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.
Genre: T & A sex comedy
Tagline: Roll over “Meatballs” the “Oddballs” are ready for summer camp!
Released by: Lightning Video
Director: Miklos Lente
Plot: Welcome to Camp Bottomout for boys. It may be a little run down and the owner may be a drunken old lunatic named Hardy Basset (Foster Brooks) who won the place in a poker game, but it is directly across the lake from Camp Bountiful for girls and the boys will do just about anything to get there. But the owner of the girl’s camp, J. Frothingham Skinner wants to buy Camp Bottomout and turn it into a shopping mall. Will the inebriated Basset sell the beloved camp for a profit, or will he keep it and make the children happy?
Thoughts: The summer camp comedy genre was as bountiful in the eighties as the enormous breasted women that were often chosen to be in them. The successes of Little Darlings and Meatballs proved that there was an audience who wanted to see scantily clad girls being chased by horny dudes in striped tube socks in the woods. These films always had a few common elements that included:
1. A virgin (or virgins) that must get laid by the end of the summer.
2. A competition between the rival camps of some sort.
3. A coed dance.
4. Gross out humor.
5. Gratuitous T & A.
The Canadian made Oddballs has all five of these elements, but the style of comedy is really wacky and plays almost like an Airplane-styled spoof, making it one of the oddest summer camp comedies I’ve ever seen.
The setting is Camp Bottomout for boys and you know you’re in trouble when that “loveable lush” and veteran comedian, Foster Brooks is in charge. He plays Hardy Bassett, a drunken grouch who hates kids and has no problem occasionally firing one of his many guns in their direction when he’s angered. Turns out the old alcoholic won the run down camp in a poker game, but he doesn’t know the first thing on how to handle the young men. Enter his smoking hot granddaughter Jennifer (Konnie Krome), who drops by for the summer to help her Granddad fix the place up and give all the little boys some wood. Unfortunately, she’s a bit too old for the very underage young men, so they fix their sights across the lake to Camp Bountiful for very attractive girls. They spend the majority of the movie trying to get across, but to no avail.
Meanwhile over at the girl’s camp, the greedy owner J. Frothingham Skinner desperately wants to buy Camp Bottomout and turn it into a shopping mall. Why anyone would want to build a shopping mall in the middle of the woods next to a lake is beyond me, but this is what he wants and he’ll stop at nothing to get it. He even sends his slightly retarded son Chadwick (who wears an “alligator” shirt with an actual alligator pinned to it) to seduce Bassett’s granddaughter in hope she’ll turn against him and help them with their ruthless plan, but he strikes out. He then tries to drug her at the camp mixer dance, but the plan backfires. In a last attempt Chadwick kidnaps her by car, but doesn’t get far before being caught. Finally, Bassett decides to take Skinner’s offer of $300,000 bucks and retire so he can spend the rest of his days completely drunk. However, the hurt reaction from his granddaughter and the boys causes him to change his booze-addled mind and the camp is saved! Hooray!
This is one cheesy, corny summer camp comedy. It makes Meatballs Part II seem like an intense suspense-thriller. The boys are like a horny version of The Little Rascals. You’ve got Og – the fat, tough kid. Francois – the French-obsessed African-American boy. And Spiz – the rude punk brat who likes to spit. They make a bet early on in the film that by the end of the summer they all have to do “it”. Thankfully they don’t, because they’re all around twelve years old. That doesn’t mean there aren’t dozens of completely inappropriate sexual jokes involving minors, including a sex seminar conducted by one of the older male counselors, who takes them on a field trip to a singles bar disguised as adults so they can pick up women (?)! There’s also an enormously breasted nurse who keeps falling for the boys “injured testicles” scheme over and over again.
The style of comedy is all over the place. You’ve got Foster Brooks doing his drunk shtick throughout the entire film, occasionally dusting off some of his old jokes and working them into routines with the kids, like when he tells one small boy that “They’re opening a new cheese shop in Jerusalem. It’s called Cheesus of Nazareth.” Groan. Lots of that and tons of fourth wall-breaking mugs to the camera can be found here along with dozens of bizarre jokes involving references from popular movies. There’s several E.T. jokes (pre-Meatballs Part II), two Jaws jokes, an opening Indiana Jones gag, a Wizard of Oz bit, a Mary Poppins spoof, a 10 Commandments sketch and a Mummy flashback. One random scene involves a new camp karate instructor for the boys that turns into a parody of dubbed martial arts movies. There’s also plenty of bad, over the top comic acting by pretty much everyone on hand to make the jokes go over even flatter.
Yet still, I found this movie mesmerizing for just how amazingly silly it was. It’s definitely one of the most original summer camp comedies I’ve ever seen before. One minute you’ve got Foster Brooks delivering the setup line to the kids, “Will somebody call me an ambulance?” To which the boys reply, “You’re an ambulance!” The next minute you have an obviously gay aerobics instructor dressed in fetish leathers, leading the boys in a dance workout before dropping dead of a heart attack from popping too much Amyl Nitrate. Oh, yeah! Also, the Camp Bottomout uniform is a striped black and white shirt that makes all the boys look like little French cat burglars and there’s a crashed bi-plane on the campgrounds that is never explained. And I’m glad of that.
Okay, here’s the T & A lowdown. There’s not much despite the promise that the awesome VHS box cover art would let you believe. No nudity at all. The kids are really young, so it’s a PG rated flick. You see some girls working out in aerobics gear and the cute lead actress runs around in bikinis and tight shorts a lot, but no bare body shots. There is however an abundance of nice cleavage close-ups to get your fix and the camp nurse is a real 80’s babe. This is not the boner-epic, or even the tit-tacular that I had hoped for, but it’s just bizarre and cheesy enough to keep you riveted to the screen. I will leave you all with another amazing quote from Foster Brooks in Oddballs: “The moral of the story is, don’t sniff airplane glue when you’re young. It’s bad for your memory.” True that!