The Malibu Bikini Shop (1986): or My Introduction to Cinematic Breastsby Matthew Revert on Apr 5, 2012 • 12:02 pm 1 Comment
While reflecting upon the scope of the ‘Destroying My Future’ posts, I couldn’t help but acknowledge the fact that many of the films that affected my childhood the most were not children’s movies. To limit myself to such strict confines would be to ignore so many formative monstrosities that damaged my psyche. The following film, ‘The Malibu Bikini Shop’ is case in point. This film occupies a very special place within me… a place that most men have etched in their memories like the frenzied scrapings of school desk jerks. ‘The Malibu Bikini Shop’ was the film that introduced to me to something I was destined to become very familiar with… cinematic breasts.
I am going to try and recreate a scenario that has attained an almost mythical grandiosity in my mind over the last 20 odd years. Before I sit down and revisit the film in question, I want to describe the moment breasts became a tangible thing in the mind of a young boy who lacked the adequate cognitive tools required to place them into a broader social and sexual context. I have no idea how ‘Bikini Shop’ (as it was known in Australia) found its way into the lounge room of my childhood home, or why it was decided we’d all sit around and watch it together as a family. All I know is that ‘Bikini Shop’ did find its way into my childhood home. Perhaps my parents had discussed it and decided this would be an appropriate way to introduce their son to the female form, or maybe my father had neglected his brain medicine and was suffering from an episode. Regardless of how it happened, I remember taking position cross-legged infront of the TV (my default movie position). Through a fuzz of steadying tracking, the following two minutes of life-altering cinema seared itself into my brain:
Wait a minute… what was that!?
This playful dingus certainly knew something I didn’t know. It’s sad to think about it now, but this is the person who introduced me to this:
And thus, the reality of breasts beyond the confines of my mother was born. It was just a flash… an all-to-brief glimpse at a world I knew nothing about. These mysterious Malibu mammaries had affected me, but I didn’t know how or why. In this flash of revelation, a new aspect of the world was unleashed. According to what I had just witnessed, breasts were something that shouldn’t be ‘seen’. Their existence was only made visible due to the nefarious actions of a horny boy. I’m not sure what message this sends an impressionable youngster, but I can proudly report that I have never had the desire to throw back the curtains on an occupied changing room at a party-happy bikini shop. I once had my pants pulled down at school, and it was a profoundly violating experience… best not to inflict that violation on others.
So there I sat… eyes agog, mouth agape. This was before matters of a sexual nature caused a flush of embarrassment. I turned toward my parents with a face that beamed pure joy. Their reaction was to laugh knowingly. And thus, my sense of shame was born. I turned back to face the screen, feeling decidedly uncomfortable. This was the day my world became more confusing. Girls officially existed… I just didn’t know what to do with them.
With that introduction out of the way, let’s discuss the film itself. ‘Bikini Shop’ is a fairly typical mid-80s teen movie with a story as threadbare as the attire worn within. Two brothers who , inherit a failing bikini shop and decide to try and turn it around. This is the story of their ensuing trials and tribulations. There’s little else to say. So let’s sit back, put a cushion over our crotches and watch, shall we?
I’m assuming you all watched the clip above? It introduces us the bikini shop in question, where life is a party combined with an 80s music video. The owner of the bikini shop stumbles outside with her man, both of whom are very drunk. It is now, with the setting Malibu sun casting a magical haze over the beach, that she decides it would be a great time to go jet-skiing. We as viewers, are given a subtle hint that this may not be such a good idea:
Can you see what’s happening here? We’re not told of the bikini shop owner’s fate right away, but if we had anything invested in the character at all, we might be worried. We’re then introduced to our hero, Alan, who is graduating from business school.
Alan, on the left, painted as the serious, business-minded one, refuses a swig of celebratory champagne offered by his fellow graduate. Alan, it would appear, has fallen into a world of straight-laced banality. His dreams of taking a year off after college have been thrown away in favour of his impending marriage to Jane, seen here not wearing a bikini.
Alan is the pride and joy of his parents, while his brother Todd (a mysterious individual we haven’t yet met) is viewed as a failure. Jane is a shrill, cash-obsessed harpy on a perpetual diet. Alan is destined to work for Jane’s father in his car factory (a model of which he has as a centrepiece in the midst of the graduation party?).
Nothing says ‘welcome to your future’ quite like the above image, hey? So… you’re probably beginning to wonder how this scenario leads to Alan managing a Malibu bikini shop. Remember that unfortunate woman who went drunken jet-skiing in dangerous waters? Well she’s dead, and just so happens to be Alan’s aunt. A telegram advises Alan to head on over to sunny California to settle the estate.
Without so much as a scene intended to ascertain Alan’s grief, he’s in California. You know that California is good because Alan’s arrival is accompanied by upbeat electro pop music. Alan is picked up at the airport by Richard Remington, who, as he kindly explains, was a close friend of Aunt Ida. Alan is careful to inform Richard that he can only stay for a few days due the his new job. This clip sums things up perfectly.
It has just dawned on me that Richard Remington reminds me a lot of The Undertaker’s manager, Paul Bearer (especially the way he talks):
So with the scene well and truly set, there’s only one thing missing… the mysterious slacker brother, Todd!
We know Todd is a slacker because he isn’t dressed in a suit and likes to sit with his feet up while watching television. Between the two of them, they have been given ownership of their aunt’s entire estate, which includes… you guessed it… THE BIKINI SHOP!
