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Plot: a nuclear trigger is stolen. LETHAL Ladies are on the case.

After the strange detours and diversions that were the more adventure-oriented Savage Beach (1989) and the incredibly cynical Do Or Die (1991) Hawaiian low-budget action king Andy Sidaris restored the franchise to its former glory with Hard Hunted. Franchise mascot Dona Speir and Roberta Vasquez and Do Or Die (1991) co-stars Carolyn Liu and Mika Quintard all make their return in the second episode of the Kane trilogy. Hard Hunted is in many ways vintage Sidaris with gorgeous Hawaii locations and a multitude of bodacious top-heavy women in candy-colored bikinis and swimwear. In a first for the series there’s actual inter-episode continuity with Hard Hunted building on the plot that Do Or Die (1991) took some pains to establish. Andy Sidaris never aimed for high art with the LETHAL Ladies franchise, and Hard Hunted puts the fun back in funbags, and does so with a vengeance. Stuff blows up real good, there are probably more naked breasts per capita than in any installment before or since, and Cynthia Brimhall - the multi-talented wonder, until now a special guest of sorts - is elevated to a regular cast member. Boobs, babes, and bombs is the name of the game; some bigger than others. In other words, Hard Hunted goes the distance…

That deviled Masakana 'Kane' Kaneshiro - the Asian crimelord that had an earlier run-in with the LETHAL Ladies and eluded capture - has smuggled the Klystron Relay, a nuclear trigger, with intention of selling it to a terrorist in the Middle East. Kaneshiro has adopted the identity of Caucasian British Kane Martin (Geoffrey Moore, as R.J. Moore). Working deep undercover, both literal and figurative, and posing as his lover, is Agency informant Silk (Carolyn Liu). Meanwhile in Sedona, Arizona Donna Hamilton (Dona Speir) and Nicole Justin (Roberta Vasquez) are enjoying a well-deserved vacation after their latest brush with death. That vacation is abruptly cut short when Silk is brutally murdered and the two, unwittingly or otherwise, come in possession of a mysterious jade Buddha figurine. Before they very well know it the agents have become hunted, you could say Hard Hunted, by helicopter-flying madman Raven (Al Leong) and his assassin squad.

In a daring escape Donna crashlands on the nearby Lason island (complete with plot-convenient amnesia) and promptly The Agency mounts two rescues parties. Edy Stark (Cynthia Brimhall) has traded in her lounge act at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas and has returned to her Edy’s restaurant in Moloka’i. There she provides both food and entertainment as a cover. Accompanying Edy is Agency head Lucas (Tony Peck). Following closely behind are Nicole and Bruce Christian (Bruce Penhall) baring breasts and arms, respectively. Along the way both groups are beset by Wiley (Chu Chu Malave) and Coyote (Richard Cansino), another odiously comic duo of bumbling assassins, while Dona, unbeknowst, has fallen in with mercenaries Pico (Rodrigo Obregón) and Skip (Skip Ward). Back at the Agency safehouse Shane Abilene (Michael J. Shane) has taken to showing new Agency trainee Becky (Beckie Mullen, as Becky Mullen) the ropes. From the offices of K SXY radio DJ Ava (Ava Cadell) broadcasts encrypted messages to field agents via her talkshow. Since this is the Andy-verse both DJs and staff wear skimpy bikinis at all times and spent inordinate amount of their free time in the nearest hot tub.

On the one hand Hard Hunted reinstates many of the signature scenes and locations that Savage Beach (1989) and Guns (1990) eschewed, but on the other it’s sort of undeniable that fatigue has crept into the series. It’s not nearly as exciting as it ought to be and Sidaris’ workmanlike, routine direction doesn’t help much either. Roberta Vasquez has regained her composure and is back to being her old sizzling self just the way she was when she was first introduced. The additional Asian cast members add greatly to the ethnic diversity although the Andy-verse remains staunchly Caucasian in every other respect. Back again is Al Leong, the lead henchman of big budget 80s action, who could also be seen in Big Trouble in Little China (1986), Lethal Weapon (1987), Die Hard (1988), and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989). He, of course, was there on Savage Beach (1989).

As per LETHAL Ladies tradition Hard Hunted opens with a musical number from resident sexbomb and perennial LWO favorite Edy, after prior excursions into cajun country and soulful r&b this time Cynthia Brimhall can be heard doing cachi cachi. Notable is that Edy’s has been restored to its former glory (after having been converted to Rocky’s ever so briefly for a single episode) and in between installments Edy has been upgraded to full field agent status. In probably the only bit of retroactive continuity the scene where Silk gives Kane the locator necklace from Do Or Die (1991) is re-shot with Moore in place of Morita. For the second time in a row Kane doesn’t get blown up in a ridiculously big explosion.

