See if this story sounds familiar: a private detective is hired to live in the home of a rich woman for a few days to find out whether any of her family members are truly worthy of inheriting her estate. Her nephew is a little light in the loafers, as they say, his wife is sleeping with the houseboy, and there’s also a young niece with some dubious friends. Along the way, the detective discovers all the secrets of the family and then some, and before the story ends there’s been a helicopter chase and a fair amount of gunplay before a single photograph provides all the evidence needed to identify a murderer.

As any Andy Sidaris fan could tell you, that’s the plot of his 1985 film Malibu Express. But fewer may know that it’s also the plot of his 1973 film Stacey. The two films feature identical plot lines and characters, and even share some lines of dialogue , but one film’s private detective is a race car driving Playmate (Stacey’s Anne Randall) and the other is a slightly goofy cowboy who can’t shoot worth a damn (Darby Hinton as Cody Abilene in Malibu Express). Watched together, the two films feel like alternate-reality versions of the same story, and it turns out this is not the last time Sidaris would play with reality and identity over the course of his films. They may be mostly remembered for “bullets, bombs and babes,” but watching the films more closely reveals a series of parallel realities and retroactive continuities rivaled only in comic books.

Sidaris is best known for his stretch of films made through his Malibu Bay Films production company and running from 1985’s Malibu Express through 1993’s Fit to Kill, a series Sidaris christened “Bullets, Bombs and Babes.” Sidaris made his films for cable and international markets, and he turned out roughly one film in the series per year. This schedule was probably also how Sidaris expected people to watch the films—about once a year—so continuity between series entries was likely not too high on his list of priorities. There is also little doubt that anyone was expected to actually pay much attention to what is going on in the films, since doing so could lead to serious confusion and ridiculous film writing like, oh, what you’re reading right now.

The Malibu Bay Films logo that opens each of Sidaris’s films from Malibu Express through Fit to Kill.

To any attentive viewer who has spent sufficient time reading comic books, the seemingly lazy continuity problems in Sidaris’s films take on a different significance. Alternate timelines, parallel realities, and retroactive continuity are nothing new in the realm of comics. In the 1980s, DC Comics decided to consolidate and simplify the continuity across all of its books in an epic storyline titled Crisis on Infinite Earths. The short version: all of the different versions of DC characters all existed simultaneously in different dimensions, in whole called the “Multiverse.” For example, there have been multiple Superman and Batman characters and storylines created throughout the history of DC Comics. During Crisis on Infinite Earths, it was revealed that each Superman and Batman existed in his own universe. The “Crisis” of the title collapsed this “Multiverse” into one reality and wiped out all others, thus theoretically simplifying the shared continuity of all the major ongoing DC series.

Conditioned by this exposure to the concept of alternate timelines and fed by consumption of even more media with stories of alternate histories, characters existing in different dimensions, and other similar concerns, sitting down to watch the films of Andy Sidaris with careful attention (and in a short span of time instead of one per year) makes them seem very much like a storyline that takes place across multiple realities. Part of this is simple recasting of the same actors in multiple roles across the series, which is always somewhat disorienting and amusing.

However, Sidaris takes it much further, whether he was consciously aware of it or not, to a place where the audience almost wishes for a Crisis on Infinite Earths-style denouement to make sense of the continuity between films. There is little doubt that the films offer a juvenile thrill similar to that found in simple adventure comics, but the structure of the series clearly points out how the films really mimic comic books: In presenting a story to the audience that casually substitutes beloved characters for unfamiliar faces, reaches back into its own timeline to straighten things out, and expects the audience to keep up whether they understand where they are or not. So in that spirit, grab a six pack of your favorite cheap beer and/or some popcorn and settle in. It’s about to get infinitely weird.

