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Plot: South American armsdealer sets up base of operations in Hawaii.

With the matter-of-factly titled Guns Hawaiian action director Andy Sidaris entered the nineties, a decade notoriously unkind to many a genre. The fourth LETHAL Ladies episode introduces a new partner for The Agency operative Donna Hamilton as they continue to battle drug runners and arms dealers. Guns is, as the title would have it, about big guns, both literal and figurative, and the first LETHAL Ladies without Hope Marie Carlton. It fares as well as one would expect. Sidaris returns to all the familiar locations, with many familiar faces, and all the familar gadgets. Bronzed blonde babes in skimpy candy-colored bikinis engage vicious narcotic distribution rings, enemy agents and crimelords in combat by dropping their tops, or forgoing clothes altogether. Everything is bigger in Guns: the guns, the explosions, and the breasts – all except the plot, which remains as paper-thin and flimsy as ever. Not that anybody’s complaining…

Having ridded Moloka’i from drug runners and a giant python, safeguarding a reputeable artpiece while liberating the island of a vicious narcotics distributing ring, and taking down a paramilitary unit on a remote island, Donna Hamilton (Dona Speir) and Nicole Justin (Roberta Vasquez), a never-before-mentioned third partner of Molokai Cargo, become targets in an ambitious plan from armsdealer Juan Degas (Erik Estrada), who has something of a history with both LETHAL Ladies. When an assassination attempt claims the life of Rocky (Lisa London) in collateral damage and Dona’s hardnosed DA mother Kathryn Hamilton (Phyllis Davis) is kidnapped by Degas’ goons, things get personal. With help from CIA field agent Bruce Christian (Bruce Penhall), The Agency man Abe (Chuck McCann), and series mainstay Shane Abilene (Michael J. Shane, as Michael Shane) the LETHAL Ladies break out the heavy artillery to put Jack Of Diamonds, his assassins, and goons where they belong: behind bars.

Helping Degas carry out his elaborate plan of dominating the armsdealing profession is Cash, played by Playboy Playmate Devin DeVasquez (June 1985), and Tong (Danny Trejo) and his girlfriend (Kelly Menighan). DeVasquez had appeared in House II: the Second Story (1987) and Society (1989), while Trejo’s first role of note was in Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987) and the Steven Seagal actioner Marked For Death (1990). It wouldn’t be until the second half of the nineties that Trejo established himself with Desperado (1995) and From Dusk till Dawn (1996). Despite fulfilling every requirement Guns is Devin DeVasquez' sole appearance in the Andy-verse. In 2009 DeVasquez married Ron Moss, or Rowdy Abilene from Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987).

Guns is the only Sidaris production to have both CHIPs (1977) heartthrobs Erik Estrada and Bruce Penhall present at the same time. Penhall had a history with Sidaris making his first appearance as a different character in Picasso Trigger (1988) before returning four more times as Bruce Christian and staying with the series until its original end. In the interim Penhall played Chris Cannon in the two Drew Christian Sidaris entries Enemy Gold (1993) and The Dallas Connection (1994). Penhall, along with Speir and Vasquez, did not return for Day Of the Warrior (1996) and Return to Savage Beach (1996), at which point Penthouse Pets Julie Strain, Julie K. Smith and Shae Marks took over The Agency mantle. Guns signaled the exit of London and Lindeland from the series, and introduced Nicole Justin as a substitute for Taryn. Phyllis Davis and James Lew later turned up in Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995) as a hostage and goon, respectively.

With Hope Marie Carlton, arguably one of the better actresses of the cast, choosing not to return for Guns, Sidaris brought back Roberta Vasquez as a replacement. Vasquez’ Nicole Justin - who acts, dresses, and talks just like Taryn – is an interesting choice. Nicole Justin, a brunette of South American descent, is, for all intents and purposes, Taryn. It would be the first (and only) that Andy Sidaris would put a minority character in the lead. Sidaris spents a good 20 minutes setting up Justin’s character, but there’s nothing that drastically changes the familiar Donna Hamilton-Taryn dynamic. Neither will it ever be brought up in the series again. Like Taryn in her final appearance Nicole Justin dates Bruce Christian, and she has all of Taryn’s post-Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987) habits. The Justin part was one you’d halfway expect Liv Lindeland or Kym Malin to usurp given their Nordic looks and bulging chests, or Cynthia Brimhall for her sheer longevity with the series. It does help that Roberta Vasquez at least can halfway act and handle a gun. She also happens to look good in and out of a skimpy bikini. What does remain a constant is that most of the bit players still are awful at line reading, and that it usually doesn’t take long before they lose their tops. Carlton went on to star in Bloodmatch (1991) from Albert Pyun a year later.

