JULY 18 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : TEST TUBE TEENS FROM THE YEAR 2000
To reiterate: I appreciate the fact that Band’s Torchlight Entertainment label concentrated on genre-specific erotic comedy rather than making erotic horror, erotic thrillers, etc., all of which were the rage through the mid-’90s. Not only do I have a problem with equating sex with violence, paranoia, etc., but I really look askance at the filmmaking abilities of anyone who has to “spice up” something supposedly erotic with another whole flavor of exploitation. I mean, jeez, if you need to add violence to make sex exciting…
However, I just have to end my praises of Torchlight from this far out on the periphery of commentary, because once I get closer to the subject at hand and start discussing the movie itself, I find that the movie, though a cheap sex-comedy, fails on two of those three descriptors: Not too sexy, not too funny. (But still cheap, though — one out of three?)
I say “not too sexy,” despite the fact that the version I saw contained copious amounts of nudity — or at least, more nudity than you’d see if you picked it up at one of the rare rental shops that still has a copy of the VHS release. As I mentioned in my review of Beach Babes From Beyond, these erotic flicks still had to deliver an R-rating according to the terms of their distribution deal with Paramount, so despite a rough cut practically overflowing with skin (boy, that’s not a nice image), the distributed version had all of the raciest bits chopped out. I, however, managed to get my hands on a copy of the pre-distribution screener version (thanks, Torsten!), with all of the naughty bits intact (ew, two not-nice images in as many sentences). And you know what? Still not sexy. Maybe I’m just a tough audience. Or maybe it’s the fact that director Dave de Coteau (here masquerading as “Ellen Cabot”), though a consummate professional in cranking out low-budget exploitation fare, is very decidedly gay, and thus is as guilty of merely “going through the motions” as any member of the cast.
Okay, several hundred words of waffling later, on with the movie:
Despite the title, the future setting is not the year 2000; rather, it’s 2017, a world of cold glass and steel. The titular teenagers (stop giggling, it doesn’t mean what you think it means), all the products of test-tube reproduction (it’s titular, again!), are taking the least productive history class imaginable, as Professor Dorn (Ian Abercrombie) is prohibited from talking about the bad ol’ days, before the Great Corporation of America took over and made everything efficient and hygienic and absolutely asexual.
Well, as asexual as possible, which, because we’re dealing with teenagers, isn’t much. Or three main teens are: Reena (Sara Suzanne Brown), who’s very blonde and, um, titular (what, like I’m not allowed to make cheap jokes?); Naldo (Brian Bremer), the brain who keeps asking the probing questions about why they’re not aloud to learn about history in history class; and Vin (Christopher Wolf), the square-jawed lunk, who spends the entire lecture daydreaming about Reena… Reena ripping off her high-collared uniform… Reena proffering her bosom to him… Reena writhing in ecstasy…
Professor Dorn can tell what impulses have caused Vin’s eyes to glaze over, so he keeps those three after class. But after destroying the security camera, he reveals to them (and us) a huge chunk of exposition: He’s part of the underground rebellion, dedicated to undermining this sexless existence, which was brought about largely by the efforts of one Carmilla Swale, a “frigid bitch” who used her position in the corporation to eradicate all sex in the world. (Okay, my suspension of disbelief can put up with a lot, but how did any for-profit corporation ascend to dominance without appealing to the lowest common denominator? I mean, even “family-friendly” Wal-Mart sells lingerie. Excuse me, “intimates.”)
Before the police come and drag him away, Dorn gives the kids a cardkey and tells them of a vault in the basement of the building that has everything they need to set the world right. Reena has no intention of gettng herself arrested, so that night the boys head down to the murky vault/storeroom and find…
…a girlie magazine! Well, that’s not the only thing lying around on the shelves, but it certainly catches Vin’s eye, and after he memorizes the vital statistics, turn-ons, and turns offs of the Playpen centerfold Samantha Cummings (Tamara Tohill), he launches into another daydream in which he rescues her from the staple in her abdomen, and then they have steamy sex against the steamy photoshoot backdrop. (Sensing a trend here? If your sex comedy has to keep resorting to daydreams to add the requisite sex, then you’ve got some serious story problems.)
Naldo, who is emphatically not mooning over the centerfold, also finds a 1997 newspaper which talks about Carmilla Swale’s rise to Grand Poo-bah of the corporation from humbler beginnings as the headmistress of a girls’ boarding school in the early 1990s. Gee, if only they could go back and change the course of history before Swale ever got into a position of corporate power… If only…
Oh, yeah. There’s also a time machine in the vault. Let’s tinker with causality!
They enlist Reena the next night to stay behind and work the controls while they zap back to 1994. Nobody bothers to think that, if they succeed in changing the past, they will have consigned Reena to nonexistence — and she certainly won’t be “around” to work the controls to bring them back. But that’s okay, once the boys have dived through, Reena’s found by the police and forced to follow through the time machine.
The boys end up in the past a full week earlier than Reena does, though, so Vin and Naldo have to fend for themselves when they end up in the all-girls school in the middle of the night. (Watch for Conrad Brooks’ cameo as a janitor. Or don’t.) They manage to convince student Maggie (Michele Matheson) that they’re not crazy, and she agrees to help them with some of her improbable resources — things like an oddly large private dorm room. Or porno movies playing on her dorm room TV. Or access to wigs, so that the boys can disguise themselves as Swedish exchange students while they try to figure out what to about man-hating Ms. Swale (Morgan Fairchild). And elude the Terminator-like cyborg “truant officer” (Don Dowe) sent back to kill them — and when I say “Terminator-like,” I mean slavishly and intentionally so: black leather and sunglasses, fake Austrian accent… Shucks, he even says, “I’ll be back” just to make sure we get it. (Good heavens, they even stole Brad Fiedel’s musical cues.)
Hijinx, as you might guess, abound. Naldo finds out that Ms. Swale’s attitude stems from having been dumped by a married man, and they enlist the younger version of Professor Dorn, teaching at the school, to help either romance or kill Swale. Along the way, Vin discovers that future centerfold Samantha Cummings is a student at the same school, and uses his uncanny knowledge of her likes and dislikes to get into her bed. (The scene in which it happens is kind of bizarre, Vin being disguised as a girl for most of their friendly conversation — but when he pulls off his wig, she adjusts to the gender switch in about half a second; cue the saxophone music and the soft dissolves.)
There are amusing bits here and there, but at best most of the movie is simply “lighthearted” than actually “funny.” And no one seems to have realized before shooting that all of the sex in what was supposed to be an erotic comedy was completely peripheral to the story. In fact, it looks like de Coteau and crew got so used to that setup, they began to operate that way by default. When Vin and Naldo, in Swedish drag, wander into the girls’ showers, they stare in fascination at the naked bathers, and then immediately, yes, begin daydreaming — about two completely different girls sudsing and rinsing each other under more sensuous lighting. Maybe the intent was to make the sex easy to excise in its entirety so as to sell the movie for broadcast TV distribution. I’m not sure. I do know, though, that if you look at naked teens in the shower and immediately begin thinking about other naked teens in a different shower, you seriously need a reality check.
If you’re looking for a positive, though, at least the humor is better than in Beach Babes From Beyond. And they do manage to keep the world free for venereal disease. That’s gotta be worth something, right?