A Movie A Day #26: The Taking of Beverly Hills (1991, directed by Sidney J. Furie)

After a toxic chemical spill, Beverly Hills is evacuated.  While its citizens wait in a hotel, their mansions and valuables are guarded by the police and agents of the EPA.  Or so they think.  It turns out that the chemical spill was faked and that both the police and the government agents are in on it.  While the town’s deserted, they’re going to rob everyone blind.  The scheme’s mastermind is Bat Masterson (Robert Davi), the owner of L.A. Rams.  What Masterson doesn’t realize is that one citizen of Beverly Hills stayed behind, his own quarterback, Boomer Hayes (Ken Wahl).  Teaming up with Ed Kelvin (Matt Frewer), the last honest cop in town, Boomer sets out to protect Beverly Hills.

It’s just a dumb as it sounds.  In fact, of the many Die Hard ripoffs that came out in the late 80s and the early 90s, The Taking of Beverly Hills is probably the dumbest, which also makes it one of the most entertaining.  Boomer, who has an impressive mullet, can only speak in football analogies, constantly assuring Ed that it’s only the first down and that they can turn things around after halftime.  When Boomer gets serious, he says, “It’s time to play offense.”  One of the stranger things about The Taking of Beverly Hills is that, unlike working class hero John McClane, Boomer is not an outsider.  He’s in Beverly Hills because he’s rich.  The Taking of Beverly Hills is basically about one rich guy trying to keep another rich guy from robbing a bunch of other rich people.  It’s Die Hard if Hart Bochner had been the hero instead of Bruce Willis.

Keep an eye out for Lee Ving, lead singer of Fear, playing one of the corrupt cops and an uncredited Pamela Anderson cast as a cheerleader.  And keep your ears open for songs like Epic by Faith No More because their presence on the soundtrack (and the associated rights issue) is the reason was this stupidly entertaining movie will probably never get a DVD/Blu-ray release in the United States.

It has been released in Germany, where it was retitled Boomer after the lead character.

It has been released in Germany, where it was retitled Boomer after the lead character.


Roger Corman’s Electric Kool-Aid Tangerine Dream: THE TRIP (AIP 1967)

cracked rear viewer

“You are about to be involved in a most unusual motion picture experience. It deals fictionally with the hallucinogenic drug LSD. Today, the extensive use in black market production of this and other so-called ‘mind bending’ chemicals are of great concern to medical and civil authorities…. This picture represents a shocking commentary on a prevalent trend of our time and one that must be of great concern to us all.” – Disclaimer at the beginning of 1967’s THE TRIP


“Tune in, turn on, drop out”, exhorted 60’s acid guru Timothy Leary. The hippie generation’s fascination with having a psychedelic experience was a craze ripe for exploitation picking, and leave it to Roger Corman to create the first drug movie, THE TRIP. Released during the peak of the Summer of Love, THE TRIP was a box office success. Most critics of the era had no clue what to make of it, but the youth…

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Insomnia File No. 20: Casual Sex? (dir by Geneviève Robert)

What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

If you had insomnia at one in the morning, you could have turned over to Starz Comedy and watched the 1988 comedy, Casual Sex?  That’s what I just did!

I have to admit that I’m a little bit surprised that this is the first insomnia file that I’ve written since last July.  It’s not like I haven’t had insomnia between then and now.  However, I guess I’ve been busy either going on vacation, writing about horror movies, writing about the Oscars, or, of course, writing about reality TV over at the Big Brother Blog and Reality TV Chat Blog.  That said, I’ve always enjoyed writing these insomnia files and I’m happy to finally have the chance to do a new one.

I’m also happy to have the chance to write about a film called Casual Sex?, if just because I know that it will lead to the site getting a lot of hits from people doing google searches.  They probably won’t actually be looking for a movie review but a hit is a hit!

Anyway, Casual Sex? is an 80s film.  In fact, it’s such an 80s film that it probably spent the 90s recovering from an expensive coke habit.  It’s a film about two best friends who have decided that they’re tired of being single.  Stacy (Lea Thompson) is the promiscuous one, the one who has had many partners, has gotten involved in way too many needy relationships, and who is now freaking out over the spread of AIDS.  Melissa (Victoria Jackson) is the sweet but ditzy one.  Melissa has had boyfriends but she’s never had an orgasm.  When Stacy tells her about an article she read about AIDS, Melissa replies that at least now she’s “not the only one who is afraid of sex.”  Hoping to each find a permanent mate, Stacy and Melissa go to a health spa.  Stacy immediately falls madly in love with Nick (Stephen Shellen), an aspiring musician.  Melissa, meanwhile, meets the sensitive and sweet-natured Jamie (Jerry Levine), who works at the spa and gives a killer massage.  Meanwhile, an annoying guy named Vinny (Andrew Dice Clay) pursues both of them and everyone else as well.

(Vinny leers at every woman that he sees and prefers to be known as the Vin Man.  I know, I know.  It’s hard to believe that he’s still single.)

Casual Sex? actually get off to a really good start.  It opened with both Stacy and Melissa standing on an empty stage and discussing their sexual histories.  Usually, I cringe whenever a movie opens with a character standing on a blank stage and talking directly to the audience.  It usually feels like a lazy storytelling technique to me.  (Can’t figure out a natural way to let the audience know a character’s backstory?  Have them talk to directly to the audience!  It’s easy and lazy!)  But in Casual Sex?, this technique actually works.  Lea Thompson and Victoria Jackson both give very natural and believable performances and the flashbacks to their previous experiences are all well-done and sometimes painfully relatable.  Despite the fact that the film was made 30 years ago, their experiences and emotions felt timeless.

After that strong opening, the rest of the film was much more uneven.  I have to admit that I had trouble telling how much of the film was meant to be satirical and how much of it was just a reflection of the time in which it was made.  For instance, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be rolling my eyes at Nick, with his feathered hair and his overdramatic style of singing, or if that was just what was considered to be hot in the 80s.  It was very confusing but, regardless of whether it was intentional or not, it was hard to take Nick seriously as anything more than a plot device.  As a result, it was difficult to care about his relationship with Stacy.  Melissa’s relationship with Jamie was far more interesting, largely because Jerry Levine was so likable in the role.

(Just in case anyone was wondering, Casual Sex? does feature a lot of sex but very little of it feels casual.  Perhaps that’s why the title ends with a question mark.  “Casual sex?” the film asks before answering, “No.”)

The film was ultimately too uneven to really be considered to be a success but I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would.  That was largely because of the performances of Lea Thompson, Victoria Jackson, and Jerry Levine.  There’s a few scenes where Vinny drops his bluster and reveals a sensitive side and Andrew Dice Clay does well with these scenes but, ultimately, it’s hard to like anyone known as The Vin Man.  I mean, he even has “Vin Man” written on the back of his jacket.  Strangely, Clay’s performance here felt like an early version of his performance in Blue Jasmine, almost as if the Vin Man eventually changed his name to Augie and ended up marrying the sister-in-law of a Ponzi scheme manager.

Casual Sex? may not be great but it’s good enough for when you’re awake at one in the morning.


Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations

Music Video of the Day: Can I Sit Next To You Girl? by AC/DC (1974, dir. ???)

Happy Australia Day!

To my knowledge, this was not only the debut single for the band, but also their first music video. You might have noticed that is not Bon Scott. AC/DC’s first lead-singer was a guy named Dave Evans. He’s a good singer and clearly a good performer, but I can see why the band let him go. Despite attempts over the years to classify the band as “hard rock”, they have maintained that they are just rock ‘n roll. I see that when I watch Bon Scott and Brian Johnson. When I watch Dave Evans, I see Marc Bolan of T-Rex or a frontman for one of the Sunset Strip bands of the 1980s. He doesn’t quite fit. Of course this is all in retrospect. Still, that is the feeling I take away from this music video.

The music video was filmed for the show The Last Picture Show because clearly that big sign above them didn’t make that clear.

Going into doing these “music video of the day” posts, I never would have imagined that Alice Cooper, ABBA, AC/DC, and Hall & Oates would be trailblazers for the modern music video.