Thursday, August 16, 2012

Joysticks (Greydon Clark, 1983)

Staring at the flickering shapes darting and exploding across the screen, the patrons at your local video arcade–your local what? Ask your Uncle Steve–may look like they're engaging in an activity that is social in nature (they're out of the house, they're amongst friends, they're consuming junk food). However, what they're actually doing is the epitome of anti-social. With their attention completely focused on the army of colourful ghosts chasing their "Pac-Man" or "Ms. Pac-Man" through a pellet-filled maze, the well-being of those around them is the last thing on their minds. And I don't mean to imply that the people hovering about as they played are in danger or not feeling well. On the contrary, most of them seem to be in perfect health. But if, say, the blonde woman with the large breasts were to...Wait a minute. "Blonde woman with large breasts"? Um, hello? That pretty much describes about eighty percent of the gamers who appear Joysticks, the video game movie starring the gorgeous Corinne Bohrer (The Beach Girls) and the always delightful Jon Gries (TerrorVision). Okay, what if, oh, I got it, those two black guys in the matching red shirts were to start choking on, oh, let's say, a hot dog? Yeah, that's right. Simultaneous hot dog choking. Would any of the people playing stop to help them? I don't think so. In fact, they probably wouldn't even notice as the coroner takes their lifeless bodies to the morgue. How do I know this? Well, let's just say, I used to be one of those people. Sure, I don't ever recall being so into a game that I completely ignored the sound of two black guys simultaneously choking to death. But then again, how can I be sure that I didn't? I mean, have you ever played Defender? If you have, you know what I'm talking about. It's like being addicted to crack. Actually, crack addiction sounds like a walk through a field of daisies when compared to playing Tempest for eight hours straight, as the combination of secondhand smoke, irreparable ear damage, carpal tunnel syndrome, and, not to mention, being exposed a wide array of airbourne microbes, allergens, and toxic chemicals will severely test the limits of your fragile immune system.     
The worst aspect about playing video games, whether they're played in an arcade, at home, or on the go, is that you're not accomplishing anything. It's true, some games have recently introduced a more physical component to the gaming experience, so technically you're getting a workout. But for the most part, it's still a passive activity. While watching the similarly themed Pinball Summer, I couldn't help but notice that the players seemed to be practicing to copulate as the hurled their tightly garbed crotches toward the pinball machines they were attempting to play. Holding it firmly by its haunches with both hands, you lunge at the game with everything you've got. Responding to your heaving flesh, the game makes a series of sounds that are designed to inform that you've heaved well. Much in the same the way a baby cries when its born, as the shrill noise it's making is not meant to annoy, but to indicate to you that your sperm and/or ovum is in working order. A crying baby is a well-produced baby. A non-crying baby is a dead baby.   
You'll find no stories of reproductive mirth within Joysticks; if anything, you'll probably want to destroy your genitals with a set of fiery hedge clippers when all is said and all is done ("my hands work with fire and steel"). Pressing your hand against the long, slender shaft of the joystick, you place your quarter, or in this film's case, your token, in the slot, and you are now ready to commence masturbating. Whoa, how come the people in Pinball Summer are laying the groundwork for the reproducing the probably racist spawn of tomorrow, while the folks in Joysticks are merely making stains on the carpet? I don't know, my dear Agnieszka, but the floors of the establishment at the centre of this deeply troubling mishegas have become soiled beyond recognition, and there's nothing anyone can do about it; at least not until the internet is invented. 
One man tries to do something about it, but he's fighting, to use one of them lame war metaphors, an uphill battle. Nevertheless, his name is Joseph Rutter (Joe Don Baker) and he hates video games. Shocked by what the video arcade in located in River City has done to his daughter Patsy Rutter (Corinne Bohrer), Mr. Rutter, utilizing his henchmen/nephews, Max (John Voldstad) and Arnie (John Diehl), tries everything in his power to close what he sees as a blight on, not only the community, but on society as a whole.
It's hard to imagine him succeeding when you take in account what we're shown during the film's opening sequence. A blonde woman with large breasts named Candy (Lynda Wiesmeier from Malibu Express) is jumping up and down while playing an arcade game. Set to a song that featured lyrics such as "totally awesome video games" and "video to the max," the sequence mixes shots of Candy bouncing in super-tight short-shorts with clips of classic video games. While I don't remember the names of all the games, I do recall playing more than half of them at one point or another. In other words, good luck trying to keep people away a place that features hot chicks in skimpy shorts playing video games in an overly enthusiastic manner.
Employing the classic early '80s movie trio of the nerd, the fat slob, and the preppy asshole, the building blocks of any poorly conceived sex comedy based on a cultural phenomenon, we're introduced to the "nerd" character first. Driving to his new job at the local video arcade, Eugene Groebe (Leif Green) is propositioned by two women while stopped at a red light. Showing him their tan line adorned breasts, the women, a brunette with short hair and a long-haired blonde invite Eugene into the backseat of their convertible to fuck. If this all sounds a little far-fetched, that's because it is. They don't want to have sex with him, they just want to get a picture of him with his pants down in order to complete a pledge prank for a sorority they want to join.
Judging by the way the ladies giggled as they drove off with his pants, it's obvious that they enjoyed their encounter with the bespectacled young man in the sweater vest. On the other hand, Eugene will probably be scared for life, and, from this day forward, only be able to become sexually aroused by women who remind him of his mother.
