Talk about your surefire concepts, how does this one grab ya – a group of buxom, bodacious honeys drive around in a souped up hot rod, knocking over convenience stores and kickin' ass. These wanton, wicked women carry large firearms (the better to mow down cops) and dress like they've entered a Hawaiian Tropic Tanning competition – even in the dead of winter. They curse like sailors, indulge in all manner of mood and mind altering substances and treat sex like a handshake, not some manner of girly interpersonal pampering. Combine all this craven crime and carnality with an ironic sense of political incorrectness and you've got one Hell of a hit on your hands, right? Well, sort of. Indeed, what you'd have is The Bikini Bandits, the most popular short film series in the history of atomFilms.com. During the Internet boom of the mid-90s, websites like atomFilms offered off the wall contributions to the world of miniature cinema - like this girls gone REALLY wild weirdness. Indeed, similar to opening up the cerebral cortex of a typical thirteen-year-old hormonally hyperactive Ted Nugent fan and jacking directly into their fantasy fuel, The Bikini Bandits gives a new meaning to the words stream of consciousness.
Conceived by creator Steve Grasse as an all-encompassing comment on marketing and the media, it combines sexism with satire, anarchy with admonishments to bolster its brazenness. There is an entire "F*ck You!" attitude that is pervasive throughout The Bikini Bandits canon, a refreshing defiance toward everything and anything that is remotely connected to the "normal" world (including the corporate entity G-Mart, which just so happens to be the name of Grasse's production kingdom). It takes a certain kind of mindset to get in sync with this surreality. It is definitely not for everyone. But if you are looking for an intriguing introduction to the world of the Bandits and their breast-based badass selves, Bikini Bandits: Briefs, Shorts and Panties is a perfect place to park your perversions.
Back in December of last year (2003), The Bikini Bandits Experience was released on DVD. An attempt by creator and series director Steve Grasse to combine all the Bandit short films into some manner of mainstream feature, the resulting 55-minute mindbend was a true test of tits and ass tendencies. It featured Satan (in the persona of Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan) vs. the Pope (performed with puzzling perfection by the late, great Dee Dee Ramone) in an all out battle over the Virgin Mary. Add in Corey Feldman (doing some of that certified wacko Jacko dance shtick that probably drove him to drugs in the first place) and the Dead Kennedy's Jello Biafra as a purveyor of retard porn (JM Productions, a pitch meeting is calling) and you had one really fudged up farce. About the only problem with the concept was that, as a serial, The Bikini Bandits was all tell and no show. Every time the babes prepared to get wicked, we would just see suggestions of sin – no actual lesbian or loin longing antics. The narrative was also a flabbergasting affair, leaping all over the map in illogical abandon as Grasse tried to incorporate something from each Bandit installment. The result was that rare combination of failure and freshness, something so unusual that when it really didn't work, the novelty of all that was unfolding kept you glued to the tube.
Thankfully, G-Mart and Image have decided to give fans of the Bandit's feature length debut a chance to see the shorts that made up that mixed nuts plotline, and when shorn of their cut and paste prerequisites, Bikini Bandits: Shorts, Briefs and Panties is a far more successful situation. Sure, it is just a collection of 9-minute bits, skits and installments of the online series presented in a basic, straightforward DVD conceit. No bells or whistles, no commentary or crass commercial come-on. This is the meat and mammaries of the Bikini Bandits, and in short, small doses, it is delightful. Over the course of 13 insane segments, we finally see what made the entire Bikini Bandits phenomenon so volatile. Within the confines of The Experience, Grasse's individual statements were lost. Always trying to circumvent the audience's expectations, this savant of the scandalous fused formula with farce to juxtapose well-known action icons with a superb sense of the stupid. Grasse is playing with pop culture, crafting images that we are all familiar with – gods and monsters, cops and robbers – while concurrently subverting and distorting them. So in the realm of G-Mart mania, the police are pot bellied donut antics, always one mindless step behind the two-piece terrors. So what if they occasionally sniff a panty or two – it's all part of the law enforcement game in the world of the Bikini Bandits. Commerciality is also convoluted, as stores sell only G-Mart products: Golden Fluffy Brawny Oak Flakes, Frosted Holy-O's, 100% Hand Squeezed Fresh Milk and the generic, Spam-like product, Meat. As Gyro's conglomerate logo (the "G" in G-Mart) taints the entire world there is a sense of a multinational corporate entity conspiring against all mankind, just like in such films as The Dark Backward and They Live.