In fact for the first time Andy Sidaris seems genuinely concerned with plotting and character development. In the interim Edy Stark (Cynthia Brimhall) has become a lounge/nightclub singer at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, which is just an excuse to have her prance around in tiny glittery bikinis and sing, among others, the theme song. In all honesty, Brimhall isn’t too shabby a singer. Edy has left her restaurant Edy’s to redhead Rocky who turned it into Rocky’s. Kym (Kym Malin), last seen as in Picasso Trigger (1988) as part of the multi-talented linedancing duo Kym & Patticakes, has picked up oilwrestling and is seen hitting the canvas with Hugs Huggins (Donna Spangler), a 90s callback to Malibu Express (1982) peroxide blonde June Khnockers (Lynda Wiesmeier). It’s only at a record 27 minutes in that Sidaris flashes the first pair of breasts, but he compensates by showing three consecutive topless scenes from as many actresses in close succession. Substituting for the Professor (Patrick LaPore), who made his final appearance in Picasso Trigger (1988), is red bikini-clad stunner Ace (Liv Lindeland), more or less the same character as Picasso Trigger’s resident computer wiz Inga. Perhaps Sidaris genuinely didn't remember that Lindeland's character was named Inga originally?

Sidaris’ humour remains as unsophisticated and lowbrow as ever and plot-convenient excuses to get the girls naked are filmsy as always. When Degas explains to a hired duo of cross-dressing assassins that his target requires a “cerebral approach” he gets nothing but blank stares. Instructing them to “shoot her in the head” on the other hand is explanatory enough. During the final shootout Nicole Justin engages in an exchange of gunfire with Degas’ goon until Bruce Christian, brandishing an oversized gun, barges in saying “so this is what goes on in the ladies room!” In Sidaris tradition both Rocky and Cash die by gunshots between the breasts, and only Ace (the Inga substitute) is cowardly shot in the back. Cash fails to shoot Edy even though she’s mere meters away, apparently distracted by mirrors. Shane, being an Abilene, can’t shoot straight no matter what he does. Abe, a stand-in for The Professor, is killed while fishing by a remote controlled model boat and Juan Degas, the Jack Of Diamonds, is quite literally blown up at close range by Donna with a rocket launcher. For the first time in quite a while Edy Stark is given a more action-heavy part, which doesn’t mean that Sidaris doesn’t relish in her voluptuousness. Kym Malin’s Kym still only exists to raise the skin factor. Malin’s oil wrestling gig mostly serves a pretext to show a naked Donna Spangler, the Beverly Hills Barbie, who appeared in Playboy in December 1989, as the alliterative named Hugs Huggins.

As a disciple of the Russ Meyer school of filmmaking the material’s light tone and 80s fashion sense remain its strong points, even though the formula is starting to wear thin. Guns, if anything, is superior to Savage Beach (1989) in every way and as the first episode of the 90s it could’ve fared far worse. As enjoyable as Sidaris’ shtick tends to be in Guns things start to feel rusty and tiresome. The following year’s Do Or Die (1991) would adopt an overall darker and more cynical tone before returning to the series’ signature lighthearted tone with 1993’s Hard Hunted and Fit to Kill. At the halfway point of the LETHAL Ladies franchise the Sidaris formula starts to show its limitations, but that doesn’t change that they are almost universally fun. Guns has no shortage of big guns, both literal and figurative, and with a cast comprised almost exclusively of Playboy Playmates and Penthouse Pets was there really any reason to bother with trivialities such as plot? Andy Sidaris never was much an auteur, but that never stopped his Bullets, Babes and Bombs or Girls, Guns and G-Strings – series from being entertaining romps. Things could be worse…

Plot: druglord avenges his associate’s death. The LETHAL ladies are on the case.

For Picasso Trigger Hawaiian action mogul Andy Sidaris went big. The  guns are bigger, the explosions are bigger and the breasts were pretty big to begin with. Not deterred in the slightest by trivial things such as the absence of budget, talent, or plot, Picasso Trigger bursts at the seams with unparallelled enthusiasm and gusto. Peroxide blondes Dona Speir and Hope Marie Carlton return as ditzy federal agents Donna Hamilton and (still surname-less) Taryn from The Agency (the details of which won't be forthcoming until, at least, 7 episodes from now) and frequently threaten to burst out of their candy-colored bikinis at any given moment. Donna and Taryn are still clothing-averse and prone to breaking out the big guns (both literal and figurative) whenever Moloka’i or Hawaii at large is threatened by the criminal element. Andy Sidaris, like any redblooded male, categorically loves beautiful women, big guns, explosions and bare breasts. His Girls, Guns, and G-Strings series combined everything he loved into one. Picasso Trigger and the Sidaris canon is entertaining when it remains lighthearted and fun. If you enjoyed Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987) this will be right up your alley.

After the events of Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987) Donna and Taryn are out snorkeling on a well-deserved vacation. Meanwhile in Paris, France – complete with stock footage from the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe – Salazar (John Aprea) is donating a multi-million Picasso Trigger painting to the Musée des beaux-arts de la ville de Paris as a token of gratitude. On the steps outside of the museum he is gunned down. The assassination is part of an elaborate retaliatory scheme masterminded by druglord Miguel Ortiz (Rodrigo Obregón) to avenge the death of his associate Seth Romero in the preceding movie. LETHAL senior operative L.G. Abilene (Guich Koock) sets up an investigation acquiring the services of Donna and Taryn, Edy Stark (Cynthia Brimhall), his son Travis Abilene (Steve Bond), and trusted The Agency associate Jade (Harold Diamond), who works at Sea Life Park.

Assisting the LETHAL team is the Professor (Patrick LePore) who, just like in Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987), comes bearing gadgets: a boomerang and a remote controlled racing car both, of course, set with explosives. In tow are Playboy Playmates Liv Lindeland (January 1971), and Roberta Vasquez (November 1984) as Inga and Paris liaison Pantera, respectively. At one point Inga asks the Professor, “do you want a Danish?” after which the Professor starts to untangle her bikini top, apparently oblivious (together with director Andy Sidaris, no doubt) to the fact that Lindeland hails from Norway, not Denmark, after which the famous pastry is named. It's the Professor who utters “killing is an art form”, the movie’s tagline.

Caught up in their own little action-filled subplot, one worthy of a 1970s Jess Franco production, are Playboy Playmates Kym Malin (May 1982) and Patty Duffek (May 1984) as a burlesque line dancing duo Kym & Patticakes. The routine is, of course, part of a deep undercover operation to apprehend a number of local gangsters, their ringleader Charles Patterson (Roy Summersett) and his second-in-command Schiavo (Nicholas Georgiade, as Nick Georgiade). Patterson and Schiavo promise the duo fame and fortune, but Kym and Patticakes remain focused on their mission objective. Upon completion of their mission, the girls relax and take their tops off… or frequently much earlier than that. Not that anybody in particular is complaining.

Perhaps more than any other episode before or since Picasso Trigger takes plenty of time fleshing out (which in Andy Sidaris tradition should be taken quite literally) the various amorous liaisons. Abilene the younger is initially courted by Spanish vixen Pantera, while he's still pursuing Donna. Feelings that Hamilton is all too eager to reciprocitate. In accordance with Abilene family tradition Travis can’t shoot straight no matter how close, or far, he is to his target. He doesn’t drive a red 1981 De Lorean DMC 12, but a 1981 Ferrari 308 GTSi, while he carries his firearm in a cow-skinned briefcase. Travis too lives on a Malibu Express (1985) houseboat. Travis is apparently okay, or unaware, that Donna hooked up with that other Abilene beefcake Rowdy earlier. “I don't have a jealous bone in my body,” Donna says when Travis explains his liaisons with Pantera, “check it out” as she drops her gown.

Taryn shares the jacuzzi with Hondo (Bruce Penhall) who asks her to stay over the weekend. An offer she declines because she’s a professional and she’s “on assignment.” A few scenes later Taryn is seen hooking up with golf-loving Jimmy-John (Wolf Larson). Jade and an agent become an item during the mission. The only relation to carry any emotional-narrative weight is the Pantera-Donna-Travis triangle. Donna quite comically solves the problem by shooting a harpoon at Pantera - who in the interim has revealed to be an enemy operative - the exit wound of which ends up, of course, right between her oversized breasts. Both Bruce Penhall and Roberta Vasquez would become regulars in the franchise in the following  years. Vasquez remains modest through out much of Picasso Trigger, offering plenty of deep cleavage, or the occassional sideboob. It wouldn’t be until Do or Die (1991), Hard Hunted (1993), and Fit to Kill (1993) that she showed off her considerable assets, albeit as a different, more benevolent character. The criminally underused Liv Lindeland would return as a different character in Guns (1990). Lindeland unfortunately never quite made it to the regular main cast.

