually bust a move, including, yes, some break-dancing moves. They are nearly caught by the principal and a member of the school board.
Sandy will not leave well enough alone, trying desperately to seduce Mr. Laird. She really is a little tramp. When he finally convinces her he isn’t interested, she heads for the club…and Ramone! They proceed to dance it up like there’s no tomorrow in a very good scene where the two actors/dancers go wild on the floor.
When Mr. Laird takes the underprivileged kids to his school to take a test-run on a GED test on the computers, Dean finds out and sets out to expose the math teacher for the hip-shaking, shoulder-swaying, motorcycle-riding stud that he is.
Will the principal discover Laird’s night-time extracurricular activities? Will Sandy seduce him away from his wife? Will the ragtag motley group of adorable poor kids beat the rich kids in a super quiz? Will anyone know what a Lambada is in five more years?
LAMBADA is a silly movie—ok, a very, very silly movie, but it was made for teens and on that level it isn’t bad. The plot is stale, but the actors give it their all, even the ones who can’t act a lick. Enthusiasm counts for a lot, and this movie has that in spades. It’s a goofy little movie with super-sexy leads, some decent dancing, a nice message for the young ones, and some winking, knowing dialogue. These guys knew they were making a dumb movie, and they did it with the utmost sincerity. Thus, making it all the funnier. I don’t know to what extent the filmmakers wanted to poke fun at themselves, but they succeeded nonetheless. This film’s a hoot! It helps that this is a flick trapped in the late Eighties. The hair is high, the make-up is garish, the costumes include a lot of pastels, and the music is loud and trapped someplace between Miami Sound Machine and Ricky Martin.
On a side note, the cinematography is quite good, full of neon and smoke. LAMBADA was shot by Roberto D’Ettorre Piazzoli, who also photographed STARCRASH (1978), TENTACLES (1977), MIDNIGHT RIDE (1990), and the unbelievable SONNY BOY (1989). He raises the whole movie up by a half a star.
I give LAMBADA two and a half rectangular coordinate systems out of four. Math rocks!
© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl