in the nineties, when I didn’t sneak out and run around breaking stuff, I would
often hole up and watch USA Up All Night, a late night B movie show
hosted alternately by a younger, but still not quite young, Gilbert Godfrey
who’d be replaced the next week by the ditzy, bubbly Rhonda Sheer with her
over-sprayed blonde hair and ample bosom. Aside from the occasional slasher
movie, USA Up All Night would play teen sex comedies, a genre of
exploitation film based entirely off teenage boys’ desire to gawk at boobs in a
pre-internet world. The genre started in the drive-in circuit and exploded on
the arrival of VHS. Non-existent plots revolved around some snooty fat cat
developer trying to shut down the beach or summer camp while dimwit bros
struggled to keep the party going.
Problematic as this genre was—and its sister genre, the tame, star-crossed romances of John Hughes (also covered in this guide)—it was a huge part of my cultural DNA. I wanted to check the book out and I wasn’t disappointed. The sheer amount of movies they review is vast. The tone is funny and charming, but at the same time insightful. For instance, Beardo’s hot take on the class warfare in these movies. He sides with the “slobs” over the “snobs,” taking shots not just at the ubiquitous rich kids from the competing fraternity or camp, but also at the snide, condescending Ferris Bueller and the bottomless financial privilege he throws around to keep him out of trouble. You can expect everything in here to be written with humor and aplomb, in spite of the puerile and scatological nature of the films it covers.
My love of this genre, however, does not come without some chagrin. I’m a lot older than I was when I sat up late watching, edited nudie vehicles on cable TV. I know how offensive, sexist, and problematic these movies are. Fortunately, so does the author. Beardo addresses this by getting a lot of women to write essays and reviews in here. Some of the writers are old school punks or zine makers, like Lisa Crystal Carver. Not only does this allow for a more ethical delving into the genre’s patriarchal pathology, it also makes for a much more interesting read. This book deserves its place on the shelf next to Michael J. Wheldon’s, The Psychotronic Video Guide and in the home of any exploitation film fan. –Craven Rock (Bazillion Points, bazillionpoints.com)