Monday, July 24, 2017

#2,391. Sweet Georgia (1972)

Directed By: Edward Boles

Starring: Marsha Jordan, Barbara Mills, Gene Drew

Tagline: "She made plowboys into playboys!"

Trivia: In Belgium this film was released as The Passion Ranch

He was the Sultan of Sexploitation, the King of Camp. Whether producing his own films (The Dirty Mind of Young Sally, Rituals) or distributing foreign sleaze (The Sinful Dwarf), Harry H. Novak left an indelible mark on the world of exploitation cinema.

One particular subgenre that Novak helped create was “hicksploitation”, adult-themed movies (set in rural areas) that usually featured beautiful women getting it on with ugly slobs. Admittedly, I have very little experience with hicksploitation. In fact, 1971’s Sweet Georgia is the first of these films that I’ve actually seen.

And if it’s any indication of what I can expect from other movies of this ilk, it will probably be the last as well.

Georgia (Marsha Jordan) is married to the hard-drinking Big “T” (Gene Drew), but that doesn’t stop her from sleeping with their live-in handyman Cal (Chuck Lawson) or the dim-witted cowhand Le Roy (Bill King Jr.). Virginia (Barbara Mills) is Big T’s daughter from a previous marriage, and when he’s drunk Big “T” likes to heap abuse (both physical and emotional) on the poor girl. Georgia does what she can to keep Virginia safe, but the sexual tension between the two beauties soon gets the better of them both.

Georgia has to watch it, though, because if Big “T” ever finds out how promiscuous she is, he’ll probably end up killing her.

Sweet Georgia doesn’t waste any time; in the opening scene a completely nude Virginia rides her horse through the desert while Georgia looks on (rubbing herself in a provocative manner). As we’ll soon discover, Georgia is one very horny lady; even drinking a cup of water seems to turn her on, and the first line she utters in the movie is “Just shut up and lay me” (spoken to Cal, who asked why she was undressing in front of him).

Virginia, on the other hand, is a novice when it comes to sex. She likes to occasionally tease Le Roy by showing off her voluptuous body, but Big “T”s abusive behavior has made it difficult for her to trust any man. In an effort to ease the girl out of her virginal shell, Georgia seduces Virginia (a sequence that runs for about 10 minutes). In fact, the only person not having sex in this movie is Big “T” (until the finale, that is; a scene that’s about as icky as they come).

Without a doubt, both Jordan and Mills are gorgeous, and their lesbian encounter is the closest this movie gets to a genuinely erotic moment. Aside from that, though, the so-called “sex” in Sweet Georgia is about as interesting as watching grass grow. Which is a shame, because, in the end, Sweet Georgia is nothing more than a 79-minute hump session, moving quickly from one soft-core scene to the next with nary a story in sight.

Director Edward Boles (who also wrote the screenplay) does try to sneak a twist or two in towards the end, but by that point I just didn’t care anymore.

And neither will you.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

#2,390. His Name was King (1971)

Directed By: Giancarlo Romitelli

Starring: Richard Harrison, Anne Puskin, Goffredo Unger

AKA: In the Philippines this film was released as Bullet King

Trivia: Quentin Tarantino used a portion of this film's theme song for a scene in Dhjango Unchained

This morning I found myself in the mood to watch an Italian western. So, to satisfy this craving, I grabbed Mill Creek’s 12-film set “Ten Thousand Ways to Die: The Spaghetti Western Collection” and looked over the titles on the back cover, hoping one would jump out at me. 

Some were promising: 1970’s God’s Gun has a cast that includes Lee Van Cleef, Jack Palance, and Sybil Danning (quite a trio, eh?). But the moment I I started reading about His Name was King, I knew it was the movie for me.

What was it about this 1971 film that caught my eye?

Three little words… “Starring Klaus Kinski”!

John Marley, aka “King” (Richard Harrison) is on a mission to wipe out the Benson brothers (Goffredo Unger, Lorenzo Fineschi, and Federico Baldo), who murdered King’s only brother George on his wedding day moments after they raped George’s new bride Carol (played by Anna Puskin). Leaving Carol behind with his good friend, Sheriff Brian Foster (Kinski), King sets off for the border, where rumor has it the Bensons are stealing guns for a ruthless gang of Mexican banditos.

