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"Hamburger: The Motion Picture" (1986) Review
"Hamburger: The Motion Picture" (1986) - Directed By Mike Marvin
Welcome once again to It Came From the Bargain Bin, the Hub series that loves bad movies almost as much as it loves free beer. Usually this column covers films featuring flesh eating zombies, psychotic killers or carnivorous monsters but tonight we're heading over to the "comedy" aisle of the video store for 1986's semi-cult classic Hamburger: The Motion Picture. This overlooked gem is yet another fine example of the low budget, raunchy "sex comedy" genre, which absolutely exploded in the early to mid '80s after the runaway success of such films as Animal House and the Porky's series. The formula for such films was simple (and cheap): put together a few wacky characters, stick them in a ridiculous situation, and make sure that a girl's clothes come off once every ten minutes or so. If your film followed those simple rules, it was guaranteed to keep teenage boys coming back to the video store for repeated rentals, or glued to HBO Late Night, for one simple reason. You see, kids, back in the '80s, films like Hamburger -- or Losin' It, Bachelor Party, Hot Dog: The Movie, The Last American Virgin, Private Resort, Ski School, Fraternity Vacation, or any of a hundred others -- were the easiest way for teenage horn dogs such as myself to get a glimpse at a naked lady. Remember, we didn't HAVE the internet back then, beaming nudity into our homes 24-7!! We had to WORK in order to see boobs! But I digress...
Hamburger jumps into T&A territory right from the get-go. Immediately after the Satanically catchy opening credit theme song "Hamburgers For America," we meet our handsome hero, Russell Procope (Leigh McCloskey of Just One of the Guys), having a romantic interlude with a collegiate lovely in the women's shower. Unfortunately the couple is caught by the House Mother and Russell is immediately sent off to the campus psychiatrist, the gorgeous Dr. Gotbottom (yes, really). The good Doctor reads off a laundry list of Russell's previous philandering adventures, which have gotten him kicked out of a series of other colleges. Poor Russell claims that he's a "victim of nature," and that he can't help it if women find him irresistible. Needless to say, Doctor Gotbottom isn't immune to Russell's charms either (despite Russell's protests) and they're just getting to the good stuff when the Dean walks in on them, prompting Russell to sigh "My Dad's gonna kill me."
While Russell is being strangled by both of his enraged parents, we learn that his perennial academic washouts have endangered the $250,000 inheritance he's due from his late grandfather - which hinges on him receiving a college degree. At that exact moment, a commercial for the "Buster Burger" chain appears on TV, in which the company's elderly President, Lyman Vunk (veteran character actor Charles Tyner, who resembles a real-life version of The Simpsons' "Mr. Burns" ) invites those with an interest in becoming Buster Burger franchisees to sign up for a stint at Buster Burger University, the company's training school in Colorado. Figuring he's got nothing left to lose, Russell fills out an application at his local Buster Burger restaurant and soon he's on the University's massive campus, ready to learn the ins and outs of the fast food business.
Glory Buster Burger Loo-ya!
Meet the Crew!
Russell's Buster Burger U. classmates are the usual gang of freaky '80s comedy characters, including the oversexed Fred (Sandy Hackett), the overweight Prestopopnick (John Young) who has invented a homemade electro-shock device to dissuade him from binging on food; the lovely Latin revolutionary Conchita (Maria Richwine), who's come from the impoverished South American country of "Guacamole" (grooooaaaaan...!) in order to learn how to feed her starving nation's people faster and more efficiently; and the nerdy Nacio Herb Zipser (Jack Blessing), an obsessive Buster Burger fan who constantly listens to their commercial jingles on his Walkman and keeps up with their latest developments by reading "The New England Journal of Fried Foods." We also meet Sister Sara, a nun who enrolled in BusterBurger U. after "hearing voices," i.e. the Busterburger TV jingle; and aspiring R&B star Magneto Jones (Chip McAllister), a Rick James lookalike who has apparently been forced into Buster Burger U. against his will - so that Buster Burger can satisfy a Supreme Court ruling by graduating its first-ever African-American manager. Magneto is brought onto the campus in a police car and spends nearly the entire movie in handcuffs. Tasteless as this running gag may be to some, take it from me, it's not even the tip of the iceberg compared to what comes later in the film. Quite a group!!
The new class of trainees is supervised by the brutal Grill Sergeant Drootin (legendary NFL tough guy Dick Butkus), who wields a mean spatula and hurls a near-endless stream of abuse at our heroes - particularly Russell, who gets on Drootin's bad side virtually from the moment he sets foot on campus by catching the eye of the lovely Mia Vunk (Debra Blee) - Dean Lyman's daughter and Drootin's intended fiancée. Russell's roommate Fred, meanwhile, becomes infatuated with Lyman's much younger, totally stacked trophy wife Mrs. Vunk (Randi Brooks), with whom he begins a torrid affair despite the "no sex on campus" rule. (Randi has the single best line in the entire film when she tells Fred, "I'd trade all 70,000 franchises for just one night of stiff headboard banging with a human piledriver like you.")
"Put those cookies BACK, MF'er!"
Gettin' Burger Hungry?
Once all the pieces are in place, the fun really begins. Drootin berates and belittles his new class of trainees mercilessly, hoping that his dedication will impress Lyman Vunk enough to offer him a job on the Buster Burger executive board. Russell, admirably trying to keep on his best behavior, gets to know Mia better while fighting off the advances of the amorous Conchita (he sez he "doesn't want to father any future Guacamolean freedom fighters") while Zipser falls in with the twisted Dr. Mole (Chuck McCann), a Buster Burger food scientist who isn't above testing new product ideas on human subjects. Food is thrown, girls get naked, we're subjected to a near-endless series of "burger" related puns, and finally things come to a head when the recruits are put in charge of a real Buster Burger restaurant for an entire day as part of their Final Exam. Grill Sergeant Drootin, naturally, does everything he can to sabotage Russell and his gang of "Pickle Pricks," and the action that follows can only be described as the worst nightmare of anyone who's ever worked in the fast food industry. I don't want to spoil it for you but let's just say that the film's action packed climax involves a group of "professional eaters" and a bottle of industrial strength laxatives....
Will Russell survive the grueling Buster Burger training process and get that elusive diploma? Will Grill Sergeant Drootin finally receive the comeuppance he deserves? Can two people really have sex in a helicopter? Can a camera flash bulb ignite a rest room full of human flatulence? Will you ever get that damn "America, you're getting Burger Hungry" commercial jingle out of your head?? These burning questions - and more! - will finally be answered when you experience Hamburger: The Motion Picture.
Don't Mess With the Grill Sergeant!
Summin' It Up...
Make no mistake, Hamburger: The Motion Picture is what most people would refer to as "a moron movie." It's tasteless, absurd, and offensive from beginning to end, but in a totally awesome way. I first fell in love with this film on cable TV as a high schooler and since then it's become the "go-to" bad '80s movie for me and several of my dear friends. We can still quote from it chapter and verse to this very day! Unfortunately, video copies of this flick are hard to come by as of this writing. It has never been released on legitimate DVD and vintage VHS copies command collector's prices. In order to write this review, I watched my age-old tape that I'd recorded off of HBO waaaaaay back in 1989 or so for the umpteenth time. Needless to say, I treat said tape with kid gloves because if it (or my VCR) ever craps out, Lord only knows if I'd ever be able to find another one, and at this point I don't think I would be able to live without my annual "Hamburger" fix. If you've seen it, you understand. If you haven't, you really need to. Happy hunting, and in the immortal words of Lyman Vunk, "Put those cookies back, mother@#$%'er!!"