Grasse also keeps his universe insular and unique by casting his comic clown of a brother, Peter, as everything from a slightly retarded Amish kid to a dull G-Mart employee. He is one of the main male constants in the Bikini Bandits world; always playing a sex-starved clod that ogles the ladies with impotent intent. He is usually killed in some cruel, corrupt manner (in one of the opening sequences, he is Cheez-Whized to death) and saddled with some of the saddest dental work in the history of hilarity. There's the potential to view the Junior Grasse in the place of the public, to see him as Steve's substitute from the drooling denizens of the pre-packed world he is rallying against. On the other hand, he just may be the latest example in a long line of befuddled bozos, an easy target for the gun-toting gals. Casting is one of Grasse's strong points, and even if the girls don't give off much of an individualistic vibe, his supporting players are flawlessly realized. Corey Feldman, such a shameful shadow of his former self that he deserves some manner of award for just being viable – and vertical – is the perfect partner for the Bikini Bandits. He seems to symbolize the decadence and pathetic party mentality that encases the girls like their own sweaty musk. Equally both within and out of his element is the dearly departed and sorely missed Dee Dee Ramone (proving once again why his acting career stalled after the classic "pizza" scene in Rock and Roll High School). His mumble-mouthed turn as the Pope is a highlight during the Bikinis journey to Hell.
Since there is no plotline to follow, there is really not much to the story of the Bandits. Certainly, over the course of 13 episodes, we learn a little about their background and formation (much of it found in the Lord of the Rings rip-off "The Bikini Bandits and the Golden Rod"). Like South Park, or Beavis and Butthead, there is a basic setup (as the Cramps would say, "bikini girls with machine guns") within which Grasse can work his psychedelic madness. Thus, from the very first installment on the DVD, "Episode 7", we learn the bare minimum mantras that will make up the vast majority of the BB galaxy: the quick cut flashes of flesh and firearms; the staggered editing cues that cut in time to the heavy metal music blasting in the background; the extended middle finger to everything and anything (including themselves); and the stylized sense of time and place, a visionary view of a wicked world gone wanton. Yet instead of staying on this path, instead of keeping to the impressionistic view of sex and violence, Grasse wants to expand the Bikinis language, and an installment like "Episode 4" introduces political and camp elements. Sometimes, the grab for a gag is too obvious. Both "Bikini Bandits Go Dutch" – featuring the Amish approach, and "The Bikini Bandits and the Time Machine" – in which we visit our founding fathers in 1776 are far too over the top to comfortably sit within the pre-existing Bikini boundaries. And while "Bikini Bandits Under the Big Top" wants to create a supervillain in Homo the Gay Clown, not much of anything inventive is done with the homosexual harlequin.
No, it's not until midway through this DVD, when we being the three part "trilogy" of "The Golden Rod" that we start to see a successful mesh of reality and ridiculousness. It's this saga that tells of the Bandit's beginning, how they formed in an all-girls prison, and the evil G-Mart minions that must be stopped at all costs. One thing has to be said for Grasse and his creative team – they know how to create convoluted, complex narrative strands that seem perfectly logical within the movie machinery their molding. By the time lead Bandit, Heather, is pow-wowing with Queen Vulva about getting in touch with her inner feminine fire, this dreamscape with magic dildos is stupidly sublime. The rest of the disc will be familiar to fans of The Experience. We get the trip to Hell (complete with the Devil shooting lasers out of his dong) and the gratuitous Corey Feldman fun (just can't get enough of that copped King of Pop boogie). The final sequence, a strange bit of smut revolving around retard porn (just can't get enough of that phrase either – R-E-T-A-R-D P-O-R-N), gives Jello Biafra and some stunt savants more to do than the Bandits themselves. Still, what we begin to see from all this is that, in the right proportion and the proper situation, The Bikini Bandits make for some bitchin' entertainment. If not contrasted with the correct circumstance, however, they become everything they supposedly want to fight against.
