Friday, 28 March 2014

The Pink Chiquitas

Director: Anthony Currie
Writer: Anthony Currie
Producer: Nicolas Stiliadis
Cast: Frank Stallone, Bruce Pirrie, Elizabeth Edwards
Year of release: 1987
Country: Canada
Reviewed from: UK VHS (Hi-Pressure Video)

While there was undoubtedly a great deal of crap made during the 1980s, there were one or two gems lurking within the mire. Some people thought that a cheesy title and a plastic spaceship was all that was needed to make a spoof of, or homage to, 1950s B-movies, but the films that worked best were the ones where the makers actually cared, crafting characters and storylines that we would care about in turn.

One thinks of Alan Arkin and Christopher Lee in The Return of Captain Invincible, or of Return of the Killer Tomatoes (well, I think of them anyway). Here’s another of my favourites, the unjustifiably obscure The Pink Chiquitas. Sly Stallone’s brother Frank, a singer/actor in his own right, stars as private dick Tony Morita Jr who drives a white ‘59 Cadillac convertible with enormous cow-horns on the bonnet. He’s hip, smart and cool, has a string of Olympic medals, and gets all the girls - in fact within a couple of minutes he’s receiving head from a bimbo hitch-hiker (Heather Smith, who may or may not have also been in Screwballs and/or Ozone) while being chased by mobsters!

Morita hides out at a drive-in (showing Zombie Beach Party III) in the hick town of Beansville where we are introduced to nerdy TV weatherman Clip Bacardi (Bruce Pirrie, who went on to direct a spoof paranormal investigation show called The Fifth Quadrant) and his date, librarian Mary Ann Dubrowski (singer/model Elizabeth Edwards) as well as Deputy Barney Drum (Don Lake: Bill’s dad in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, also in Terminator 2 and Short Circuit 2) who is in charge while the sheriff is away. A pink meteorite hurtles overhead and the drive-in empties as everyone drives off to look for it.

Clip finds a tiny fragment which he thinks is all that’s left after atmospheric burn-up, but the bulk of the meteorite is intact and is discovered by teenage intern Stella Dumbrowski (Cindy Valentine: Teen Witch) - who incurred Clip’s wrath for competently handling the weather reports at Channel 3 while he was on holiday - together with her date Dave (TJ Scott, a stuntman in the Police Academy movies) and their friends Anita and Ken. Stella and Anita become sexually rapacious and the next morning Ken and Dave’s bodies are discovered beside the now empty meteorite crater.

An Indian doctor (Harold Baehan) turns up along with a nurse who is Dave’s sister Helen (Claudia Udy: Edge of Sanity). Tony Morita sets out to investigate, helped by Deputy Barney but hindered by corrupt Mayor Ernie Bodine (John Hemphill) and haunted by his late father Tony Morita Sr (Stallone again). Mary Ann decides to run for Mayor opposite Bodine and this is just the first of a sequence of events which sees the women of the town gradually take over, both socially and sexually, led by the now glamorous Mary Ann and TV anchorwoman Trudy Jones (McKinlay Robinson). Outrageously gay cameraman Dwight Wright (Gerald Isaac) tries to join the women in drag but they discover him. Eventually all the men are wandering around like zombies and only Morita, Barney, Dwight and Helen are left to save the town.

The problem is the meteorite, now ensconced in an old mine, which is some sort of sentient being and is telepathically controlling the local women. Eartha Kitt is credited as the voice of the meteorite (called ‘Betty’ in various literature but never given a name on screen) but all she does is her famous purr, though she does duet with Stallone over the end credits. As the controlled women throw off the shackles of male domination, they all start to dress in pink - which was very big in the 1980s - and Tony’s investigations reveal that a similarly pink meteor was reported centuries ago by Spanish explorers, heading for the Amazon. Love interest Helen is kept immune by having transistor radios strapped over her ears.

The Pink Chiquitas is unpretentious, well-crafted silliness. It knows its limitations and never tries to exceed them, hence it works and works well. There’s no nudity, swearing or violence and the sexually liberated ladies of the town are portrayed cheasily but never cheaply. That’s a tricky balancing act but the film pulls it off.

Most of the unnamed ‘pink chiquitas’ are simply eye candy who never had any other credits, but among those with real careers are: Lolita Davidovich (Gods and Monsters), Topaz Hasfal (Cyberjack, Bordello of Blood), Susan Haskell (One Life to Live, JAG), Marcia Levine (Bionic Showdown), Jane Sowerby (who played Chrissy Hynde in a 2000 TV movie called The Linda McCartney Story!) and former Miss Canada Cynthia Kereluk. However, I’m not convinced that the ‘Sheryl Lee’ credited is the same one who was in John Carpenter’s Vampires and Twin Peaks. The cast of the entirely fictitious Zombie Beach Party III includes Nicholas Campbell (The Brood, The Dead Zone) and Sharolyn Sparrow (Death Wish V).

Producer Stiliadis (who was also the cinematographer) went on to make Gladiator Cop and Red Blooded American Girl I and II. Visual effects supervisor David Stipes had previously worked on Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and went on to work on The Flash, Arena and all TV versions of Star Trek from The Next Generation onwards. But what of one-time writer/director Anthony Currie? What ever happened to him? Where is he now?

Well, the fact that this film received two Genie nominations (the Canadian equivalent of the Bafta) for sound and sound editing leads me to believe that he is actually top sound editor Tony Currie, among whose credits are the BeastMaster TV series and Cronenberg’s Spider and Naked Lunch. It’s a shame he never made another film as writer/director because he clearly knew what he was doing.

(The film’s American video packaging manages to not only place the action in ‘Beamsville’ instead of Beansville but also misspells the main character’s name as ‘Mareda’!)

MJS rating: B+

1 comment:

  1. You were correct about "Twin Peaks" actress Sheryl Lee not being a Pink Chaquita. If you look closely at the closing credits, the name is listed as "Sherry Lee". I hope I've cleared this up for anyone who wanted to watch the film just to spot Sheryl Lee.