Well, here we are, again examining one of my favorite Bad Movie genres: the Show Biz ExposÃ©. It’s kind of a mystery why moviemakers are so inept at this kind of picture. Still, a cursory glance at my list of featured movies should convince you that it’s true. At every level of filmmaking, from the skid row cheapies (like this movie) to polished, expensive studio fare (The Oscar), this kind of movie almost inevitably seems to go horribly wrong.
Anyway, this particular movie isn’t about an aspiring actress. No, it instead concerns a young lass who hopes to become, as the video box reveals, a “famous Go-Go Dancer.” Go ahead. Laugh. Then stop for a minute. After all, it was just a couple of years ago that some of Hollywood’s brightest joined forces and spent around forty million dollars to create an epic about a lap dancer hoping to become the star of a Las Vegas Nude Revue. Then consider that these guys were able to come up with a rather similar Bad Movie at the merest fraction of the cost.
As an extra bonus, our feature presentation here was brought into existence by producer/director Ted V. Mikels. Another shining star of the Seventies, Mr. Mikels gave us such potential article fodder as Corpse Grinders, Astro Zombies and Doll Squad. Those joining us a year from now may well find all of the above featured in pieces of their own. After all, I own copies of each (a good start), they nicely represent a variety of genres (horror, sci-fi, spy/crime buster drama), and, perhaps most importantly, they all really, really suck. But in that essential, entertaining way.
Anyway, it was on the strength of Mr. Mikels’ name that I bought my copy of the previously unknown (to me, anyway) Girl in Gold Boots. After, that is, the horrendously juvenile cartoon ‘artwork’ on the cover drew my eye to the tape in the first place. And imagine my delight when I found out that they actually misspelled the main character’s name in the box copy. On the box, our heroine is named ‘Michelle,’ while in the end credits it’s ‘Michele.’
We open with the credits playing over a, uh, dancing performance at a ‘Go-Go’ establishment. This is accompanied by a pop song of the sort that might play over footage of some ersatz Phantom chasing Scooby Doo and the gang. We see six chicks in gold mini-dresses (alternating with shots wherein they’re wearing silver bikinis instead) and silver stiletto-heeled boots. They’re grooving and cavorting in front of a raised stage. Said stage is, oddly, designed so as to look like a dragon’s head (sort of). Smoke periodically issues from its nostrils. Altogether, it reminds one somewhat of that big papier-mÃ¢chÃ© dinosaur head that Captain Kirk blew up in an old Star Trek episode. Unfortunately, the good Captain is not on hand to provide similar services here.
Up on stage is the voluptuous brunette lead dancer, who’s also the title character. We can tell, because she’s decked out in an even skimpier dress and wears gold stiletto-heeled boots. The accompanying tune is her theme song. However, the lyrics are hard to decipher, and soon the audience is forced to sing along by just randomly ‘singing’ recognizable words at random to the ‘music.’ “Yeah, Girl! Boots! Girl! Moving! Boots! Yeah!” We also see the Gold Boots’s ‘big move’: she jumps from the stage to the floor below, landing amongst her backup dancers. As in many of these pictures, the featured dancer/actress hardly seems any more ‘talented’ than any of her ‘back-up’ dancers/actresses. Apart from her big ‘stage jumping’ move, Gold Boots does what the other six girls seem to do just as well: Shake her torso rapidly in time (sorta) with whatever lame tune is issuing from the band.
We cut away to meet our heroine, Michele. She’s also ‘dancing,’ accompanied by a jukebox. Michele and the Gold Boots Dancer look much alike. In fact, I must have seen the film five times before it hit me that it wasn’t Michele featured in the opening credits. The two definitely share one thing in common, however â€“ they both dance to truly awful music. Michele is a waitress at a lonely lunch stand, located off a secluded mountain highway. As she dances to the jukebox, we hear some typically inane lyrics, “And when I kiss your lips/your loving fingertips/everything I touch turns to gold.” Gee, how’s that for foreshadowing? (Because she’ll become the Girl in Gold Boots, get it?!) Given the apparent selection of music on the jukebox, the diner’s lack of clientele becomes all the easier to explain. Meanwhile, the cook, a greasy meatball type of character, comes up front to grab a beer. Presumably, he can hear the music in the back room, and is trying to kill the pain.
A white convertible pulls up outside. Buz, an obvious criminal type (black leather jacket, sunglasses, bogarting a cigarette), steps out. Sure enough, he unzips his jacket and reveals a revolver tucked into his waistband. So let me get this straight. This guy drives around lonely stretches of highway with a gun jammed down his pants. One word, dude: pockets. Now that he’s checked his piece (in order that the audience knows what he’s up to), he enters the diner.
