Girls, Guns and G-Strings – DVD Review

Andy Sidaris innovated entertainment as a director for ABC’s sports broadcasts. He made the call to let the cameras linger on cheerleaders and women in the crowd during Monday Night Football and Wide World of Sports. He understood that home viewers didn’t need to constantly see sweaty players and screaming coaches. They appreciated a little beauty mixed in with the man action. He took this simple formula from the stadiums and made it the focus of his brand of cinema. His dozen films featured on Girls, Guns and G-Strings don’t stray from his formula of international espionage, hunky guys, Playboy Playmates, Penthouse Pets, gun play and titles that sound like Mickey Spillane novels. If the story got slow, he excited the screen by having his stars make love, shower or blow stuff up.

Sidaris made two films in the ‘70s that didn’t have the impact of his ’80s and ‘90s output. What was the difference? His hot period coincided with the VHS era. A low budget filmmaker could do well selling cassettes across the country to mom and pop stores instead of pursuing the theatrical dream. He did best with stores that wanted to stock sexy films that weren’t classified as hardcore adult action. He produced just enough sizzle with his cast to excite customers without it turning X-rated. It should be noted that the films are not merely sexist entertainment about getting women naked. Sidaris does his best to balance the flesh with undressed hunks. Sex sells and Sidaris wanted costumers of both genders renting his films. Home video success booked the films on pay movie channels for their late night programming. Odds are high that if you were up at 3 a.m. in the early ‘90s, you caught one of his films on Showtime.

Malibu Express (1987 – 101 minutes) lets Darby Hinton (Firecracker) play a private detective with a gun as big as his mustache. He gets hired to uncover the killer of Contessa Luciana’s husband. There’s plenty of action, fire power and flesh in the intrigue. He insures video sales with Sybil Danning (The Howling II) cast as the Contessa. Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987 – 96 minutes) features the first of Sidaris’ muses in the form of Playmate Dona Speir (Miss March, 1984). She appeared in seven Sidaris movies and always played a character named Donna. This must have been confusing since her real name is Dona. Hope Marie Carlton (Miss July, 1985) is her partner. Her character’s named Taryn. The two playmates are undercover operatives that nab diamonds bound for a drug lord in Hawaii. He wants his jewels back from them. Picasso Trigger (1988 – 98 minutes) kills off a top level agent with Picasso Trigger as his codename. Donna and Taryn are on the job to get revenge. It introduces Roberta Vasquez (Miss November, 1984) to the acting troupe. The movie received the ultimate honor by inspiring the naming of Raleigh band Picasso Trigger in the ‘90s.

Savage Beach (1990 – 94 minutes) puts Dona and Hope back on Hawaii as agents. They get tangled up in vaccines and Japanese gold. The major guest star is adult superstar Teri Weigel (Miss April, 1986). Guns (1990 – 96 minutes) dazzles in major star power with Erik Estrada (CHiPs, Chuck McCann (Far-Out Space Nuts), Phyllis Davis (VEGA$) and Danny Trejo (Machete). Dona teams up with Roberta to stop a South American gun runner based in Hawaii. Devin DeVasquez (Miss June, 1985) now joins in the Playmate reunion with Cynthia Brimhall (Miss October, 1985). Erik Estrada returns for Do or Die (1991 – 97 minutes) and brings along Pat Morita (The Karate Kid). The former Mister Miyagi plays a diabolical Asian crime boss that’s hired hitmen to take out Dona and Roberta. Pandora Peaks puts her talents to work on the screen. Hard Hunted (1992 – 97 minutes) makes the girls go to the Mideast to recover a nuclear trigger. Aren’t you happy that the fate of the world is being handled by Playmates? Fit to Kill (1993 – 94 minutes) marks the arrival of Julie Strain (Penthouse Pet of the Year 1993) into the Sidaris universe. The tall beauty plays evil as she helps steal a Russian diamond. Dona and Roberta hunt her down. This film marked the end of Dona’s run as Donna. Do you think she gets upset when a fan calls her Donna?

While Sidaris didn’t make family films, he made films with his family. His wife Arlene Sidaris was his producer. His son Drew Sidaris served as second assistant director on six of his movies. He also worked as 2nd AD on The A-Team, The Fall Guy and The Dukes of Hazzard. Drew got his chance to sit in the director’s chair for two films that mom and dad produced. Enemy Gold (1993 – 92 minutes) went casting for new female leads using old Playboy magazines. Suzi Simpson (Miss January, 1992) and Tai Collins (appeared in Playboy after an affair with Senator Chuck Robb). They’re being chased by Julie Strain as they hunt for lost Civil War gold. The Dallas Connection (1994 – 94 minutes) deals with a computer chip. But it’s all about ladies with guns that go bang. New faces from old pages include Sam Phillips (Pet of the Month June, 1993) and Julie K. Smith (Pet of the Month February, 1993) and Wendy Hamilton (Miss December, 1991). Andy Sidaris returned to the helm for his film two films about the Legion to Ensure Total Harmony and Law (L.E.T.H.A.L.). Day of the Warrior (1996 – 97 minutes) stars Raye Hollitt best known as Zap on American Gladiators. The agents are out find the person that has cracked their secret database. Return to Savage Beach (1998 – 98 minutes) makes the L.E.T.H.A.L. ladies hunt down a lost computer disc. They should update this to a flashdrive.

They don’t teach Andy Sidaris at expensive film schools. He ought to be a course like Hitchcock, Scorsese or Tarantino or Kubrick. He was a man with vision and a sense of audience. His independent carnal vision makes him part of a brotherhood that includes Russ Meyer and Radley Metzger. He made a dozen movies that entertained millions during the golden age of VHS. When he passed away in 2007, VCRs blinked 12:00 a.m. in his honor. Girls, Guns and G-Strings is his legacy in a boxset.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. Before there’s whining about why aren’t these films in their original theater aspect with anamorphic transfers; were any of the dozen films projected across America? Seems these films were straight to video so 1.33:1 is the legacy aspect ratio. The transfers look better than the old VHS tapes you rented from Videorama. There’s no stretched moments from constant pressing of the pause button. The audio is stereo. The mix isn’t too dynamic so you should blow out your speakers during the explosions.

Trailers and Introductions from Andy Sidaris are provided for each film, but hidden away. You have to go to the Scene Select menu and click on the legs of the woman holding an Uzi. Her right leg is for the trailer. The left leg provides minute long introductions by Andy with Julie Strain. She goes topless.

Girls, Guns and G-Strings beings back the glory days of VHS and cable when explosions and nudity ruled. The dozen films made by Andy Sidaris follow a recipe that includes ample helpings of Playboy and Penthouse models. People might complain about the films are put on three flipper DVDs. The boxset’s low price (SRP is under $10) makes this a non-issue.

Mill Creek presents Girls, Guns and G-Strings. Starring: Dona Speir, Roberta Vasquez, Erik Estrada, Pat Morita and Julie Strain. Boxset Contents: 12 movies on 3 DVDs. Released on DVD: March 22, 2011.