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Under The Radar | Austin Trunick
April 15, 2019
The video revolution of the 1980s gave filmmakers a new outlet for distribution, drastically lowering the bar as to what was considered a releasable movie, for better or worse. With rental shops popping up in every small town across America, low-budget filmmakers stepped up to deliver movies to fill shelves with little to no quality control barrier. While this practice yielded thousands of forgettable films, it also gave us many of the most beloved b-movies – especially within the horror, action, sci-fi, and fantasy genres.
Andy Sidaris, a pioneering TV sports producer who’d directed Olympics coverage and Monday Night Football games, saw an opportunity in the mid-‘80s video boom and launched his 3 B’s series of films, which stood for Bullets, Bombs, and Babes. These 12 movies, released from 1985 to 1998, were low-budget affairs, usually starring a rotating cast of ex-Playboy Playmates as secret agents or super villains, in a mostly-nonsensical plot which shoehorned in as many explosions and unnecessary nude scenes as possible. Released in 1987, Hard Ticket to Hawaii was the second of Sidaris’ 3 B’s series, and the most absurdly entertaining.
On Molokai island in Hawaii, two bombshell secret agents, Donna (Dona Spier) and Taryn (Hope Marie Carlton), operate an island-to-island courier service as cover for their drug enforcement work. When gangsters come after them for intercepting a drug payment AND they accidentally let loose a mutant, killer snake in their resort town, they have no choice to call in the help of a pair of handsome chuckle heads (The Bold and The Beautiful’s Ron Moss and kick boxer Harold Diamond) to dismantle the local crime ring with a trunk full of machine guns, razor-edged frisbees, and rocket launchers.
[Watch the original trailer here.]
If a scene where a skateboarding assassin (hiding behind a blowup doll) is exploded with a bazooka tickles your funny bone, then Hard Ticket to Hawaii is for you. Most b-movies don’t set out to be b-movies, but simply wind up that way through bad performances and effects, or behind-camera incompetence. Hard Ticket to Hawaii doesn’t strive to be anything more than a b-movie. Andy Sidaris’ films were closer to the Troma mold, but in the softcore/action vein rather than horror/sci-fi.
A lot of Hard Ticket’s humor arises from the snake, which is the sort of poorly-operated puppet you’d see featured in many of the movies riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000. (As stiff an unrealistic as it is, it gives a performance better than many of the film’s human actors.) The nudity is probably the only thing that kept it off MST3K. This is an often hilarious, constantly dumb action movie with a bunch of relatively tame, late-night-Cinemax-style sex scenes cut throughout. The film’s nudity isn’t just gratuitous, but pointless – take two female secret agents opting to go over their daily debriefing in a topless bath – but that’s part of the joke the filmmakers and ex-Playboy cast members were obviously in on.
Mill Creek Entertainment [has] given Hard Ticket to Hawaii a nice presentation on Blu-ray; we can knock most of the film’s merits, but it does have some decent cinematography that takes advantage of the Hawaiian vistas. Extra features are recycled from prior releases (as Sidaris died in 2007) but include an expectedly sleazy introduction and behind-the-scenes featurette, as well as an audio commentary in which Sidaris and his producer wife speak candidly about how they made the film.