Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Hot Dog … The Movie! (Peter Markle, 1984) Review

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“Rotate outta here, Jack!” Coming atcha from the hedonistic era of 1980s sex comedies, Hot Dog … The Movie! is, simply put, a mix of gratuitous nudity and even more gratuitous skiing. On the crisp white slopes there will be saucy goings-on and searing competition between the boozing Americans and their devious European counterparts – but who will be victorious?...

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“I ain't going down on a guy at 65 miles per hour just for a crummy ride.” Idaho farm boy Harkin (Patrick Houser, Endangered Species) has got his beat-up old truck loaded with his ski gear and is on his way to his first competition, when he happens across Sunny (Tracy Smith, Bachelor Party), a road hardened hitch-hiker with her sights set on San Francisco. He's a polite young man from the mid-west with a thing for country music, and she's a quick-witted traveller of no fixed address with a taste for 1980s pop rock. They're a bit of an odd couple, but no sooner have they got the measure of one another than they're leaping into the sack together before they hit the snowy mountains.

“Rotate on this, you Nazi bastard!” Harkin's a talented skier new on-the-scene, but with European television broadcast rights paying for the whole event, it seems there's a little corruption afoot with better skilled American skiers getting shafted in favour of Europeans. Oh, those foreign scoundrels, hoisting the yanks upon their own capitalist petard! Lead by Rudi (John Patrick Reger), the villain of the piece, with his gaggle of 'Rudettes' in-tow, Harkin gets drawn into the bitter rivalry between the Austrian (not German) braggart and the ski lodge's most familiar face Dan (David Naughton, An American Werewolf In London), a hard partying has-been of the snow-capped mountains. With Rudi's ex-girlfriend Sylvia (Shannon Tweed, Cannibal Women In The Avacado Jungle Of Death) throwing a love triangle spanner into the works thanks to her drug-fuelled seduction techniques (scored to the prominent sounds of Duran Duran), things are going to get a little messy.

“It's my business what I swallow, okay?” The film, directed by Peter Markle and written by Mike Marvin, is – it has to be said – also a bit of a mess. While it has plenty of 80s comedy movie silliness tossed in – from the cultural stereotype of karate choppin' 'Kamikaze Kendo' (James Saito) with his rising sun bandana and 'Engrish' dialect, to jingoistic pursuits of moral victory as sponsored by popular brands of beer – the film routinely leaves plot threads hopelessly dangling in the breeze.

When we're first introduced to Harkin and the quite captivating Sunny there is a decent set-up of this mismatched couple, but they hop into bed so quickly and casually any 'will they/won't they' tension is thrown away. Indeed, any notion of a 'rocky romance' storyline between the pair – with the injection of Sylvia into the equation – is almost entirely discarded once the ski competition begins. Sunny leaves in a huff, having found Harkin bonking Sylvia in a hot-tub (there's a suggestion Sylvia drugged Harkin, but again this is ignored by the narrative), only for Sunny to then immediately decide to stay and try to learn how to ski … because why? To get Harkin back? Fine, but so little time is afforded to the characters' motivations and goals that the viewer receives no real settlement to the trials and tribulations of the Harkin/Sunny/Sylvia/Rudi relationship machinations.

Indeed, it's hard to come by resolution to any of the myriad plot lines that are introduced – such as the possibility of a corrupted competition, Sunny's possible drug dependency, or Dan's squandered talent. As a result, any sense of conflict is left feeling dry with the actual ski competition lacking any real personal stakes for those involved. The closest you get is a vague sense of flag-waving pride come the finale, which is sort of like Rollerball meets the Winter Olympics.

“What the fuck is Chinese Downhill?” It should be noted, however, that the film does successfully exploit its ski lodge setting, particularly through the use of professional skiers, who gift the film's copious ski sequences with impressive feats of technical prowess and daring stunts. These sequences are well shot, with the climactic battle doing a good job of keeping the viewer 'in the action', but come the second half of the movie it's as if almost everything else is tossed aside in favour of skiing.

“I suppose a fuck's out of the question, huh?” One of the key things about exploitation movies is this: they're honest about what they are – and Hot Dog … The Movie! isn't shy about admitting it's a '1980s raunch-com', a 'destination T&A' flick if you will. Flingin' a whole slew of bared flesh at the viewer early on – including an exhibitionist motel manager and the pre-requisite sex scenes – the movie inevitably stumbles into iffy territory, especially in the context of today's climate. A trip to the local booze joint rapidly turns into a wet t-shirt competition for a braying audience, whose somewhat barbarian eagerness curiously taints the otherwise gleeful abandon exhibited, when everyone whips off each others' tops amidst spraying geysers of frothy beer.

Similarly odd is the character of Squirrel. Characterised as a bit of a dimwit whose nose is almost always lacquered with bright white sun block, he has absolutely zero game when it comes to women. His crude come-ons are, naturally, utterly ineffective on the ski lodge ladies who all toss their drinks in his face, but then a rather off-colour comment only receives a limp rebuke. And ultimately Squirrel, this inept creepo, is rewarded when a 'snow bunny' throws herself at him on a ski lift. Another draft wouldn't have gone amiss to smooth out these bumps – bumps like a strange line of dialogue which references Sunny's age. When asked how old she is, she states “eighteen, in April” … but there's no clarity as to when this film is set. Is April in the past or the future?

Still, some awkward moments aside, there is little point in seriously criticising a 30-something year-old movie for it's 30-something year-old outlook on life. Today's a-ok is tomorrow's tugged shirt collar, and the vast majority of audience members are quite capable of understanding the space-time continuum of film release dates and the difference between fiction and reality.

“Where the men are men and the sheep are nervous.” Naturally, Hot Dog … The Movie! will hold greater sway over those who saw it during their formative years, those who grew up watching it in the 1980s and 1990s VHS heyday, but it's undeniable that the film squanders all of the potential conflict and narrative intrigue offered up by its roughly sketched characters. If only the film had spent a little less time on the slopes and bit more time further exploring and resolving its various sub-plots, which are invariably abandoned almost as soon as they are introduced, then a more rounded and satisfying film could have won the day.

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