Sunday, July 21, 2013

A few final words about "Herbie Goes Bananas" (1980)

Wow, I got really carried away on that last entry! Charles Martin Smith in the 1980 film "Herbie Goes Bananas" is just too freakin' cute!  We saw his character Davy Johns AKA DJ in Puerto Vallarta wearing some super sexy tropical attire, and later with his buddy Pete (Stephen W Burns) on a cruise ship to South America as they shared situations both seriously silly and sexually steamy. And in the process of reviewing his scenes in the film, I've covered a mere 35 minutes spread out over two whole entries, making this the most extensively written-about CMS film on this blog. That's kind of absurd when you think about the fact that this really is a lesser Smith movie compared to his other more impressive efforts. But he'd also reached a point in his career where his handsomeness had matured so beautifully and richly that I just had to spend more time examining and showing why I feel that Charles Martin Smith is the Sexiest Man Alive.

There's actually not a whole lot of CMS in the remaining hour of "Herbie Goes Bananas" since the plot switches to focusing on the relationship between the "living" VW Beetle Herbie and the Mexican pickpocket child Paco, while all the other characters and their subplots retreat into the background. There's another automotive rampage in the cargo hold when Herbie frees captive Paco from a cage, and Captain Blythe (Harvey Korman) actually ends up having the little car executed by walking the plank! Well, actually the crew roll him upside-down onto a plank and dump the whole thing into the ocean. With a sad honk of the horn, Herbie sinks below the waves to presumably rest in a watery grave. Afterwards, our mortified main characters all disembark at the next port stop in Panama: insatiatable nympho Aunt Louise (Cloris Leachman), her frigid grad student niece Melissa (Elyssa Davalos), and our adorable pair of racecar owners Pete (Burns) and DJ (Smith).

When DJ and Pete run into Louise as they unboard, Pete attempts to confess his lack of feelings for Melissa: "Not everybody is made for each other. I really like her, and I don't want her to get hurt. I planned to tell her, but maybe you could sort of smooth things over." At this point Melissa walks by and overhears. Hurt and rejected, she coldly shoves by Pete as her Aunt apologizes and follows behind. While Pete frowns guiltily, his ever-faithful companion DJ gives him a reassuring squeeze on the arm. "Come on, pal," DJ tells him soothingly, and the two of them pick up their suitcases and move along. I pointed out the last 2 entries how I feel about the relationship these two guys have. Supposedly just good friends, I see repeated indications that there is something more to their relationship. There's a certain chemistry the two share that seems rather gay to me. 

"How do you say in Panamanian, 'I need a job'?" DJ asks Pete as they walk by 2 of the villains of the movie (Howard Vernon and Alex Rocco). These evil men are after a microfilm that shows where an ancient Incan city can be found in the jungles of South America, and they've followed our protagonists from Puerta Vallarta in an effort to reclaim it from Paco the Pickpocket. As the little brat in question is ejected from the ship, the bad guys try to grab him. But the kid is too swift for them, and he runs off into the streets.

Now we endure the main relation of the film as Herbie proves to be more resilient than expected, floating up the Panama Canal and drifting up to Paco, who's found sitting sad and lonely on a fishing pier. The VW's once pure white shell now rusted a dirty brown, this altered Herbie and his pal Paco hit the road together while a dopey little ditty called "A Friend" plays on the soundtrack. Soon, Paco is slapping some cheap red paint on Herbie, having come up with the idea of running a cab service to make money instead of stealing it. Before the car and kid can embark on this business venture, they are discovered by the pair of villains. The microfilm is actually tucked away inside DJ's wallet, and Paco promises to recover it. If he doesn't, the bad guys will take a blowtorch to Herbie! Yikes!

When we rejoin that lovable duo DJ and Pete, we find that they are still inseparable, working together waiting tables at a Panamanian cafe. As DJ laments the loss of their race car Herbie and the fame and groupies that would have come along with their almost-certain win at the Brazilian Grand Primeo, Pete grumpily reminds him that it's all the fault of that little shit Paco for ruining everything. Right on cue, Paco shows up and gives the guys a tearful apology, throwing himself at Pete and wrapping himself around Pete's waist.