Removing his shades, Buz pauses to watch Michele boogie to the, well, technically I guess that it is music. He applauds her efforts, and tells her she has a “good act.” This is important expository information. Since the stars of this kind of picture tend to be so untalented, the audience must rely on comments from the other characters to know whether they’re supposed to be good or not. Buz follows her to the lunch counter, where he intends to put his larcenous plan into effect.
He’s interrupted, however, by the arrival of a red pickup truck. To our horror, one of the occupants, ‘Critter,’ is carrying a guitar. (This being the kind of movie where the appearance of any musical instrument is menacing.) Just when we’re hoping that this is merely stage dressing, the camera zooms in on it. Generally, when a film chooses to award an inanimate object (and no, I don’t mean the actors) with its own close-up, that indicates that it has some ‘plot’ relevance. Critter enters the lunch stand, and addresses Michele and Buz. “Afternoon, fair lady, kind sir,” he announces. “Any idea where California went?”
Michele laughs at this ‘witty’ query, and answers his mock Shakespearean cadence with an equally inappropriate ‘cowboy’ drawl: “It went that’a way, pardner.” Strangely, Buz fails to jump in with either a broad Cockney, French, or Chinese accent. Critter and Michele keep up with the cowboy/southern accents for a while, adding to the ‘laughs.’ Critter then finally purchases ten Hershey bars for himself and his companions (and is charged a buck, to give you an indication of how old this movie is). He jokingly asks whether Michele can break a hundred or a fifty before coming up with a single. Buz, overhearing this and taking Critter at his word, starts to go for his gun.
He’s interrupted again, however, this time when a police car pulls into the lot. (I think Buz needs to work a little on his timing.) Critter leaves with his candy, and just in time, for Michele starts dancing again. Buz again watches, then asks whether she’s ever considered becoming a professional dancer (!). Michele gives the inevitable (for this type of movie, anyway) response: “I guess I’d give about anything in the world to be one.”
Buz informs her that he can help her dreams (and our nightmares) come true. “My sister’s a number one attraction in Los Angeles,” he reveals, “in a groovy Hollywood nightclub!” He shows Michele a newspaper clipping about her. Michele calls him a nut, unwilling to believe that he’s related to such a big star (!!). But a wallet photo of the same woman proves his case. He tells her that he’s going on to Hollywood himself, and offers to take her with him. Michele, suspecting that he’s merely trying to get into her pants, refuses.
Michele is called into the kitchen area by the drunken short-order cook, who proves to be her father. He starts an argument and ends up slapping her. This, of course, leads to Michele deciding to join Buz after all (such are the vicissitudes of fate, or at least of a poorly written script). She goes to collect her things, then rejoins Buz up front. Finding out that he’s short on gas money, Michele goes into the register and grabs some cash. The twosome jump into Buz’s car and take off, leaving Pop guzzling beer in the kitchen.
It’s often difficult for a movie to convey the sense that its characters are on a long, monotonous trip. Here, the filmmakers help us out by providing an awful ‘traveling’ song on the soundtrack. This allows us to vicariously experience the boredom and the ‘never-ending’ quality of the character’s road trip. It proves so effective that, despite the fact that the song lasts less than a minute (at least in the ‘real’ sense), we feel that we, too, have spent hours and hours crammed into a tight, uncomfortable space.
That night they pull into a little grocery. Buz jumps out to grab some supplies, but is intercepted at the door by a couple of motorcycle riding thugs. He exchanges some words with the louts, then walks around their hogs and enters the store. Buz buys some stuff, then gets hassled again as the bikers enter the store. Outside, he opens a can of beer and pours it all over one of the bikes. Then he drives off before the hooligans have left the store. Needless to say, the bikers soon come out and notice Buz’s little prank. They jump on their motorcycles and begin pursuit. Soon some ‘groovy’ chase music starts blaring from the soundtrack. This helps us to understand that this is ‘exciting.’
Seeing them in his rearview mirror, Buz pulls over. Telling Michele to keep the motor running, he exits the car and walks into the road to meet their pursuers. The bikers slow down so as to work him over with some chains, allowing Buz to get the drop on them with his revolver. He shoots out their front tires, leaving them stranded on the road. Buz then jogs to the car, jumps in, and Michele peels off. Then, in a rather naked display of padding, we spend a full half a minute watching the bikers as they watch Buz’s car drive away. Personally, I think they could have conveyed the ‘bikers watching the car drive off’ idea with a shorter shot, perhaps one a couple of seconds in length. But then, I’m not a professional filmmaker.