Teaming up with Major Ericson (Tom Felleghy) of the U.S. Cavalry, King does what he can to stop the Benson brothers from delivering their ill-gotten gains (the most recent weapons cache they swiped included six Gatling machine guns). It isn’t until much later, however, that King realizes the Bensons are actually working for someone else… 

Aside from its kick-ass title song (“His Name Is King”, written by Luis Bacalov and performed by Edda Dell’Orso), a portion of which Quentin Tarantino borrowed for a key scene in Django Unchained, His Name was King is a serviceable, if unspectacular spaghetti western. There are a few tense shootouts, a high body count, and a gang of baddies you love to hate (the Bensons are an ornery bunch, and even piss off their Mexican cohorts when they demand a couple of young senoritas as part of their payment). If I had one issue with the movie, it’s Richard Harrison as the title character. He’s not bad, per se... just bland, and more often than not the scenes without him were more engaging than those in which he appeared.

And how about Kinski? Well, as opposed to the manic performances he delivered when working with Werner Herzog (Aguirre The Wrath of God, Fitzcaraldo, Cobra Verde), his Sheriff Brian Foster is a pretty laid-back guy. In fact, Foster might be the most easy-going lawman I’ve ever seen in this sort of film (he only loses his temper once, though it’s for a good reason). Maybe “laid back” isn’t the right term; more than anything, Kinski looks bored. His character spends a great deal of time shuffling, ever so slowly, around his office, and the actor even pauses occasionally in the middle of delivering a line (perhaps for dramatic effect, perhaps not).

It’s the kind of performance that Werner Herzog would have never allowed. But Kinski is Kinski, even when he’s phoning it in. And he’s still one of the more interesting elements of His Name Was King.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

#2,389. Muscle Beach Party (1964)

Directed By: William Asher

Starring: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Luciana Paluzzi

Tagline: "10,000 Biceps Meet 5,000 Bikinis..."

Trivia: Marked the screen debut of music prodigy "Little" Stevie Wonder, who receives an "introducing" credit

Back in the day, my father used to watch the Frankie Avalon / Annette Funicello “Beach” movies on TV, but I myself never cared enough to join him (after a scene or two I usually got up and left the room). So this 1964 film marked the first time I’ve seen one from start to finish, and while I wouldn’t say I made a mistake skipping this sort of fare, Muscle Beach Party is an occasionally humorous slice of mindless fun, and features one hell of a supporting cast.

It is Easter vacation, and everyone’s favorite surfing couple, Frankie (Avalon) and DeeDee (Funicello), along with a few dozen of their closest friends, are spending it on the beach, where they’ll ride waves, carouse, and dance the night away. The house they rent is right next door to a bodybuilding center owned and operated by Jack Fanny (Don Rickles), who tells the kids, in no uncertain terms, to keep away from his muscle-bound goons.

Into this picture of near-tranquility comes the Countess Juliana (Luicana Paluzzi), whose yacht is anchored offshore. With the help of her business manager S.Z. (Buddy Hackett) and attorney Theodore (Peter Turgeon), the Countess hopes to land yet another husband: “Mr. Galaxy” himself, Flex Martian (Rock Stevens), who, coincidentally, happens to be Jack Fanny’s star attraction. While S.Z. and Theodore negotiate to buy Flex’s contract, the Countess spends the day getting to know her new boyfriend.

But moments after Jack Fanny signs the agreement, the Countess spots Frankie on the beach, singing a sad song (he and DeeDee just had an argument). All at once, the Countess has a change of heart, and decides she doesn’t want Flex anymore; she wants Frankie! She tells Frankie she’ll make him a recording star, and together they’ll sail around the world. But is Frankie ready to abandon his carefree life, not to mention his relationship with DeeDee, to become the plaything of a beautiful heiress?

Muscle Beach Party is actually the second in what would be a series of twelve movies produced by Samuel Arkoff’s AIP between 1963 and 1968. Seeing as it’s a sequel, Muscle Beach Party does, on occasion, reference the previous film, 1963’s Beach Party; Morey Amsterdam (of TV’s Dick Van Dyke Show) reprises his role as Cappy, owner of a beachside nightclub that the kids frequent, and every so often he talks about “what happened the last time” Frankie and company hung out at his place.

