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THE ANDY SIDARIS COLLECTION
Volume One

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Dona Spier, Hope Marie Carlton, Roberta Vasquez, Julie Strain, Sybil Danning, Erik Estrada, Ron Moss, Darby Hinton
Director:  Andy Sidaris (Enemy Gold: Drew Sidaris)
Audio:  Dolby Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Malibu Bay Films
Features:  See Review
Release Date:  July 22, 2003

"We understand you're a private investigator."

"And we were wondering if you'd investigate our privates."

Films ***1/2 (on the cult scale)

I don't believe in reincarnation myself...but if I did, I'd want to come back as the male lead in an Andy Sidaris film.  If you have to ask why, then you should really check out the new volume one DVD box set of The Andy Sidaris Collection.  And keep your AC cranked nice and low.

Though I didn't always know his name, I knew his style, and so did many of my friends, who all reacted with wide eyes and grins when I told them about the release of the collection.  Many of them were kind and thoughtful enough to volunteer to review it for me.  Thanks, guys...what would I do without you?

But sometimes, as a website publisher, you just have to roll up your...er, sleeves, and do the hard work for yourself.  So I committed myself to a thorough exploration of the six movies in this set, studying each one carefully for style, content, and cinematic value.  There were also commentary tracks for each one, meaning I had little choice but to view each title two times through.  But hey, I'm willing to put myself to the grindstone for the sake of my art.

Andy Sidaris is, too.  He actually went from an Emmy award winning director for ABC Sports, where he brought the illustrious Olympic Games into our living rooms, to the auteur of some of the finest, sexiest, lowbrow high spirited action adventure hijinks ever committed to celluloid.  In fact, as far as I'm concerned, there's Andy Sidaris and Russ Meyer, and then there are all the pretenders.

Sidaris' movies were the ones I wasn't allowed to watch on late night pay cable as a young teen.  So naturally, I tuned in every chance I got.  I still remember chatting up Malibu Express with my friends at school.  We laughed at the tongue-in-cheek humor, grinned at the amusingly implausible scenarios, and sat agape at the seemingly never ending parade of beautiful women who...how shall I put this?...were far from camera shy.  And I use the word 'implausible' simply because I've never known the man who ever had two luscious playmates stroll into his bedroom and proposition him.  If I ever found him, I'd figure out some way to become his best friend.

But these films encompass a full spectrum of gleeful entertainment value.  There are the lovely ladies, sure, but there's also action, adventure, exotic locations, double entendres, explosions, sex, violence, and humor.  All of it under Sidaris' appropriate banner of "bullets, bombs and babes".  Not necessarily in that order, I should add.

Volume One of The Andy Sidaris Collection showcases his Malibu Bay Films company's early years, starting with the aforementioned movie that started it all, Malibu Express.  Over the years, Andy Sidaris as writer and director and his lovely wife Arlene Sidaris as producer have kept the spirit of pleasure alive and well on the silver screen and on home video.  These movies say it all:

Malibu Express

The film that started it all for me also started Malibu Bay Films for Andy Sidaris, and I'm happy to say, the picture has lost none of its charm over the years.  The tickling mystery adventure features private eye Cody Abilene (Darby Hinton), a man on target with the ladies but who misses the mark with his huge phallic gun.  When hired by a mysterious Contessa (the incredible Sybil Danning) to investigate the goings-on in the home of one Lady Chamberlain, the trail leads to love and danger.  Only this time the butler didn't do it...he's the first to go. 

Our hero Cody uses his smooth tongue to work himself out of harm's way and into the arms of the women who throw themselves at him the entire movie.  Who could ever forget the race car/helicopter chase where Cody tries to keep his eyes on the road and not on the titillating June Khnockers (and no, I didn't make that name up)?  Favorite line:  "Honey, I'M the fastest thing on this lot!"

Hard Ticket to Hawaii

The Malibu Express sails again, but this time, under the command of Rowdy Abilene (Ron Moss of The Bold and the Beautiful fame).  Alongside two beautiful undercover girls, the government agent Donna (Dona Spier) and the civilian Taryn (Hope Marie Carlton), he takes to the gorgeous beaches of Molokai in Hawaii to interrupt a lethal smuggling ring that left two fellow agents dead. 

This is probably the most fun film in the collection.  Dig that giant toxic snake!  Favorite line:  "If brains were birds**t, you'd have a clean cage!"

Picasso Trigger

Donna and Taryn are back on the case...this time, with Travis Abilene (Steve Bond of General Hospital) in a globetrotting adventure that takes them from Paris to Vegas to Malibu and back to Hawaii as they investigate the death of an international assassin and how it relates to the massacre of many of his enemies around the world. 

The highlight, apart from the ladies themselves, is a terrific high speed motorcycle chase.  And this time, the girls get to play with some dangerous toys...and man, those Abilene boys STILL don't know how to shoot!  Favorite line:  "Speaking of golf, wanna putter around?"

Savage Beach

Donna and Taryn team up once again, and this time, there's gold in them thar hills.  When a vicious storm forces the ladies to make an emergency landing on an uncharted Pacific island, a mission of mercy turns into an international race for some hidden gold from World War II.  The United States and Japan are in on the deal, but a traitor amongst them means our heroines are up to their pretty little necks in trouble.

