Archive for the Dancing Girls! Category

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou Dances the LAMBADA (1990)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2013, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Campy Movies, Dance Crazes, Dancing Girls! with tags , , , , , , , on July 18, 2013 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

By William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

LAMBADA (1990)

bbblambadaposterWelcome 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.

Melora Hardin as Jan in LAMBADA.

Melora Hardin as Sandy in LAMBADA.

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.

This student gets an "A" in LAMBADA.

This student gets an “A” in LAMBADA.

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.

The entire computer class busts a move in LAMBADA.

The entire computer class busts a move in LAMBADA.

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.

Mr. Laird teaches Ramone about the  rectangular coordinate system!

Mr. Laird teaches Ramone about the rectangular coordinate system!

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

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou Helps a GIRL ON THE RUN (1953)

Posted in 1950s Movies, 2013, B-Movies, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Carnival Chills, Crime Films, Dancing Girls!, Femme Fatales, Film Noir, Gangsters!, William Carl Articles with tags , , , , , , , on February 14, 2013 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

GIRL ON THE RUN (1953)

girl-on-the-run-movie-poster-1958-1020302380

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.

Film noir is one of my favorite sub-genres in the industry.  With its double crossing dames, doomed heroes, dark shadowy alleys and sets, and general bad attitude, the noir genre contains the darkest mysteries in an already shrouded playing field.  Films like DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944), DETOUR (1945), THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (1946), and the amazing OUT OF THE PAST (1947) established the guidelines of noir, although pulp fiction books and magazines had been promoting such grimy, sordid tales for many years.

Along comes 1953, and with it, one of the grubbiest, sleaziest film noirs of all time – GIRL ON THE RUN.  This one takes place in a traveling carnival, therefore making it – what? – carny noir?  Hoochie coochie crime drama?  In any case, it’s a real find, and it’s a hoot and a half if you’ve imbibed earlier in the evening.  Which I highly recommend.

The titles roll over the strains of John Phillips Sousa, and we get a look at the carnival, complete with Ferris Wheel, funhouse (with a laughing clown that’ll give you nightmares for weeks), a merry-go-round, and, most important, a burlesque coochie dancer show!  A hen-pecked man escapes his wife and makes for the girlie show, where they gyrate with feathers sticking out of their butts like cut-rate exotic birds, with black kitty-kat masks, and sequined bras and grandma-panties.  A dwarf, Blake, (played by Charles Bolander who was also in DARK INTRUDER, 1965), runs the carnival and hangs out behind the coochie tent with the main girlie attraction, Gigi.  He discovers that a vice probe on the carnival has been suspended and the reporter who instigated the investigation has been fired and is on the run from the mob.  A beat cop also goes behind the curtain to keep an eye on things, making the little guy furious.  Turns out, the editor in charge of the paper that called off the investigation has been murdered, and the sarge thinks the young reporter who was fired did it.  The reporter, Bill Martin (played by TV’s Captain Midnight himself, Richard Coogan) and his girlfriend, Janet, luckily happen to be right behind the curtain while this conversation takes place.  He needs to hide in the carnival to prove his innocence and someone named Reeves’s guilt.  Janet is standing by her man, but she also needs to hide.  The cops are everywhere in the carnival, so they require disguises.  So, Bill becomes a boxer in the fighting tent and Janet puts on the sequined black bra and granny-panties and mask of the coochie chorus line.

The dwarf among the girls.

The dwarf among the girls.

After the show, the dancers cackle like a bunch of hens, watched over by an older woman who smokes cigars and cracks wise.  Soon, its costume changes (exposing just enough leg), and they’re out front with the barker.  “All right now folks,” he shouts, “Take yer time.  Don’t hurry.  We don’t want ya’ to hurt yourselves.  I now give you a cavity of beauty, a peerless pulchritude all set to entertain you.  A treat for the lovers of real art.  An exhibition to make the old feel young and the young feel better!  Six tantalizing morsels of loveliness from every corner of the world” (Cut to a lip-smacking bull lesbian in the crowd watching the show enthusiastically!)  “I now present to you . . . hey, this ain’t a show for boys.  This is for adults only.  All right boys, beat it.  Come back in ten years.”  We then get treated to six slightly overweight dancers trying to look exotic.  Fatima of the Veils; Dolores, who shows the boys a little rumba; as well as the horsiest face ever committed to celluloid, Miss Pineapple of 1953 aka Love on the Dole!  It’s actually a lot of fun to watch these time-capsule dancers who strut their stuff and bare just enough skin to earn a PG rating nowadays.  We finish with the star, Gigi, from Paris (Kentucky).