Michele, freaked out, soon pulls over onto the shoulder of the road. Buz assumes the driver’s seat, and apologizes. Well he should, but rather to the audience, for now another hideous tune starts up on the soundtrack. This one is supposed to be romantic, as Buz begins to put some moves on Michele. We see them make out for a couple of moments, then thankfully cut away to the following morning.
Back on the highway, they soon drive past the stranded Critter (gee, it’s a small world, isn’t it?). Buz stops up the road a bit, asking Michele if she recognizes him. “Of course I do,” she replies, “he’s the guy with all the words.” (Thinking she meant that he was the scriptwriter, I instinctively jumped up to pummel the screen. Then I realized that she meant the character with all the words.) Buz is still under the impression that Critter is the possessor of those fifties and hundreds he was joking about. (This helps explain why Buz won’t be making an appearance on America’s Smartest Criminals any time soon.) It turns out that Traveler, Critter’s motorcycle (beware of guys who name their bikes and talk about them as if they were people), has thrown a rod. Towing Traveler behind them, our threesome is soon back on the road.
We next see our intrepid trio lunching at a bar. Michele and Critter are seated at a table, where she expresses her continuing wonderment at Critter’s name (although she apparently finds the moniker ‘Buz’ to be rather white-bread). Suddenly, due to an apparent splice in the master print from which this video was taken, Buz magically appears at the table in the middle of the conversation. (This kind of stuff never happens when they transfer Martin Scorsese’s films to video.) Critter proves to be one of your overeducated hippie types who dropped out of “Columbia and Berkeley” to join the Peace Corps. (Right on, dude!)
Buz passes the bill on to Critter, still harboring the notion that he’s loaded. But it turns out that his ‘fifties and hundreds’ are foreign currency left over from his Peace Corps sojourns. (Wah, wah, wa-wa-wa-wah!) Buz then hands the bill to Michele, but is dismayed to learn that she took only a couple of bucks (what she was owed in wages) from the cash register instead of clearing it out. Still, Critter has a small amount of American cash, and between them they have just enough to get to Los Angeles.
We soon see the results of either more splices in the film, or some really bad editing. First we see a few seconds of Buz examining Critter’s busted bike. Then, suddenly, Buz and Michele are driving a boxy little dune buggy on a beach. Critter’s sitting on the sand with a guy who presumably is the buggy’s owner. We blow approximately a minute on random shots of Buz and Michele driving the buggy up and down the sand, reminiscent of the dune buggy scenes from the classic cinema turkey Eegah. This done, and without further explanation, the owner of the buggy drives off in it. Apparently it was included here because somebody thought it was ‘cool,’ and that it could be used to waste a little screentime. (One regular feature of Bad Movies is how hard they often have to stain to fill out even a shortish running time.)
Buz runs up to the car for some brewskies, leaving Critter and Michele to converse on the beach. You don’t exactly have to be a rocket scientist to realize that the ‘sensitive’ Critter is meant to be Michele’s ultimate True Love. Meanwhile, Michele spills her dreams of becoming a professional Go-Go dancer. Anyway, they start making out, leading to a short fistfight when Buz returns. Since Buz is her ticket to stardom, Michele is forced to choose him over Critter. (Giving up love to pursue that Show Biz dream is, of course, a pretty much mandatory plot element in these flicks.)
Twenty miles out of Los Angeles, our group stops for some gas. Buz cases the joint as the attendant checks under the hood (yep, this is an old movie, all right). Unknown to Michele and Critter, Buz mugs the returning attendant and cleans out the cash register. Critter and Michele are shocked to see the pistol toting Buz exit the building. Buz forces Critter to continue the drive to Los Angeles. They soon arrive, and we see Christmas trees dotting the roadway, prompting the especially egregious “I’m a Lonely Cowboy Santa” to start issuing from the soundtrack.
This accompanies the requisite montage of ‘famous’ signs and buildings as our group tours the City of Dreams. We see many of the same signs and sites showcased in similar scenes from other lame flicks like Wild Guitar. One sign, for “Dino’s Lodge,” Dean Martin’s then resturant, I swear I’ve seen in at least three or four such movies. Driving about, we see that Don “Get Smart” Adams is appearing at the Playboy Club (remember those?). A billboard displays an ad for Rex Harrison’s Dr. Doolittle, the worst film ever to be nominated for a Best Picture of the Year Oscar®. (Hence, Harrison starred in probably the two worst films ever nominated for Best Picture – Dr. Doolittle and Cleopatra.)
Finally (FINALLY!), they arrive at the Haunted House, the nightclub where Buz’s sister is the lead dancer. To the embarrassment of any Classic Horror Movie fans watching, the club features animatronic figures of the Creature From the Black Lagoon and Dracula, ala Lugosi. This ‘frightful’ exhibit is only marginally better than the Creature Emporium from Dracula vs. Frankenstein (meaning that it’s still mighty lame). All this, however, is only in the club’s lobby. Soon, curtains are parted, and we get to the really, really scary part of the place — the dancehall.