Still, the fact that I haven’t seen Beach Party didn’t ruin Muscle Beach Party for me in the least, and I couldn’t believe the supporting cast they assembled for this film. Along with its trio of comedy legends (Hackett, Rickles, and Amsterdam), this 1964 sequel featured the screen debut of “Little” Stevie Wonder (though only 13 at the time, Wonder brings the house down with the song “Happy Street”, which he performs on-stage at Cappy’s). Also along for the ride are Dick Dale (the “King of Surf Guitar”) and his Del Tones, who perform a few tunes (including the title number), and keep an eye out as well for a Hollywood horror icon, who makes a cameo appearance towards the end.

Muscle Beach Party does have its flaws, chief among them the movie’s female lead, Annette Funicello, who has zero charisma (along with her bad acting, Funicello clearly couldn’t sing. Her brief rendition of “A Girl Needs a Boy” is so heavily processed that it sounds like she was in a tunnel when she performed it). In addition, the early surf scenes are a distraction: footage of actual surfers in the water is spliced together with shots of Funicello, Avalon, and the rest standing in front of a terrible rear projection (to make it look as if they’re the ones actually riding the waves).

These issues aside, Muscle Beach Party was a passable comedy / musical, and while it hasn’t exactly inspired me to rush out and watch the other films in the series, I enjoyed it while it lasted.

Friday, July 21, 2017

#2,388. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Directed By: Frank Oz

Starring: Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia

Tagline: "Don't feed the plants"

Trivia: "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space" (written for this film) is the first Oscar-nominated song to contain profanity

It started, as many things in Hollywood do, with Roger Corman.

It was in 1960 that Corman, along with screenwriter Charles Griffith, devised a little movie about a man-eating plant and the nerdy young florist who took care of it. 

Did I say “little” movie? Make that miniscule; The Little Shop of Horrors was shot in two days, utilizing sets that had been built for another film. Corman is notorious for keeping a watchful eye on a production’s bottom line, but with The Little Shop of Horrors he managed to outdo even himself (the final cost was about $22,000). Not only has this “little” movie become a cult classic, it also featured one of the earliest big-screen appearances of an actor named Jack Nicholson, who, as I understand it, went on to have a decent career (not to mention 12 Academy Award nominations and three Oscars).

For most low-budget pictures, this is where the story usually ends. But, 22 years later, the songwriting duo of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken would transform this 72-minute black and white flick into an off-off-Broadway musical. After debuting in 1982, Little Shop of Horrors the stage show enjoyed a 5-year run at New York’s Orpheum Theater, and has played to packed houses across the world ever since.

David Geffen, one of the producers of the stage show, then decided to bring the entire project full-circle by making yet another movie titled Little Shop of Horrors, this time turning it into a big-budget musical extravaganza, with stunning special effects, a top-notch cast, direction by Frank Oz (long-time collaborator of Muppeteer Jim Henson and the voice of Yoda in the Star Wars series), and cameos by well-known comic stars such as Jim Belushi, John Candy, and Bill Murray, just to name a few.

And, like all the previous renderings of this “little” story, Geffen’s version was a smash hit, and is a movie I fell in love with the first time I saw it on cable in the late ‘80s.

Seymour (Rick Moranis) is an underpaid employee of Mushnik’s Flower Shop, a tiny store situated in the heart of Skid Row. In an effort to drum up some business, Seymour convinces his boss Mr. Mushnik (Vincent Gardenia) to put a new flower he’s been cultivating in the front window, a plant so exotic that it’s bound to draw customers. Seymour named this plant (which, according to him, appeared from out of nowhere during a recent, unexplained solar eclipse) “Audrey II”, in honor of his co-worker Audrey (Ellen Greene), who he’s loved since he first laid eyes on her. Unfortunately for Seymour, Audrey is already dating Orin Scrivello (Steve Martin), a sadistic dentist who treats her like dirt.

Sure enough, “Audrey II” is a big success, and people come from all around just to see it. With business better than ever, Mr. Mushnik orders Seymour to take extra special care of his new plant. But as the lovesick young man will discover, this is no ordinary flower. Instead of water and sunlight, “Audrey II” needs human blood to survive, and the more it gets, the bigger it grows. After a while, “Audrey II” even starts to talk (voiced by Levi Stubbs), and what it’s telling Seymour to do could kand him in some very hot water.

But even if it can help change his lfie for the better, as "Audrey II" promises, will Seymour actually listen to a talking plant?

