Busting Makes Me Feel Good

  • videoarchives
  • January 3, 2023

Get ready to get busted by the Video Archives Podcast! Quentin, Roger & Gala embed themselves with Elliott Gould and Robert Blake in LAPD’s Vice Squad to discuss Peter Hyams’ Busting, then take a break at summer camp for 1980’s teen comedy Little Darlings. From there, they’ll take a psychosexual journey to the Swiss Alps with Sylvia Kristel for 1974’s Julia. It’s a new year, and I’ve got plenty of old VHS covers and movie facts on today’s Counter Talk, so let’s ski down into it…


Busting was the main inspiration for the TV series Starsky and Hutch - it also directly preceded Robert Blake’s hit cop show Baretta, down to the trademark unlit cigarette prop Blake picked up from the film. But if you’re expecting a buddy-cop hangout like Starsky, prepare for a film that’s a lot harder edged!

Modeled after Keneely and Farrel

If you’ve read Quentin’s book “Cinema Speculation” (you really should!) you know about his fondness for LA Times film critic Kevin Thomas – as it turns out, he had a lot of the same concerns about the politics of the film that Quentin raises in this episode. Thomas wrote that the film “earns the distinction of insulting both the Police Department and the homosexual citizenry of Los Angeles equally….the film’s humor is burlesque-based rather than satirical, which means that the unthinking and the bigoted are invited to laugh at some of the most oppressed and persecuted segments of an all-too-hypocritical and ignorant society.”

As rough as parts of the movie are, Busting is an incredible showcase for Peter Hyams’ action filmmaking, and an often-overlooked precursor for high-octane action films to come. It’s also got Elliott Gould…and Elliott Gould’s beanie…and Elliott Gould’s exceptional cop ‘stache, and… just look at this VHS box.

The back of the box quotes producer Robert Chartoff, who was fresh off producing The New Centurions - another film set in the world of the LAPD that promises to tell it like it is:

The premise of Tatum O’Neal and Kristy McNichol’s Little Darlings was controversial in 1980 and might be even more controversial now, centering on a bet between two young teenage girls about who would lose their virginity first at summer camp. In fact, when Little Darlings was recut for TV broadcast (without the input of director Ron Maxwell), all sex-related scenes or dialogue hinting at sex was removed completely, turning it into a toothless story about teen crushes. (A year later, “Goin’ All The Way,” a film with a very similar premise about a virginal teen boy, was released - without nearly the same level of controversy, of course.)

You may think Little Darlings is a raunchy sex comedy like American Pie, but it’s actually a secretly sweet and sensitive coming of age film…like American Pie! Strong performances from Tatum O’Neal and especially Kristy McNichol help make this the rare sex comedy of its era with a female point of view and female agency. To paraphrase the tagline on the poster: don’t let this film’s reputation fool you.

The Paramount VHS box for Little Darlings is simple and elegant - the typeface and red on cerulean color scheme is an instant nostalgia trigger for me.

We’ve included exploitation films in the third Video Archives slot before, but Julia might be the first true ‘sexploitation’ film we’ve featured. (I can’t imagine the radio ad for Julia we included in the episode playing on any FM radio station today.) Like Little Darlings, the plot revolves around a young person who wants to lose their virginity, but in true European style, there’s less sentimental sweetness and more overt eroticism, shocking character turns and psychodrama.

Julia star Sylvia Kristel had a short but fascinating career - and in the unexpected Video Archives connection of the week, she once dated Michel Polnareff, the composer of the score for Lipstick! Here she is mid-kiss, gracing the cover of this Video Gems release (with the price sticker still on it):

The back of the box, like the front, emphasizes Kristel’s role in the previous year’s softcore hit Emmanuelle. (Man, I love these Video Gems boxes; the stripe in three shades of orange is so perfectly 70s.)

Next week’s After Show will include even more insight on these three films, and I’ll dive further into Kristel’s life and career - for now, I’ll finish up with today’s Video Archives merch spotlight. This one comes from listener Scott, rocking the Technicolor Video Archives shirt all the way down in South Australia!

Until next time, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and tell your friends about the show! Make it your New Year’s resolution to turn a buddy on to the glories of VHS and the adventures of the Video Archives gang. See you next week!