This is the same one featured in the opening credits. Sure enough, the background dancers are still dancing, and the band is even playing the same ‘Girl in the Gold Boots’ song. And here we finally meet the Girl in the Gold Boots herself. She’s Joan, Buz’s sister. Indicating again that these films are all made from a generic template, this scene parallels the one in Showgirls when ‘heroine’ Nomi first sees future rival Crystal, dancing in the position destined to be her own.
Leo, the club’s obviously sleazy owner, comes over to check out our trio. He’s shocked (rather exaggeratedly so) to learn that Buz is Joan’s brother. The number ends, and the dancers leave the floor so that the local kids can groove to a really bad example of a Sixties pop tune. Leading our threesome into the back, Leo takes them to Joan’s dressing room. Hearing Buz’s voice, Joan awkwardly jumps up from her chair and almost trips on the way to the door. Ah, the grace of the professional dancer!
Joan introduces Leo as her boyfriend. Still, there remains an ‘alpha male’ tension between him and Buz. (Critter, of course, is too sensitive to engage in such shenanigans.) Showing himself a sly and steely operator, Leo demands that Buz surrender his hidden piece. Buz reluctantly does so, and Leo leaves the room with it. Buz then explains to Joan how he wants her to help Michele become a dancer at the club. Critter, feeling like a third wheel, takes his leave and splits.
Michele chases him down before he exits the building. This leads to a boring conversation. Michele really likes Critter, but just has to be a dancer, and Critter thinks that this isn’t the place to do it, and that she should come with him, but she can’t, yada yada yada. Anyway, she finally runs off in tears, and he forlornly leans up against a wall for an oddly protracted shot. Now, I noticed that his head is partially covering up the word ‘Phone,’ which is painted on the wall. So I have this theory. I think that they were going for a cool, ‘artistic,’ shot. Critter would wander over, lean up against the wall, and cover the ‘Ph’ part of the sign, leaving the melancholy word ‘one’ exposed. If so, then they couldn’t get the actor to hit his mark, and couldn’t afford to reshoot the scene until he got it right. So I have no real proof that this is so, but still suspect it.
We cut to Joan’s apartment, decorated in Early Seventies Gaudy. Joan enters wearing a hideous yellow two-piece number with black polka dots, consisting of a halter top and matching skin tight pants that leave her midriff bared. She’s amused to find Michele wearing a black skirt and blue blouse. “Oh, no, baby,” she snorts, “we’re not going to a hoe-down!” Reaching into her closet of sartorial horrors, Joan produces a gold sleeveless blouse and pants combo for Michele to wear.
Buz, meanwhile, is seated on the couch, laughing over a newspaper account of his gas station robbery. “Front page,” he notes, (in Los Angeles?!), bringing new meaning to the phrase ‘slow news days.’ (Should I bother to mention that when he turns, we can see that he is not, in fact, reading the front page?) Anyway, Joan makes a big production out of bringing in Michele, now arrayed in her borrowed duds. I mean, they’re nice and tight and all, adequately showcasing Michele’s statuesque figure. But Buz and Joan act like Higgins and Pickering when they first see Eliza dressed for the ball.
We next see Michele at her audition. After all that big deal with the gold outfit, she’s now suddenly attired in a two piece green suede number. Joan is also on stage, showing Michele some ‘moves’ (and they can accurately be called moves, by the way, in that they involve some movement, no matter how spasmodic and uncoordinated). The duo bob around without moving their feet, looking like someone trying to shake a bug or ice cube out of their shirt, only in slow motion. This rather, uh, minimalist dancing technique contrasts amusingly with that of the lead characters in Showgirls. Elizabeth Berkley’s Nomi, in particular, gyrates so frenetically in that picture (in a hilarious attempt to look like a ‘real’ dancer) that you keep waiting for her to burst into flames.
Meanwhile, Buz, Leo and his henchman Marty, whose hair is so oily it looks as if it had an unfortunate encounter with the Exxon Valdez, stare ‘appreciatively’ at the women’s ‘hot’ dancing. Finally, Leo sends the other guys off, so that he can enjoy a private viewing. Leo comes over for a close up look, then tells them that Michele is in. As the girls hug and giggle, Leo informs them that she’ll start that night.