A few brief notes before beginning in earnest: First, virtually all of the films feature ridiculously complicated story lines. In an attempt to keep things manageable, only the major points of each film’s story are recapped here. Sub-plots are only referenced and explained in those cases where absolutely necessary. Second, Sidaris cast almost every female speaking role in his films with Playboy Playmates. Any female cast members who are not specifically noted as having other credits that led to their casting were cast thanks to their appearance in Playboy. Yes, seriously. Finally, this author would be remiss if he did not mention the fact that Andy’s wife Arlene Sidaris had a major creative hand in the films, from helping out with casting to doing work on the scripts and acting as producer. Arlene also runs the official Andy Sidaris web site and has done a great job keeping Andy’s legacy alive, and for that she deserves a special recognition and thanks.

Cody Abilene (Darby Hinton) preps for target practice in Malibu Express (1985). Note the cowhide briefcase.

The first of the eight Sidaris films from the 1985-1993 era feature a tenuously connected story for which the first film, Malibu Express (1985), acts as a sort of prologue that sets the tone and establishes some of the running themes and motifs of the series. Cody Abilene is a good ol’ boy private detective who carries a cowhide briefcase, lives on a houseboat (the Malibu Express of the film’s title), and is an absolutely terrible shot. His line of work puts him in regular contact with sex and violence, or at the very least some light gunplay and various topless women. By all appearances, Cody is a lone wolf who is only tangentially related to any sort of official law enforcement, if at all.

This impression is challenged in the next film in the series, Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987), which introduces leading ladies Donna (Dona Spier) and Taryn (Hope Marie Carlton). Early in the film, Donna and Taryn enter their cabin on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, which is slyly/incomprehensibly decorated with posters for Malibu Express, Stacey, and Sevano’s Seven (another film directed by Andy Sidaris in 1979—more on that later). This may have just been a throwaway gag if it were not for a brief bit of dialogue in which Donna reveals that Cody had previously worked for “The Agency” — never named until 1996’s Day of the Warrior — but that he has retired and become an actor. In this scene, Sidaris establishes the world of Donna and Taryn as one in which Malibu Express exists, as it does in the world of the audience watching them. Reality begins to warp, further exacerbated by the fact that our male lead in Hard Ticket is named Rowdy Abilene (Ronn Moss), Cody’s cousin, a hopelessly awful marksman who lives on a boat christened Malibu Express.

Hard Ticket to Hawaii introduces several other mainstays of the series, including restaurateur/”Agency” contact Edy (Cynthia Brimhall), Pattycakes (Patty Duffek), and actor Rodrigo Obregon. In Hard Ticket to Hawaii, Obregon plays the villainous crime lord Seth. Unsurprisingly, Seth is not in any shape to return for a sequel by the end of the film, but Sidaris uses Obregon repeatedly over the course of the series, leading the viewer to wonder why the heroes never seem to notice that all these villainous ethnic types all look identical. Obregon appears in the next film, Picasso Trigger (1988), as Miguel Ortiz. Ortiz orders a hit on the suave double agent Picasso Trigger, which kicks off a series of elaborately plotted attacks on “Agency” personnel around the world.

Agents Donna (Dona Spier) and Taryn (Hope Marie Carlton) do some recon work in Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987)

Once again, it’s up to Donna and Taryn to save the day. This time, they’re joined by Jade (played by Harold Diamond in both Hard Ticket and Picasso Trigger) and Travis Abilene (Steve Bond). Jade and Rowdy were partners in Hard Ticket, but no mention is made of Rowdy in Picasso Trigger, which means either: a) “Rowdy” was a nickname and his real name is “Travis,” b) Jade’s partners are always Abilenes but not the same ones (is “Abilene,” then, possibly also a title?) or c) this is already a different world in which a different Abilene joined the Agency. As expected, no one in the film seems to notice the switch. The growing cast of “Agency” operatives begins to take on the characteristics of a rotating-member superhero team: Edy and Pattycakes also return, and a few new characters are introduced. One of them is clearly modeled on Q in the James Bond films, a scientific-minded character called Professor (Richard LePore). In Sidaris’s 1979 film Sevano’s Seven, LePore also plays a lothario scientist everyone calls Professor, so it’s probably safe to assume that he is meant to be the same character. Professor’s appearance firmly grounds Sevano’s Seven in the same universe in which the action of Hard Ticket to Hawaii occurs, even though the film exists as a film in that reality as well.