Carried over from Do Or Die is the increased profanity and especially “bitch” gets thrown around a lot more than in past episodes. For the majority of the feature Donna is incapitated and a non-participant in any of the plot, in her stead Edy is allowed to step up along with de facto lead Nicole Justin. Sidaris continues with his usual shtick including bumbling cartoonish henchman with Wiley and Coyote, the usage of remote controlled model planes/helicopters, and the usual way for an agent to get out of a bind is to drop one or more articles of clothing, preferably their tops. There’s, of course, an Abilene, and there are enough soft sex scenes to still anybody’s craving. Every lead has at least one topless scene (but usually more too) and nobody films a beautiful lady the way old Andy used to do.

At least Hard Hunted has the decency to introduce a some much-needed new faces. The new Kane is played by Geoffrey Moore, son of the late Roger Moore. Mika Quintard was in Candyman (1992) and her part amounts to little more than cavorting around sexily and getting killed. Replacing the ill-fitting Stephanie Schick of the prior installment is Beckie Mullen. Mullen was part of the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling and first appeared in Playboy in December 1990, then again in August 1991, and finally in January 1994 as part of "The Great 40th Anniversary Playmate Search" spread. She can also been seen in the music videos for ‘Poundcake’ by Van Halen and ‘Up All Night’ from Slaughter. Ava Cadell, who once uttered the legendary words “I’m gonna blow their tits off”, appears in a glorified cameo and is of little importance otherwise. That doesn’t mean that Sidaris won’t have her drop top when and where it matters.

Hard Hunted might not be the cream of the crop of the LETHAL Ladies franchise but it reinstates some of the more fun aspects that were somehow lost in Savage Beach (1989) and Do Or Die (1991). The series never recovered from the loss of Hope Marie Carlton and Roberta Vasquez’ substitute character for Taryn does little to help matters in that regard. While the energy level has been higher Hard Hunted overcompensates by an absolute abundance preposterously proportioned Playmates and cartoonishly big-bosomed women with oversized guns. Moreso than any other does Hard Hunted goes out of its way to show its many ladies in various stages of advanced undress. The spy angle still is a mere preamble to have the ladies in as many locations as possible, and the action direction still makes Albert Pyun look like Hong Kong. There are certainties in the Andy-verse and that is no matter how asinine or moronic the script or how convoluted the plot developments; there will be big guns, both literal and figurative. The only depth one is likely to find is in the cleavage of the various ladies, and that’s about it. Hard Hunted, while hardly exemplary, is at least better than its predecessor – which isn’t saying a lot. It does make one long for the simpler times of more enthusiast, fun-loving Sidaris spy-action romps as Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987) and Picasso Trigger (1988).

Plot: what happens on Savage Beach? LETHAL Ladies are on the case.

The LETHAL Ladies franchise closed the door on the exuberant eighties with Savage Beach, the least typical of the early era. Savage Beach not only spends inordinate amount of time on what amounts to a B-plot but also puts a greater emphasis on adventure than any of the prior installments. For the first time the LETHAL Ladies find themselves as passive spectators, and occasional participants, in a conflict between two warring factions. Savage Beach was the swansong for Hope Marie Carlton with the series and creator Andy Sidaris ensures that everybody gets a good gander at her considerable talents one last time. In what is now established Sidaris tradition Savage Beach delivers big explosions, ridiculous shoot-outs, and beautiful beach babes in candy-colored bikinis in spades.

First they received a Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987) and later they protected the valued Picasso Trigger (1988), now federal agents Donna Hamilton (Dona Speir) and Taryn (Hope Marie Carlton) are in the process of rounding up another round of drugdealers with help from trusted assets, or rather the assembled assets of,  Rocky (Lisa London) and Patticakes (Patty Duffek). With minutes to spare the girls catch some rays and hop into the hot tub before receiving a call from John Andreas (John Aprea). Andreas sends Donna and Taryn en route on a humanitarian mission to deliver medicine and supplies to Knox Island. After being informed that one Shane Abilene (Michael J. Shane) will be assisting them, they both hysterically scream, “another Abilene?!” Crashlanding on the island they were supposed to deliver supplies to Donna and Taryn find themselves in the midst of a vicious tug of war between a band of mercenaries and a government para-military unit vying for the same gold treasure. Who is the mysterious katana-wielding figure (Michael Mikasa) guarding the gold cache? Will stuff blow up and will there be plenty of jiggling naked breasts for everyone?

