Code Red and Maria’s B-Movie Mayhem bring to DVD a double bill of horny sailors on a WEEKEND PASS and a man-child spoiled for choice in GAMES GUYS PLAY.
The quartet of protagonists of WEEKEND PASS has only “72 Hours of liberty to forget everything the navy taught them!” Horndog Webster (Patrick Houser, HOT DOG!... THE MOVIE) and street-wise “black guy” Bunker Hill (Chip McAllister, HAMBURGER: THE MOTION PICTURE) wants to reconnect with old flames, and nerd Lester (Peter Ellenstein, BETTER OFF DEAD…) has been set up on a blind date with the niece of a superior officer. Jokester Fricker (D.W. Brown, THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT) is only slightly less interested in the pleasures of the flesh since he has booked a spot at a comedy club for his debut. A bafflingly successful release for Crown International, WEEKEND PASS isn’t so much a sex comedy as a to-do list with a visit to a strip club, an oriental massage, tanning and flirting at Venice Beach, sweating it out at an aerobics studio (in order for Bunker to flirt with instructor Tina [Pamela G. Kay] he met at the beach), a fashion montage (to gawk at punks), some soul food with a side of gang war, a snooty L.A. restaurant with a faux-French waiter and shockingly expensive food in miniscule portions, and the comedy club (MC’d by a pre-SNL Phil Hartman). The lead characters are not particularly interesting, so it’s hard to feel much for them when they are let down by their expectations of reconnecting with old loves or Fricker tanking his standup act. Fortunately, the quartet happen upon the right women for them before the film runs out, and form meaningful connections (you know, before they ship out on missions to top secret locations…)
WEEKEND PASS comes back to DVD – after previous issues by BCI and Mill Creek in multi-film sets – in a progressive, anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer. Presumably this transfer was supplied by Mill Creek (current owner of the Crown library) as it’s rather fuzzy and noisy (in the video sense, rather than film grain) with chroma noise and other noise fine patterns (note the check and striped spandex in the aerobic scenes), almost like a 16:9 upscale of a 4:3 master. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is in better condition. Director Lawrence Bassoff and lead actor D.W. Brown appear on a commentary track moderated by Code Red’s William Olsen. Bassoff and Brown talk about the offscreen camaraderie of the main actors. Brown recalls McAllister’s wild lifestyle and the crowd he ran with (Magic Johnson attended the premiere as a guest of the actor). Bassoff also enthusiastically discusses seeking out and grabbing interesting extras from the locations, while also lamenting how much the locations have changed (no more Pussycat Theater while the clothing district that is Melrose has become more gentrified). Bassoff also mentions that Crown went all out in this film with Panavision cameras and lenses, Deluxe Color processing, and mixing at Goldwyn (but he also describes having to do some finagling with Crown to get a helicopter second unit for the opening credits and establishing shots). He also mentions the contribution of cinematographer Bryan England, with his fondness for classic Hollywood lighting (which does lend the film an elaborate look for a Crown film). Olsen ties the film with the similar spring break films of the time, while Bassoff links it to “service comedies” like the POLICE ACADEMY series.
The disc also includes a trailer (1:39) for the film. “Maria’s B-Movie Mayhem” hostess Maria Kinellis provides an introduction and post-script for WEEKEND PASS. While watching the film, I was thinking that a good co-feature for WEEKEND PASS would be VAMPIRE HOOKERS; and it turns out that this was indeed the plan. After telling us that WEEKEND PASS actors McAllister and Brown were, respectively, an AMAZING RACE million dollar winner and an acting instructor in Santa Monica – and taking some good-humored, and less biting than usual, shots at the film (and its odd ending) – Kinellis launches into her introduction to the Cirio H. Santiago film complete with introductory clips; however, horizontally-scrolling text informs us that the VAMPIRE HOOKERS file got deleted so Code Red decided instead to pair WEEKEND PASS with the formerly lost film GAMES GUYS PLAY.
GAMES GUYS PLAY is the reissue title for a film originally called GOODNIGHT JACKIE, the phrase which sets this film’s “plot” in motion; Jackie (Lana Wood, SATAN’S MISTRESS) being the ex-girlfriend of cemetery groundskeeper Robbie (Wendell Burton, FORTUNE AND MEN’S EYES) whose constant mooning over the girl who left him for her middle-aged history teacher is driving his roommate Paul (Gregory Sierra, TV’s BARNEY MILLER) nuts. Paul fixes him up with his artist girlfriend Phyllis’ (Kristina Holland, TV’s THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE’S FATHER) roommate Donna (Christopher Norris, EAT MY DUST) only for Jackie to flip back into his life just as things are getting good. Robbie seems poised to take Jackie back until some of her reminiscences about the good times include anecdotes that actually took place with other men; and, surprisingly, Donna isn’t put off by Robbie nearly throwing her over for Jackie. Robbie settles into a stable relationship with Donna, even taking a promotion at the cemetery (run by GILLIGAN’S ISLAND’s Jim Backus), only to find himself envious of his more carefree days… which is, of course when Jackie appears again in his life, as a widow…
GAMES GUYS PLAY seems like less of an attempt at a counter-culture statement – a few years too late – than the illusion of one as a way for a bunch of TV personnel to break into features. The film’s director Jerry London was a veteran of various TV sitcoms including THE BRADY BUNCH, and the film’s producer Lloyd J. Schwartz – who also scripted – is the son of that show’s creator Sherwood Schwartz (which also explains the presence of Barry Williams – as Robbie’s replacement groundskeeper – and Todd Lookinland, brother of Mike from the show). The two male protagonists are the kind you’d like to punch – Robbie pining for simpler times and Paul simply getting tired of Phyllis and – while their two female counterparts turn from fun to pouting and passive; however, I’m guessing many of us have made the same similarly stupid decisions and lived with them (if anything, GAMES GUYS PLAY is less of an escapist fantasy than about the consequences of them). Wood’s Jackie is the most entertaining character (Backus seems to have been cast just for recognition more than for actual comedy). Fred Karlin (WESTWORLD) has written some fine film scores, but this isn’t one of them, and the film’s four sappy songs – sung by Karlin – will have you muting the volume each time a montage starts. Associate producer Gregory Hoblit would go on to produce and direct several TV dramas in the 1980s before moving onto directing features from the 1990s onwards including PRIMAL FEAR and HART’S WAR.
THE GAMES GUYS PLAY comes in a progressive, anamorphic transfer with a rough first reel. Under the mostly faint to occasionally heavy scratching (both in-camera and green emulsion scratches) is a crisp image with stable – and occasionally vibrant – colors, while the subsequent reels are cleaner and only sport occasional damage. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio is cleaner with clear dialogue and – less fortunately – rendering of the score and original songs. There is no trailer for the feature, but there are trailers for DEVIL’S THREE and THE BABYSITTER. (Eric Cotenas)
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