Picasso Trigger also introduces Roberta Vasquez as Pantera, Travis Abilene’s old flame who is also now working for “The Agency” and competing with Donna for Abilene’s attention. One of the henchmen in Picasso Trigger, “Hondo,” is played by an actor named Bruce Penhall. Pantera is eventually unmasked as a traitor and killed, and “Hondo” meets the fate of most supporting henchmen in the series, so a casual viewer would be forgiven for not paying all that much attention to these two characters. It’s something of a shock, then, when Bruce Penhall appears in the next film as Bruce Christian, a mysterious operative whose motives are not revealed until near the end of the film.

In Savage Beach (1990), the series takes a curiously pensive turn, with most of the film’s action taking place in Donna and Taryn’s cargo plane, in a series of faceless, unspecified government facilities, and finally on the uncharted island where Donna and Taryn crash-land. In an outrageously convenient twist, this is also the exact island that wealthy revolutionary Martinez (Rodrigo Obregon again) and his lover Anjelica (Teri Weigel) have been searching for. A flashback informs the audience that the Japanese had stolen a cache of gold from the Philippines during World War II and that it was lost at sea. Martinez and Anjelica want to return the gold to their people, but their mercenary cohorts have other plans, and by the end of the film Martinez is dead, killed in an explosion set off by Taryn. In another amazing coincidence, Taryn learns that her grandfather, killed in WWII, was actually killed by the lone swordsman who still lives on the island guarding the treasure, who regretted killing the young man and swore to protect his ancestors if the opportunity ever arose. A tearful Taryn has finally learned the secret of her grandfather’s death, tied to this remote island that seemed to draw her to it like a supernatural magnet.

Savage Beach ends with Taryn and Agent Bruce Christian together and Donna taking up with Shane Abilene (Michael J. Shane), and yet again no one seems to notice (or care) that this is not the same Abilene from the previous film. Edy’s disappearance from the scene is not that surprising considering hardly any of the action takes place on Molokai, but eagle-eyed viewers may notice something odd at the end of the film that explains why she’s not around. The obligatory film-ending champagne toast takes place at a bar called Rocky’s, named for and run by an agent introduced at the beginning of the film (Lisa London, one of the few women in the series up to this point with a speaking part who had never appeared in Playboy). Whether Edy got tired of the restaurant business or there is some other, much more complicated reason why Rocky has taken over Edy’s role is probably best left unknown.

At this point in the series, the viewer is used to seeing Rodrigo Obregon getting killed and returning as another villain. The audience has perhaps even come to grow somewhat attached to Donna and Taryn, who have managed to stay alive through countless ridiculous circumstances and whose camaraderie is admirable and endearing. Therefore, it makes a perverse kind of sense that this is the point at which Andy Sidaris well and truly pulls the rug out from under the viewer.

Guns (1990) begins with an opening credits sequence featuring Edy performing a song-and-dance act in Las Vegas. This already seems odd, as we have hardly ever seen Edy away from her restaurant (except when she’s been kidnapped or is hanging out with Jade, of course). This surprise is positively mild in comparison to the next one: Taryn is gone, and in her place as Donna’s partner is Nicole – played by Roberta Vasquez, the villainous Pantera from Picasso Trigger! At first, the viewer may assume that the role of Taryn has just been very poorly recast (Vasquez and Carlton do not resemble each other in the least), especially since Nicole’s boyfriend is none other than Agent Bruce Christian. This is not the case, however, and the moment one of the other characters calls her “Nicole” is the point at which the series first obviously splinters off into a parallel reality where Donna’s longtime partner is a completely different person.

