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"So,you're probably getting in a week what we get for the whole movie...?"

“Yes, Virginia, there was a funny, unpretentious Tom Hanks…”

Feature


Back in those dim distant days of the eighties, there existed a Tom Hanks whom those of a certain age still remember with great fondness.  This was a very talented comedy actor with bags of energy and charm, one long before he succumbed to “Michael Keaton Syndrome”, the tragic affliction which sees actors lose their sense of fun, choose only dramatic roles and become bitchy about the more “popularist” work from their past.  Most might recall that after his double Academy-Awarding winning performances, he publicly stated that he wished he could get rid of everything on his CV before 1992, and even though he has recanted this in the past few years, it’s still a big kick in the balls to those who cast him in their movies - let alone anyone paying money to see his work.  It’s nice to remember the younger incarnation of Hanks, who generated big laughs with ease, effortlessly winning over audiences irrespective of gender, and there is no more pure an example than 1984’s Bachelor Party.

Commissioned after the Neal Israel/Pat-Proft scripted Police Academy when ballistic at the box-office, Fox  bagged the writers and getting them to do their stuff all over again, but without the restriction on content previously imposed on them. The result was a modestly-budgeted film (a mere $8m) which went on to rake in $38m before it even graced international markets, becoming a huge hit all around the world, opening a mere three months after Splash, and cementing Hanks as a new box-office star.  So what was the secret to its success?

Few films can merely be a showcase for drunken partying, and it certainly isn’t the case here.   Bachelor Party utilises the trusty, if shop-worn, premise of the class war, with welder Rick Gassko (Hanks) on the eve marrying into the rich Thompson family through their beloved daughter Debbie (Tawny Kitaen).  Unhappy that a member of the working class is barging his way into the fold, his prospective father-in-law seeks the help of Debbie’s mildly psychotic ex-fiancee to ruin the relationship before their vows.  His plan?  To take drastic measures to incriminate Rick at his bachelor party, and if that fails, do whatever is necessary to get him out of the picture!

"Are you a violent, vain, tit-job'd bitch yet?"

With Hanks so good in the role, and sharing such a great chemistry with Kitaen, it comes as a surprise to most to find that they were not the original choices for the leads.  Not only that, but the star of the popular TV show Bosom Buddies had already turned down Bachelor Party when originally offered, with Paul ( Aliens) Reiser and Kelly ( Top Gun) McGillis eventually cast.  It was a week into filming when Fox supremo Joe Wizan decided he didn’t like the casting choices, and halted production, going back to Hanks and offering him the handsome fee of $37,000 (in present money) to save the movie, he was about to find his box-office popularity rocketing.

What about the rest of the cast?  Well, getting Adrian Zmed was a bit of a coup, being one of the hottest (in both senses) stars on American televisions, picking him up right in the middle of his run on TJ Hooker.  As O’Neil, he oozes an easy charm with a very different vibe from the leading actor - where Hanks would make girls laugh on their way home to meet their mother, Zmed would just have them drive him to the nearest motel.  He frequently delivers the best one-liners, including when a very expensive car is “borrowed”, the distraught owner demands to know when it went, with Zmed coming out with the priceless “…maybe it had something to do”.

Prepare to energize?  Already there....!

Cannon action-star-in-waiting Michael Dudikoff isn’t given much to do, but comes off rather nicely, shining in his scene where (as a waiter) he proceeds to sicken diners with the practicalities of eating food which produces mucus.  Fan favourite is neurotic, sex-crazed Gary (Gary Grossman), the little guy who falls in love with a suspiciously big girl at the party.  Special mention must go to Barry Diamond as Rudy, mechanic by day and party animal by night.  Essentially, Rudy is like a dog in human form, always wanting to play and have fun, with almost no impulse control to hamper his quest to enjoy himself.  Always reliable for both big laughs and small chuckles in the film, Diamond was a last-minute replacement for Andy Baumatai, who left when production was halted for re-casting.

Giving an added dimension to proceedings is the inclusion of Brad Mollen (Bradford Bancroft), the manically depressive childhood friend flown over to be at the party with his former friends.  Functioning as some form of Greek chorus for the ways a marriage can go badly wrong, he makes several attempts to kill himself, as psychic osmosis begins to eat away at Rick and his faith in the upcoming nuptials.  Brads' mood picks up when he gets drugged out of his mind, but his inclusion is a nice look at the way some friends were shed long ago for a very good reason, and how their  reappearance would only confirm that the spark of friendship has been extinguished by time.  As downbeat as Brad is, he's the source of some pretty funny stuff!

Something for everyone. It's between Sperber and Harmon....given half a chance...