Having produced the prior three LETHAL Ladies installments from his personal funds, director Andy Sidaris was offered a lucrative production deal to expand his beach babes action movie vision into a full-blown pentalogy. Of said 5-picture deal Savage Beach was the first and missing in action are Cynthia Brimhall, Roberta Vasquez, Kym Malin, and Liv Lindeland. Also unaccounted for is Patrick LaPore as the Professor and Harold Diamond as The Agency strongman Jade. Substituting for her fellow Playboy Playmates is Teri Weigel (April 1986), one year away from having bit parts in Predator 2 (1990) and the Steven Seagal actioner Marked For Death (1990) – and her subsequent descent into hardcore pornography. Weigel is first seen in company of Shane Abilene (Michael J. Shane), another member of clan that included Cody, Rowdy, and Travis. To absolutely nobody’s surprise Anjelica is in cahoots with scheming Filipino representative Rodrigo Martinez (Rodrigo Obregón), in what looks like a subplot repurposed from the preceding Picasso Trigger (1988).

Thankfully Savage Beach keeps the LETHAL formula intact while excising all extraneous characters and most of Sidaris’ typical distractions. Savage Beach is all about efficiency. As there’s no Professor around there are no remote-controlled models, and no explosive-charged gadgets, neither are there any second-act amorous liaisons, and the main plot seems borne out of convenience. For the first time in the series do Donna and Taryn not actively engage with the main plot, at least not until their own little subplot ends up intersecting with it. Sidaris’ whimsical humour manifests itself when Donna and Taryn - who seem to wear tank tops and bootyshorts into perpuity when they are wearing clothes at all - crash on the island. Instead of foraging food and seeking shelter, the first thing the two do is check out the beach and go skinnydip. Weigel gets to spew political diatribes before, during, and after taking her clothes off. Continuity, either from one movie to the next or in them, was never Sidaris strong suit. Savage Beach has the case of the duo’s camouflage paint disappearing in between scenes.

Besides the usual amount of Playboy Playmates and stuntmen Andy Sidaris was in the habit of contracting well-known character actors in supporting roles. Savage Beach has Al Leong, famous for his bit parts in Lethal Weapon (1987), Die Hard (1988), and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989). Lisa London had a bit part in the fourth Dirty Harry installment Sudden Impact (1983). John Aprea, Bruce Penhall, Roy Summersett, and Rodrigo Obregón were Sidaris stock talent, as were Dona Speir, Hope Marie Carlton, and Patty Duffek. Michael J. Shane receives an “introducing” credit. After her acting tenure Hope Marie Carlton, who featured topless in an unaired pilot for the popular series Baywatch (1989), opened and ran the popular Sorrel River Ranch Resort in Moab, Utah. Hope Marie Carlton moved to Colorado once her marriage had ended in 2005.

Savage Beach is a monument to a bygone age. It was an episode of endings and continuations. Dona Speir transitioned into the 90s with the franchise, becoming the franchise mascot in the process, at which point Hope Marie Carlton bade the series farewell. Carlton was suitably replaced by the curvaceous Roberta Vasquez. Vasquez was absent in Savage Beach (1989), but returned as a completely new and benevolent character in Guns (1990), as did Liv Lindeland. Vasquez remained a series regular until Fit to Kill (1993) while Lindeland moved on after Guns. Speir exited the franchise after Fit to Kill (1993) at which point Penthouse Pets Julie Strain, Julie K. Smith and Shae Marks took over The Agency mantle for Day Of the Warrior (1996). Andy’s son Christian Drew Sidaris shot two of his own LETHAL productions in the interim between Fit to Kill and Day of the Warrior. The parallel sequels Enemy Gold (1993) and The Dallas Connection (1994) retroactively serve to link the 1980s and 1990s Sidaris the elder periods. The concluding Andy Sidaris directed episode Return to Savage Beach (1998) saw the Julies, Strain and K. Smith, return to Savage Beach in what can only be construed as a loving homage to the original, which didn't stop Sidaris the elder from pilfering it for footage.

Andy Sidaris can hardly be accused of not giving his audience exactly what they want. However even by Sidaris standards Savage Beach is just a wee bit on the thin side, both in terms of plot as well as the heavily-slimmed cast. Speir and Carlton have grown comfortable in their roles as gun-toting, wisecracking, top-dropping action babes and the chemistry between the two is undeniable. Perhaps it had been better if Speir and Carlton had been active participants in the main plot, rather than passive spectators – and some of the warrior’s stalking scene resemble a Hawaiian slasher. The World War II flashback scene was ambitious, but was kept low-scale enough for the limited budget Sidaris was working with. What can be counted upon is that there’ll be plenty of bouncing naked breasts, and if there’s any beautiful good character introduced, there’s a good chance of her shedding fabric in the following scenes. Sidaris never aimed for high art, and his movies are as pulpy and exploitative as they look. For what it’s worth, at least an Andy Sidaris romp always delivers what it promises. Sometimes bigger, sometimes lesser – but they are consistently entertaining.