Rodrigo Obregon is back in a role radically different from his previous villains — a transvestite agent named Large Marge! The principal villain of Guns is Juan Degas, aka Jack of Diamonds (alumnus of TV’s CHiPs and camp superstar Erik Estrada), ably assisted by his right-hand man Tong (“Machete” himself, Danny Trejo). Actors Chu Chu Malave and Richard Cansino make their first appearance as hitmen in this film, although as they actually murder a few people they’re not quite the comic relief characters they will become as the series continues. As one might expect from the combination of Andy Sidaris and Erik Estrada, Guns is one of the weirder, more campy and not coincidentally most entertaining episodes in the series. Fans who have been watching the films from the start may wonder why the action is suddenly taking place on Earth-2, but newcomers will have no such difficulties. Despite the tangled mess of parallel realities and timelines established in the series, the basics are easy enough to grasp: in Sidaris’s world, there is a clear line between good and evil, yet another similarity to the storytelling techniques of classic adventure comics.
The Abilenes: Cody (Darby Hinton in Malibu Express, 1985), Rowdy (Ronn Moss in Hard Ticket to Hawaii, 1987), Travis (Steve Bond in Picasso Trigger, 1988), and Shane (Michael Shane in Guns, 1990).

The Abilenes: Cody (Darby Hinton in Malibu Express, 1985), Rowdy (Ronn Moss in Hard Ticket to Hawaii, 1987), Travis (Steve Bond in Picasso Trigger, 1988), and Shane (Michael Shane in Guns, 1990).

The viewer may wonder, though, what Sidaris could possibly do to follow up the softcore delirium of Guns. His response is Do or Die (1991), in which Erik Estrada returns to play Rico Estevez, a new Agency recruit who romances Donna (Shane Abilene has, ahem, his hands full with a new recruit). Donna and Nicole are the center of the film again, along with a new villain. Kane, played by Pat Morita (who will forever be best remembered as The Karate Kid’s Mr. Miyagi), has decided that it is time to deal with Donna and Nicole once and for all. He informs them that he is sending six teams of assassins to kill them over the course of 24 hours. Kane’s very personal assistant Silk (Carolyn Liu, a Playmate in the Hong Kong Playboy) monitors the progress of the assassins from a computer located in Kane’s lair. The Agency somehow convinces Silk to work as a double agent and she plants a radio (disguised as a crystal necklace) on Kane so the Agency can track his movements. Whether Kane (short, by the way, for “Kaneshiro”) was involved behind the scenes on the wrong side of the law in the previous films or whether Donna and Nicole have been causing him difficulties during the undetermined time between Guns and Do or Die is unclear.

One of the assassins sent by Kane to kill Donna and Nicole is a British woman named Ava (Ava Cadell, who appeared in the UK “men’s magazine” Mayfair in 1975), who is only shown from the neck up in basically one shot of the film. Do or Die also features a pair of idiotic hitmen, Harold and Boudreaux (Malave and Cansino, presumably not appearing as the same characters they were in Guns). As “comic relief,” they are the only villains in the film who are not killed, but they are also the ones the viewer would most want to see die horribly. Shane Abilene (still Michael J. Shane, amazingly) has no time for Donna as he is training new recruit Atlanta Lee (Pandora Peaks, titular star of Russ Meyer’s final film). Among the returning characters from Guns is Lucas (William Bumiller, who played the same role in Guns), one of the top brass in the Agency. Lucas seems to have been introduced mainly to act as a romantic interest for Edy since Jade (her lover in Hard Ticket to Hawaii and Picasso Trigger) apparently does not exist in this reality. Rocky returns but is killed near the beginning of the film, presumably so that Edy can move to Molokai and resume her job as restaurateur/Agency contact. Not returning this time out is Rodrigo Obregon, whose absence is actually disorienting.

As of the ending of Do or Die, the series has taken place across at least three alternate universes. First, the world of Malibu Express—henceforth called ASP-1 (Andy Sidaris Plane 1) — which is basically self-contained as the events that take place there do not have any impact on the subsequent films. Second, the world of Hard Ticket to Hawaii (ASP-2) in which Malibu Express exists and where Donna and Taryn have their adventures (and in which the action of Sevano’s Seven takes place). The action of Hard Ticket to Hawaii, Picasso Trigger, and Savage Beach all takes place in this dimension. Guns introduces a third parallel reality (ASP-3) whose time line shares some events with that of ASP-2, but in which Donna and Nicole are longtime partners and other characters are different people to some degree than they are in ASP-2. With a tentative grasp on where things currently stand, we continue with the next film.
Criminal mastermind Kane (Pat Morita) explains his deadly game to Agents Nicole (Roberta Vasquez) and Donna (Dona Spier) in Do or Die (1991)

Criminal mastermind Kane (Pat Morita) explains his deadly game to Agents Nicole (Roberta Vasquez) and Donna (Dona Spier) in Do or Die (1991).

