At the Found Footage Festival, computer historian Jason Scott was exposed for the first time to an 80s film called Computer Beach Party. It was such an outrageous pile of insanity that he had to find out more.
So Jason started researching this film, which was an all-but-forgotten VHS affair. What began as research into the film's use of computers became a quest that ended in Jason interviewing its director.
Above, you can see one of the "hacking" scenes that gave the movie its name. Two beach bums who have just graduated from high school want to have a big party. So they break into a special online service that lets you order "VIP parties" - sort of like Facebook crossed with a Budweiser commercial. They order up girls, beer, and a band called Panther (yes, there is a LOT of Panther in this movie).
Jason sums up what's horrific yet futuristic about this scene:
Throughout this film, computers are used to forward the plot – but in weird surreal ways that don't make logical or dramatic sense. In the beginning, they want to have a party, so they utilize the computer to get together a party. If you flip through the footage (and I have, more than I should have), you can see the computer is sort of doing an instant message or groupware invitation system so that you indicate how many people you want to attend and what type, but it's instantaneous and hugely illogical (you can request the sex and age of your attendees). It's not even explained how they do this, or where they get this ability or access – they just do it. In fact, almost none of the characters have a backstory, so they're completely flat – they're just words delivered by meat.
Here's some more of this totally futuristic computer flick, complete with another "hacking" scene after the bizarro "dialogue," where the guys use a computer inside their glovebox to turn their car into a rocket-propelled supercar.
One of the best parts of this film's badness has to do with the dubbing. For example, in that first clip of the "hacking," all that jibber jabber about "gee I should wear glasses" and "it's like reading a book - on TV!" was dubbed in later, by distribution company Vestron. None of the original writers or actors had anything to do with those weird voiceovers. Here's some more weird dubbing, including a completely random talking dog:
The best part? The guy most responsible for the weird dubbing, the ADR/Re-Recording director, is now a sound guy who works on The Simpsons. Jason writes:
He was listed as "Rusty Smith", who I nailed as R. Russell Smith. A top-flight ADR guy, he's done work for so many films it's ludicrous, not to mention his work with television series such as The Simpsons, Deadwood, Big Love, Northern Exposure, and The Practice. In other words, Rusty is the friggin' man when it comes to sound work. The movie was shot, according to other sources, around 1985, but was released on video in 1987/1988, via Vestron Video. This indicates to me that the movie drops into Rusty's lap at the beginning of his career, when he's having a certain amount of good time with playing around with stuff. (Like everyone else I tracked down, I submitted this auspicious credit to Rusty's IMDB entry.)
After Jason started researching the film, he called several of the people who had been involved with its production. Finally, he got hold of its director, Gary Troy. Jason did a long interview with Troy, and explains more about the Vestron connection:
Things like the talking dog, the weird voices on some of the actors, a lot of other strange situations, were all the work of the second crew from Vestron who packaged it up for video release. The film never saw a theatrical run – it was definitely purchased in the open market, but it was immediately put onto video.
And why would Vestron buy it?
Gary told me the leading lady, who was his girlfriend, broke up with him and dated the head of Vestron.
As a result, her film debut was bought up and a legendary film was saved from disappearance and 25 years later, singes the hearts and eyes of a new generation. I mean, isn't life fantastic?
Yes, life is surely fantastic with such amazing movies in it. And with people like Jason Scott, whose extended analysis and research project related to this lost piece of computer-related hilarity can be found here and here.