Erotic Underground: Andy Sidaris' L.E.T.H.A.L. Film Series


Andy Sidaris was revered in the world of sport's coverage media, receiving an Emmy award in 1969 for his coverage of the 1968 Olympic games.  Renowned for the "honey shot" during Monday night football, an infamous camera zoom that would capture an attractive cheerleader or female fan in the stands, Sidaris would continue this trend during his tenure as a director.  From 1985-1998 Sidaris directed (or produced) a series of twelve films starring various Penthouse and Playboy models as secret agents battling spies, killers, and drug dealers in Hawaii and other exotic locations.  The films, commonly referred to as BBB (Bullets, Bombs, and Boobs) continue to hold a reputation today as sexual fodder for the teenage adolescent.  However, upon revisit, it is clear that these films were not only playful abandon, they also contain an undercurrent of female empowerment...along with radioactive snakes, killer remote-control RC helicopters, and an endless supply of hot tub sequences.  What follows is an exploration of the twelve films that comprise the L.E.T.H.A.L. skinematic universe.  All of the films are available in a ten dollar DVD set via amazon.  


Malibu Express (1985)


The first entry is also the most traditional and the sole film within the series to not have female leads.  The story follows a private detective, Cody Abilene as he is drawn into a sex fueled conspiracy of femme fatales, fast cars, and dangerous guns.  Aside from being somewhat forgettable, the Abilene legacy would live on in the films that followed, with various children/relatives of the detective becoming supporting characters.  


Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987)


Considered by many to be Sidaris' best film, Hard Ticket to Hawaii is a masterwork of trashy cinema.  Two undercover agents run afoul of an odious drug dealer, leading to all manner of insanity.  Blow up dolls, ninja assassins, copious shower sequences, and vitamin fueled pristine urine are all fair game while a mutant python prowls the island in the background.  Beyond the absolute hysterics, lies a feminist undercurrent that was all but forgotten in popular action films of the decade (aside from Aliens).  The female characters are not only sexually free, they are competent and vastly more adept than their male colleagues, a truth that is hilariously symbolized via the comparative size of their weapons. 

Picasso Trigger (1988)

Double agents and double crosses!  This film sees the return of Rodrigo Obregon (a staple in the series) as the villain…again….but not the same one!  While nowhere near as insane as Hard Ticket, Picasso shows Sidaris in his prime, comfortable behind the camera and with the expectedly ludicrous material.  A solid follow up that would ultimately lay the groundwork for the eight films that would follow, this is more of the solid entries in the franchise.  The story follows most of the same characters who are hunting an assassin after a world-famous spy is gunned down in Paris.  



Savage Beach (1989)

The most underrated entry in the series, Savage Beach combines elements of Treasure Island, Hell in the Pacific, and of course Playmate tomfoolery.  The great Donna Speir and Hope Marie Carlton reprise their roles yet again.  This time, they're on a mission to deliver medication to another Hawaiian island when their planes crashes.  The island they land on is home not only to opportunist treasure hunters, but ghosts of WWII as well.  When the three elements come together in the climax, the film truly shines.  While none of Sidaris' films could be categorized as "good", this one has the most heart.  

Guns (1990)

Beginning the mediocre entries of the series, Guns was the first of the LETHAL films to not star Hope Marie Carlton and her presence is sorely missed going forth.  Erik Estrada stars as a villainous arms dealer who concocts a ridiculously convoluted plan to lure the agents away from Hawaii in order to sell high tech weapons in the USA.  While this entry is a carbon copy of the earlier films it does feature Danny Trejo in an early role! 

Do or Die (1991)


Sidaris' take on The Most Dangerous Game, this entry sees the return of Donna Speir, Roberta Vasquez, and Erik Estrada.  This time the agents are being hunted by multiple teams assassins sent by....Kane or Mr. Miyagi himself Pat Morita!  Featuring a laughable rogue's gallery and Sidaris' usual trappings this is another solid member of the triple B pantheon.  

Hard Hunted (1992)

Sadly the energy from Do or Die could not be sustained and what followed is another middle of the road story.  This time, Kane returns (albeit with a new actor) with a new complicated plot involving a nuclear device trigger hidden inside a jade statue.  Unfortunately, this film lacks the usual creativity and panache and instead ups the nudity and sex sequences as a means to cover the deficiency.  

Fit to Kill (1993)

A welcomed step up, Fit to Kill sees Kane return yet again.  This time, he's after a precious Russian diamond and dispatches his consort, the assassin Blu Steele (Sorceress' Julie Strain) to recover it.  This was also the last film in which Donna Speir would star as one of the LETHAL ladies.  This is also Gerald Okamura's (Big Trouble in Little China) first appearance in the film series. 

Enemy Gold (1993)

The first of the series to not be directed by Andy.  His son, Drew, took over the directing reigns while Sidaris produced.  The result is a mixed bag.  While he begins with new characters and locales, many of his father's tropes are present, while some of them (remote-controlled death machines, multiple sex scenes) are missing.   Julie Strain returns as another assassin and it is her performance that bolsters the film, making it tolerable.  The plot focuses on three agents who discover missing Civil War gold and are pursued by various killers.

The Dallas Connection (1994) 

Drew Sidaris returns as director in this loose sequel while his father executive produced.  It features Bruce Penhall and Mark Barriere reprising their roles from Enemy Gold.  Julie Strain also returns, this time as a completely different character, continuing the tried and true Sidaris tradition of insanity. Gerald Okamura also returns as Fu, a character who would return for the remainder of the films in the series. The plot involves a powerful satellite system that can detect weapons anywhere on Earth.  Its creator begs the agency for protection from an army of assassins led by Strain’s Black Widow.  

Day of the Warrior (1996)


Sidaris returned to the director's chair for the final two films.  While this is a setup for the final film, in true Triple B style, nothing actually makes sense.  This go around Strain is one of the good guys who are fighting against "The Warrior" an international criminal who is portrayed by professional wrestler Marcus “Buff” Bagwell.  While Sadaris' touch is evident, this film is somber reminder of the magic the series once possessed before turning into a self-caricature.  Despite being another endless string of unimaginative sex sequences, the return of so many of Sidaris' troupe make it tolerable. 



L.E.T.H.A.L. Ladies: Return to Savage Beach (1998)

The finale.  Most of the cast from Day of the Warrior return, including Bagwell who's character Warrior is an ally for this film.  The action concerns a computer disc that holds the location of precious treasure cache.  Knowledge of the disk draws the agents and endless leagues of villains into a final showdown.  While this film is a celebration of the 11 installments that came before it, it is, much like the majority of its siblings a shadow of the creativity that made so many of the early entries special.  While the tropes and antics are there, when the film finally ends, one can't help to regret that this was the final entry.  

--Kyle Jonathan