One of the strongest attributes of this 1986 comedy / musical is its superior cast. Rick Moranis is flawless as the nebbish Seymour, as is Ellen Greene as Audrey, a role she herself originated on Broadway. Topping the list, though, is Steve Martin as the psychotic dentist, an over-the-top performance that fits the character to a “T”. In addition, director Frank Oz utilizes the “Greek Chorus” (Tichina Arnold, Michelle Weeks, and Tisha Campbell) to perfection; along with being backup singers on practically every musical number, this trio pops up occasionally in small roles (street toughs, etc). The star cameos, including Christopher Guest (as a customer), John Candy (a radio DJ) and Bill Murray (a masochistic dental patient), are equally fun, while Motown legend Levi Stubbs provides the voice of “Audrey II”, whose foul-mouthed manipulation of Seymour results in some of the movie’s most entertaining sequences.

And then there’s the music, composed by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (who, in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, helped restore Disney’s animation department to its former glory with their work on The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin). Every single song the duo created for Little Shop of Horrors, from the opening number to "Suddenly Seymour" to "Mean Green Mother from Outer Space", is a classic. Rounding out this list of superlatives are the film’s outstanding special effects, which, by bringing an oversized plant so convincingly to life, did their part to make Little Shop of Horrors an unforgettable motion picture experience.

But the story still isn't over.

Like many films that make their way through the Hollywood system, Little Shop of Horrors was initially screened for a test audience, and while they loved the characters, this group absolutely hated the original ending, which was lifted directly from the play. Based on their reaction, the producers felt a change was needed, and told director Oz and company to shoot a more upbeat finale.

It’s certainly not the first time such an alteration was forced on a filmmaker, but what made this particular change so heartbreaking was that Richard Conway, supervisor of the movie’s model unit, spent an entire year of his life working on that end scene, putting together a special effects-laden extravaganza that Frank Oz himself called “masterful”. Twelve months dedicated to a single sequence, and nobody would ever see it.

The Blu-Ray that I recently purchased of Little Shop of Horrors has rectified this injustice by restoring the original ending, giving audiences the choice of watching either the theatrical version or the movie that Oz, Ashman, etc. intended all along. But while praising the hard work and technology that helped re-assemble this lost footage, Frank Oz issued the following warning in a brief note he penned for the Blu-Ray release: “Be Prepared. (The ending is) not pretty”.

As someone who believes strongly in the French Auteur Theory, I have always made it a point to watch a director’s cut, regardless of how much or how little it differed from the theatrical release (Richard Donner’s cut of Superman II changed that movie completely, while George Miller’s preferred version of The Road Warrior contained only one additional minute of footage). But with this most recent viewing of Little Shop of Horrors, I made an exception, and watched the theatrical cut instead.

My reason for doing so is simple: I fell in love with this picture when I first saw it all those years ago, and I wanted to re-live that experience one more time. When next I watch Little Shop of Horrors, I’ll check out this director’s cut, and it will undoubtedly change the entire movie for me. So, as if saying goodbye to an old friend, I allowed myself one final encounter with the version I adore.

Is that so wrong?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

#2,387. Werewolves on Wheels (1971)

Directed By: Michel Levesque

Starring: Steve Oliver, Donna Anders, Gene Shane

Tag line: "If you're hairy you belong on a motorbike!"

Trivia: A quote from this movie can be heard in the beginning of Rob Zombie's song "Dragula"

Man, this is one trippy motion picture!

Directed by Michel Levesque (who co-wrote the script with David M, Kaufman), 1971’s Werewolves on Wheels tags along with a biker gang known as the “Devil’s Advocates” as they travel the highways of California, looking for a good time. Their leader is Adam (Stephen Oliver), a free spirit whose girlfriend Helen (D.J. Anderson) rides with him. One of Adam’s closest pals is fellow biker Tarot (Deuce Berry), who got his name because he believes his trusty deck of Tarot cards can help him see into the future. And what he’s seen recently has made him very, very nervous.

The trouble begins when the gang decides to rest on the grounds of a monastery, where the monks, under the watchful eye of their high priest “One” (Severn Darden), worship not God, but Satan. After knocking the bikers out with drugs (which they hid in bread and wine), the monks lure Helen into the bowels of their priory, where, in a trance-like state, she takes part in one of their rituals, dancing (naked) with a snake and eating bread that’s been dipped in cat’s blood. When Adam wakes up and discovers Helen is missing, he and a few others storm the monastery, rescuing her before the ceremony is finished.