For the first time in the series, Hard Hunted (1992) picks up with a continuing story line, exactly where Do or Die left off. This may seem like comforting news until another major reality shift is revealed: Kane, played by Pat Morita in Do or Die, is now “Martin Kane,” played by R.J. Moore (son of “James Bond” Roger Moore)! Here is where true comic book-style retroactive continuity comes into play. Not only is Kane the same character in both films, but Sidaris includes a flashback to when Silk gave Kane his locator necklace re-shot to feature Moore instead of Morita. Further adding to the confusion is the recasting of Lucas (now played by Tony Peck) and a prominently featured new agent named Ava, played by Ava Cadell. The audience is thrust into yet another parallel universe in which Ava is not an evil assassin but a radio “sextrologist” who uses her show to send coded messages to Agency operatives. Reality splinters once again into ASP-4, which has some overlapping events with that of ASP-3 but in which Kane is a completely different person (although still a villain) and Ava is not an assassin but a radio sex therapist. Thankfully Rodrigo Obregon is back to help anchor Hard Hunted in some sort of familiarity.

This time Kane is after the Klystron Relay (a nod to the science fiction classic Forbidden Planet), an integral part of the trigger for a nuclear weapon. Thanks to Silk’s treachery, Kane loses the Relay and it falls into the hands of Agent Mika (Mika Quintard), who had been working on Kane’s boat helping Silk. Kane’s assassins track Mika down and kill her, but not before she can hand off the Klystron Relay to Donna and Nicole. Once again the target of Kane’s ire, the agents must retrieve or destroy the Relay before Kane uses it for his own devious plans. Plans which somehow involve hiring bumbling hitmen Wiley (Malave) and Coyote (Cansino), whose painfully unfunny shtick has at this point become a running gag along with the Abilene boys’ poor marksmanship and the Sidaris remote-controlled vehicle fetish. One can only hope that these two are just fond of choosing new code names (“Not our real names,” they always helpfully point out) and that they are not a signifier that each film in which they appear is yet another parallel reality. Michael Shane returns once again as Shane Abilene to train another Agency recruit, Becky (Becky Mullen, former member of G.L.O.W.- Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling), who spends almost the entire movie hanging out in the hot tub at Ava’s KSXY radio station.
Kane (R.J. Moore) and his personal assistant Silk (Carolyn Liu) in Fit to Kill (1993)

Kane (R.J. Moore) and his personal assistant Silk (Carolyn Liu) in Fit to Kill (1993).

The “Kane” trilogy concludes in Fit to Kill (1993), the last film Andy Sidaris would direct until Day of the Warrior in 1996. Donna and Nicole have managed to foil Kane’s plans twice, but now his attention has turned to pulling off the most spectacular diamond heist in history. When a freak series of events cause Kane to lose his radio locator necklace, the Agency has to put Donna right on the frontlines, tracking Kane the old-fashioned way: by following him around and engaging in flirty repartee in the classic James Bond style. Kane hires idiot hitmen Evel and Knievel (Malave and Cansino again, God help us) to distract the Agency, while retaining the services of world-class assassin Blu Steele (Penthouse Pet of the Year 1993 and B-movie legend Julie Strain) for more serious business. Rodrigo Obregon switches ethnicities and accents to portray Mikael Petrov. Everyone else is pretty much who they were in the previous two films, with one notable exception. Kane undergoes yet another major retconned character overhaul when it is revealed that his life of crime has all been a cover for a plot to avenge his parents, and since that mission is accomplished he will probably “go straight.” Fit to Kill ends with the remaining agents toasting their victory over Kane. The saga of Donna Hamilton, whom we have followed through at least three alternate universes, ends here.

As if Sidaris would let us off the hook that easily.

