Thursday, February 20

Some quick thoughts on Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987)

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Andy Sidaris spent nearly an entire career trying to crack the Enigma Code of '80s action cinema. By distilling bankable elements of the genre, like big bosoms with big guns and buff brodudes with even bigger guns, he cranked out a succession of steamy actioners custom built for heavy weekend rentals. The filmmaker also did something a bit differently with casting, much to the chagrin of feminists, the women weren't just sexbombs but fiercely independent leads to the men orbiting around them. Though this may have hurt profitability since the lack of any male marquee names to plaster on covers might have led renters to thumb past for the latest Stallone or Van Damme effort.

Hard Ticket to Hawaii could be called the third film in the Sidarius saga proper, after Seven (1985) and Malibu Express (1986), that saw the director active nearly every year until his last film in 1998. While transporting an incredibly deadly python by plane, two stunning DEA agents in Hawaii, Sidaris regulars Dona Speir and Hope Marie Carlton, run afoul of diamonds destined for a local coke lord. After the kingpin discovers the missing cargo, the pair get pressed hard but manage to escape and team up with two male agents to raid the entire operation...and take down that pissed biological weapon of a snake.

It has all the director's staples; babes, boobs, muscly dudes, guns, bigger guns, explosions, and picturesque locales. Do these aspects automatically make a good action film? Not quite, Hard Ticket is still fairly crappy, getting too bogged in the mechanics of its simple story. Although it's pleasingly self-aware, never taking anything seriously, and therein lies the vibe that make Sidaris' films so likable. They know their purpose in the action lexicon and only aim to mindlessly entertain.

The breezy, carefree atmosphere and beauty everywhere smooth the uneven pace until the action picks up. Funny one-liners and goofball detours, like a razor-rimmed frisbee and bazooka meeting a blow-up doll, really make Hard Ticket worth seeing. Sidaris even cameos as a scuzzy TV producer that's immediately accused of nearly raping one of the busty female characters before becoming preoccupied with a waitress's breasts. All in stupid fun.  

The VHS pictured, originally straight from Sidaris' own Malibu Bay Films, is quite interesting. Most promotional screeners were sent out to video stores in an attempt to sell copies for rental. Meaning distribution deals were already struck and it was only a matter of moving home video product. This unique screener is pre-distribution of any kind and was sent out in the hopes of gaining theatrical exhibition. The back description makes the VHS out to be only three-minutes long, but the theatrical trailer, several teasers (dated 3/2/87), and complete film with timecode is included. The video quality is quite dark, however; this might have been done on purpose just in case copies leaked. The tape's video signal totally drops in between the trailer and teasers. Another dropout occurs exactly one hour into the feature with the video popping in again immediately for the last half hour. The film appears to the same "official" ninety-six minute version seen on retail VHS and DVD.



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