Color, 1984, 98 mins. 25 sec.
Directed by Peter Markle
Starring David Naughton, Patrick Houser, Tracy Smith, John Patrick Reger, James Saito, Shannon Tweed
Synapse Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
Among the barrage of teen sex comedies that saturated movie theaters in the first half of the '80s (especially in the wake of Porky's), few titles are more memorable than the T&A ski epic Hot Dog... The Movie! (The closest competitor has to be Hamburger: The Motion Picture, which came along two years later and would've made a great marquee double feature with this one.) Hot Dog actually qualifies only partially as a teen comedy due to the majority of its characters being in their early twenties; that allows it to mix in some of the slobs versus snobs tropes that had been popularized by Caddyshack and Animal House, in turn setting the stage for the likes of Ski School and even a swift bit of parody in Better Off Dead. It also marked a brief attempt by MGM/UA to break into the sexy youth market that year along with Reckless, but the bloom wore off that rose quickly with the failure of the following year's Making the Grade through Cannon Films. Out of commission in home video for decades, the film finally gets back in the game on Blu-ray from Synapse Films with a previously unseen, unrated extended "producer's cut" that should make its fans very, very happy.
Though he grew up on a farm in Idaho, Harkin Banks (Houser) has built up formidable skiing skills and is heading by truck to compete in a prestigious ski tournament in Squaw Valley, California. Along the way he picks up a runaway, Sunny (Smith), who accompanies him to his motel run by a very unabashed female manager. Soon they both fall in with a rowdy crowd called the Rat Pack led by Dan (Naughton), with a rivalry also emerging with a team headed by the arrogant Rudi (Reger). Topless bar dancing, temptation from Shannon Tweed, and hijinks galore soon complicate things for Harkin, who tries to stay focused as the big day draws near.
Light as a snowdrift and seemingly designed from the outset to play on HBO for years, Hot Dog is about as typical as you can get for a comedy of the era. Nudity, stereotypes, a romantic triangle, and lots of ski footage (including an insane tree gag prominently used in the trailer) ensure there isn't a dull minute for the entire running time, and the cast seems to be having a good time with the more outrageous incidents apparently pulled directly from the real-life experiences of writer and producer Mike Marvin. In fact, the making of the film was apparently even nuttier and weirder than the actual feature, something covered in depth on the Synapse Blu-ray with the full participation of the major parties who saw it to completion.
Released in 2020, that Blu-ray sports a gorgeous transfer featuring a 4K restoration of the original camera negative with quite a bit of extra footage trimmed out before the film hit theaters (with a 96-minute running time). There's a little extra nudity in here, but the main addition is an entire scene in the final third that fixes a prominent plot hole from the more familiar theatrical cut. Presumably these trims were made for running time issues rather than MPAA considerations as there's nothing extra here that really treads beyond what you'd see in any other R-rated fare. Image quality is gorgeous with nice, pure whites and some eye-blasting primary colors including those striking, vibrant shades of red and blue in the characters' clothing. The English audio options include the 2.0 stereo mix and a new 5.1 option, with the latter sounding quite a bit crisper and giving some extra punch to the music (including that insidiously catchy"Top of the Hill" theme song). English SDH subtitles are also provided.
Marvin contributes an enjoyable and very frank audio commentary and also appears in Red Shirt Pictures' surprisingly substantial "Hot Dog: The Documentary" (54m36s), which also features director Peter Markle (who went on to do Youngblood and Bat*21), Naughton, Tracy Smith, Reger and a scene-stealing Frank Koppala, whose improv skills came in handy for the role of Squirrel (including the unforgettable sunblock ski lift scene). From the outset the shoot is described as something of a "Sodom and Gomorrah" experience, and both Markle and Marvin are up front about the clashing senses of humor and overall creative approaches that turned out to be a big issue during the shoot. (Marvin was also eager to direct the film himself, but he was overridden by the financiers in favor of Markle just after his first indie debut). You'll find out more than you could ever imagine about the film here, but definitely disregard the erroneous claim that this was the first feature to add "The Movie" to its title (despite about a decade's worth of predecessors ranging from ABBA: The Movie to Twilight Zone: The Movie). Also included are the theatrical trailer (in a perfect HD scan), a TV spot, four radio spots, and a music video (yes, for that song), comprised entirely of film clips. Absolutely not to be overlooked is the great insert essay by Teen Movie Hell author Mike McPadden, which is not only a handy guide to this film's virtues but sports the greatest liner notes title in recent memory.
Reviewed on January 31, 2020.