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December 19, 2010

Rickshaw Sideways: The Amero Brothers Blonde Ambition

by Heather Drain

There are moments in film history where a tag line serves not only as the greatest bait but also as the perfect description. Keep in mind this sort of creative/promotional kismet is about as rare as contraception at the Duggars', but unlike that poor-taste metaphor, it does happen. Vid-X-Pix's latest Platinum Release of BLONDE AMBITION is a fantastic example of this. The tag line in question...

If you liked Singing in the Rain and Deep Throat, then you will love Blonde Ambition!

Funny, yes, but incredibly accurate. Both films actually have the same light-hearted zaniness, but despite Damiano's brilliant theme song (Deeeep Throaaatt....deeper than deep your throat....don't get your goat...that's all she wrote...), DEEP THROAT doesn't really qualify as a proper musical. And unless there is some kind of hidden reel rotting away in some billionaire's attic in Zurich, there is zero sex and nudity in SINGING IN THE RAIN. (Too bad though. Gene Kelley in his prime is a beautiful, beautiful thing y'all.)

But this film is more than just a cute tag line. It is a beautifully made tribute to the that lost era of technicolor, light-as-meringue topping musicals, all courtesy of those legends of quality fringe cinema the Amero Brothers. Every classic musical needs a charming lead and here we get two of them, in the form of the Kane Sisters. There's Candy (Dory Devon), the beauty and brains of the pair. Then there's her sister Sugar (Suzy Mandel), who is the beauty and of the operation.

The Kane Sisters, Candy & Sugar.

The talent-challenged but pugnacious pair hoof it up in a dinge palace known as the Tumbleweed Cafe in the middle of Coyote Fang, Wyoming when they are discovered by rich jet setter Stephen Carlisle III (eternally handsome Eric Edwards). Turns out Stephen, along with his butler, Eric Smythe (Robert Kerman), are in town to rescue the valuable Buckingham Brooch, a bejeweled spectacle that looks startlingly similar to a brooch Sugar has bought from a gypsy. Stephen is charmed by Candy's stage presence and Sugar's airy naivete and offers to fly them to New York on his private jet. (Beats the hell out of taking the bus!)

 Their humble origins. Also dig that color composition!

Despite Sugar leaving her love interest, the handsome but hair follicle challenged cowboy Luke (David Morris), the girls are excited by their new adventure and their new companions. Especially Candy, who gets to have some private time with Stephen. His generosity ends up coming to play in a different way when the girls end up stranded and gig-less in the big apple. Stephen lets them stay in his penthouse while he and Eric fly back to the England to present the brooch to his Aunt, Lady Sybil Buckingham (Molly Malone.)

Now if you're predicting in your head that there is going to be a mix-up between the actual Buckingham Brooch and the piece of costume jewelry Sugar bought, you would be correct-a-mundo. But that's not all. Further intrigue is added when Sybil, finding out about the two female entertainers staying with her nephew, hires a private investigator (Wade Nichols) who also works as a two-bit sexploitation actor, to dig up some dirt on the girls. Turns out ole Auntie is afraid of anyone other than Stephen and of course herself getting their mitts on the family fortune.

Further shenanigans ensue when Sugar lends her brooch to Stephen's drag queen neighbor (Kurt Mann), right before she gets to sample some sweet loving off of his Greek God looking boyfriend Bob (George Payne). Will the Buckingham Brooch be saved? Will Sugar and Candy escape the cunningness of Aunt Sybil? Will the magical tan-lines of Eric Edwards save your soul? You will just have to watch and find out!

Mr. Chameleon himself, George Payne, who is dubbed over Steve Reeve's style here. 

If this film was a pastry, it would be a sugary, pastel colored cupcake full of nudity and goodness. It's fluff in the best possible way with a stellar cast, great attention to visual details (costumes, sets, etc) and corny but funny jokes. On the excellent commentary track with none other than John Amero, he talks about the great love he and his brother had for the old MGM musicals and it shows.

