Terror in Beverly Hills (1989)

 

No sense in dancing around it:  This movie sucks deep-fried donkeys.  The cinematography makes the Zapruder film look like Trip to Bountiful.  The monotonic soundtrack conjures the image of a twitching Pomeranian in fitful sleep atop a Casio keyboard.    The performances, the editing, and the writing—they all land in the weeds, too.  Even the clouds in the sky don’t look quite right.  That being said, there’s a certain sense of self-awareness hanging over everything—as if the filmmakers realized they were doling out the cinematic equivalent of a bowler hat filled with bat guano.  This gives Terror in Beverly Hills a little more spangle than the typical So Bad It’s Good movie fare.

The first ten minutes of the film are a masterpiece of worthless filler.  Unsmiling Middle Eastern bad guys go about their day: They walk, talk, pray, and read—yes, they sit and read the fucking newspaper onscreen. They go to the airport and check their luggage.  Then they get on a plane and stare at the clouds for a while.  Then our villains land at LAX and go through the Customs line—yes, they actually wait in line.  Then they get in a limo and slowly merge onto the 105, making proper use of their left turn signal.  It’s unfortunate that no one sat down the writers, the director, the caterer—Hell, anybody—and said, “Hey, y’all, what the fuck is this steaming horse puckey?”

Somewhere along this journey, I realized that those ten minutes of my life are gone and they’re never coming back.  Those ten minutes could’ve been spent making a ship in a bottle, tunneling to the center of the earth, or learning profanity in a new language (which, incidentally, will come in handy for the rest of this movie).  So anyway, we’ve sat through these empty scenes, while music plays in the background that sounds a lot like Tetris after you’ve got about 100 lines. The good news is now we get to some actual dialogue.  The bad news is that now our actors are forced to, you know, act.  Previously, all these guys had to do was slouch and look pissed off, and that’s easy.  I should know, because that’s what I did during this entire movie.

The next ten minutes of the film treat us to these vaguely Middle Eastern gentlemen speaking in broken English over a muddy soundtrack about a plot to kidnap the President’s daughter and take her to a bean factory.  Or something like that.  I was on my second gin and tonic at this point.  Then we meet Hack Stone (yup, someone got paid to cook up that name), played by Frank Stallone.  Ol’ Hack is an ex-Navy Seal, or Green Beret, or Delta Force, or…fuck it, whatever.  He boxes with some cop dude and reminisces about his days doing covert shit he can’t talk about—except, of course, when prompted by some random ding-a-ling at the gym. This scene could serve as a marvelous teaching tool for film students on how to avoid awkward, expository dialogue, and for aspiring actors on how adding occasional inflection to your speech can keep the audience from going into a state of deep hypnosis.

All hell breaks loose when our dastardly villains kidnap the President’s daughter from a shop on Rodeo Drive.  (I love that word, “dastardly,” by the way.  I kinda wanna start working that into more sentences.)  This kidnap scene redefines gratuitous—it’s rife with machine guns and boobies and panties and whatnot.  So, now’s when things get interesting.  And, by interesting I mean even more stupid.  The terrorists smuggle this squealing sorority girl down to the old bean factory—those are yankee beans, I’m pleased to report.  At this point, the only thing that could make this monkey cage any stinkier is a bevy of pea-brained supporting characters. Damned if I’m not pouring gin and tonic number three, and a-here they come:

First, we get the President. Could we not find a bigger candyass than this guy?  He’s the leader of the free world, his daughter has been abducted, and yet most of his dialogue is delivered in an incoherent grumble reminiscent of someone coming around after oral surgery.  Of course, anyone is likely to be bummed out when their bush-league Oval Office is bedecked with wood paneling and looks straight out of a Turkish porno.  His right-hand man is a nasally-voiced Nordic-looking general who wears pink cardigans and conducts national security business at his country club.  These two stooges could probably be toppled by the Marx brothers.  Finally, we come to my favorite:  A haggard old police chief, played by Cameron Mitchell. Mitchell’s performance can be broken down into a ratio of 25% obscenities, 25% untethered rage, and 50% bushy eyebrows.  He points; he throws things; he screams insults that don’t make a lick of sense. (“Why don’t you go open up a nice Italian restaurant?!?!?!”)  He pretty much picks up this movie and walks off with it.

Anyway, these three turd hounds are forced to enlist the help of Hacky Sack, because of his time spent in some covert….thingy.  So, things come to a head for Hack and the boys down at the Old Bean Factory. (That’s officially my favorite sentence I’ve ever written.)  Hack goes in, armed only with his wits and buncha rope he never uses.  He helps himself to a few beans (I’m not kidding), and then he does what Hack always does:  He kicks ass, though I don’t think he takes names.  I’m not sure Hack knows how to write, for that matter.  The movie ends in much the same matter of a collapsing elevator.  It could keep falling, but there has to be a bottom somewhere.

To make a junk food analogy, if Commando and Cobra represent Cool Ranch Doritos, then Terror in Beverly Hills is like an open bag of imitation pork rinds that have been sitting in the back of somebody’s Ford Fiesta for six weeks.  It’s not good, but it’s better than starving to death.  Maybe.  As a film, it does everything wrong, but it does everything wrong really well.  It’s campy and stupid.  And funny—it’s that, too.  People like Cameron Mitchell undoubtedly realized that this finished project would resemble gurgling sewage, so maybe they went a little goofy in an attempt to spice things up.  The whole thing sucks something fierce, but at least it’s not from lack of trying. If you like bad movies, get in here. Just make sure you got lots of gin. And Doritos.

Author: Todd Wofford

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