Leo walks off and engages the new janitor in conversation. Hey, it’s Critter! Leo reminds Critter that he can provide him with more lucrative (if less strictly legal) work whenever he wants it. But, of course, our man Critter is too groovy to dig that scene. Critter begins mopping by the stage, and he and Michele exchange goofy ‘we’re still in love’ grins. Joan, meanwhile, is still trying to show Michele some ‘moves.’ As opposed to the term ‘steps’, which I believe carries a connotation that one must actually move their feet. This requires a whole other level of coordination over the ‘swaying and shrugging’ style of dancing.
Now, again, we can’t help but notice that Michele, while nicely stacked and all, isn’t really much of a dancer. But for script purposes, of course, she has to be the finest dancer on display here. The filmmakers attempt to solve this dichotomy by hiring even worse dancers to play the other characters (like Joan). The only disadvantage to this venerable technique is the notable lack of any dancing talent among the movie’s ‘professional’ dancers.
We next see Marty and Buz out on a job. They park their car on a residential street, then pretend that they’re working on their engine. Soon their contact, a hippie named Joey, arrives. He walks over, as if to help. Meanwhile, we see a guy sitting in Joey’s car trunk (?). He’s monitoring their conversation, using eavesdropping equipment so antiquated and gigantic that one deduces that it must be cutting edge Soviet technology, circa 1987. Our first thought, naturally, is that Joey and this dude in his car trunk (?) are undercover fuzz. In any case, Joey exchanges his cash for drugs, then sets up another buy for the next day.
Back to the club. Joan and Michele are still shaking their torsos in the exact same manner we saw earlier. Man, imagine how far Michele could go if she had two moves! To our horror, they now decide it’s time to ‘try it’ with ‘music’. Joan turns on a reel to reel tape, beginning yet another in the movie’s non-stop parade of musical horrors. Despite the accompaniment, the girls continue to jerk around in the exact same fashion. Marty and Buz return, stopping again to grab a look at the ‘show’. Man, Los Angeles must have been a much slower town in those days.
Buz is less than pleased to see Critter and Michele exchanging mawkish glances. He follows Critter into the back room for another confrontation scene. Buz tells Critter to watch his step, then leaves, calling Critter “gutless.” Critter does one of those ‘why, you!’ half-steps, then realizes that he can’t really have it out with Buz until later in the picture. You know, for the ‘exciting’ climax.
Later that night we see Michele’s premiere as one of Joan’s back-up dancers. She’s again supposed to be noticeably better than the other dancers, and still isn’t. Joan, meanwhile, is still top dog. After all, she has that move where she stands on the stage and then jumps to the floor. This, apparently, is dynamite stuff. This current performance is accompanied by yet another awful rock tune, and goes on and on, eating up running time and brain cells. Then the number ends (finally!) and the dancers exit so that the club’s patrons can assume the dance floor. Oddly, they dance about as well (i.e., extremely poorly) as the ‘professionals.’
In the dressing room, we find Joan and Michele changing, leading us to wonder where all the other girls are. Michele thanks Joan for putting her at the end of the dance line, apparently a prime spot. Joan, beginning to evidence fears of usurpation due to Michele’s fan-tabulous talent, tells her that that spot belongs to another dancer. However, Leo, who’s just entered the room, informs them that Michele will be keeping that prime-o position. (Yeah, yawn, whatever.) Leo hands Michele a truly hideous floral dress, and tells her to come up front. He wants to introduce her to some important customers.
Joan, of course, is getting jealous of all the attention that Leo’s lavishing on Michele. Then the big bombshell: Leo hands Michele the golden dance outfit. He wants her to fill in for Joan the following evening, saying that she needs a night off. As he leaves, Joan grabs hold of him. She needs some more pills (gasp! Show biz is so tawdry!). Leo blows her off, and then invites Michele to a party he’s having later that night. Michele, sensing that the temperature of the room has fallen, leaves shortly after.
We catch up with Michele at the party. This hip affair consists of a bunch of middle-aged Rat Pack wannabes kicking back with highballs and watching a couple of soul brothers pound away on some bongos. Actually, considering the ever present threat of one of your generic movie ‘hippie’ parties, featuring bad rock tunes, acid dropping, and people painting flowers on one another, this comes as kind of a relief. However, we can’t escape the obligatory ‘freak out’ sequence. This occurs when Leo passes Michele a joint. She takes a couple of puffs, pounds down some booze, and soon is doing an utterly typical ‘freak out dance’ to the drums.
Amazingly, drugs and drink appear to have make Michele an even worse dancer, perhaps because she even tries to move her feet, and everything. Meanwhile, everyone else is groovin’ on her dance. This leads me to surmise that many another funny cigarette had been passed around earlier. Buz, meanwhile, is showing signs of resentment. It’s obvious that Leo is trying to cut him out with Michele. Leo snarls back. He also informs Buz that he’ll be dropping off Joey’s next drug consignment by himself. Then Leo orders him to take off, leaving Buz to plop down on the sofa and generally glare at stuff.