During his break from writing and directing, Andy Sidaris produced two films directed by his son Christian Drew Sidaris. The first of these, Enemy Gold (1993), seems to be another standalone story like Malibu Express. Its only ties to the previous films are Bruce Penhall, who here plays Agent Chris Cannon (roughly the same character as his Agent Bruce Christian), Julie Strain (as supervillainess Jewel Panther) and, of course, Rodrigo Obregon as Santiago. There is also a pair of incompetent henchmen, but thankfully they are not Malave and Cansino. There is only one female operative, Becky Midnite (Suzi Simpson), and most of the action takes place in a forest that was likely a very cheap location. While it is not specifically mentioned in the film, it is possible that Becky Midnite is the same “Becky” who appeared in Fit to Kill. In Enemy Gold, agents Chris Cannon, Becky Midnite and Mark Austin (Mark Barriere) find themselves suspended after inadvertently crossing a crooked Agency operative in a bust that also catches the attention of Santiago and Jewel Panther. The agents accidentally come across the map to a legendary buried stash of Union gold hidden during the Civil War and attempt to find it while Santiago and Jewel Panther hunt them down to stop their meddling for good.

Christian’s follow-up to Enemy Gold, The Dallas Connection (1994), continues the story of agents Chris Cannon and Mark Austin. Julie Strain returns as yet another villain, Black Widow, along with ever-dependable Rodrigo Obregon as Antonio Morales. In a surprising turn of events, Morales is actually a physicist from South America who is next on a hit list that includes some of the greatest scientific minds in the world. The first two on the list were taken out by Black Widow’s hitwomen Cobra (Penthouse Pet Julie K. Smith) and Scorpion (Wendy Hamilton), and it’s up to the agents of I/WAR (International/World Arms Removal) to make sure Morales isn’t blown up like his unfortunate colleagues. As it turns out, Black Widow’s real target is I/WAR’s new surveillance satellite due to be launched from Dallas during a short window of time that will allow it to reach just the right orbit. The satellite launch, the “Dallas Connection” of the title, depends on four microchips held by Morales and the agents that must be brought together on the day of the launch.

By the end of The Dallas Connection—which plays like a parody of all the Sidaris films that came before it – Morales is revealed to be working with Black Widow, Cobra is revealed to be an I/WAR operative who faked the assassination that introduced her at the opening of the film, and the scientist who Scorpion actually killed is outed by some sort of intelligence to have been about to join forces with Morales. This information makes her illegal assassination into an act of inadvertent heroism, and it is implied that she may be asked to join I/WAR. This seems to be the end of the I/WAR storyline that spans Enemy Gold and The Dallas Connection.

Andy Sidaris returned to directing in 1996 with Day of the Warrior. Instead of resuming the Donna Hamilton story or starting with another all-new cast of characters, Day of the Warrior actually picks up where The Dallas Connection left off. As Day of the Warrior opens, Sidaris reveals that Cobra has returned to her undercover gig as a stripper in Los Angeles, and that she works for an agency called L.E.T.H.A.L. (Legion to Enforce Total Harmony and Law), not I/WAR. Scorpion also returns as an I/WAR agent, but she is now played by Penthouse Pet Tammy Parks. The I/WAR reality, CSP-1 (Christian Sidaris Plane 1), introduced in the previous two films, has spawned another parallel dimension where Cobra and Scorpion exist and work for L.E.T.H.A.L., this reality’s version of I/WAR. As Andy is back in the director’s chair, Day of the Warrior marks the start of action in ASP-5 (Andy Sidaris Plane 5).

In the ASP-4 universe, Julie Strain is Willow Black, basically taking the place of Lucas in the Agency in the earlier films. Willow is the central point of contact and command for the L.E.T.H.A.L. agents, just as Lucas was in the ASP-3 films. Willow has a sidekick named Fu (Gerald Okamura, who played identically-named characters in Fit to Kill and The Dallas Connection) who works as an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas when he’s not using his martial arts skills to knock out faceless henchmen. Willow and Fu, along with computer whiz Tiger (Shae Marks), must locate their operatives in the field before they are discovered and killed by The Warrior (professional wrestler Marcus Bagwell), an ex-L.E.T.H.A.L. agent gone rogue who has managed to hack into their computer system in order to track and eliminate any L.E.T.H.A.L. agents who have infiltrated his crime syndicate.
Fu (Gerald Okamura) declares Willow Black (Julie Strain) a winner against the villainous former L.E.T.H.A.L. Agent Warrior (Marcus Bagwell) in Day of the Warrior (1996).

