Youthsploitation was at its finest in the first half of the 1980’s. It seemed like every week, at least one new comedy full of young people, slapstick comedy and plenty of jiggle hit the theaters while cable t.v. and video rental places overflowed with a growing backlog of carefree, hormonally-infused cheap thrills. Given that the ingredients of the formula were simple and affordable – young stars, T&A, rowdy comedy – everyone from the majors to the indies was motivated to crank out plenty of films in this genre.
Thus, the challenge for prospective purveyors of youthsploitation was what x-factor one could add to the formula to distinguish a new film from the rest of the pack. The easiest way to do this was to select a novel, highly specific setting or event. For example, you could set your film a vacation resort (Private Resort), Catholic high school in the ’60s (Heaven Help Us) or spring break (Spring Break, naturally).
One forward thinking group of filmmakers staged their mix of carnality and kookiness at a skiing destination, scoring a hit that inspired a subgenre full of ski-themed sex comedy imitators. That film is Hot Dog… The Movie and it’s a fascinating time capsule of how the youthsploitation film biz worked circa 1984.
The premise of Hot Dog… The Movie is as elemental as it gets. Young, starry-eyed novice skier Harkin Banks (Patrick Hauser) heads to Squaw Valley to participate in a skiing championship, picking up assertive yet sentimental hitchhiker Sunny (Tracy Smith) along the way. They discover the competition is dominated by veteran Rudi (John Patrick Reger), whose ascent is supported by foreign interests underwriting the event. Harkin connects with Dan (David Naughton), another competition vet who takes him under his wing and inducts into his “rat pack” of hard-partying skiiers. Harkin also attracts the eye of Sylvia (Shannon Tweed), a gorgeous skier-turned-wealthy-party-girl who threatens to break the budding couple up for fun.
That’s the kind of premise that sounds like it could write itself but Mike Marvin’s script for Hot Dog… The Movie never quite plays out the way you think it will. The competition and party-hard comedy elements chug along without ever building to big peaks, with only the angle of young romance and its pitfalls getting a full, conventional dramatic arc. Things just kind of happen, with the film cycling between its various elements – skin, skiing, slapstick – until it finally gets revved up for a third act involving an intense, multi-person downhill skiing contest.
The resulting movie feels like a hang-out sesh that transcends its meandering approach to narrative by steadily delivering its three “s” elements – skin, slapstick and skiing – and reliable, frequent intervals throughout its running time. There’s plenty of casual nudity, including an extended wet t-shirt contest setpiece and Tweed and Houser enjoying an enthusiastic two-location sex scene. There’s also some amusing low-road comedy, particularly the travails of Squirrel (Frank Koppala), a Rat Pack member who is too forward in his attempts to seduce the local ladies.
That said, the most impressive element here are the frequent skiing scenes. They’re all impressively staged with the use of real pro skiiers doing wild stunts, all gorgeously lensed and set to pulsating rock and synth scoring. The finale, which incorporates some impressive stunts staged by stunt pro Max Kleven, is actually quite thrilling. It’s worth noting the skiing stuff was directed by Marvin, who had extensive experience making skiing documentaries prior to writing this film.
Finally, it helps that Hot Dog… The Movie has an engaging, likeable cast. Houser and Smith are fresh-faced leads who are easy for the viewer to identify with, Reger is a suitably arrogant bad guy and Tweed is a surprise scene stealer, giving a low-key and genuinely seductive light comedy performance between skin scenes. First-time director Peter Markle gives the proceedings polish and makes excellent use of the scenic locales, which are more attractive than usual for sex comedy hijinks.
In short, Hot Dog… The Movie is an interesting trip off the beaten path for teen sex comedy fans, adding the exotic element of skiing to the mixture in a way that gives the light entertainment approach its own distinct vibe. If you’re eager to tour the genre, this is a memorably scenic (in more than one way) stop on your travels.
Blu-Ray Notes: This VHS and DVD staple has finally made its transition to the high-def realm in high style thanks to Synapse. The transfer is gorgeous, presenting the frequent skiing footage with impressive clarity, and the color palette is rich throughout. Both the original 2.0 stereo mix and a new 5.1 mix are included. Best of all, there’s tons of supplements: a new 50-minute making-of documentary, a commentary track with Marvin, a trailer, a music video, etc. There’s even a set of liner notes from Mike McPadden, author of Teen Movie Hell, that mix valuable information with gonzo wit.