Bring on the dancing girls!

Bring on the dancing girls!

Reeves visits the dwarf, who’s angry at the presence of all the cops when the whole vice investigation has been called off.  Reeves is looking for Janet, who’s seen too much . . . like a murder?  Reeves starts obsessing over Gigi.  While the old woman, Lil,  who oversees the dressing and undressing of the girls, helps Janet turn into a coochie dancer.   Janet asks, “Is that all you expect me to wear?”  The old woman asks, “You ain’t deformed are you?  Put it on!”  Turns out, Janet knows about a girl from the chorus line that Reeves “got in trouble” last year and who disappeared, so Reeves is actually in charge of running the town as well as the prostitutes out of the carnival.   Lil hates Reeves as well, because she’s married to his boss, and Reeves will do anything to be Mr. Big on top of the town.

Blake the dwarf talks turkey to Boxer Bill.

Blake the dwarf talks turkey to Boxer Bill.

The dwarf, Blake, blackmails Reeves for twenty thousand dollars, because he has a lot on Reeves, although we don’t know what.  Meanwhile, Lil convinces the other girls to circle their pasties around Janet to protect her from Reeves’s prying eyes.

Bill Martin, reporter (remember him?), becomes a volunteer to fight the champ in the boxing ring, almost knocking the big galoot unconscious.  He was supposed to take a dive, but instead he becomes the new champ attraction!

Gigi goes into her dance, and we see why she’s the star of the burlesque show.  Yowza!  Wearing bat-wing veils and a leather bikini, she gyrates to a sultry sax solo.  And, hey. . . in the audience . . . is that?  Steve McQueen?  From THE BLOB (1958), THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963), THE SAND PEBBLES (1966), and BULLITT (1968)?   It is!  In fact, it was his first role in a feature.  He doesn’t say anything, but it’s freaking Steve McQueen, so the movie just got fifty percent cooler.

The dwarf strikes an uneasy alliance with Bill, offering him a job until they get over the state line.  Bill accepts, but not before Janet has to dance semi-nude in public.  Oh, the shame!  The horror!  But she nearly pulls it off.  Reeves, however, can count, and he notices there’s an extra girl in the hoochie line.  Lil goes after Reeves with her fingernails, and he shouts, “After twenty years, you’re interfering with my life again!”  Reeves figures out Janet is the witness, and a trap is set for Bill using Janet as bait!  But the leering dwarf wants to save her . . . if she’ll do something for him.  Wink wink, nudge nudge.

The double crosses and the fights keep coming until the bodies start piling up.  Lil narcs on Reeves and his soiled past, Bill may be throwing Janet over for another dame, the dwarf seems to be lying to everyone in America, and Gigi has her own agenda.

The script by Arthur J. Beckhard (who previously wrote Shirley Temple movies for God’s sake!  CURLY TOP and OUR LITTLE GIRL, both 1935 – shame shame shame, Mr. Beckhard!) and Cedric Worth is a muddle.  The pacing is all over the place, although it never seems slow.  The dialogue is mostly hateful and bitter, which makes everything better.  The photography is suitably dark, and the carny atmosphere is sordid and grimy.  The actors all do what they can with the material, but it’s kind of a hopeless cause.

Girls girls girls!

Girls! Girls! Girls!

GIRL ON THE RUN is a really fun little carny noir that zips along for its brief 64 minute running time.  You get a somewhat complicated plot with little back story, a shooting, slimy, mustache twirling villains, catfights, rescues,  insane plot twists, and more double crosses that you can shake a scary clown at.  Whenever things get slow, they bring out the dancing girls!  And really, what’s wrong with that?  One part of Gigi’s act is so good, they show it twice.  Plus, a cameo by Steve McQueen and boxing and corrupt cops.   Now, that’s entertainment.

And did I mention it has dancing girls?

I give GIRL ON THE RUN three coochie dancers out of four.

© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl