Body Slam (1987, directed by Hal Needham)


Music promoter M. Harry Smilac (Dirk Benedict) used to be a big deal in Los Angeles but lately, his ability to create stars appears to have left him.  He still has his Porsche and his car phone but he is also several thousand dollars in debt and he only has one client, a garage hair band called Kick.  No one wants to book Kick because no one wants to work with a known screw-up like Harry.

Desperate for money, Harry agrees to serve as the entertainment chairman for a stuffy candidate for governor.  It’s while looking for potential acts to headline a fundraiser that Harry meets Quick Rick Roberts (Roddy Piper).  When Harry sees Rick getting ripped off by a promoter, Harry assumes that Rick is a musical act and quickly offers to be Rick’s agent.  It’s only after Rick has agreed that Harry discovers that Rick doesn’t play an instrument and can’t sing a note.  Instead, Rick is a professional wrestler and, by singing him, Harry has now made an enemy of Rick’s former manager, Captain Lou Munaro (played by, you guessed it, Captain Lou Albano).

Now, Harry has to find a way to pay his creditors, make stars out of both Kick and Rick, and win the hand of Candace VanVargen (Tanya Roberts), the daughter of a wealthy political benefactor.  What if there was some way to combine rock and roll with wrestling?

Dirk Benedict, Tanya Roberts, Roddy Pipper, and Captain Lou Albana, all appearing in a movie directed by Hal Needham?  Body Slam is one of the most 80s films ever made.  It’s not really a bad film.  In typical Needham fashion, it’s a loose mix of broad comedy and scenes designed to appeal to teenage boys and their fathers.  There’s a lot wrestling.  There’s a lot of spandex.  The movie opens with Harry ogling a woman in a bikini.  Body Slam knew who its audience would be.  Dirk Benedict gives a surprisingly nimble comedic performance and even Tanya Roberts has some deliberately funny moments.  Roddy Piper is likable as the steady and fair-minded Rick.  There’s nothing subtle about Captain Lou Albano’s performance but what else would you expect from a man wearing that many rubber bands?  As was typical of Needham’s films, some of the director’s friends show up in cameos.  John Astin plays a car salesman.  Charles Nelson Reilly plays a talk show host.  Billy Barty gets into an argument with Captain Lou.  Burt Reynolds is nowhere to be seen.

Unfortunately, not many people got to see Body Slam when it was originally released.  Body Slam was going to be Hal Needham’s big comeback film after the disappointing Megaforce but the film’s producers didn’t care much for the changes that Needham made to their script and they sued to keep the film from being released.  As a result, the film never got a theatrical release and it was instead sent straight to VHS, with very little fanfare.  It has since developed a cult following amongst old school wrestling fans.

Body Slam is a typically amiable Hal Needham film.  It’s nothing special but it’s enjoyable if you’re in the mood for it.

One response to “Body Slam (1987, directed by Hal Needham)

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 8/1/22 — 8/7/22 | Through the Shattered Lens

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