The next night, Michele, now adorned in a gold colored bikini with green fur trim (!), has taken over as the lead dancer. We can tell because now she’s up on the stage. Proving to be quite the fast study, we see that Michele has already mastered the jump-from-the-stage-to-the-floor-below maneuver (Warning: Michele Is A Professional! Do Not Try This At Home!). This is all accompanied, again, by the “Girl in the Gold Boots” song, featured here for like the seventeenth time. Meanwhile, dubbed in crowd noises alert us that the sound effects machines, er, patrons, like Michele’s dancing even more than Joan’s. The scene ends with Michele gleefully soaking up all the fame attendant upon those who have reached the very pinnacle in the Go-Go Dancing arena.
The next morning, Buz is waiting on the street to deliver another package to Joey. Joey shows up, tastefully adorned in tan slacks, a pink shirt with your typically gigantic ’70s collar, and a blazing white safari jacket. With his shades and bad beard, he definitely has a Ringo Starr thing going. Buz asks for the money before delivery, prompting Joey to ask, “Don’t you trust me, Buzzy?” “I wouldn’t trust you with a care package!” comes the snarling, if somewhat inscrutable, reply. All this, of course, is accompanied by cool jazz licks playing in the background, to show how groovy the whole scene is. The exchange is made, and Joey walks off.
Buz goes to climb into his car. Just then, however, an extraordinarily ugly little white car pulls up next to him in the middle of the street and parks alongside (?). Canny Buz notices that this is a little strange. His brilliant escape plan? He takes off on foot. This apparently so bewilders the other driver (it’s the guy who was listening to the drug buy earlier) that he chases Buz on foot himself, even though chasing him in his car might have given him a bit of a speed advantage. As Buz and his pursuer jog down the clean suburban streets, the jazz music kicks into high gear, telling us, “Hey, wake up! Something exciting is happening!”
As you might have guessed by now, the music is lying. The ‘chase’ ends with Buz running into an obvious cul-de-sac, and finding himself trapped. Buz is clearly panicked by these events, even when his pursuer turns out to be a small, rather doughy fellow in his fifties. Why not just punch him out and take off? By the way, the trained Bad Movie observer will have noticed something peculiar during the short ‘chase’ sequence. That being that the lighting kept changing from sunny to overcast to rainy and back again. Apparently, they shot segments of the chase at different times during the day, and then edited them together, presuming that no one would be awake enough at this point to catch on.
The house band comes in to set up at the club, and hear music (of a sort) issuing from the back room. Their stiff delivery of the few lines that they’ve been given reminds us that non-actors can provide even worse performances than bad actors. As always, it’s hard to believe that acting is really all that difficult, but watching someone give an unconvincing read of the line “Who’s that?” provides telling evidence that this is so. The lead band guy, Chris, heads back to find that the atonal culprit is Critter. Learning that the song was one of Critter’s own tunes, Chris notes that, “I liked it, it has a good sound,” indicating that it would get around a ‘six’ on American Bandstand (sorry, but a higher score requires the judge to use either the phrase ‘it had a good beat’ or ‘you could dance to it.’). Critter is invited to come up front and meet the band.
And yes, this leads directly to the movie’s 247th awful musical interlude, as the band performs Critter’s tune for the club’s clientele that night. Aptly summing up the audience’s reaction to this event, the song’s title is “Do You Want to Laugh or Cry?” Michele ditches a couple of horny customers and head backstage. There she finds Critter, who informs her that he’s splitting (presumably fleeing in horror, having finally heard his music performed in public). Critter, of course, wants Michele to go with him, but, I mean, come on. And give up Show Business?!
Critter informs Michele that Leo is dealing hard drugs, leaving her to respond, “So?” This indicates that professional Go-Go dancing requires fully as much brains as it does grace and talent. Michele, being a chick, tells Critter that she will go with him, but only if he tells her that he loves her. But Critter is harboring a deep, dark secret, and so won’t admit his feelings, for fear that she’ll come to hate him when she learns the truth. (Please, try not to skip to the end of the review to learn if our young lovers end up together!)
Provoked, Critter reveals his dark secret (yawn). It turns out that he’s due the next week to present himself for military service (this was during Vietnam). Instead, he intends to desert. Now I admit, in my eyes this makes him a scumbag. But considering how blasÃ© Michele has proven about hardcore drug dealing, one wonders why he thinks she’d be all that freaked out by this revelation. Perhaps he thinks that she won’t want to live up in Canada until Jimmy Carter is elected President. Anyway, Michele decides to stick around the club. After all, Leo’s told her that she’s “going places.” Critter replies that she should look at what happened to Joan, now all used up and tossed away. “There’s a trashy book written on every line of her face,” he says. Michele, confused (presumably by Critter’s mixed metaphors), runs off.