The most unusual touch is an aged samurai-of-sorts who looks like his face was dipped in latex and sun dried!  Though Hard Ticket to Hawaii gets my vote for most fun, this is probably the best overall film in this set.  Favorite line:  "Don't EVER call me a bimbo again!!"

Guns

L.E.T.H.A.L. versus CHIPS?  Not exactly, but it's a good tag line when the luscious Donna and her ladies go up against Erik Estrada as Degas, the Jack of Diamonds, a gun smuggler who weaves a deadly path of revenge against the agents.  But when the bad guys go too far and grab Donna's mother, she comes out shooting!  I missed Taryn a little bit in this one, but I soon found myself quite smitten with Roberta Vasquez as Nicole...what a lousy two-timer I am.  The funniest scene involves a magician/agent interrogating some suspects...and you'll really dig the cross dressing assassins.  It's also great fun to see the normally sunny Estrada playing a villain. 

While Hard Ticket is the most fun, and Savage Beach the best overall, I'd have to say that Guns is my personal favorite of the set.  Favorite line:  "Use the cerebral approach...shoot her in the head."  (Second favorite line:  "Hi-ya, my ASS.")

Enemy Gold

It runs in the family...Andy actually joined wife Arlene in the producer's chair for this one while their son Drew took over directing duties!  In this one, three agents, Becky (Suzi Simpson), Chris (Bruce Penhall) and Mark (Mark Barriere) are up against a drug lord called Santiago (Rodrigo Obregon).  But when a double agent gets them temporarily suspended, they go off in search of a legendary cache of gold from the Civil War.  But Santiago seizes the moment and goes after both the agents and the treasure with the help of a lethal Amazon-like assassin (Julie Strain). 

This film boasts the funniest script of the lot; there are plenty of laughs for your dollar here.  Not to mention, Julie Strain does a firelight dance with a sword that made me forget my name for at least ten minutes.  It's interesting to see a Sidaris film beginning with a Civil War scene.  Union and Confederate ranks fire tirelessly at one another in a raucous battle.  But nobody ever falls...the soldiers must have all been ancestors of the Abilene boys!  Favorite line:  "You better be nice to me, or I'll tell Uncle Jessie what you did with that chicken last night!"

On one hand, you could call these films the stuff of male fantasy:  the gorgeous women, the action, the fighting, the guns, the bombs are enough to raise one's testosterone to lethal levels.  But on the other, there is a consistent theme of women's empowerment at play here.  Andy's ladies are not boy toys; they're strong, smart, independent, resourceful, and capable.  Sex isn't an act of submission for them...it's an act of strength.  That's what raises the appeal for me.  Personally, I'd love to see Andy direct the next Tomb Raider film and really bring us the Lara Croft we've all been waiting to see.

By the way, for extra fun, keep you eye out for Andy's cameos!

Video ***

In all films in the collection, daylit scenes are quite beautiful, with strikingly good color and clarity.  As the movies progress in age, they handle the darker scenes better and better.  In the earliest picture Malibu Express, night scenes are a little murky and grainy, and considerably softer.  But each disc gets better and better.  By about Savage Beach, things are looking extremely well...I only wonder why Andy didn't opt for widescreen presentations for his movies?  Still, overall, the collection delivers well.

Audio **1/2

Though not specified, the audio tracks seem to be stereo mixes, and for the most part, the good outweighs the bad.  The good is that the action sequences, and there are plenty of them, are forceful and dynamic and really add punch to the features.  The bad news isn't so much a transfer problem as a source one; many bits of dialogue were obviously looped in, and you can frequently tell the difference, either because the sync is slightly off or just by the difference in tone certain lines have compared to the rest of the scene.  Not much can be done about that.  Still, the gunfire, speeding cars, swooping planes and voluminous explosions are a treat.

Features ****

These six discs are loaded with goodies.  For starters, every film is introduced by Andy Sidaris and star Julie Strain (she isn't camera shy, either), with occasional other guest stars...they'll get you right in the proper frame of mind to enjoy these Malibu Bay Films.  Each disc also features a running commentary by Andy and Arlene Sidaris, and each one is a treat.  The couple share their memories with generosity, warmth and humor, and the chemistry they have with one another is solid entertainment value in and of itself.

A full set of Sidaris trailers is on each disc, as well as a collection of behind-the-scenes vignettes.  These include interviews with Andy and Arlene and some of their stars, looks at the making of each film, and enjoyable 'film school' segments that demonstrate the art of getting your movie made.  Andy demonstrates and discusses such aspects of the craft as coverage of wide shots with close-ups, cutting action sequences together, using on-set video for continuity purposes, and more.  There are many surprises in store here.  Just remember, the extras are NOT RATED. 

Each disc also features stills galleries, and the box comes with a booklet that features a comic preview and some photos.

Summary:

Some films are meant to radiate in cultural circles, and some are simply for cheese, sleaze and to please.  The Andy Sidaris Collection is the latter; a perfect antidote for the blues.  You may smile at the gorgeous, uninhibited women, you may smile at the scripting, you may smile at the over-the-top quality of the action sequences...the point is, you WILL smile.