The line-up of female characters is just as strong as the guys’ grouping, with a great bunch of actors all working well together.  Robert Zemeckis favourite Wendie Jo Sperber scores numerous laughs as suspicious wife Tina, while veteran actress (and Airplane alumni) Barbara Stuart finds herself on the losing end of the hotdog gag in one of the favourite scenes.  Speaking of Zemeckis stars, Deborah Harmon brings out her inner bitch to derail the boys’ night out, with her character finding cognitive therapy for her bitterness by the end of the film.  Best of all is Martina Finch as Phoebe, the fun-loving girl so delightfully detached from reality that she’s happy enough to eat cat food.  Funnily enough, the first acting job she had was a guest-spot on Hanks’ Bosom Buddies, along with the aforementioned Sperber.

Every story of an odyssey needs an antagonist, and Robert Prescott’s Cole fits the bill nicely.  Part handsome, part psychotic, very rich and a total arsehole, he is on a mission to stop the wedding by bribery or corruption, growing increasingly unhinged with every failure.  Linking in the class theme, it seems as though Cole is less concerned with getting his former fiancée back than he is marrying into the family, currying favour with Debbie’s father and improving his (already high) social standing.  Almost a villainous is veteran stage-actor George Grizzard as Mr Thompson, a man more in love with maintaining the family bloodline than with his own daughter’s happiness.

Both of the above baddies get what’s coming to them, highlighting the streak of morality running through the film, as each get what they deserve.  Only one of the revellers is in a stable relationship, and it’s Ricks older brother Stan using the party as a chance to get laid, hoping that his wife doesn’t find out.  Early on,  Stan is described, as “sneaky“, and whilst everyone else has a good time with no consequences, they aren‘t the ones who end up getting the living shit beaten out of them by an enraged spouse.  So much for Bachelor Party being a depraved orgy of immorality!  But what has really stood the movie in good stead over the years, and continues to separate it from many similar themed films is that it’s essentially good natured, in spite of some rather tasteless elements to it.  Rick & co are a likeable bunch, who are just out to have a good time, with only those who are pompous, obnoxious or plotting against them drawing their ire.

"Come in!  If it's my husband, better get your LA Angels bat ready..."

Aside from the likeable characters and some very funny gags/concepts, the key to the whole thing is pacing.  Moments of humour are just that: moments - they come, do their thing and it’s on to the next one, allowing for a higher hit-rate than having a longer, protracted gags which might fail and eat up screen-time.  Only scenes driving the plot are given room to breathe, with the sequence  in Hanks’ apartment the night before being one, allowing Hanks to be perfectly charming whilst establishing Rick & Debbie’s relationship in one of the very few scenes they share.  

Evening out the crumpet for the girls, the Chippendales are given their best cinematic showcase, despite being dogged by numerous lawsuits and only a couple of years before bankruptcy saw their ultimate re-birth.  When the girls decide that they’ll ogle as much flesh as the boys, it’s off to the home of oiled beefcake to even the score.  Should anyone reading have only heard about a single sequence from Bachelor Party, then it’s likely that it’s the ‘hotdog’ scene.  What better gag could be played on your upcoming mother-in-law than one involving a hugely-endowed Chippendale dancer, a silver platter, and a hotdog roll?  It’s this particular scene which - ironically - provides one of the most subtle laughs in the movie, where Mr Nick 'The Dick' unzips his flies, followed by a gentle ’thud’ two seconds later.  It’s a cracker of a gag clearly created in the editing room.

One of these guys is no longer around.  Guess which.

The big finale sees the rather ingenious setting of a chase through a multiplex, with the guys getting caught up in 3D movie festival as they battle to save Debbie from the clutches of a psychotic Cole.  The setting is fresh, the gags are funny (how often does a woman getting punched in the face get this many laughs…) and seems an organic enough way to end the film on.  The only downside is that to movie nuts, certain clips from the mock 3D films playing out during the fight will be all-too-familiar, with many probably thinking: “Oh Christ, what has Corman shoehorned Battle Beyond the Stars footage into this time…?”

Special mention must go to Ji-Tu Cumbaka as the Indian pimp, providing good-natured laughs as he rattles off street patois with a distinctly Bombay accent.  Much more than just a racial stereotype, his performance waltzes off with every scene he’s in though sheer charm.  Speaking of possible controversy, a point of view which persisted at the time of release, and has been amplified over the years is that there is a streak of misogyny to the movie, one which the SJW’s of this world would call for Bachelor Party to be consigned to the past.  Sure, the boys’ wives/girlfriends dress up like hookers and end up being forced to fend off the attentions of horny Japanese businessmen, but they only end up that way through not trusting Rick to behave himself at the party.  Seeds of distrust are sewn, nurtured with bitterness and come to fruition in an attempt to catch him red-handed, leading to trouble for the girls.  Not all of the women in the movie are prudes, the most telling being when a new batch of party-goers knock at the door, to be told: “…come one in: drugs to the left, hookers to the right”, with the women going straight for the drugs!

