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Monday 29 May 2023

Burl reviews Pinball Summer! (1979)

Bing-bang thunk thunk tilt, it’s Burl, here to review a movie featuring pinball as a theme! It’s the sort of movie that would have featured video arcade games as a theme if it had come out a few years later, but in 1979 it was still pinball times, if only just! Don’t be fooled – a year or two later the movie was re-titled Pick-Up Summer so it could fit more easily into the by-then-popular Porky’s genre, and so it would not be hobbled by its by-then-superannuated pinball theme, but the opening (and closing) song, “Pinball Summer,” gives the game away! So of course I’m going to review it under its original title, which, you won’t be surprised to hear, was Pinball Summer!


It’s the story of a pair of assholes and the unpleasantness they sow up and down the banks of the St. Lawrence Seaway, or at least the Ottawa River and the Lake of Two Mountains! Ha ha, I’m sure sorry to be so crudely blunt in my choice of language here, but it’s hard to overstate just what incredible pricks these two characters are! Their names are Greg and Steve – Greg is played by Michael Zelniker from Hog Wild and Naked Lunch; Steve by Carl Marotte from My Bloody Valentine and Breaking All the Rules – and they drive around in their (admittedly sweet) boogie van all day insulting people and making life especially hard for a pair of sisters, Donna and Suzy! Donna is played by Karen Stephen from Happy Birthday To Me, and Suzy by Helene Udy from Incubus!

They also torment a biker gang leader called Bert, played by Tom Kovacs from Scanners! He’s sort of the Erich Von Zipper figure and serves as the putative antagonist, but the friction between the jerk duo and Bert (who’s a bit of a knob himself, but not as bad as Greg and Steve because nobody's as bad as Greg and Steve) is entirely the fault of the former, as is all the other trouble they get into! Why the ladies put up with these immature canker sores for even a moment is a true mystery! 

Their frequent sexual harassment of women extends to Sally, played by Joy Boushel from Humongous, Terror Train and The Fly, who is a waitress at the hamburger joint they patronize and is also the semi-steady girlfriend of Bert! The pals bounce between the burger place and a proto-arcade run by a fellow called Pete, who, for reasons of his own, decides to stage a pinball contest that will determine exactly who is the best player around! What masquerades as a plot in this picture simply involves one group trying to steal the trophy from the other group, back and forth; and never for one moment do you care who has the treasured item at any given moment or who will keep it in the end!

Pete happens to employ a doughy dimwit called Whimpy, who also has a thing for Sally, so Whimpy and Bert work out some kind of creepy deal for Bert to win the pinball trophy through manifest dishonesty! But that goes nowhere, petering out like everything else in the movie; and meanwhile a local flasher played by Wally Martin from Wild Thing opens his raincoat to any and all in the vicinity! While all this is occurring, a hideous talking pinball machine called Arthur grins and blinks its teeth like a lunatic; there’s an underwhelming bout of strip pinball; the bikers engage in some Peeping Tom-ism that so arouses one of them he begins crazily humping his gangmate; and Greg and Steve continue to act like absolute dickwads to everyone they meet!

It’s amusing how many of the actors were in the Canadian horror pictures of the time! Ha ha, I recognized plenty of these mugs – several of the performers here also showed up in My Bloody Valentine, which makes sense because it was directed by the same fellow who helmed this pinball caper, George Mihalka; and then there’s horror veteran Boushel, who goes for an underwear-clad ride down the road astride the aforementioned hideous pinball machine Arthur; and there’s also a local city counsellor played by Roland Nincheri from Evil Judgment and Visiting Hours; and Riva Spier from Rabid and Ghostkeeper; and of course the flasher, who was in Shivers and The Pyx!

In a more generous mood I might award this plotless, brainless concoction the distinction of being Canada’s sincere attempt to copy such wonderful Crown Internationals as Malibu Beach or The Van; but no one in those movies, not even Dugan, is so thoroughly unpleasant as Greg and Steve, the alleged heroes of this picture, so that honour is off the table! Nothing that happens makes much sense, there’s no follow-through to any action or event; the number of funny jokes adds up to something near zero; and Greg and Steve, need I repeat myself yet again, are so off-putting as to ruin the viewing experience even if anything else about the movie was good! Ha ha, I sure did hate those dorks, Greg and Steve! Because of them, and because very little else in the movie even comes close to making up for their terribly fuckery, except possibly their boogie van, I give Pinball Summer one comment from Arthur, which isn’t worth very much I’m afraid!




  1. Shout to Erich Von Zipper! Superannuated is a good word! I, uh, remember Joy Boushel from Humongous!

    1. Ha ha, Humongous! I think I'll review that one pretty soon!