B-Movie Cult Classics Unearthed Watching Late-Night HBO in College (pt. 2)

As you’ve now had over a month to recover from digest my initial three Cult-Classics-Unearthed-Watching-Late-Night-HBO-in-College, how about two more gems:

North Shore (1987, dir. William Phelps)

Anyone remember an actor named Matt Adler? The guy used to drive me nuts, something about that mug of his–part jerk-face, part androgynous–a strange combination, indeed, one that made me unsure whether I wanted to haul off and punch the guy in the jaw or, at the other end of the spectrum, invite him to a fraternity Grab-a-Date. Here’s a picture; see what I’m saying?

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Back in the mid- to late-80s he had quite a run, appearing in such films as Teen Wolf (1985), White Water Summer (1987), Amazon Women on the Moon (1987), Dream a Little Dream (1989) and an “ABC Afterschool Special” entitled Testing Dirty (1990), which, one must assume, took a hard look at either academic cheating, performance enhancing drugs or ineffectual personal hygiene.

Adler’s greatest contribution to the cinematic arts, however, was 1987’s North Shore, a film in which he plays Rick Kane, the jerk-faced/androgynous winner the prestigious Arizona State Surf Championship.

“Wait, isn’t Arizona landlocked?” you may be asking. Indeed it is:

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But suppose the event took place in a swimming pool? And said pool has some sort of Jacuzzi jet that could simulate a rush of water? 

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Ergo: Rick Kane, 1987 Arizona State Surf Champion! 

Rick, feeling a bit chesty after crushing those three-foot swells created in a controlled environment, naturally decides to use his prize money to head to the North Shore of Oʻahu to test himself against waves born in the stormy North Pacific, monster Banzai Pipeline shit like this…

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Which, of course, is tantamount to some jamoke, having just mastered a snowplow on the bunny hill, deciding it was high time to try some helicopter skiing. Then again, movies are all about the suspension of disbelief. So…

Rick flies to O’ahu, his arrival not unlike an offshore earthquake in terms of the tsunami-like inundation of narrative cliches that follow (which I’ve helpfully underlined for easy identification): no sooner does Rick fail miserably riding his first real ocean wave than he offends a group of prickly locals called “The Hui,” lead by real-life surfing legend Gerry Lopez.

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Rick and the Hui

Luckily for Rick, a comic-relief sidekick is just a bottle of Hawaiian Tropic Tanning Oil away in the person of Turtle, a seemingly brain-addled fellow surfer who, like Rick, will never be accepted into the Hawaiian natives’ surfing fraternity.

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Rick with braindead Turtle

The two outsiders become fast friends. Turtle soon introduces Rick to the alluring Kiani (Nia Peeples) and perfectly coiffed Chandler (Gregory Harrison), the former instrumental in teaching him how to sow his wild Arizonian oats while riding shirtless down the beach on a horse, the latter teaching him to surf the big waves like a champ.

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Both mentors come with baggage, though; it seems Kiani is the cousin of that big Hawaiian jerk, Vince, which, in the tradition of Romeo and Juliet, makes their love forbidden, only with Jams and leis instead of codpieces and veils.

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As for Chandler’s big problem? Landing a gig after he was killed off Trapper John, M.D. 

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The new and improved Rick soon finds himself in a rivalry with top-ranked surfer and grade-A jerk Lance Burkhart, played by the great Laird Hamilton. (Great at surfing, I should clarify, not acting.)

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The movie wraps with a huge surf contest, of course, one in which Rick’s touchy-feely relationship with the ocean (as taught to him by Dr. George Alonzo “Gonzo” Gates Chandler) trumps the shallow, materialist style of hunky Lance.

Hugs ensue. Rick gets the girl. Lance is shamed. Chandler is validated. Turtle remains a moron.

Way to bring it, bra!

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Tragically, not long after the release of this surfing classic, its entire cast and crew, save Laird Hamilton, fell off the face of the earth, not unlike the heavy metal band, Spinal Tap:

Which is too bad because I’d love to see North Shore 2, which could focus on the now-divorced Rick and Kiani finding themselves falling back in love against the dramatic backdrop of their only child’s rising surf stardom.