Better than the original!

Some of the comedic highlights include the Kane Sisters finishing up a musical number by saying “Up Yours!” and the entire extended cameo of Jamie Gillis as a pissy porn director doing a dirty version of Gone With the Wind. That whole sequence is worth the price of admission alone, with some inspired casting with the handsome, mustached Nichols playing the Rhett Butler character.

 A fantastic actor and one of the VERY few guys that can actually rock that shirt, Eric Edwards.

Speaking of the cast, this is a veritable dream team, featuring such great actors as Eric Edwards, Kerman, Gillis and Nichols, who are all great in everything they ever did. Tony Danza aka the late David Morris, while not quite as great of a thespian as the other guys, is still funny as Sugar's hayseed sweetie. The ladies are all equally fab, with Dory Devon and Suzy Mandel being the stars in every way. Devon was an off-Broadway actress who had dabbled a little in the adult world before, with parts in films like BREAKERS BEAUTIES, GULP and my personal favorite, ORIENTAL BABYSITTER. (All under different pseudonyms, naturally.) She pulls off tarnished class with a dash of moxie perfectly, even performing a pretty good tap dance number with great relish. Oddly enough, DIVERSIONS star Heather Deeley was originally going to be Candy, which for anyone who has seen that particular UK adult oddity featuring Nazis, vampires, castration and moodiness, is a bit of a surreal thought.

 The lovely Suzy Mandel.

Then there is the British vision of blonde hair and a bit of Judy Holliday thrown in for good measure. Suzy Mandel, whose physical and comedic charms have been featured in such notably ribald British films as THE PLAYBIRDS and the Mary Millington feature, COME PLAY WITH ME, is a huge stand out. The sexy ditz archetype is as old as Moses but is never an easy one to pull off. In the hands of a non-talent, lovably dumb is going to come off more as “annoying dumbass.” So getting an experienced and likable actress like Mandel was a great coup. (For the record, during the hardcore scenes, that is not Suzy you're seeing but a well concealed and made-up body double.)

The DVD itself is a treasure trove of a release. If a special edition could ever make you feel like you're getting a back rub and a martini with its feature, it is this one. Platinum indeed. The disc alone is cherry, with a gorgeous print, two different cuts of the film (hot and cold), a gallery of related ephemera and a lovely tribute to Jamie Gillis. Speaking of the man, there are also two separate commentary tracks, one with Gillis and the other with John Amero himself. The one with Jamie is a lot of fun and full of the good and slightly twisted humor that was part of his charm. There is a little lull in some spots but between his natural talkiness and the good job of the moderator to keep the pace going, it is well worth a listen.

Jamie Gillis!

The real gem, however, is the Amero track. Getting to hear this veritable legend talk about the history of the film and all of the attached tales is beyond a treat. Amero's memory is really solid and he comes across like a very warm and friendly soul. The only gripe about this track, and it is a minor one, is that there are some audio issues with the moderator's voice. But anyone in the field can tell you that audio is truly the hardest part of video and Amero is as clear as a bell.

Now, this is where I break into a hearty “And that's not all, folks!” The set also includes a 20 page booklet about the film's background with some gorgeous color photos, a B&W photo card of Suzy Mandel and a 35mm film strip. (The one included in my set was the scene where Sugar meets Bob.) Very cool and amazing to see an adult company actually put this much love and care into their library. In an era where classics like CAFE FLESH and NIGHT DREAMS are given shoddy releases, Video-X-Pix is truly a breath of fresh air.

BLONDE AMBITION is a light hearted musical-comedy that has something for everyone. Stunning dream sequences including a strip tease on ice and a surreal study of self-love? Got it. Great silly humor? Yep! A fun and talented cast? Si si! It's all that and more. If you like your films saucy but not sleazy and well-made to boot, then you must get BLONDE AMBITION. Viva los Ameros! 

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