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Late-night cable TV in the 80’s just wouldn’t have been the same without the films of Andy Sidaris. From 1987 to 1994, Sidaris turned out at least one film a year, each featuring his patented formula. You start with a bunch of Playboy playmates cast as highly-skilled secret agents, team them up with some hunky dudes, then blow up some helicopters and boats along the way and you’ve got yourself a movie. For Sidaris it worked, and he stuck to his formula so tightly that many of his films are difficult to distinguish from each other. The film that basically got the ball rolling for his dominance of the late-night cable schedule was 1985’s Malibu Express. However, the seeds of what was to come could be spotted six years earlier in Sidaris’ second directorial effort, 1979’s Seven.
As the story begins, there is trouble in paradise. No less than seven evil crime bosses are causing trouble all over Hawaii. Why in just the first five minutes of the film we see a couple gunned down as they leave a luau, another man impaled through the heart with a flaming torch, and another guy killed by the world’s oldest crossbow-toting skateboarder. With worries about how all this crime will affect the tourist industry, officials turn to Drew Sevano (William Smith) to clean things up. Sevano ends up recruiting his own team of seven (actually eight) assassins to take out the bad guys. The crew is made up of a unique cast of characters, including a race car driver, a cowboy, a nightclub comedian, and, of course, a gorgeous woman.
Seven asks a lot of its audience. It gives us the almost impossible task of keeping track of seven different villains, and just as many heroes trying to take them out. Each is its own plot thread and they don’t often intersect. So there’s plenty of time to forget what is going on with each of the different characters as they try to take out each of their respective targets. Plus, with so many characters, there isn’t really much opportunity for any one of them to really set themselves apart. Sadly, my mind had to keep track of them on the most rudimentary level…that’s the girl, that’s the cowboy guy, that’s the black guy, that’s the old guy.
Now, there are some familiar faces peppered throughout the film. Unlike Sidaris’ later works, we don’t have a cast that is completely made up of “actors” hired for their physical features, and their willingness to display those features sans clothing. Leading man William Smith has been appearing in films since he was a child, all the way back to uncredited appearances in films like Going My Way and The Ghost of Frankenstein. He does a decent job of holding the madness together here, even if his presence in this film is not what I would consider terribly charismatic. Another familiar face is Art Metrano, who I will always remember as Mauser from the second and third entries of the Police Academy series. Here he’s the member of the team who moonlights as a nightclub comedian. Unfortunately, the stand-up routines we see Metrano do in the film are really offensive by today’s standards. We also get appearances by Bernie himself, Terry Kiser, as a US senator, and the one and only Martin Kove shows up as one of the big bad’s henchmen. He’s underused in the film, but a little Kove goes a long way.
One of the strangest aspects of Seven is that, contrary to Sidaris’ usual playbook, the film centers primarily on a group of male characters. In films like Hard Ticket to Hawaii or Picasso Trigger, the ladies are the central characters; the driving force of the film. Yes, that’s primarily so there are as many opportunities as possible for them to go au naturale, but still. In Seven, Sidaris is still going by the traditional convention that action stars are dudes. The few moments in this film where he does let the ladies move to the forefront seem obligatory to balance out the fact that they all end up shedding their clothes at some point in the film. While his later films are epically more gratuitous, there is certainly something lacking because Sidaris never lets the ladies take charge in this early effort.
Though most of the film meanders quite a bit, the final act of Seven is worth the wait. The film cuts back and forth between the various good guys taking out their targets in wild fashion. It’s a heck of a lot bloodier than you will see in other Sidaris films. In most of his later films, if someone gets shot they flail around a bit and drop to the ground dramatically. Here we get plenty of blood splatter to go with the dramatic flailing. Truth be told, the action sequences that close out Seven are among the best Sidaris ever pulled off. They are much more cinematic than anything he did during the era where his films came to most viewers via VHS or cable.
Though I don’t know that Seven is as entertaining as some of Sidaris’ more famous titles, it is more skillfully made. The film struggles, though, with a disjointed story that stretches the viewer’s patience until the big third act payoff. It is an interesting curiosity, though, to see the elements that the director would exploit in big ways later in his career begin to flower.
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