Fu (Gerald Okamura) declares Willow Black (Julie Strain) a winner against the villainous former L.E.T.H.A.L. Agent Warrior (Marcus Bagwell) in Day of the Warrior (1996).

Longtime fans will be pleased to see Rodrigo Obregon return to straightforward villainy as Manuel, a smuggler in Warrior’s organization. The male L.E.T.H.A.L. agents that round out the team are Doc Austin (Kevin Light) and J. Tyler Ward (Cristian Letelier), making Cobra and Scorpion the only direct connections between ASP-5 and CSP-1. There’s only one film left in the series, but its title will immediately suggest that it is not a simple continuation of the ASP-5 storyline.

Return to Savage Beach (1998) is not the Crisis on Infinite Earths of the Sidaris films, but it’s not for lack of trying. The action of the film kicks off on the island of Molokai, where “sextrologist” Ava (Ava Cadell from the ASP-4 films) uses her radio show to send coded messages to L.E.T.H.A.L. operatives in the field. Hanging out with Ava at the radio station is Silk (Carolyn Liu, reprising her role), Kane’s former mistress and assistant. The biggest surprise returning character, though, is Martinez (Rodrigo Obregon), who only appeared to be killed by Taryn in 1990’s Savage Beach, but who survived the explosion with horrible scars (covered by a half-face mask). While the L.E.T.H.A.L. agents are distracted, Martinez sends his right-hand woman Sofia (Carrie Westcott, sporting an intermittent Eastern European accent) into L.E.T.H.A.L. HQ disguised as a rollerblading pizza delivery lady. Sofia knocks out the skeleton crew in the office and steals the floppy disk with the coordinates to Savage Beach from the L.E.T.H.A.L. files.

Once Tyler, Doc Austin (recast as Paul Logan) and the other L.E.T.H.A.L. agents realize what has happened, the story stops dead in its tracks while Tyler explains the history of the Agency, and how it ties in with this uncharted island known as Savage Beach. The WWII flashback from Savage Beach is played again, followed by a flashback recapping the action of the film with Donna and Taryn, who Tyler refers to as the “original L.E.T.H.A.L. agents.” This seems to collapse the ASP-5 parallel reality into that of the ASP-2 reality (Hard Ticket through Savage Beach), thereby at least partially “simplifying” the Sidaris multiverse. However, due to this “simplification,” now the unrelated Christian Sidaris films are retroactively shown to be part of the series and not just standalone films. To add a little extra retcon spice to Return to Savage Beach, Warrior returns as a good guy, since as it turns out the government agent he killed at the beginning of Day of the Warrior was only posing as an agent and was, in fact, “a serial killer roaming the campuses of the Southwest.” As a reward, Warrior was allowed to join L.E.T.H.A.L. after a brief stint in minimum-security prison. Like Kane before him, Warrior is a villain who has suddenly and completely renounced his evil ways, and it is no less confusing or disorienting despite the fact that Warrior was played by the same actor in both films in which he appeared.

Martinez wants to return to Savage Beach to recover another treasure lost there, and the action of the film eventually leads to the entire cast ending up on Savage Beach. The “Return” of the title, then, is that of Martinez to the place where he was previously vanquished. As the story unfolds, Sofia is revealed to be a L.E.T.H.A.L. agent, working undercover to nail Martinez. Martinez is, in turn, unmasked as someone else entirely—Carlos Martinez, the nephew of Rodrigo Obregon’s Martinez character! With a few more similar twists packed into the last couple of minutes of Return to Savage Beach, it is probably better to just leave it at that. The agents have their customary champagne toast, and crime is put to bed, presumably forever.