Finally, to be fair to Matt Adler, he did eventually come into those confounding fey looks of his and I can say with confidence that I no longer have any interest in either slugging or dating him:

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Cult-o-Meter™ (10-pt. scale)

  • 4/10 (General Quality Rating)
  • 10/10 (Enhanced Rating When Viewed Post-Midnight and just back from 25¢ Beer Nite)

Side Out (1990, dir. Peter Israelson)

In keeping with the “where are they now” theme introduced towards the end of our look at North Shore, let’s have a quick chat about actor C. Thomas Howell. For those who came of age in the early 1980s, you no doubt will recognize him from his roles in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), The Outsiders (1983) and Red Dawn (1984).

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He was something of the “it” boy back in the day, the next big thing, a TigerBeat favorite. And then it all came crashing down: a couple flops, a couple ill-advised creative decisions, adulthood, and before one could say “flavor of the month” the powers that be in Hollywood had him shipped to the Island of Misfit Toys. And while this certainly was unfortunate for C. Thomas, if one looks at his A-list deportation through a glass-half-full prism, one could say his exile was a boon for moviedom. Why? Because it eventually resulted in quite possibly the best-worst beach volleyball movie ever made, Side Out:

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No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you; that indeed is thirtysomething‘s Peter Horton high-fiving Howell. And yes, you are indeed correctly reading the tagline on the poster to the right (“Summer Just Got a Little Hotter!”)

Oof!

Howell plays Monroe Clark, a Midwestern boy who moves to sunny California to work in law. As with North Shore, no sooner has he gotten off the plane than the cliches begin to pile up like sand at the bottom of an hourglass. To wit: at the airport he befriends a carefree beach volleyball half-wit named Wiley. They become fast friends.

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Soon Monroe is sent by his uncle to the beach to handle some unsavory eviction tasks (don’t ask), a scene that affords the director an opportunity to drive home the whole fish-out-of-water vibe while at the same time slip his adolescent male demographic some serious eye candy in the form of pneumatic (look it up) Van-Halen-video extras strutting their stuff in 80s vintage bikinis, the bottoms of which seem to extend almost to the wearer’s sternum.

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But you want to know what I really love about this scene? It’s the fact that Monroe’s suit not only has a belt holding up its trousers, but also a pair of braces. You can’t see it in the picture, but trust me, they’re both there. Perhaps he was carrying about $375 dollars of change to feed the meter?

Anyway, in quick succession, Monroe meets beach volleyball/spiritual guru/mentor Zack Barnes (Horton) and soon-to-be flame (and Melrose Place regular), Samantha (Courtney Thorne-Smith).

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To make a long, convoluted story short: Monroe wins Samantha, then loses her because he’s a big fat liar, then wins her again; Wiley and Monroe learn the ways of true beach volleyball from Zack; Wiley and Monroe have a falling out, but not before Wiley breaks his arm, thus opening the door for Zack to partner with Monroe in the Gold Cuervo Classic volleyball tournament; Zack alienates Monroe with his unreliable behavior; Wiley and Monroe eventually reconcile; Monroe and Zack eventually reconcile; Zack makes love to his ex-wife; Zack reveals a deep, dark secret from his past; Monroe decides to give up the law to pursue his dream of being a sweaty beach bum; the sun shines; sand is flung into the air by bare, juking feet; balls are spiked; fists are pumped; high fives are administered; Monroe and Zack win the Gold Cuervo Classic, thus becoming the coveted “Kings of the Beach.”

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SIDE OUT, C. Thomas Howell, Peter Horton, 1990, (c)TriStar Pictures

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That’s some good stuff, people!

Cult-o-Meter™ (10-pt. scale)

  • 2.1/10 (General Quality Rating)
  • 11/10 (Enhanced Rating When Viewed Post-Midnight and just back from 25¢ Beer Nite)

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