Andy Sidaris’s Soft Ticket to Hawaii



The stories I’ve heard and the conversations I’ve had about low-budget indie film maverick Andy Sidaris might be more entertaining than any of his films.  They certainly are than the handful of them that I’ve seen.  But, it’s undeniable that the man’s red-blooded and tanned body of work has its fans.  That fact alone is justification enough for Kino Lorber Studio Classics to trot out, at extra long last to home video, the obscure early-career fireball/head-scratcher, 1979’s Seven.

Among the yarns I’ve heard spun regarding Sidaris is that he actually directed the closing football game sequence in Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H (the claim being that Altman was out in a field somewhere, stoned).  Or: He was a yard-sign Republican who would bankroll boob jobs for starlets he deemed promising.  Or: The gag in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indiana Jones shoots the swordsman was lifted from one of his movies.  The list goes on, as one night image it would for the filmmaker who built a lucrative career on “beautiful women, beautiful men, beautiful explosions.”

That phrase, used in a new supplemental video interview on Kino Lorber’s new Seven Blu-ray by Sidaris’ wife Arlene to encapsulate the filmography she produced alongside of him, is, at best, two-thirds true in the film at hand.  Beautiful women, including Playboy playmate Barbara Leigh, abound thoroughly.  For those who get off on fiery explosions, some are beautiful; others are mere dynamite.  As for beautiful men… if middle aged clinch-jawed and clammy guys with various levels of belly gut are beautiful, then, sure.  Beautiful men.

William Smith in SEVEN.

Of the preceding claims about Sidaris, I’m content, for the purposes of this review at least, to let their factuality remain unverified.  Though Seven makes a strong point for the latter tale, the one about Indiana Jones hastily shooting a swordsman.  As a major Raiders admirer, I must admit that it’s true that Seven is the movie where that bit of legendary business happened first.  (Did Spielberg really rip off Andy Sidaris?  Considering that the backstory on why Indy shot the swordsman rather than carry out a skirmish that had been wholly planned and choreographed for that day of filming boils down to Harrison Ford feeling sick, prompting someone on set to suggest, “Why doesn’t he just shoot him?”, one can assume, probably not directly.  This is compounded by the fact that Spielberg knew how to stage and shoot the gag, Sidaris did not.)

William Smith (best known for the 1960’s Western TV series Laredo), is Drew Savano, a gruff mustached no-nonsense man of action.  When a desperate politician comes to him with a clandestine task to eliminate an alliance of seven crime lords who’ve joined forces.  Their dastardly goal?  Taking over HawaiI.  Now that’s a plot.  

Savano decides that the way to carry out this mission is to put together his own team of cut-throat assassins, then storm this majestic tropical paradise with extreme prejudice.  Say “aloha” to death, baddies!

The baddies say, “Oh, yeah…?”

Savano’s seven are a hard-bitten assortment of expert mercenaries, each with a vaguely different skill set.  They’re a curvy and/or colorful lot- just please don’t ask me to differentiate every bad guy from every good guy.  The men are an uneasy blend of guys resembling cranky little league coaches, Sopranos cast-offs, and live-action King of the Hill characters.  In other words, a nightmare at the Elk’s lodge.

Those actors might well have worked for free, considering A) the trip to Hawaii, where most if not all of the movie was filmed, and B) they share the screen with a noteworthy array of scantily clad young ladies.  A few of these female characters are fairer members of Savano’s seven.  Others are merely in league with another member under the job description of “distraction” or some such.  Still others are met along the way.  All are tough to some degree, and even though the filmmaker would come to be known in part for his penchant for bare breasts, there’s also a certain respect paid to these women that so many other exploitation directors lack.  The sheer amount of casual, pointless toplessness is eye-rollingly ridiculous, but it might be noteworthy to point out that this film is obviously ahead of Sidaris’s “silicone era”.  Meaning, all bodies in Seven are natural.  My wife didn’t appreciate much about this movie (nor did I), but she did appreciate that.

So basically, Seven is a James Bond movie that’s locked into only one locale with seven James Bonds.  The production value is deliriously lower than anything Eon Productions ever would’ve been caught dead making, but some things do get blowed up real good.  Sex is more implied than it is in 007 films, but Sidaris follows through on the nudity where Bond stops with silhouettes.  There are no show-stopping stunts, but the action is almost constant, if also laughably in earnest.  There are car chases, helicopters, and blood splattered  shootouts, but the supposed tropical locale all too often looks more like dismal southern Missouri.  One car chase during the prolonged cross-cutting finale might as well have been filmed along the unsightly back roads of the Meramec River, outside of St. Louis.

Seven is trying really hard to be a real, commercially viable, honest-to-goodness crowd-pleasing action movie, ala 1979.  It’s all a little too jiggly, a little too bloody, and indisputably poorly made.  In a situation like this, it’s impossible to say the acting is the weak link, particularly when so many characters blend together.  So, no- despite being unavailable for a long, long time on home video, and therefore pined after proportionately, Seven is not a good movie.  

But more to point- is it fun?  It depends on your drinks and your company.  I watched the first half alone and dry, and was in no way enjoying my life at the moment.  I watched the second half with my wife and with a beer, and although the sun rarely comes out in Sidaris’s Hawaii, things looked much brighter.  If that’s not an advocation for community through cinema, I don’t know what is.  As my wife said, Seven is next-level dumb, but, if only for few a brief flashes, it might just be the Sidaris film that’s as entertaining as my story surrounding it.  

Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray of Seven looks stormy and mundane, but that’s probably how the movie actually should look, considering it rained the entire time they were filming.  There’s little point in doubting that this high definition disc is by far the finest this film has ever looked or sounded.  Besides the afore-mentioned twelve minute video interview with producer Arlene Sidaris, the supplemental material includes the film’s trailer, and an audio commentary track with Steve Mitchell, the producer-director of King Cohen, and film historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson.  A solid package for fans.