But in the days that follow, Adam, Tarot, Helen, and a few others realize something very strange is going on, a feeling that only intensifies when a handful of their friends are murdered, in violent fashion, during the night. What the gang doesn’t know is that the monks put a curse on them, and now, whenever the moon is full, select members of the Devil’s Advocates become bloodthirsty werewolves!

At the outset, Werewolves on Wheels looks and feels like a typical biker movie; along with the standard shots of the gang flying down the road on their cycles, there’s a scene where the driver of a pickup truck runs one of the Devil’s Advocates off the road, only to be beaten to a pulp when the rest of the gang catches up to him. The moment the action shifts to the monastery, however, the film changes gears and transforms into a bizarre supernatural horror film (the satanic ceremony is shown in detail, and, to be honest, it’s pretty damn cool).

From that point on, Werewolves on Wheels is a combination of the two, blending elements of the biker genre with those of a werewolf movie (complete with jump scares and plenty of blood and gore). Yet what’s truly amazing is how effective this mix is, creating a unique hybrid of action and horror that’s far too entertaining to ignore.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

#2,386. Double Exposure (1983)

Directed By: William Byron Hillman

Starring: Michael Callan, Joanna Pettet, James Stacy

Tag line: "Smile and say die!"

Trivia: Michael Callan's younger sister appears as an extra in the mud wrestling scene

The pre-title sequence that opens 1983’s Double Exposure, in which an undercover cop, posing as a hooker, is stabbed to death by an unknown assailant, had me convinced I was in for yet another ‘80s slasher film. The very next scene, however (which plays during the credits), had a dream-like quality to it (slow-motion, stuttered movements, etc), and all at once I changed my mind; clearly, Double Exposure was going to be a psychological thriller.

Ultimately, the movie has elements of both subgenres scattered throughout, and there are moments when it is simultaneously chilling and brilliant.

But more than anything, Double Exposure is a Goddamn jumbled mess.

On the surface, things seem to be going well for Adrian Wilde (Michael Callan). His job as a freelance photographer affords him the opportunity to hang out with a bevy of gorgeous models, and he’s dating the beautiful Mindy (Joanna Pettet), a younger woman who might just be the love of his life. But appearances can be deceiving; in fact, Adrian is tormented nightly by violent dreams in which he murders the very models that work for him. To make matters worse, these nightmares are coming true; several girls have turned up dead, all finished off in the manner his dreams predicted.

Adrian opens up to his psychiatrist, Dr. Frank Curtis (Seymour Cassel), in the hopes he can somehow make sense of the situation. But the nightmares continue. Adrian next tries talking to his brother B.J. (James Stacy), a professional stunt driver, but B.J. is busy dealing with his own issues, including a failed marriage and the loss of an arm and a leg in a recent accident.

As AdrIan wrestles with his subconscious, the bodies continue to pile up, and it’s only a matter of time before the detectives investigating the murders, Sgts. Fontain (Pamela Hensley) and Buckhold (David Young), will come knocking on his door.

But is Adrian really a serial killer, or is he a victim of circumstance?

Simply put, the kill scenes in Double Exposure are inspired. Along with the pre-title sequence mentioned above, we’re treated to an impressive POV shot (from the killer’s perspective, of course) during which a hooker (played by future Oscar-nominee Sally Kirkland) is murdered. Yet as good as these moments (and several others) are, the film’s best kill takes place in the middle of the woods, and is so gruesome that you won’t soon forget it.

Along with the violence, Double Exposure also works as a psychological thriller, with Michael Callan turning in an extraordinary performance as a man on the edge, wondering if he’s actually capable of murder, or if it’s just his mind playing tricks on him. Also strong is James Stacy as Adrian’s troubled brother B.J., and while I didn’t think the film’s romantic subplot was particularly well-developed, Joanna Pettet shines as Adrian’s love interest.

Unfortunately, even when taking its better elements into account, Double Exposure is a hard film to recommend. There are times when we’re not sure if what we’re seeing is a dream or reality, and large chunks of the movie feel as if someone spliced scenes together in random order, hoping they’d make sense. In addition, the police investigation into the killings (established during the pre-title sequence) is practically ignored until the final 20 minutes, and Cleavon Little, who portrays Fontain’s and Buckhold’s foul-tempered superior, is totally wasted in what proves to be a very insignificant role (he’s on-screen exactly 3 times, and in his last appearance his character has a pointless argument with Sgt. Fontain).