We next see Critter standing in a doorway. It’s raining outside, and, to our horror, we see that he’s preparing to use a deadly weapon. Yes, it’s his guitar. The acoustics in the hallway are very strange, not only providing his voice with a reverb effect, but making it sound like he’s being accompanied by a harmonica. Pushing the camp factor into overdrive, the filmmakers begin to matte in footage of Michele’s face as Critter stares off into the distance (or at least to the ceiling of the hallway).
The song Critter is wailing is entitled “Oh, Lonesome Man.” Most of the lyrics will undoubtedly have the audience shaking their heads in confusion. However, the line “I have the feeling I’m wasting my time,” will most likely draw emphatic nods of recognition. My theory is that the song’s subject is lonesome because everybody watching the movie decided to flee rather than listen to Critter hack his way through this entire tune.
Buz comes into Leo’s office, where he and Marty are playing pool. (Dirty pool, I’d wager!) He’s brought along the fellow who was chasing him, one Harry Blatz. Leo, thinking that Harry might be a cop, plays dumb (so what’s everybody else’s excuse?). Apparently, the filmmakers thought they still had to pad the film out a bit, for Harry is given a rather large load of pointless, time wasting dialog to spew. We eventually learn that Blatz is a frequent guest at the local Eastwood County Jail. Apparently, he’s awarded a trustee position whenever incarcerated. (A trustee is a prisoner who has earned greater than normal freedoms, so that he can perform jobs like taking books around to other prisoners or janitorial work.)
Harry has learned that a major drug bust went down recently, and that they’re keeping the evidence in a cell at the jailhouse (?). And Harry just happens to have a way with locks. Anyway, his plan is to get arrested, help Leo’s guys break into the jail from the inside, jimmy the lock on the cell door, and take a one third cut for his troubles. As he explains this rather unconvincing plan to his new compatriots, Critter just happens to walk down the hall and hear the entire scheme. Leo takes Buz out into the hall to chew him out. Blatz, it seems, has a reputation for being a drunk with a tendency to shoot his mouth off. Still, Leo has to admit that Harry’s plan seems strong (look, just play along here, OK?). So Leo authorizes Buz to join in on the scheme, but warns him that if anything goes wrong, Buz is on his own.
We then cut to the jail. A guard is engaged in an expository phone call that lets us know that Harry has succeeded in getting himself arrested (uh, who exactly is the guard having this conversation with?). Sure enough, the guard soon lets Harry out of his cell so that he can do some janitorial stuff. Harry collects some waste paper baskets, and the guard buzzes him outside so that he can dump them out. Apparently, this is a minimum security jail (Buz jumps right down a wall to enter the lot), which doesn’t seem like the absolute brightest place to stash a fortune in drugs. But what do I know?
Rather unrealistically (to say the least), it turns out that Harry’s plan requires that the guard not notice that he’s buzzing back in two guys instead of the one that he buzzed out. And let me emphasize here that they have to walk directly in front of the guard to reenter the jail. But amazingly, the guard glances up in an uninterested fashion as Harry and Buz enter the jailhouse together, and fails to see anything odd in the situation. Wow, that was a close one!
Buz and Harry get diverted talking to Otis, another prisoner. Harry introduces Buz by his real name (well, you know what I mean). This is to forestall a double cross, as Harry now has someone in the joint who can prove Buz was there, just in case he gets any funny ideas. Harry leads Buz to the cell where the drugs are being kept (we’re apparently not supposed to notice that this is obviously the same cell where Harry was being kept earlier).
The idea is to put the drugs into wastepaper baskets, take them back outside, and have Buz drive off with them. Harry, who supposedly will go completely unsuspected in the inevitable investigation (hey, the guard didn’t even notice the one guy out/two guys in thing, so maybe he’s right), will sit tight until his ten days are up, and then collect his money. And now that Buz knows that Harry can finger him via the other prisoner, he can’t cheat him out of his take.
Unless, of course, Buz just kills Harry. Sure enough, Buz pulls out a sap and beats Harry to death with it. Well, so much for the master plan. Buz then continues on with the rest of the plan. He fills the wastepaper basket, and the guard buzzes him back out again. I guess that we’re to believe that the jail holds so many prisoners that the guards can’t keep track of them all. But it’s obvious to us that Harry and Otis were, in fact, the only two residents currently staying there. Buz then ditches his coveralls and climbs back up the wall he jumped before. The perfect crime has gone off without a hitch. (Wow!)
