Troma Goes Balls Deep: Squeeze Play
Greetings from Tromaville!
Now that the baseball postseason is underway, it seems that all anyone ever talks about is baseball. Forget Jeter's record, I've got my own record to submit to the baseball hall of fame: first film to put a softball in a man's ass! This record dates all the way back to Troma's very first sexy comedy Squeeze Play, which is included in The Sexy Box. Get your Sexy Box here! I need to call my bookie, so I'm handing this column over to Mike Babin, our resident Troma writer to tell you more about this untouchable achievement.
"The First Film to Put a Softball in a Man's Ass!"
Early in the trailer for the early Troma sex comedy Squeeze Play, the trailer narrator announces "Squeeze Play is the first film to deal with softball!" Leave it to Troma to tackle the pressing, hard-hitting issues. Squeeze Play is in many ways a pivotal film for Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz, the founders of Troma Entertainment. They had just suffered tremendous losses, financially and artistically, from the fiasco of their Israeli co-production Big Gus, What's the Fuss? and were trying to find their footing in filmmaking. Squeeze Play was an opportunity to prove what they were capable of doing. For financing, they contacted Bill Kirksey, one of the investors that got burned badly from Big Gus. Surprisingly, he did not try to strangle them, but instead raised a substantial portion of the budget.
Squeeze Play follows a group of Jersey babes who, in frustration with their boyfriends who spend all their time playing softball, start a rival softball team. The idea came from a sub-distributor in Boston who told Kaufman and Herz, "You ought to make a movie about a women's softball team and their amourous adventures. You're sure to make money." Having recently worked as a pre-production supervisor on Rocky, Kaufman had a unique perspective on the new popularity of sports movies. What was missing from all the other sports movies in theaters at that time? Lots of boobs.
When the final product was screened, Kaufman and Herz were
very pleased. They found it hilarious.
Slapstick comedy, hot babes, baseballs flying into ass cracks, it's all
there! Surely everyone would be won
Friends, family, studios, they all hated it. Worse yet, they could not get any theaters to play the movie. They went back to the sub-distributor in Boston who suggested the idea. "Um, that wasn't exactly what I meant," he said. "I was thinking more just sex, you know, with the girls having baseball caps on. But you actually have a game."
"Well, it's about softball!" Kaufman replied, "There has to be a game!"
"Yeah, but I was thinking more about, you know, just how sexy the uniforms are and all. Those red pinstripes. Those socks with the strand that goes down under the heel. I mean, these girls are just wearing regular clothes. And all the comedy and everything. I mean, you know, I have guys coming into my theaters, they want to see something hot. All that comedy is just going to distract them. It's just going to, you know, make them sad."
Low on luck in American theaters, Kaufman and Herz took the film to the Cannes film market to drum up interest from European distributors. Surely Europeans love anything with nudity, right? There was just one hitch: most people in other countries have never even heard of softball! Kaufman recalls, "It'd be like England trying to sell a movie about snooker in the States. No one wants to see a movie about snooker! But we had actually done it! We made a movie about snooker!"
Just when Kaufman and Herz thought that no theater would ever show Squeeze Play, Kaufman received a phone call from an exhibitor in Norfolk, Virginia looking for an urgent second bill for a double feature with The In-Laws. Thinking nothing of it, Kaufman sent the movie to Virginia. He went to bed early the night of Squeeze Play's theatrical premiere.
The next morning, Kaufman received a phone call from the Virginian exhibitor. When the exhibitor asked if he was the person who made Squeeze Play, Kaufman nearly lied but owned up to it. He did not anticipate the exhibitor's response.
"Goddamn!" he shouted. "That is some funny shit! People were dying, man! The guy next to me, he vomited a little blood he was laughing so damn hard! I mean, everybody, that whole theater, going crazy." At long last, Squeeze Play had found its audience. It was a tremendous hit in Norfolk, expanding to more local theaters, and then to theaters all over the country. Squeeze Play, along with its follow-up Waitress!, had the best theatrical run in Troma's history. With Squeeze Play, Troma was an established studio, and with the film's profits, Kaufman and Herz were able to buy the legendary Troma Building in midtown Manhattan.
Watch a trailer for the Sexy Box here!
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