Steve Bond was a television actor mostly remembered for his parts in General Hospital (1983-1986) and Santa Barbara (1989-1990). Bond would famously cross paths with sometime Tinto Brass muse Debora Caprioglio, or Paprika (1991) herself, in the Sergio Martino erotic thriller The Smile of the Fox (1992). Martial artist Keith Cooke (who appears as Keith Hirabayashi) - who would go on to portray Reptile in Mortal Kombat (1995), Chance O'Brien in Albert Pyun's Heatseeker (1995), and Sub-Zero in the famously disastrous Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)  – makes a serviceable turn as a wise-cracking goon, especially when he tries to kill Donna and Taryn with a model airplane, and is, quite literally, blown to pieces with a rocket launcher for his trouble. After Picasso Trigger Kym Malin went on to play a bit part as a hostage in the Bruce Willis action hit Die Hard (1988) and that of a party girl in the Patrick Swayze action flick Road House (1989).

Bruce Penhall was in the Ruggero Deodato slasher BodyCount (1986) prior to becoming part of Andy-verse. John Aprea was in Bullitt (1968) with Steve McQueen, The Godfather: Part II (1974) with Al Pacino, and The Game (1997) with Michael Douglas and Sean Penn, among other credits. Harold Diamond would portray the stick fighter in the Sylvester Stallone epic Rambo III (1988). Dennis Alexio played a bit part in the Jean-Claude van Damme martial arts romp Kickboxer (1989). Hope Marie Carlton went on to play a dialog – and clothing-free bit part in A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) alongside a young Jennifer Rubin, and in the Albert Pyun martial arts stinker Bloodmatch (1991) with Thom Mathews. Still pooling talent from Playboy, and Penthouse centerfolds unfortunately Sidaris never saw it fit to offer Angelfist (1993) star Melissa Moore a role. Clearly Sidaris had a very specific beauty standard upon which he based his casting choices.

Hope Marie Carlton, Cynthia Brimhall, Liv Lindeland, and Roberta Vasquez show some semblance of acting skill, while Dona Speir, Patty Duffek, and Kym Malin stand out for all the wrong reasons. John Aprea, Rodrigo Obregón, Keith Cooke, and Nicholas Georgiade act better than what you’d usually expect in an Andy Sidaris production. Helping slightly in differentiating between Speir and Carlton is that Sidaris has now conveniently color-coded them, with Speir and Carlton wearing pink and green outfits respectively. Steve Bond is less of a leading man than Darby Hinton and Ronn Moss were, but to compensate he gets to roll in the hay with Dona Speir and Roberta Vasquez. The minimal plot is merely pretext for a series of tangentially related setpieces mostly revolving around scandily-clad women, big guns, and bigger explosions. Picasso Trigger knows what it is, and never professes to be anything else. An Andy Sidaris production is free from the usual rules that apply to low budget action movies of this kind - and, as would become clear the farther the franchise, well, not progressed so much as continued to exist - sometimes even old Andy didn't know how to make sense of the rules he set. In the Andy-verse there are usually two solutions to whatever problem the protagonists happen to face. One involves disproportionate guns, funny quips/one-liners and stuff blowing up in the most ridiculous way possible. The other is naked breasts, preferably a multitude of them and from a variety of Playboy and Penthouse models.

As with any early installment from the Girls, Guns, and G-Strings series it's clear that everybody was out to have a good time. From the bright, sunny beach locations, to the skimpy candy-colored bikinis, the ridiculous spy gadgets, and the abundance of bodacious babes in minimal fabric – Andy Sidaris aims for fun. One has to be completely heartless not to crack a smile at the sheer preposterousness of the affair. The explosions match the breasts in size, and when the girls fail to say their lines believably, Sidaris has them taking their tops off, often repeatedly. As history would come to show, bigger is always better in the Andy-verse. While the breasts might grow in size disproportionately as sequels followed, none of them would be quite the fun-filled romps that were Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987) and Picasso Trigger. There may be many producers and directors that are better writers, better technicians, just better overall – but it remains debatable whether they are able to provide the same amount of fun per capita as Andy Sidaris and his team.