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 me, whose Facebook page Collecting VHS is a showcase for the lost charms of VHS box artwork. With this column it is my intention to highlight these “lost” films and the only rule I have for myself is that they cannot be available on DVD.
Title: Pretty Smart
Genre: T & A sex comedy
Tagline: Meet Zigs and Zero. When they’re good, they’re very, very good. And when they’re bad, they’re brilliant!
Released by: New World Video
Director: Dimitri Logothetis
Plot: Two precocious teenaged sisters are sent to a Mediterranean finishing school where their very different personalities separate them into competing cliques. But when they discover that the headmaster has been selling drugs and pornographic videos made from the hidden cameras he’s installed in all the girl’s dorm rooms, the two siblings team up to take their common enemy down.
Thoughts: Back in the eighties there was an abundance of raunchy T & A sex comedies that were almost completely marketed for an all-male audience. However, every once in a long great while an all-female take on the same genre would turn up to prove to us that girls just want to have fun too, with movies like Girls Just Want To Have Fun, Where the Boys Are ’84, The Allnighter, Splitz, Gimme an F and the amazing Pretty Smart. That’s right folks, Bridesmaids wasn’t the first movie to display an ensemble of ladies getting laughs for gross out jokes and salty language.
Pretty Smart begins with a high energy opening credits scene featuring loads of video game style graphics in neon pink, green and blue, while a rocking theme song plays (sung by the lead Tricia Leigh Fisher) and a voice over narration gives us the setup: Daphne aka “Zigs” (Tricia Leigh Fisher) and Jennifer Ziegler (Lisa Lorient) are teenaged sisters from Los Angeles that are shipped off by their parents to a girl’s finishing school in Greece as punishment for their bad behavior. Smart thinking mom and pops! Soon the siblings become bitter rivals as they both join separate, competing cliques. The wild and crazy “Zigs” rolls with Zero (Patricia Arquette) and the rest of the punk/new wave girls, while the more reserved Jennifer moves into the bitchy blonde girls group.
And then things get dark in a way you do not expect or see coming. Turns out the handsome headmaster of the girl’s academy, Mr. Crowley (Dennis Cole) has secretly installed video cameras in all the girl’s rooms and watches and records their most intimate and private moments, just like in Revenge of the Nerds only a LOT creepier. He sells the videos to a sleazy group of wealthy “erotic art collectors” whom watch the tapes together before bidding on them.
If that’s not fucked up enough, the greedy Mr. Crowley is now dipping his fingers into the drug dealing business and he plans on using the girls as mules to carry his cocaine without their knowledge by planting it on them. When “Zigs” finds out the dirt she rallies the girls to put aside their petty arguments and come together so they can make Mr. Crowley pay for his wicked ways, that includes: filming and editing their own mock snuff tape, destroying an enormous amount of blow and forcing the headmaster to resign in shame.
This is truly one weird and funny movie that completely delivers on the promise of its amazingly awesome video box cover art. It’s got a lot of great jokes, some really funny lines and the sense of humor is very irreverent and raunchy, but from a totally female point of view. There’s one sequence that plays as if Fellini directed a sequel to Hardbodies, in which a girl’s tennis competition turns into a dance concert with an outrageous new wave band and oiled, flexing male bodybuilders in speedos (?)! It also features a very talented cast that includes some great early performances from Tricia Leigh Fisher, Joely Fisher and a punky Patricia Arquette.
And for all you gratuitous nudity fans, there’s a cornucopia of hot young females in the buff on display throughout the film, taking full advantage of the Mediterranean’s many topless beaches. The movie starts out very silly, but suddenly takes a sharp turn towards the very dark world of illegal drug trafficking and underage pornography without any warning whatsoever. Luckily, there’s absolutely no tonal change, so these very serious crimes are treated in an extremely light hearted fashion the only way an eighties teen sex comedy can. Pass the lotion, please.