Wednesday, January 2, 2013

JOYSTICKS: 30th ANNIVERSARY EDITION

This one's been on my "to-review" list since last Fall: director Greydon Clark's (SATAN'S CHEERLEADERS) 1983 teen sex comedy, JOYSTICKS, starring Joe Don Baker.

Unsurprisingly set in a video arcade, JOYSTICKS chronicles the misadventures of its rowdy & randy owner (Scott McGinnis), employees (Leif Green, GREASE 2) and patrons (THE PRETENDER's Jon Gries as "King Vidiot") as it faces the wrath of businessman Joseph Rutter (Baker, MITCHELL) who, furious at the influence the establishment holds over his horny Valley Girl daughter Patsy (Corinne Bohrer, ZAPPED!), does everything in his power - legal and illegal - to shut down the digital den of iniquity forever. In the end, it all comes down to - as it always must - a one-on-one video game tournament between champions to determine the arcade's ultimate fate.

Independently produced by Greydon after noticing the proliferation of video game arcades in the early 80s, JOYSTICKS is a good-natured, R-rated T&A comedy that's not only naughty, ribald fun, but chock full of gaming nostalgia. Almost every frame is packed with vintage cabinets and screen shots, and scene "wipes" are accompanied by a graphic of a giant Pac-Man chomping its way across the screen. The film's comedy lies in the usual teen sex farce tropes, mixed in with some gleefully silly slapstick and movie spoofs. It's low-budget - and looks it - but content-wise, it's pretty much in line with the studio-backed teen movies of its era. PORKYS with Pac-Man, if you will.

JOYSTICKS proved a popular programmer on cable in the 80s and received an early full-frame VHS release from the Vestron label. Originally announced by Media Blasters for DVD back in 2006, the movie finally made its way to disc in a proper edition in 2012, courtesy of Scorpion Releasing. Scorpion's "30th Anniversary Edition" sports a solid, colorful 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that shows its age but is remarkably clean and free of damage. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is clear and reasonably robust for a film of JOYSTICKS' age and budget.

Bonus features include an audio commentary by director Clark, who also appears in an on-camera interview. He discusses the origins of the film, how the financing was raised, the actors in the cast (many of whom he worked with repeatedly, including Baker) and the challenges of working independently. He also admits how proud he is of how remarkably profitable the movie was, riding the first wave of video game mania. Finally, there's the film's theatrical trailer (looking a bit ragged), and trailers for other Scorpion DVD titles, including  KILL AND KILL AGAIN, SKATEBOARD: THE MOVIE, CHEERLEADERS WILD WEEKEND, and WHERE THE BOYS ARE '84.

I don't remember my own arcade-loitering days being much like this, but JOYSTICKS is a lot of nostalgic and naughty fun, packed with profanity and sophomoric humor. If that's your sort of low-brow entertainment (and we all know it's mine), it's definitely worth checking out.

BUYJoysticks (Remastered Widescreen Edition)