The so-called "preppy asshole" of the film is introduced when we meet the video arcade's manager Jeff Baily (Scott McGinnis), a smirking cocksucker if I ever saw one. When he notices Eugene's name written in the waist of a pair of pants he finds on the floor, he remarks, "His pants are here, he can't be that far behind." And while I'll admit, McGinnis does execute that line with a flair that can best be described as "jaunty," that doesn't mean I'll forgive him for what he does to two of the film's most compelling characters. Oh, and it's after Jeff Baily utters the pants line that we're treated to the first of the film's many Pac-Man themed transition wipes (complete with the wocka wocka sound). 
When Eugene, who's since been reunited with his pants, tells this slovenly fellow playing Pac-Man to stop being so physically objectionable, we're unwittingly introduced to the film's ubiquitous "fat slob" character. A video game expert who helps maintain the upkeep of the arcade's many games, Jonathan Andrew McDorfus (Jim Greenleaf), or, as those close to him like to call him, "Dorfus," is, to put it mildly, a disgusting human being.  
It's true, the nerd character does flirt with being likable every so often (the fact that he calls his penis "Simba" was an agreeable attribute), but the threesome are pretty loathsome overall, especially the preppy asshole, who I wanted to straight-up murder on several occasions. Filled to the brim with so much unpleasantness, it's a miracle that Joysticks was able to exude any charm whatsoever.    
This should come as no surprise, but the reason the film doesn't completely suck has a lot to be with the presence of personal favourite Corinne Bohrer as Patsy Rutter, the daughter of, you guessed it, Joseph Rutter, and Jon Gries as King Vidiot, the leather clad leader of an all-girl gang of new wave punks (think: The Misfits from Jem meets Wendy O. Williams), as they both bring a certain level of class and dignity to the proceedings. Blowing their respective co-stars of the off the screen with an alarming ease, the insanely adorable Corinne uses a thick Valley Girl accent to great effect, while Jon destroys all comers with his spastic mannerisms.
While they share very little when it comes to fashion and music, Patsy Rutter and King Vidiot have one thing in common: they both love hanging out at the arcade. Only problem being that there are forces in the universe who would like nothing better than to see them banished from the River City gaming mecca. As far as Patsy goes, it's rather obvious who wants to her keep away from the arcade. You see, her father views the arcade as a corrupting influence on his daughter, and will do everything in his power to make sure his sand pail of girlish sunshine stays as far away from its alluring glow as humanly possible. And if that means forcing it to close its doors for good through untoward shenanigans, than so be it.
When it comes to why King Vidiot and his gang of gorgeous punk pretties are being denied access to the arcade, things get a little more complicated. After thwarting a late night attempt by Mr. Rutter's henchmen/nephews, Arnie and Max, to steal all the arcade's games, Jeff decides to celebrate their victory by throwing a private party for a bunch of his regular customers; the only stipulation being that all the women must wear their nightclothes to the arcade (that's the reason Patsy is wearing a white negligee). Anyway, when King Vidiot and his girl power entourage show up to enjoy some after hours gaming, Jeff tells them to leave. If I needed anymore evidence proving that this Jeff guy is a jerk, this shameful display solidified my point with crystal clear precision.
Even though a deal is struck, if King Vidiot beats Dorfus at Satan's Hollow he can stay, if he loses, than he and his "subjects" (he is royalty, after all) must leave immediately, I still thought Jeff was being a major dick. The way he looked at King Vidiot with that pompous grin was obscene. I mean, that's no way to treat a regular customer. What I think was at play here was a definite anti-punk agenda on the part of the filmmakers, because I can't think of any other good reasons to have Jeff be so hostile towards King Vidiot. Of course, you need to have the two of them at each other's throats in order to make King Vidiot's alliance with Joseph Rutter seem more plausible. But still, the manner in which the crowd cheered when King Vidiot lost to Dorfus made my skin crawl.  
To the surprise of no-one, Joseph Rutter attempts to exploit the rift that forms between Jeff and King Vidiot by making the latter an offer he couldn't possibly refuse (his very own video arcade game). If only Jeff would have let King Vidiot stay, things would have been so much. Oh well. Don't feel too sorry for Vidiot. On top of having killer cheekbones, a soft spot for chicks with dicks (he tells Max masquerading as "Maxine" that she has "great legs"), and access to mini-bikes (one of the perks to selling out to Rutter), King Vidiot is the leader of a gang of new wave girls who all wear sleeveless tops.   
Will Jeff be able to overcome his fear of video games in time to save his arcade? And why was John Diehl always wearing that red Angels cap? To be honest, I don't really give a shit; about Jeff overcoming his fear, not the thing about the Angels cap. He's [Jeff] a fucking fascist. Plus, he made Corinne Bohrer sad. You heard right, he cruelly shuns Patsy in the end. Personally, I'm still trying to get over the fact that he rejected Patsy–a new wave flapper goddess–for some chick who was the epitome of bland and boring. But I guess shouldn't expect much from a guy who makes Heinrich Himmler seem personable.
Changing gears for a second: His balls might smell like corn nuts, but I was deeply impressed with the Dorfmeister's milf-bagging skills. The sexy Mrs. Rutter (Morgan Lofting, best known to kids of the '80s as the voice of The Baroness from the G.I. Joe animated series) can't get enough of the Dorfster's cock. (I'm surprised she was able to find it underneath all that excess flab.) The film, stupid as it might seem, had me longing for the days when Yonge Street (a long stretch of concrete in the middle of Toronto) was awash with record stores, porn theatres, t-shirt shops, and, of course, video arcades.

