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Hard Ticket to Hawaii

Hard Ticket to Hawaii(1987)

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teaser Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987)

The world of cable television in the 1980s would have been a very different beast indeed without Andy Sedaris, the leading indie specialist in that unbeatable combination among action fans of the era, girls and guns. Along with his wife, Arlene, he used his significant personal wealth to craft a string of popular TV and VHS staples from Malibu Express (1985) to L.E.T.H.A.L. Ladies: Return to Savage Beach (1998), with eight other sexy, sandy Hawaiian adventures in between.

One of the most popular and frequently aired films from the Sidaris golden age is Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987), a sort-of sequel to Malibu Express that swaps out leading man Darby Hinton for Ronn Moss. In what would become something of a recurring gag in this stretch of Sidaris films, the leading man's last name remained Abilene while the first names changed into related but different men named Cody, Rowdy, or Travis depending on the actor. Here we're swept away from the Malibu Express boat in the prologue to the sunny shores of Molokai, where Rowdy has been sent by The Agency (the go-to Sidaris equivalent of MI6) to lend a hand to a pair of local crime-fighting femmes, Donna Hamilton (Dona Speir) and Taryn (Hope Marie Carlton), who stumble on a gun-running ring while tangling with the transport and escape of a gigantic live snake "infected by deadly toxins from cancer-infected rats" being delivered to the Department of Health. Needless to say, said reptile plays a significant role as our heroes tangle with villainous Seth Romero (Sidaris regular Rodrigo Obregn) in a scheme involving diamond and arms smuggling.

Regular Sidaris muse Speir is one of the best reasons to see this film, giving her all in her first leading feature role after a career that ranged from an early appearance on Captain Kangeroo to a memorable stint as Playboy's Playmate of the Month in March of 1984 (with several subsequent appearances). She reprised her role as Donna Hamilton in all of Sidaris' six subsequent films through Fit to Kill (1993), the height of a career that had found her being discovered while walking down Sunset Boulevard. Sidaris' habit of scouting the Playboy Rolodex for actresses paid off her when he found Speir shooting a video for the magazine, Playmate Playoffs (1986), and found his ideal Donna. "She's rough and tough and has her string of men, and she always gets the bad guy in the end," Speir noted in a TV interview with Joe Bob Briggs. "She carries a bazooka and wears a push-up bra. It's fun! It's a lot of hard work. He's a tough director to work for."

Also a Playboy veteran from the July 1985 issue and several of the magazine's video productions, Carlton would prove to be a shorter-lived leading lady for Sidaris as she only reprised her role as Taryn in Picasso Trigger (1988) and Savage Beach (1989). In addition to a long string of TV appearances, she is perhaps best remembered for her brief but memorable appearance in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988), which uses her centerfold skills to great advantage.

Eagle-eyed viewers will also note that Sidaris' tendency to make meta references to his other films is in rich supply here, particularly the ladies' home decorated with a newly-acquired Malibu Express poster (starring the fictional Cody, cited as Rowdy's cousin and apparently now gone from the Agency to become an actor) thrown in for free with the purchase of a German poster for Sidaris's raucous 1979 spy film, Seven (1979). If you look closely later on you can even spot a poster for his debut film, Stacey (1973), too. The filmmaker's cheeky sense of humor (honed on extensive TV work including years of sports productions) can be found from the outset with the creative opening titles designed around shipping crates and boxes, not to mention outrageous deaths thrown into the mix like a blood-spraying razor Frisbee.

Released by the director's Malibu Bay Films imprint, Hard Ticket to Hawaii received a modest theatrical run touting the Hawaiian locations as "a great place to visit - but you wouldn't wanna die there! This ain't no hula; it's a Hard Ticket to Hawaii!" Since then it's been a steady viewer favorite and a regular installment in Sidaris collections on home video, which deliver undeniable truth in advertising with names like "Girls, Guns and G-Strings" and "Bullets, Bombs and Babes." Though Sidaris may have left the world for that great luau in the sky in 2007, he certainly left behind a legacy like no other.

By Nathaniel Thompson

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