Not that long ago the video store was a mundane and sometimes obnoxious part of life; driving over to some lonesome strip mall with your friends or family to comb through the all-too-often disorganized shelves of your local shop, argue over a selection, and then be stuck with it, for good or ill. Yet, it was also sublime. And for those who lived during the true video boom, video stores also equate to another bygone commodity: VHS. When JVC’s Video Home System won the early-80’s format war, the motion picture market changed forever. The genre and B-movies that had previously filled drive-ins across the country now often went straight to VHS. Then DVD took the world by storm in the late-90’s. It was a brave new world, and sadly, many films never made the leap, trapped now on a dead format. These often aren’t “good” films, but goddammit, they were what made video stores great. For we here at CHUD are the kind of people who tended to skip over the main stream titles, our eyes settling on some bizarre, tantalizing cover for a film we’d never even heard of, entranced. These films are what VHS was all about.
Some people are still keeping the VHS flame burning. People like my buddy Michael Monterastelli, whose Facebook page Collecting VHS is a glorious showcase for the lost charms of VHS box artwork. His passion for VHS is such that I thought it would be fun to talk him into sharing his vast collection with us. My only rule for him? The movies can’t be available on DVD.
Take it away, Mike!
Title: Meatballs III (A.K.A. Meatballs III: Summer Job)
Genre: T & A Sex Comedy
Tagline: Rudy struck out two summers in a row. This is his summer to
score. Rudy’s big challenge!
Released by: International Video Entertainment
Director: George Mendeluk
Plot: Rudy (Patrick Dempsey), our favorite nerd camper from the original film, is about to face his biggest summer challenge yet… getting laid! The laughs start flying when Rudy accepts a job for the summer at a popular lakeside marina from his old friend Tripper, only to learn that the place has been sold to Mean Gene (George Buza), the big, hairy leader of a water-borne biker gang known as the River Rats.
To complicate matters worse, Rudy wishes to lose his virginity to the incredible “Love Goddess” (Playboy playmate Shannon Tweed), who happens to be Mean Gene’s main squeeze. Luckily, the ghost of a dead porno star named Roxy Du Jour (Sally Kellerman) is out to get her angel wings and enter heaven, so she materializes to help Rudy with his outrageous dilemma.
Thoughts: Ahhhhhhhh, the T & A sex comedy. If you were a teenage boy during the great video boom of the eighties then THIS was your favorite genre. You could always count on getting some cheap thrills, a few corny laughs and a gander at some random girl’s boobs with the abundance of movies dedicated to that one all-important subject, getting laid. Porky’s, The Last American Virgin, Spring Break, Screwballs, Losin’ It, Private School and Fraternity Vacation were just a few of the most popular titles of movies concentrating on horny teenage boys that were willing to do just about anything to have sex for the first time. These films weren’t the watered down, sterilized kind of crap that we would see in the late 90’s with the American Pie series, where teenage boys are expected to relate to a main character that’s so completely retarded he has sex with a fruity dessert. No, these films were edgy, raunchy, wild, wacky, sexy, stupid and most importantly, filled with copious amounts of one key ingredient – female nudity. It was a glorious time to have a boner.
Meatballs III is the sex comedy sequel to the 1979 smash hit Bill Murray vehicle. It continues the story of one of the first film’s main characters, Rudy “the rabbit”, who was played with quiet dignity by Chris Makepeace in the original. But unlike the first Meatballs, which was a charming PG rated coming-of-age movie with a few mildly raunchy moments, the third film really piles on the boobs and is the first in the series to boast an R rating. Even Meatballs Part II, which had absolutely nothing to do with the first film at all, (and featured a pot-smoking alien named Meathead) received a PG rating. The R rated style would continue in the next and sadly, the final installment in the franchise, Meatballs 4, featuring everyone’s favorite franchise-killer, Corey Feldman.
So, the “style” of Meatball III is pure sex comedy 101: nerd must get laid, but faces many obstacles. It begins with Rudy being made the object of ridicule in front of a large group of kids, when a girl purposely gets him aroused and then points out his condition to the amusement of his peers. But, that’s just the beginning and before long, one unfortunate incident after another has Rudy known around the marina where he works as “salami dick.” It would appear that he really has his work cut out for him in the getting laid department.
As luck would have it, his prayers are answered in the form of a deceased porno star named Roxy Du Jour, who must help Rudy lose his virginity so that she can earn her wings in heaven. Now that’s a perfect example of the kind of fucked-up, out-of-left-field, campy-mixed-with-sleazy, insane plot shit that was commonplace in the films that came out in the nineteen-eighties. It’s like a weird homage to It’s a Wonderful Life, but in the context of a summer sex comedy sequel. Fucking glorious madness!
As with all of the Meatballs films, this franchise attracted a lot of hot new talent at the time. What with Murray from the first one, Paul Reubens and John Larroquette from Part II, Feldman from 4 and Patrick (McDreamy) Dempsey in his first starring role ever for this film, casting has always been a strong staple of the series. Dempsey would go on to star in two more teen masterpieces from that era, Can’t Buy Me Love and Loverboy (where he plays a pizza delivery boy who pimps himself out to older ladies for sex). Also, screen veteran Sally Kellerman rounds out a brilliant career with her performance as a sexy spirit, whom she plays with an “old” Hollywood movie starlet style that is both dead on and strangely inappropriate all at the same time. And sharing top billing, but sadly only featured in one scene, (and even sadder that she’s not featured naked) Playboy Playmate Shannon Tweed as the “Love Goddess”.
The marina where the events of this film take place is an insane, dangerous world where madmen in motorboats crush smaller sailboats as they plow straight over them! A world where boys water ski alongside girls that are also water skiing, and tear off their bikini tops! A world where people continue drinking while the wet bar they’re on is sinking into the lake! It’s one of those crazy 80’s sex comedy worlds where people can get away with pretty much anything they want, especially if they are white and male!
Jokes involve drugs, boobs, a mop bucket full of urine, a near-sighted girl who mistakes a salami for a severed penis, a three-way involving a bull, a porno titled E.A.T. Me The Sextraterrestrial, etc., etc., etc. There’s also a Miss Bodacious Ta Ta’s wet t-shirt contest and an 80’s nerd-makeover montage featuring the song, “The Kid Is Hot Tonight” by Loverboy. What else do you want, you snobs?
Ok, so Meatballs III is definitely not the funniest movie ever made, nor is it the smartest, but the fact that it’s so perfectly fine with its own stupidity is something that I truly appreciate from this particular genre during this particular time. This is a film that’s made for a teenage boy and much like a teenage boy it’s awkward, raunchy, a little innocent and completely ready to blow its wad at any second. How mean can you be to a movie that tells us that even porn stars go to heaven? As long as they help an under age boy get laid for the first time, of course.
[Additional Thoughts by Josh] What sort of teenage boy wouldn’t want the nickname ‘salami dick’ at his workplace? That’s what I want to know. Anyway, I want to note another great 80’s quality on display with this VHS, and that is the cover art done by none other than movie poster legend Drew Struzan. I wasn’t old enough to rent this when it first hit video store shelves, but I was quite familiar with Struzan’s work (though I didn’t know him by name). As a child – not yet understanding the concept of a studio simply shelling out some cash to get a snazzy poster made – the presence of the Struzan style on the cover gave off the intended impression that this was a movie to see, and not just a B-movie tittiefest. Oh, I had so much to learn about marketing.