Back to the club’s dressing room. A messed up Joan is telling Michele how, no matter how big you get (and I mean, even if you become head Go-Go Dancer at a famous club), you can still take a fall. This is an obligatory scene in the Hollywood exposÃ© genre, what you might call the ‘Marley’s Ghost’ bit. It’s where our leads meet someone who used to be a star, but has now fallen on hard times. This, they are warned, may happen to them as well, if they too abandon their humanity in search of the sterile glitter that is Fame. (Remember in The Oscar, when Frankie Fane meets up with the suddenly washed up actor played by Peter Lawford? Same thing.) Joan explains that, when she hit town only four years ago, she was just as fresh and innocent as Michele. She even, as she tells us, “â€¦had a pretty mind!” Now she’s a pill popping junkie, tossed away now that she’s all used up. The actress playing Joan obviously knew that this was her big scene, and believe me, the ham is sliced ex-tra thick.
Obviously overcome by her own excess emoting, Joan keels over in one of cinema’s less convincing ‘fainting’ scenes. Michele’s cries bring Critter a’running (hasn’t this guy ‘left’ about a dozen times by now?) As they tend her, Leo and Marty enter to find out what’s going on. Leo expresses his contempt for the now addicted Joan, and, of course, refuses to call in a doctor. Since Joan is obviously past it now, Leo offers Michele the permanent position of top dancer. Leo tells her all the things that will be hers, if she takes the job; money, cars, fame, etc. Joan rouses enough to sarcastically point out, “Yeah, look what it’s done for me!” (Wow!) Then she freaks out, causing everyone else to flee the room.
Buz is in Leo’s office, and he shows him the loot. Proving to be less than an intellectual giant, Critter enters with Michele and asks where Harry is. (Remember, he heard the whole ‘planning’ scene.) After revealing his knowledge of the heist, he tells Leo that he and Michele are leaving. Leo, of course, has no intention of letting them go. After all, this is now a murder collar. He pulls a gun, and of course walks right up to Critter with it.
This is an example of how people in movies almost always ignore Ken’s Rule of Guns: You can use a gun from a distance. In other words, one major advantage of a gun is that it gives you a space advantage over your opponent. Let’s say I’m facing an enraged Mike Tyson. I’m screwed, right? But give me ten feet and a .44 magnum, and suddenly the advantage is mine. Luckily for movie heroes, though, villains always ignore the ‘distance’ advantage of a firearm, and usually end up getting disarmed.
Critter then engages Leo, Buz and Marty in a fight seen that would have Batman from the old Adam West show rolling his eyes in embarrassment. All that’s missing is the ‘Zap!’ and ‘Pow!’ balloons. Michele, of course, just stands to the side and makes little shrieking sounds as Critter takes on three guys at the same time. Uh, yeah, don’t even try to pick up the gun or anything. In spite of Michele’s lack of help, Critter rather improbably manages to punch out all three of his opponents. Critter ends up with the gun, and calls the cops.
We cut to the beach. Signs made out of torn cardboard dot the roadway, carrying segments of a message, Burma Shave style: “Help!/On the way to/first assignment/future soldier and/war bride honeymooning.” Yep, Critter and Michele have gotten hitched, and Critter has decided to go into the military, after all. Hey, how convenient that he wasn’t so much a draft dodger as just planning to become a draft dodger! Obviously working on the techniques he will use to inflict the maximum damage on V.C. Charlie, Critter hauls out his guitar and plays a cheerful tune that is perhaps the worst song in the picture. (Admittedly, that’s a clash of titans.)
Again, numerous instruments other than his guitar are rather oddly heard. And we can’t help noticing that Critter, in fact, can hardly carry a tune. In fact, his singing is so bad that is induces an epileptic fit in Michele. Oh, wait. I’m sorry, she’s just dancing. Anyway, we think, at least the movie is over, breathing a sigh of relief. But not yet! For over the end credits the filmmakers elect to play, yet again, the ‘Girl in the Gold Boots song’, again over the same shots of those same dancers. It’s like one of those monster movies where the characters think that the monster’s dead, only it pops out at the last minute and kills them.
And then, finally, blessedly, the horror ends. Except in our nightmares.
First of all, it’s only fair to note that every single member of the cast proves to be a lousy actor, singer and/or dancer. Still, I must present the Worst Performance Award here to Mark Herron, who plays Leo. This award is in recognition of Mr. Herron’s apparent belief that every possible emotion should be indicated by bugging one’s eyes way out. Because of this, Mr. Herron spends much of the picture looking like he’s just been punched in the stomach. Bravo, Sir, and well deserved.