Tee-Hee, I'm Naked!

Sunday, July 02, 2006


H.O.T.S

(1979, 96 min.)

Starring Susan Kiger, Lisa London, Pamela Jean Bryant, Kimberly Cameron (Carson), Lindsay Bloom, Angela Aames, Mary Steelsmith, K. C. Bloom, Donald Petrie, Larry Gilman, Dan Reed, Danny Bonaduce, David Gibbs, Marvin Katzoff, Ken Olfson, Richard Bakalyan, Louis Guss, Dorothy Meyer.

Directed by Gerald Seth Sindell.

I knew when I conceived of this section that I would end up writing something about this movie. It was probably the flagship film of my adolescent T&A education. But thanks to the glory that is the internet it has already gotten more thoughtful reviews than it ever truly warranted, including one by the vaunted Dr. Freex, so instead of trying to write something resembling a cohesive article, I’m just going to start riffing and see what comes of it. Any similarities in the form of this review to that of those over at Cliffie’s Notes are strictly intentional. (Howdy, Mizzzz Fish!)

To be brief, for those unfamiliar with this particular masterpiece, H.O.T.S. follows the hi-jinks of a group of young women who, having been snubbed by the snobbish PI sorority (for, among other things, poverty, imperfect facial structure, and other traits of the disenfranchised), form their own rogue house based around the idea of taking every man on campus away from their rivals. This leads to an extended volley of pranks, copious bare breastage, and an infamous game of strip football.

- As I stated on the front page of this section, I got some of my first notions of female sexual empowerment from watching movies like this. That may sound like some sort of justification for looking at boobs, but it is, nonetheless, true. The women have far more power than the men, they’re generally much smarter, and they have a much more realistic attitude towards sex, at least in as much as they know what a useful tool and/or weapon it is, while most of the guys are so busy worshipping and/or salivating over them, it’s pretty clear who’s running the show. (I know, that’s a fucking cynical attitude about fucking, but it’s the film’s attitude, not mine, and it uses its stereotypes successfully to its end.)

- While frequently compared to Animal House, I’ve always thought that the writers (including sexploitation queen Cheri Caffaro) had to have had M*A*S*H a little bit in mind as well, from the similar title to the fact that both films end with a climactic football game, though thankfully Robert Altman didn’t have Sutherland, Gould and Skerrit strip. (Although, coincidentally, Animal House did include a mercifully brief shot of Sutherland’s ass.) Additionally both films are virtually plotless and feature a group of people thumbing their noses at authority while engaged in warfare, though the H.O.T.S. girls are eager combatants, while the doctors of the 4077th are hostage-, I mean, draftees.

- How in the name of Erica Gavin did they manage to tape down the late, lovely Aames’s ample bosom during the early scenes when she’s supposed to be chestless? Her breasts must have been poking out of her back.

- When the Doc posted his review, and quite clearly voiced his disapproval of the fat jokes inserted via the character of Clutz (Steelsmith), I protested, saying that I had always felt the film was comparatively reserved in this regard. Having watched it again, I have to admit I was wrong. In the film’s weak, namby-pamby defense, most of those jokes are confined to the early scenes. In a slightly more solid defense, I’d like to point out that Clutz is firmly and warmly accepted by the other girls as one of them following the opening scenes, and not in nearly as patronizing a manner as what I just wrote might imply. Having said that, I still haven’t decided if her romance with the requisite nerdy guy (Katzoff) is condescending or kind of sweet. Also note that she participates in the wet t-shirt contest…though her shirt doesn’t get very wet. And she takes part in the big football game…though as soon as the real nudity kicks in she’s suddenly absent. Hmm. Your honor, I swear I had a point here. Maybe I left it in my other suit.

- It’s interesting to note that while the initial premise of the sorority is to accept all those who others reject, the first thing they do is “correct” the applicants “imperfections.” One girl gets a nosejob, Aames’ ‘Boom-Boom’ gets a massive set of yabos, and poor Clutz is told there’s really nothing they can do for her. Aside from, as I said before, Clutz becoming a part of the group despite her “shortcoming” (Jesus, those fucking quotes are getting a workout), turns out we’re not really talking unconditional acceptance here, are we?