Some of the issues that plagued Double Exposure can be easily explained: initially, the goal of its director, William Byron Hillman, was to shoot a new movie that would also feature sequences from a little-known film that he and star Michael Callan made 10 years earlier, called The Photographer (which had a plot similar to this film's). When the studio behind The Photographer threatened to sue, Hillman and company found themselves with several plot holes that needed filling, and fast. According to an interview he did for the DVD release of Double Exposure, Callan, who also produced the movie, did some uncredited writing as well, and the additional scenes he’d concoct at night were often shot the very next day.

Naturally, with a production as frenzied as this one seemed to be, it’s no wonder the movie has its problems. But knowing this doesn’t make Double Exposure any less disjointed or perplexing, and while I admire Hillman and Callan for cobbling together some truly remarkable scenes, the film, as a whole, still falls short of the mark.

Friday, July 14, 2017

#2,385. Club Paradise (1986)

Directed By: Harold Ramis

Starring: Robin Williams, Peter O'Toole, Rick Moranis

Tag line: "The vacation you'll never forget -- no matter how hard you try"

Trivia: Peter O'Toole replaced John Cleese in the role of Governor Anthony Cloyden Hayes

I hadn’t seen Club Paradise in what must be 25 years, yet my opinion of it has not changed one iota: the movie is sporadically funny, but with such a talented cast it should've been much better.

After being injured on the job, Chicago fireman Jack Moniker (Robin Williams) receives a large insurance settlement from the city, enough money for him to retire and move to the Caribbean island of St. Nicholas. Once there, Moniker befriends musician Ernest Reed (Jimmy Cliff), who owns (and performs at) a popular night club. 

Unfortunately, Ernest is a bit behind on the club’s taxes, and the Prime Minister of St. Nicholas, a man named Solomon Gundy (Adolph Caesar), is demanding that they be paid immediately. To help Ernest, Jack pays the back taxes, and together the two pals, along with Jack’s new British girlfriend Phillipa (Twiggy), turn Ernest’s hot spot into a tropical resort, which they call “Club Paradise”.

Before long, Club Paradise is welcoming it’s first-ever guests: Dr. Randy White (Steven Kampmann) and his wife Linda (Andrea Martin); business partners Barry Nye (Rick Moranis) and Barry Steinberg (Eugene Levy); co-workers Mary Lou (Robin Duke) and Jackie (Mary Gross); and Terry Hamlin (Joanna Cassidy), travel writer for the New York Times. As Jack works frantically to fix some of Club Paradise’s bigger problems (no running water, bug infestations, etc), the guests settle in, determined to have the vacation of a lifetime.

Unbeknownst to them all, Prime Minister Gundy is conspiring with Volt Zerbe (Brian Doyle-Murray), owner of the largest hotel on St. Nicholas, to sell the entire island to an Arab Prince. When Jack and Ernest refuse to turn Club Paradise over to him, Gundy uses every means at his disposal to drive them out of business, and not even Anthony Croyden Hayes (Peter O’Toole), the British Governor of St. Nicholas, can stop him.

Just look at that cast: Robin Williams, Peter O’Toole (who proved he could be funny in films like The Ruling Class and My Favorite Year), Brian Doyle-Murray (who also co-wrote the script), Robin Duke (Saturday Night Live), as well as four former cast members of SCTV (along with Martin, Moranis, and Levy, Joe Flaherty makes a brief appearance as the slightly odd pilot of a small plane). That’s an all-star comedy team right there. In addition, Jimmy Cliff provides a handful of cool Reggae tunes, and Adolph Caesar hams it up to perfection as the shifty politician looking to get rich.

Together, these actors and actresses do manage to generate some laughs; Moranis and Levy, as two very Jewish playboys on the prowl, have their moments, as does Robin Williams, whose rapid-fire delivery occasionally hits the mark (especially during the opening scene set in Chicago). There’s also a moment involving a helium tank that had me laughing out loud, and I got the distinct impression while watching Club Paradise that the cast had a great time making it (and why not? Most of the movie was shot on-location in beautiful Jamaica).

But it wasn’t enough. For every funny scene, Club Paradise had two that went absolutely nowhere (i.e. - an extended sequence in which the guests visit a nude beach), and some cast members were woefully underused (Peter O’Toole, Joe Flaherty, Joanna Cassidy).

I really wanted to love Club Paradise. In the end, though, it was, at best, a “middle-of-the-road” comedy; it made me laugh, but not as much as it should have.