We understand some of Grasse's motives on a 10 minute 'behind the scenes' snippet that is included as part of the lingerie limits of the title. Explaining how the entire G-Mart dimension works (including an actual store in Philly) or filling in some details on the Bandits birth (they are disgruntled strippers going postal on the place that showed them the pink...slip), Grasse exemplifies the entire BB ideal. He has a snide, 'F-you' attitude that seems to be both serious and sly. He's angry at something or someone, and the Bikini Bandits are his sexy soapbox for getting back at his enemies. Like the luscious ladies themselves, Grasse comes across as an archetypal troublemaker with a genre-bending philosophy lying just underneath the surface. He's a combination of a carnival barker and a brainwashing cult leader. His creation is something both benign and incredibly incendiary. It celebrates the basics of a boy's life as it systematically destroys the time honored traditions of a paternalistic society. This may seem like a lot of highfaluting horse crap, the lunatic rantings of a mind messed up on G-Mart enthusiasm. But the truth is that the Bikini Bandits are a hyper-real reflection on our status as a culture. We love exploitation and explosions, scantily clad gals firing off rounds, Rambo-style. The Bandits are a direct reflection of the Americanization of western culture. And Bikini Bandits: Briefs, Shorts and Panties is a magnificent manifesto of their crackpot ethos.
Since all of this material was originally conceived and created for the 'Net, Bikini Bandits: Briefs, Shorts and Panties does not come across as highly cinematic. The 1.33:1 full frame image here is grainy, scattershot and occasionally corrupted by technological issues (bleeding, flaring, solarizing). Still, Grasse's super-saturated color palette is brilliantly reproduced, and the entire disc has an almost-pristine concept to its visuals. While it could probably look better, this DVD at least abides by the Bandits' PC origins.
Utilizing all manner of musical cues – punk, metal, R&B and funk – the soundtrack to a Bikini Bandits short can be a crazy cornucopia of interesting tunes. Thankfully, Image provides the DVD with an exceptional Dolby Digital Stereo mix that accentuates the aural attributes brilliantly. There are occasional moments where the anarchy causes some sonic shrillness, but every line of dialogue and 'expletive deleted' is offered in near crystal clarity.
The Experience had bonuses out the bazooms. Briefs, Shorts and Panties is bare ass and empty. No commentary or Behind the Scene featurette (except for the material already on the disc). No interviews or cast notes. While it could be argued that the Grasse material and a couple of music videos which round off the package exist as 'extras', there is no menu feature to suggest such a situation. In fact, there is no menu at all.
It's interesting to note that the Bikini Bandits and their mind-messing mixed messages eventually found a ribald roost over on MTV2 Europe when the Silicon Valley volley went belly up. This capitalism as killer call girl conceit is the basis for every Eurotrash ideal of America and its socio-politico-cultural philosophy. And when viewed in individual sections, devoid of attempts at a more linear, understandable approach, the entire G-Mart mentality seems sane, if not even a little insightful. This is what men sit back and wet dream about – a world in which smokin' hot babes blast their way through the backroads of a nation, on an out-and-out crime spree of sex, drugs and rock and roll. How someone didn't devise this lifeline to the libido beforehand is absolutely amazing. But it just goes to show the genius in Steve Grasse. He found a way to illustrate such primal pandering while keeping the satire subtle and serene. While it may not become some benchmark of bawdy, balls-to-the-wall wickedness, Bikini Bandits: Briefs, Shorts and Panties is a sensational, surreal surprise. It will make you giggle and groan, while it methodically modifies your morals. So shut off your brain and drop your drawers – the Bikini Bandits are coming to town and they've got a little business to discuss with your dick.
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