So now the fun begins. Alan is primarily concerned about the lease and other business matters, whereas Todd’s concern is primarily of a tit and ass nature.
Todd, the ingenious pervert that he is, has a two-way mirror installed for matters of ‘security’, which, as you can see, works a treat (while breaching several laws I’d imagine):
So at this point, I’d like to take a step back and reflect more upon my childhood self. What was I to make of all this? I had now seen the large breasts of a woman who, within the context of the story, didn’t know she was being watched. It would seem as though the lesson here is that women can only be appreciated without their knowledge and in the company of other men. The issue we have here is that our moral compass is supposed to reside with Alan, who is so straight-laced as to seem detestable. When Alan chastises Todd for violating this woman, it is in the role of consummate melvin. There is no middle ground between the two. This situation eventually segues into a memorable scene in the film where a large woman is used as a comedic representation of the grotesque:
It would appear Alan has been punished for giving into his carnal desires and having a peek at the topless woman. That punishment… a large woman. Is there any wonder that the average teenage male’s attitude to sex is so fucked up? The lessons we’ve learned already are multitudinous, and the film isn’t even halfway over.
We learn how dire the financial situation of the bikini shop is due to aunt Ida’s tendency to spend all of her money throwing parties. Alan’s plan is to sell the bikini shop to someone who can turn it into a profitable business once more. Little does Alan know that forces are at work to ensure Alan stays in Malibu. We learn that one of the salesgirls at the shop, Ronnie, is a swimsuit designer and has a soft-spot for our nerdy Alan, who, let us not forget, is still engaged to this woman:
As a viewer, we must remember that Alan’s fiancee, Jane, is the antithesis of the freedom represented by the bikini-clad girls in Malibu. The best way to achieve this is to portray Jane as a dowdy homebody, because, as we’ve come to learn thus far, a woman’s appearance is everything. To further highlight the good Vs bad nature of this situation, Jane’s father has connections in California who can help Alan sell the store. As the film unfolds, a tug of war between Alan’s no-nonsense business mind and Todd’s carefree fuck hungry mind takes place. Todd tries to sabotage Alan’s attempts to sell the store. But all is not so calm in Alan’s once staid world of predictability. He is falling in love with Ronnie, as this dry ice infused sex fantasy subtly illustrates (also not the amazing music that would be at home in a ‘The Sound of Trash’ article):
While Alan falls deeper into uncertainty, Todd begin promoting the store in his own special way.
At least the above-pictured woman is aware people I staring at her breasts, I suppose. Following Todd’s decadence, Alan begins to succumb. Growing more concerned about her soon-to-be husband’s absence, Jane decides to fly to California to put a stop to all the fun. We know that Alan is going off the rails because he is getting drunk in a spa:
And it is here, with with a bikini-clad, Ronnie accidentally on Alan’s shoulders that Jane arrives.
Hell hath no fury like a movie baddy scorned. She forces Alan to leave the house and book into a hotel, lest he be further tempted by the bikini-clad ones. After trying unsuccessfully to convince Jane that the two of them should move to California after they’re married to live by the beach and run the bikini shop, he slips back into his role of whipping boy.
It is at this point I take a step back, lest I ruin the final third of the film for anyone interested in watching. Needless to say it’s epic. Alan remains conflicted about his future and begins sabotaging his own efforts to sell the bikini shop. Meanwhile Jane, glued to Alan’s side, grows increasingly agitated at the ensuing setbacks. And when a deal with a spiritualist guru who will ultimately sack the salesgirls turns around, Alan must raise $6000 to save the bikini shop. He does this the only way he knows how… AN ENORMOUS BIKINI SALE AND FASHION SHOW THAT ALMOST CERTAINLY WOULD HAVE COST MORE THAN $6000 TO EXECUTE:
Man… it’s embarrassing to remember just how much i loved that fashion show. For a few days, it was my goal to execute something similar… So… will they sell the 75 bikinis needed to save the store? Will Alan break free of the domineering, Jane? Will Todd eventually come to the conclusion that a two-way mirror intended to spy on naked girls is too crass even for him? The only way to find out the answers to these questions is to seek this film out, dear reader.
So what have we learned here? Perhaps the biggest lesson for me is that often our introduction to profound things comes in the most pathetic form. I was at an age where I was beginning to understand that something called ‘sex’ existed, even if I didn’t know exactly what it was. ‘The Malibu Bikini Shop’ alerted me to the fact that sex would now become an inescapable part of my life. The lessons gleaned from this film are myopic to say the least. Had I followed what this film extolled, my only knowledge of women would be in the form of puritanical exploitation. I understand it’s a little unfair to lump a film like this with a certain social responsibility. Let’s face it… these types of ill-conceived teen movies were a dime a dozen in the 80s. ‘The Malibu Bikini Shop’ is a target purely because it was my first. It provided a certain demographic with light-hearted titillation, and in that regard, I’m sure it was moderately successful. I look back upon this film now as a very bizarre introduction to the female body, but how many of us in the western world experienced a healthy introduction to sex? ‘The Malibu Bikini Shop’ is a fun reminder that, as a society, we are completely messed up.
‘The Malibu Bikini Shop’ hasn’t enjoyed a DVD release. The fact that I have now seen it in high definition with its original aspect ration is a genuine surprise. That a version of this quality even exists is boggling. If you were a child of the 80s, track it down if you’re in the mood (I can’t really explain what that mood might be).