Second Union

Second Union

VINTAGE SUMMER: Hardbodies (1984)

“I know why they like them. Because they don’t have them.”

Hardbodies, 1984 (Grant Cramer) Columbia Pictures

Let’s take a slight detour. This time, we have three older guys. “Older” is being charitable as they’ve got to be on the tail-end of 50 (50, for the time, is equivalent to retirement age). I’ll call them “Frankie Avalon,” “Jason Alexander,” and “Sam Elliot” because I don’t care to refer to them by their character names. This is who they are to me. Just go with it! They arrive at … I don’t even know, I’ll assume it’s either Florida or California to pick up hot, savage women. I wish we had some indication of why they want to pick up hot, savage women. Maybe they’re divorced. Maybe they’re lonely. We’ll never know because this is Hardbodies! Feelings don’t worm their way into this story.

Good-looking deadbeat Scotty Palmer (Grant Cramer) gets all the babes so the three older gentlemen retain the young man’s services to help them procure … hot, savage women (or “hardbodies” as Scotty calls them). They offer him $600 a month plus room and board at their palatial pad for expertise in the art of “dialogue.” At first, Scotty thinks the men are either gay for him or in need of a pimp. He sleeps on it (on the beach because he’s been evicted by his scumbag landlord). With nowhere to go, he relents. Twenty minutes in and we have our story.

Scotty takes the men shopping for new clothes and a makeover, and we’re treated to a good old-fashioned montage. He teaches the gentle art of seduction, but since this is kind of a goofy comedy, they refuse to take his tutilege to heart. What I don’t understand is the very simplistic education never involves the flashing of credit cards and cash. These gentlemen are obviously well-to-do, and I’m not saying all girls are attracted to wealthy men, but it never seems to come into the discussion. Indeed, many men feel the need to lie to women, because they don’t see them as individuals or human beings.

This is another important component of the “male gaze” driven sex comedy: women are strange creatures from other worlds, and it is our job as men to decode the mixed messages they send us. If we’re successful, we can get into their pants. I’m not saying I believe that, but there probably is some documentation to back up that hypothesis. If we’re to believe “Hardbodies,” they’re also rock-stupid and take off their clothes at the drop of a hat. The sleaze-factor is a bit much for Scotty’s long-term girlfriend, Kristi (Teal “yes her name is a color” Roberts), who ditches him and demands that he change his ways. Good for you, girlfriend! Meanwhile, Scotty starts managing an all-girl band and gives them the name (wait for it) Hard Body. Why not Hard Bodies or The Hardbodies?

Hardbodies is nothing but sex, sex, sex, briefly interrupted for a little more story and an occasional montage. No joke. I counted at least four separate montages! When “Frankie Avalon” gets a little too fresh with a girl, Scotty intercedes. “Frankie” fires him on the spot, but at least the scene shows us Scotty cares, which is what I was missing in the first hour of the movie. “Frankie” doesn’t know when to quit, so when Scotty is consoling the girl he tried to attack, he tries to make time with Kristi and, failing all else, insinuates Scotty is unfaithful to her. I don’t like “Frankie” anymore. I thought we were having fun, but then the movie had to make “Frankie” the heavy. Can Scotty and Kristi make it work?

In my review of Goin’ All the Way, I speculated that the movie was soft-core pornography dulled down to an “R”-rating to get play in theaters and on cable television. Hardbodies was produced for the Playboy Channel but was picked up for theatrical distribution by Columbia Pictures. I definitely see the Playboy connection, but this is another example of “artistic smut,” this time with some recognizable names in the cast. As Scotty’s best friend, Rag, Courtney Gains would go on to play the creepy Malachi in Children of the Corn. Kathleen Kinmont would follow up Hardbodies with Fraternity Vacation. The movie peters out long before the end, but at least 45 Grave’s “Party Time” is on the soundtrack.

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