Retro Television Reviews: Fantasy Island 2.6 “War Games/Queen of the Boston Bruisers”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Tuesdays, I will be reviewing the original Fantasy Island, which ran on ABC from 1977 to 1986.  The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!

It’s time for another tonally confusing trip to Fantasy Island!

Episode 2.6 “War Games/Queen of the Boston Bruisers”

(Dir by Earl Bellamy, originally aired on October 28th, 1978)

We’re just six episodes into the second season of Fantasy Island but a definite pattern has emerged.  Just as in the first season, each episode features two fantasies.  But, in the second season, it appears that one fantasy is always comedic and the second is always serious.  This has created an interesting tonal mishmash on Fantasy Island.  Mr. Roarke spends half of his time laughing at the silliness of it all and the other half warning people that their fantasy could lead to death.

Take this episode for instance.

Rowdy Roberts (Anne Francis) is a roller derby champ whose fantasy is to become a “gentlelady” so that she can impress her daughter’s future in-laws.  (Rowdy’s future son-in-law, meanwhile, is played by a young Jonathan Frakes.)  Mr. Roarke and Tattoo spend an entire weekend teaching Rowdy how to speak properly, how to eat with silverware, and all the rest.  However, snobbish Betty Wendover (Joanna Barnes) doesn’t want her son marrying Rowdy’s daughter so she arranges for Rowdy’s roller derby rival, Hooligan Hanreddy (Mary Jo Catlett), to come to the island and challenge Rowdy to a fight.  Rowdy throws a punch and then runs off, ashamed at not being sophisticated.  But, it turns out that Rowdy’s future son-in-law is really impressed with what Rowdy did and the wedding takes place after all.  Yay!

Needless to say, this is all incredibly silly but it’s meant to be silly and both Anne Francis and Mary Jo Catlett seem to be having fun overplaying their rivalry.  There is nothing particularly realistic about this fantasy but it’s not meant to be.  It’s meant to make the viewer smile and, for the most part, that’s what it does.

But, at the same time, Vietnam vet Joe Beck (Christopher George) is chasing another Vietnam vet, attorney Ted Harmon (Greg Morris), through the jungle, intent on killing him.  Joe blames Ted for the death of Joe’s younger brother.  Apparently, they were all POWs together and Joe’s brother died during an escape.  Joe is convinced that Ted betrayed his country.  This is all pretty dramatic and it’s hard not to wonder why Roarke would have agreed to sponsor this fantasy in the first place.  Ted is a prominent attorney who is thinking of running for political office.  If he was murdered on Fantasy Island, that wouldn’t do much for the island’s reputation.  Fortunately, it all works out in the end as Joe discovers that his younger brother is not only still alive but that he’s also the one who informed the VC about the escape attempt.  Amazingly, Ted doesn’t seem to be at all upset that he was nearly murdered over a mistake.  I guess that’s the magic of Fantasy Island.

These two fantasies didn’t really go together and, as a result, this episode feels a bit messy.  But there is one cute moment in which Tattoo reveals to Mr. Rourke that his new side hustle involves selling phony college degrees.

Go Tattoo!

Cinemax Friday: School Spirit (1985, directed by Alan Holleb)

Though he’s clearly in his late 30s and doesn’t have much of a personality, Billy Batson (Tom Nolan) was the most popular student at Lavatoire University.  Not only did all of the ladies love him but Billy was also Hogmeister, the king of school’s annual Hog Day.  Everyone at the university loved Billy except for crusty old President Grimshaw (Larry Linville).  Sadly, Billy was killed in a traffic accident that was entirely his fault.  He had gone down to the local roadhouse to use their condom machine and he was so excited afterward that he dropped the condom while driving.  When he reached down to grab it, he took his eyes off the road and one thing led to another.  The lesson?  Safe sex kills.  That’s not a great lesson today and it was an even worse one in the 80s but what are you going to do?

Billy’s dead.

Or is he?

No, don’t worry, he’s dead.  At the hospital, his spirit rises out of his body and he’s greeted by his deceased Uncle Pinky (John Finnegan).  Pinky says that it’s time to go to Heaven but Billy wants just one more day so that he can oversee Hog Day and get laid.  Pinky says no way but then he gets distracted by a comely nurse.  Billy escapes from the hospital and returns to the campus.

Even though he’s dead, Billy still appears in corporeal form and everyone can talk to him.  The only special power that Billy has is that he can wave his hand over his head and turn invisible.  Billy uses his powers once or twice and there’s the expected trip to the girl’s shower but that’s really the extent of School Spirit‘s supernatural angle.  The movie doesn’t really seem to be committed to the idea of Billy being dead.  Also, at no point in the film does Billy Batson say “Shazam!,” and that really is unforgivable.

Billy wants to sleep with snooty Judith Hightower (Elizabeth Foxx) but then he gets distracted by Grimshaw’s wild daughter (Marta Kober) and also by Madeleine Lavatoire (Daniele Arnaud), who is visiting from France.  It doesn’t take long for Billy to realize that Madeleine is the one for him but how can he fall in love with anyone when he’s going to have to go to the afterlife at midnight.  Appropriately, it all ends with a case of deus ex machina.  The ending makes no sense but neither does the rest of the movie so give School Spirit some credit for being consistent.

School Spirit is a stupid movie and, with the exception of Larry Linville and Marta Kober, the cast is a forgettable.  This is the type of comedy that used to show up regularly on late night Cinemax.  What it lacked in laughs, it made up for in boobs and that was really what the majority of its audience was watching for.  People who stayed up late to watch Cinemax were not the most demanding viewers in the world.  Today, the film will mostly appeal to people nostalgic for 80s sex comedies.  Why they would watch School Spirit instead of something like Risky Business, I don’t know.  Maybe they needed a movie to review for a blog.

Tomorrow, I finish off my Police Academy reviews by taking a look at Mission to Moscow!