video uploaded by elephantjewls

Special shout out to "Cotter." (See the comments section for entry on the film Valet Girls to find out why.)


  1. Some of the movies your review seem downright vile. This and "Maniac" seem to be in the category of "i-dont-know-how-you-do-it". Although "Maniac" did have synths and was sampled by SKINNY PUPPY.

    I'm currently in a period of self-imposed video game sobriety. They really do eat away HUGE amounts of time and produce a complex state of emotional euphoria mired in depressed sluggishness.

    Totally unrelated, I just watched "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" the other night. I know its not your usual fare, but that film is just begging for your review.

  2. And don't forget, Maniac features a cameo by none other than Sharon Mitchell.

    "Depressed sluggishness" is a great way to describe the feeling I get after watching The Real Housewives of, oh, let's say, Orange County.

    I'm a big fan Joan Crawford, so, of course I've seen Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Oh, and by "big fan," I don't mean to imply that I've read her biography, have her poster on my wall, or engage in activities that are Dorothy-friendly in nature. ;)

  3. Funny you should leave a comment on my Possession entry, as I just acquired a copy of Andrzej Żuławski's Szamanka.

  4. "Possession" ravaged me last night.

  5. Dude, I totally whiffed on Stephen Harper in a Jeopardy! clue. And the letters of his name were anagrammed! Take away my honorary Canadian citizenship!

    John Diehl might be better known here in the States (and maybe in Canada?) as Harley Earl in those Buick commercials.

  6. @ido: I hope it ravaged you in a good way. ;)

    @Karim Amir: If it was say, Pierre Trudeau, I would have thought about taking it away, But Stephen Harper? You can definitely keep your honourary citizenship. ;)

    I know John Diehl mostly from Angel (the movie from 1984) and Motorama. And, of course, Miami Vice.

  7. One of my fave 80's sex comedies.

    The Misfits meets W.O.W. Perfect. That is an aesthetic that should be revived.

    That three way scene in the office is totally hot. Like...totally!

    I think I recommended Szamanka to you (?). It's like Last Tango in Paris on crack. I'm sure you will enjoy it, and also get some WTF shoved into your eyeballs at the same time.

  8. Are you aware that The Misfits' songs are in fact better?

    My eyeballs love WTF. Yeah, you recommended Szamanka. I haven't watch it yet. But I do plan to in the not-so distant future.

  9. I have just watched Night of the Rats with my Daughter and Partner, We usually love a good horror movie but this was not one, when we managed to keep awake found It very funny my Daughter went home as she was bored. Not a patch on Stephen Kings Rats very dissapointed