When Paco walks off to use the bathroom, Pete quickly discovers that they are once again the victim of the devious little pickpocket. I'm a little confused here, since I thought it was DJ's wallet that would have had to be stolen to recover the secret microfilm, but whatever. I guess that means the two guys share a wallet, which just adds to the evidence I'm gathering to prove the true nature of their relationship. As the pair bust down the bathroom door to catch the brat and reclaim their pilfered item, they rush to the window just in time to witness Paco hopping into their presumed-dead car Herbie. They shout in surprise as the rusted-out VW tears off down the street.

Coincidentally, both Aunt Louise and Captain Blythe end up in Herbie's backseat, foolishly believing the little car really is a taxicab. Hot on their tail are the angry villains, eager to recover the film. As Melissa (studying an elaborate Panamanian stone arch by the roadside) watches in horror, her aunt and the captain rush by, leaning out the windows screaming for help as Herbie zooms away. Pete and DJ help her commandeer a barely-drivable bus to follow in pursuit. There's a string of adventures and mishaps as the characters all rush further south into the continent, with the main setpiece of the film being a bullfight with Herbie serving as the matador. Oh brother....

Through all the danger and difficulty, DJ and Pete never leave each other's side. Clearly devoted to each other, this inseparable pair show a dedication to each other that is so admirable and adorable. In contrast, there is never any time that Pete says he has any genuine feelings for Melissa, only apologizing repeatedly for misleading her. Yes, of course he has no feelings for Melissa. His heart already belongs to his cute and cuddly pal DJ!

The plot careens from one absurd and silly misadventure to another, and nothing worth noting really transpires. With all the characters fighting for attention, DJ often ends up shoved aside by the narrative. So excuse me if I don't really give a shit what happens for most of the rest of the movie. You know what's going to happen, anyways: the bad guys will be punished and the good guys will get their happy ending. Yawn...

We do get one final scene of CMS looking cute again, as he recycles his orange mechanic's jumpsuit from the costume party aboard the ocean liner earlier in the film. It's a really sexy look for him, and he's clearly not wearing an undershirt so we get to see some nice exposed chest flesh. I'd like to imagine he's not wearing any undergarments at all beneath the orange suit, actually. It seems very possible. I can just imagine running into this cutie here in San Francisco at one of our kink street fairs (such as Folsom). He totally looks like he belongs, ready to unzip the front and expose his sexiness for all the world to see... Mmm-hmm, very nice!

So, yeah. In all honesty, I am not a big fan of this movie. I was never a big Love Bug fan to begin with, and this weak entry in the series is not an easy film to love. There are a few moments to enjoy here and there, though. Aunt Louise's nymphomaniacal behavior is sometimes entertaining to behold, with Cloris Leachman playing an interesting mix of amusing and disturbing that actually got a few giggles out of me. And some of the exotic locales make for nice background scenery, I suppose. Yet here I am finishing up a 3rd entry about the movie. 3 whole entires? Really? It just doesn't seem right to devote so much space on this blog to what is really a rather marginal film.

But then again, there is too much sexy CMS on display here for me to ignore. Over the course of these blog entries, I have watched Charles grow as an actor and as a handsomely maturing man. Here in this particular film, I really believe his appearance was his sexiest yet up to this point, displaying equal amounts of adorably goofy charm and undeniably arousing attributes. Yes, I'm talking about those amazing legs and that scorchingly hot butt of his. Usually I like to see Charles in glasses too, since I have such a weakness for him when he's wearing them and doing that sexy nerd thing he does so well. But here I have to say he was really damn attractive even without them, and I ended up highly worked up by what I had seen of him here in this film.

But guess what? It gets even better. The next film I have to talk about here is the one that started this whole obsession with Charles Martin Smith in the first place. One where he gives (in my opinion) the best performance of his career, and where he displays his sexiness at it's most extreme and intense. Yes, dear readers: I have finally reached the point where I get to review my favorite film of all time. Join me next time for a peek at CMS's masterpiece, "Never Cry Wolf" (1983) and share the film's many pleasures with me. I'm so excited!

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