Rodrigo Obregon, man of a thousand faces. Top row: Seth Romero (Hard Ticket to Hawaii, 1987), Miguel Ortiz (Picasso Trigger, 1988), Rodrigo Martinez (Savage Beach, 1990), Large Marge (Guns, 1990), Pico (Hard Hunted, 1991), and Mikael Petrov (Fit to Kill, 1993). Bottom row: Santiago (Enemy Gold, 1993), Antonio Morales (The Dallas Connection, 1994), Manuel (Day of the Warrior, 1996), Rodrigo Martinez and Rodrigo Martinez (Return to Savage Beach, 1998—it’s complicated).

Rodrigo Obregon, man of a thousand faces. Top row: Seth Romero (Hard Ticket to Hawaii, 1987), Miguel Ortiz (Picasso Trigger, 1988), Rodrigo Martinez (Savage Beach, 1990), Large Marge (Guns, 1990), Pico (Hard Hunted, 1991), and Mikael Petrov (Fit to Kill, 1993). Bottom row: Santiago (Enemy Gold, 1993), Antonio Morales (The Dallas Connection, 1994), Manuel (Day of the Warrior, 1996), Rodrigo Martinez and Rodrigo Martinez (Return to Savage Beach, 1998—it’s complicated).

Day of the Warrior was the last film by Andy Sidaris, who would go on to successfully repackage the series on DVD. Sidaris sold these DVDs through his web site, but the discs went out of print by the time of Sidaris’s death from throat cancer in July of 2009. The rights to his films eventually ended up at Mill Creek Entertainment, a company specializing in repackaging films in sets ranging from four to 250(!), and which has also done much to bring the Crown International Pictures catalog back into the public eye. Mill Creek released the 12 Sidaris films made between 1985 and 1998 in a four-disc set called Girls, Guns & G-Strings in March 2011, making them easily accessible and much more affordable than the previous separate releases. The two films Sidaris made in the 70s, Stacey and Sevano’s Seven, have yet to be released on DVD and the long out-of-print VHS releases are extremely difficult (and expensive) to track down. Amusingly, in 1969 Sidaris made a documentary about road racing called The Racing Scene featuring James Garner (“Jim Rockford” of TV’s The Rockford Files), but it also has yet to receive a DVD release and is hopefully unrelated to the rest of the Sidaris ouvre.

There is no doubt that the films of Andy Sidaris appeal to a specific audience, one that very probably included Sidaris himself. The world he created was one full of spies that were, for all intents and purposes, the cheerleaders and football players everyone knew in high school who had gone on to live the exact same kind of life on the stage of international intrigue. Like classic action-adventure comic books, everyone who appears in a Sidaris film is idealized and larger than life, and the line between good and evil is always very clear. Even with their reputation as low-budget exploitation, Sidaris’s films feature hardly any profanity at all and each one of them prominently feature strong female characters who can more than take care of themselves. The tone of the films never becomes too dark, despite the bright splashes of blood that punctuate every gunfight.
The L.E.T.H.A.L. Agents, along with Martinez, engage in the traditional Sidaris Toast at the conclusion of Return to Savage Beach (1998).

The L.E.T.H.A.L. Agents, along with Martinez, engage in the traditional Sidaris Toast at the conclusion of Return to Savage Beach (1998).

In many ways, the films of Andy Sidaris are very similar to comic books, but not the contemporary books that were being released at the time of his most popular films, when many superhero books were trying to tackle “real world” problems and recasting their characters in darker, more violent stories in a desperate attempt at remaining relevant. The simple good vs. evil storylines, the beautiful people, the ass-kicking women and sophisticated villains, and yes, even the complete disregard for any kind of standard continuity seem more an echo of Silver Age comics of the 50s. Sidaris refers to the films as “family films” in an interview that appears as a film introduction in the Girls, Guns & G-Strings collection, and while he’s obviously joking, the straightforward nature of his stories and the lack of any significant moral ambiguity (along with the curious lack of profanity) make the comment much closer to truth than even he may have realized. While the quality of the films took a noticeable turn for the worse in the later installments, it is inarguable that Sidaris always strove to deliver pure entertainment, and in the process he may have inadvertently given “comic book” B-movies a good name. Or, at least, a better one than they had before Hard Ticket to Hawaii.