Given that the BBFC snipped out footage from the previous years’ Never Say Never Again for the killing of a horse during a stunt, you have to wonder just what would have occurred should anything have happened to the cocaine-snorting donkey during filming.  This really isn’t apropos of nothing, as to get the animal look as though it had died from a coke-binge, the handler had to give it barbiturates, but was unable to bring the animal round from the sedatives.  Stimulants were injected, and the beast was (according to director Israel) seconds from death before being brought back.  Should it have died, the scene would have been completely removed by James Ferman, as per the 1937 Cinematograph (Animals) Act.

It's alarming how easily the cast blend into the extras.

But what of music?  Surely being made in this particular decade, there has to be some pretty cool tunes to be found??  You bet there is, as the movie preceded Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 in having the soundtrack produced by IRS Records, at least guaranteeing cool and eclectic songs for the film, culled from artists signed to their label.  As with TCM2, Danny Elfman’s Oingo Boingo kick serious musical arse, not only providing the excellent theme song, but proving that Who Do You Want To Be Today was so good, that it just had to be used in Teenwolf Too.  Bastards.  Anyway, fellow Saw2 band Torch Song bring their magic to the proceedings, along with other artists including The Police, Darlene Love, Jools Holland, The Fleshtones & The Alarm.  Angel and the Reruns turn up to perform in the movie, with Adrian Zmed ripping off his shirt to perform Little Demon.

Those reading have probably seen the film already, so there’s no point achingly going over the favourite moments, but for those Bachelor Party virgins, why spoil what’s to come?  Let’s just say that personal stand-outs include the theft of a brand-new car, the aforementioned mule with a cocaine habit and the terrific moon seen at the hotel.  This is all very well and groovy, but how does a movie well over 30 years old look in HD?  Well, let's take a look, shall we?

The poster, still with that shitty "secrecy" element tag on it.

Video


Given that Bachelor Party was made during the eighties, when Fox were utilising their cheaper film-stock to keep theatrical costs down before being released on the more lucrative video market, it looks rather nice, and comes with the expected armful of grain the stock was notorious for: think ' Aliens'.  With no real restoration and only minor tinkering going on, you are left with a 1.85:1 image which most will be very pleased to have in their collection.  Colours are well-balanced, especially when combined with a decent amount of fine detail to deliver close-ups with accurate flesh-tones and pores in the skin. Blacks might look somewhat crushed, but with most of the movie brightly lit, this really isn’t a problem.  There’s a fair amount of debris littering the print, but in times where digital is wiping out celluloid, such instances are almost welcome as a way to relive days fast diminishing.

Audio


The DTS:MA 1.0 track is an acceptable rendering of the movies’ original mono soundtrack, which wasn’t the greatest achievement in audio-engineering in the first place.  There are no real highs or lows to it, and it sounds a little constricted, but this is probably close to the original design. The musical numbers sound OK, but having heard them from other sources, should have been presented in a much more dynamic fashion.  Overall, a pretty good job - just a pity that it couldn’t have been spread out to 2.0, as it becomes dependent on how capable your centre speaker is at handling all frequencies.

Extras


Behind the Scenes:  Culled from the original EPK, a booming voice-of-god fills us in on the plot, along with clips and brief interviews with the cast..  It’s what you expect, and has clearly been broken down into section to provide the following extras…

An American Tradition:  Producer Neal Israel is on hand to explain the concept of bachelor parties, including his own, which became the key inspiration for the movie.

While the Men Play: We find how the other half live as we look at the women of Bachelor Party, and the forces compelling guys to potentially ruin their futures when going out to get laid on these things.

Tom Hanks Interview:  Still not at a point where he actively buried his association with Bosom Buddies, he chats about the show and his role in the film.  This is a still a very likeable Tom Hanks,  before he wanted to slash and burn this half of his career.

Theatrical Trailer:  This is the longer of the main trailers issued for the movie, and the one which really plays up the “forbidden mystery’ aspect which was present in every scrap of American advertising, and this element seems desperately concocted to generate buzz.  It’s still a cool preview, though.

The holy Trinity.  It's the Kholinar of the UK video generation.

Overall


Bachelor Party was of “those” films which our generation had to see, where every older brother (or those on good terms with the local video shop-owner…) would rent it to sample the heady, raucous delights they offered.  To see the holy trinity of this, King Frat (with its infamous ‘fart-o-meter’) and Party Animal left you one cool cat indeed!  While the curse of the cult movie - availability - has shown King Frat to be much less than the sum of its infamous flatulence measuring device, Party Animal has been almost forgotten, but the antics of Rick Gassko and friends continues to find an audience out for a good time.

Fabulous Films finally gives the UK a chance to own Bachelor Party after being long-available on Blu overseas, doing a very respectable job with a film which maintains the ability to throw a good time for those of a certain age, and for others a must-see to discover just how much of a comedic fireball Tom Hanks was back then.  Sure, there were a lot of raucous comedies in the 1980s, but none of them had the camaraderie and good humour found here, and as for both the movie and this disc, we recommend highly!

Ps: Love the onscreen logo, guys…


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