- It occurred to me for the first time on this last viewing how off it is that the PI girls’ first strike at the H.O.T.S. girls is to spike the chili at their party with hot sauce. Yes, on the surface it makes sense: make their food hot so their mouths burn. But this is chili we’re talking about. It’s supposed to be hot. I see people pouring hot sauce into chili, I don’t think, “Get those bastards!” I think, “How thoughtful of them to want my food to be more flavorful.” This is clearly an example of putting far more thought into a plot point than the screenwriters ever did.

- You know, for a sorority supposedly composed of people with no money, they seem to have plenty of cash to burn on custom-made items with the sisterhood logo on them. Various banners, a parachute, not to mention myriad t-shirts, including the ones made especially for the football game, the ensemble of which also features matching peppermint-striped under-thingies. And it can’t have been cheap to buy the seal either. That kissing booth must be open twenty-four hours a day.

- Always nice to see actors from other movies I like pop up, even in small roles. In that spirit, I’d like to point out that Bunny Summers, who had small roles in the first two of Stuart Gordon’s Lovecraft adaptations, appears here as an opera singer at the Dean’s party, which is, of course, then interrupted by Aames parachuting topless into his pool. Bunny, also of course, takes a very strained pratfall into the pool herself at this point. Not that anyone with their eyes open couldn’t have seen that coming as soon as she stepped out onto the diving board to perform an aria, but it’s hard to accept it as an accident when she’s clearly inching her way towards the edge. Seems to me slightly more careful direction could have corrected this, but now I’m nitpicking.

- My greatest disappointment in this film is that it sets up a scene with topless girls having cream pies thrown at them and completely botches it. A crying shame. Does no one understand the basic tenets of slapstick any more? Had they gotten this right, it would have gone a long way towards me forgiving them for putting into my head the image of Danny Bonaduce being fellated by the afore-mentioned seal.

- There’s only one scene that really leaves a bad taste in my mouth and that’s the one where the Dean (Olfson) locks himself and Terri (Bryant) in the attic and then chases her onto the roof for the purpose of “getting some” for himself, out of equal parts horniness and revenge, which is exactly what makes the scene so icky. Once again we’re seeing a potential molestation scenario played for laughs, always a dicey proposition (there were instances of this sort in early episodes of M*A*S*H the series, and even when they managed to be funny, there was still something a little uncomfortable), all the more so because the Dean makes it quite clear that he’s tired of the girls getting their way and now he’s going to get his. It only gets worse when, a few moments later, while Terri is successfully fending off his advances, he then begins to plead with her to have sex with him. (Incidentally, this all happens so fast that most people probably won’t even notice. That I did is a clear indication of my having seen this film far more times than could ever be considered healthy.) This sudden transition from predator to pathetic sniveler is unpleasant – though only if you think about it too much, which you don’t need to do seeing as how, as I said, it all happens quite fast, and before you know it the Dean’s dangling from the roof with his ass hanging out and everything’s coming up komedy again, any unpleasantness forgotten. The final irony is that, for all its varied tastelessness, this scene is actually kind of funny, by virtue of Olfson’s performance (the look he gets on his face when he realizes he’s swinging several stories up is terrific) and Terri’s one-liner about jockey shorts.

- Whoever came up with the idea for the huddle-cam is a fucking genius.

I guess that’s enough.

Seeing this again in the wake of some of the other films I’ve watched for this section has merely emphasized how much better it is than most of its ilk, which may be akin to being a champion projectile vomiter; a dubious accomplishment, but an accomplishment nonetheless. When younger I was far too interested in the nudity to notice how listless a lot of these movies are, but that’s not a charge you can level at H.O.T.S. It’s got energy and attitude to spare, and an overall lively atmosphere, helped in part by the surprisingly large number of characters. Some characters are better drawn than others, though none of them are fully fleshed out (last pun, I promise). But remember we’re grading on a sliding scale here, and the sheer number helps sustain the feeling of campus mayhem missing from such films as School Spirit, another similarity it has to both Animal House and M*A*S*H. And, to top it off, some of the humor is actually funny (sliding scale again, people).

Naked co-eds are an essential part of any fresh-faced sex addict’s development, but you can get that from any number of sources. If you want a film that entertains while it warps, it doesn’t get any better than this. Really, it doesn’t.

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