Monday, June 21, 2021

Director Essentials: Andy Sidaris

 by Patrick Bromley

A director made for Junesploitation gets his due!

Andy Sidaris had a very simple formula for filmmaking: bullets, bombs, and babes. A pioneer in the field of TV sports, Sidaris transitioned to filmmaking in the late 1960s, directing a documentary about James Garner racing cars. By the 1970s, Sidaris found his niche, combining elements of action movies and espionage with softcore sex and lots and lots of nudity. He would never stray from this formula. You always know what you're in for with Malibu Bay Films.

1. Seven (1979)
This isn't Sidaris' first movie, but it is the first of his that I've seen. His first real "Andy Sidaris" movie, 1973's Stacey, wasn't readily available at the time of this writing, whereas the rest of his filmography has made it Blu-ray. William Smith plays a spy sent to Hawaii to stop a takeover by an evil organization, putting together a team to take out targets and stop the plan from happening. All of the elements of what would become the director's signature are in place: tropical locations, stupid spy shit, and the casting of Playboy Playmates in key roles. One of the few things that sets Seven apart from the rest of Sidaris' body of work is that he didn't write the screenplay, which might explain why it's just a little less goofy than the movies that would follow. A very little.

2. Malibu Express (1985)
This one, written as well as directed by Sidaris, adds more comedy to the formula and is significant for being the first in what would come to be known as the "Triple B" series (bullets, bombs, babes). Darby Hinton plays a private eye -- not a spy for once in a Sidaris movie -- who gets entangled in espionage and a plot to sell computer technology to Russians, because 1985. Sybil Danning appears in this one, making it better than most of Sidaris' other movies.

3. Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987)
This is Sidaris' masterpiece and probably the movie for which Sidaris will best be remembered. It codifies his formula, introduces members of his stock company (Dona Speir, Hope Marie Carlton, Cynthia Brimhall), and adds a healthy dose of self-aware absurdity. The movie has been embraced by hipsters as being ironically bad, but Sidaris knew exactly the movie he was making. No one makes something this entertaining by accident. Watching this one night with Doug, Mike, and Adam Thas made for one of the best and most fun viewing experiences of my life.

4. Savage Beach (1989)
The fourth installment of the Triple B series continues the adventures of DEA agents Donna (Dona Speir) and Taryn (Hope Marie Carlton) as they crash on a remote island and search for lost gold. Sidaris was cranking out movies about once a year at this point and it starts to become difficult to distinguish one from another, but this one stands out as more polished and professional than some of his other efforts.

5. Guns (1990)
Ok, this one's not great. Truth be told, I'm including it on this list because Erika and I sing the theme song to each other a couple times a week. But it also adds Erik Estrada into the mix as the movie's big bad, and it's rare that Sidaris got to work with stars. He usually just made his own. This one also includes appearances by Devin DeVasquez (Can't Buy Me Love, Society) and even a young Danny Trejo.

6. Fit to Kill (1993)
One of two movies Sidaris made in 1993 (he acted as producer on the second, Enemy Gold), Fit to Kill is important in that it marks the first time the filmmaker worked with Penthouse Pet and B-movie icon Julie Strain (RIP), the subject of today's Junesploitation theme. She would go on to appear in the rest of Sidaris' filmography (and that of his son Drew) and is the best part of every one of their films. Here, Strain plays the villain -- she would later play a different role as a member of L.E.T.H.A.L. -- as she and the team at Molokai Cargo, led once again by Dona Speir, duke it out over a precious diamond. This is a fun one.

7. Return to Savage Beach (1998)
What would wind up being Sidaris' last movie is more a sequel to 1996's Day of the Warrior than it is to Savage Beach, with a new generation of beautiful spies (now including Julie Strain as part of the team) on the hunt for a computer disk that reveals the location of hidden treasure. The director's best days are behind him here, with the tried and true formula seeming to run on fumes as it repeats itself a few too many times, but Strain is still a total star among a cast (including Marcus "Buff" Bagwell, returning from the previous film) that's not quite as talented in the acting department as the director's original company. I guess people aren't watching Sidaris movies for the acting, though, so what do I know?


  1. Ha! When the Junesploitation calendar hit, my ONLY 'note' was going to be that i was surprised that it didnt have a Sidaris day. Annnnnd Patrick found a way to ensure there was representation within...well done Bromley!

  2. Stacey and Malibu Express are gender flipped versions of the same story. Picasso Trigger,Guns, Do or Die, Hard Hunted, The Dallas Connection are all worth watching too.

    My friend Ben Sher wrote this amazing article about what Sidaris films mean to him and I want as many people reading it as possible.

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  4. When that yellow Malibu Bay Films logo appears, there is no question about what kind of things are going to come up on the screen for the next ninety minutes.

    One of these Juneploitations I will get around to watching Hard Ticket To Hawaii. It was shown a couple of years ago on TCM Underground. I remember an irate viewer left a very negative review on the TCM website about t&a trash like Hard Ticket appearing on the channel. I had a good laugh about it.

  5. Saw Hard Ticket (along with RoboCop) in a packed theater at a festival in 2019. One of my most joyous movie going experiences.

  6. Just watched Hard Ticket to Hawaii - can't believe I took so long to get around to it. Unbelievably fun. Wish I could get a time machine and tell me 15 year old self to check it out.