Great Bad Movies: "Hamburger: The Motion Picture"
"Hamburger: The Motion Picture" (1986)
Starring: Leigh McCloskey, Dick Butkus, Randi Brooks, Chuck McCann, Charles Tyner, Debra Blee
Directed by: Mike Marvin
Welcome to It Came From the Bargain Bin -- the column that loves bad movies almost as much as it loves free beer. We're heading over to the "comedy" aisle of the video store tonight for 1986's cult classic Hamburger: The Motion Picture. This forgotten gem is another fine example of the low budget, raunchy "sex comedy" genre, which exploded in the early to mid '80s after the runaway success of Animal House and the Porky's series. The formula for these films was simple (and cheap): put together a few wacky characters, stick them in a ridiculous situation, and make sure a girl's clothes come off every ten minutes or so. If your movie followed those simple rules, it was practically guaranteed to receive repeated video rentals for one reason: 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, Joy Sticks, or any of a hundred others -- were the easiest, quickest way for teenage boys (such as myself) to get a glimpse at naked women. Remember, kids, we didn't have the internet beaming nudity into our homes 24-7 back then!! We had to do actual work if we wanted to see boobs!
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 Inferno and 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 sent 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 says he can't help it if women find him irresistible. It turns out that even Doctor Gotbottom isn't immune to Russell's charms (despite Russell's protests) and they're just getting to the good stuff when the Dean walks in on them both, prompting Russell to sigh "My Dad's gonna kill me."
While Russell is being strangled by 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 "Busterburger" chain appears on TV, in which the company's elderly President, Lyman Vunk (Charles Tyner, who resembles a real-life version of "Mr. Burns" from The Simpsons) invites those with an interest in becoming Buster Burger franchisees to sign up for a stint at Busterburger University, the company's training school in Colorado. Since he's got nothing left to lose, Russell fills out an application at his local Busterburger 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 Busterburger U. classmates are a pretty typical gang of freaky '80s comedy characters. There's the oversexed Fred (Sandy Hackett); the overweight Prestopopnick (John Young) who carries a homemade electro-shock device to dissuade himself from binging on food; and 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 more efficiently. There's also the nerdy Zipser (Jack Blessing), an obsessed Buster Burger fan who listens to their commercial jingles on his Walkman and keeps up with their latest developments in "The New England Journal of Fried Foods." The group is rounded out by Sister Sara, a nun who enrolled in Busterburger U. after "hearing voices," i.e. the Busterburger TV jingle; and Magneto Jones (Chip McAllister), a Rick James lookalike and aspiring R&B star. Magneto has apparently been forced into Buster Burger's training program against his will so the company can graduate its first-ever African-American manager. He's brought onto campus in a police car and spends almost the entire movie in handcuffs. Tasteless as this running gag may be to some, it's barely the tip of the iceberg compared to what comes later in the film.
The new class of trainees is supervised by the brutal "Grill Sergeant" Drootin, played by legendary NFL tough guy Dick Butkus. Drootin wields a mean spatula and specializes in heaping abuse on our heroes - especially Russell, who gets on Drootin's bad side immediately when he catches the eye of the lovely Mia Vunk (Debra Blee). Mia happens to be the Dean's daughter and Drootin's fiancée. Russell's roommate Fred, meanwhile, becomes infatuated with Lyman Vunk'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 the trainees mercilessly, hoping that his dedication will impress Lyman Vunk enough to offer him a job on the Busterburger executive board. Russell, trying to stay on his best behavior, gets to know Mia better while fighting off the advances of the amorous Conchita (saying he "doesn't want to father any future Guacamolean freedom fighters") and Zipser falls in with the twisted Dr. Mole (Chuck McCann), a Busterburger 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 Busterburger restaurant for an entire day for their Final Exam. 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 laxative....
Will Russell survive the grueling Busterburger 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.
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, cartoonish, and offensive from beginning to end, but in a totally awesome way. Unfortunately, video copies of this flick are hard to come by. As of this writing, Hamburger has never been released on legitimate DVD, and vintage VHS copies command collector's-item prices. (However, bootleg DVDs are available... if you know where to look. Not that I would recommend such things, of course. *cough cough*) In order to write this review, I watched a copy that I taped off of HBO back around 1989. Viva VHS! Needless to say, I treat that 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 fix of this wonderful, awesomely terrible '80s time capsule. If you've seen Hamburger: The Motion Picture, 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!!"
© 2012 Keith Abt