‘My mouth has got a taste for something
beefy, something great
I can smell those burgers frying
and I really can not wait
French fries, onion rings and milkshakes
Buster’s waiting don’t be late
the bull goes marching on
Glory Buster Burger-llujah
Glory Buster Burger-llujah
Glory Buster Burger-llujah
The bull goes marching on’
“We reserve the right to refuse service to assholes like you.”
Ok, let’s get this out of the way – there can be different standards when it comes to movies. Some movies aren’t necessarily swinging for the fences and attempting to reach the level of great cinema that make stuffy Oscar voters swoon and get the honor of being preserved for future generations to glory in their timeless stories and impressive filmmaking.
Some films have less loftier goals being a timeless story that will stand the test of time and stretch the art of cinema. Maybe they just want to turn a quick profit! Be something kids will plunk down their money to go see on a weekend night, give them a few adolescent giggles (or maybe none at all as long as they bought a ticket, who cares if they liked it or not!). The movie played for a week or two, made profit and can now never be thought of again.
That could be the sole measure of success – to just be just disposable entertainment for an hour and half and make some money from it. It’s biggest aspiration is to turn a small profit and sell some popcorn.
In some cases, one could debate that a lot of 80’s sex comedies would only be defined as being part of ‘the history in the art of cinema’ on a technicality. That low-grade, schlocky, gratuitous piece of trash ran through a film projector, just like Gandhi did – SO I guess it qualifies as being categorized as ‘a film’.
The genre of 80’s teen sex comedies had their fair share of stinkers. Despite some gems that sprung out, the vast majority were pretty lousy. I think we could be fair by generalizing and say for the most part, the main reason for their existence came about to cash in on the teen market at the time.
The basic model for a teen sex comedy is this – get a young good looking cast, have a basic rudimentary story (in some cases just a loose outline), film some party scenes, toss in adolescent humor, get some toe tapping music on the soundtrack that kids love to sell some soundtracks and get as many pretty girls who will show off their boobs in the movie as possible.
Get it out to theaters, draw the teens in and watch the cash roll in. That’s what Hamburger: The Motion Picture’s objective seemed to be. With that low bar it wanted to hit in mind – it still stinks. It’s tasteless, lame, ridiculous, cartoonish and not a lick of comedy that will get you to giggle as much as it tries to.
It does have some attractive boobs in it though.
Hamburger: The Motion Picture is Police Academy mixed with a satire on the fast food industry. The basic story is a group of oddballs and misfits enroll in Busterburger University in Colorado. They’re all hoping to receive their diplomas and move onto successful careers owning their own beloved and famous Busterburger franchise serving up bull to hungry customers. It’s an alluring dream, made even better that the college is tuition free!
BUT they’re up against Drootin, a nasty teacher (more like a drill sergeant carrying around a spatula) who’s played by famed football player Dick Butkus. I think having Butkus in a lead role was a coup for the film at the time. That alone really dates the movie huh?
Anyway, Drootin doesn’t believe these new students have what it takes to be franchise owners. He’s ready to put them through the grinder at Busterburger U and will play as dirty as he can to ensure they all flunk out. He yells at them a lot and calls them bad names like ‘ketchup crotch’. There’s a fast food putdown!
As soon as the opening credits end – which is a montage of folks eating burgers to the title song ‘Hamburgers For America’ sung by Bill Mueller – we already get to the main point of these type of films – BOOBS! At a college woman’s residence, we see a line of naked girls showering and our hero getting caught in a stall making out with one of them.
McCloskey plays Russell Proco who’s gotten kicked out of four colleges in three years, simply because he never attends his classes since he’s too busy having sex. “Lewd conduct”, “Nude conduct”, his “thing in a sling”. It’s not his fault exactly. He’s just such a desirable guy women throw themselves at him. He’s a “victim of nature”.
Pushed by his parents to get a college education, and the fact that he needs to get a college degree to inherit his grandfather’s fortune, Russell happens upon the idea of getting a Busterburger diploma.
His burger classmates follow a Police Academy goofy characters kind of track:
Fred Domino, played by Sandy Hackett, famed comic Buddy Hackett’s son. Domino is somewhat a lounge lizard, fast-talking conman who becomes Russell’s pal.
Sister Sara, a nun who has heard voices, specifically the Buster Burger jingle. She believed it was her calling to be [art of the BusterBurger family so she signed up to BU. She gets to wear a nun outfit with the Buster Burger red color scheme.
Jones, a troubled, flamboyant Michael Jackson-type black singer, who gets unwillingly sentenced to attend Buster Burger to prove the university isn’t prejudiced. He remains handcuffed through the entire movie. He does a few impressions, like Muhammad Ali and Ray Charles.
Perstopopnick, a fat guy who shocks himself to control his binges from eating food. This results in the expected yelling, pratfalls and silly visual jokes from him – that’s pretty much all he does through the movie. Back in the day ‘the funny fat guy’ was a standard comedic character in 80s teen sex comedies.
A geek who’s a huge Buster Burger fan whose lifelong dream is to work at BusterBurger. He has broken glasses, suspenders, high pants, pocket protector. You know the routine. He has all the accoutrements you’d wear if you were dressing up as a nerd for Halloween.
Conchita, a sexy hotheaded spanish freedom fighter from the country of Guacamole. While rewatching Hamburger I thought she looked familiar and discovered she’s played Maria Richwine, who played Buddy’s wife in The Buddy Holly Story and was the first Latina Playboy Bunny. She’s very attractive.
The gleeful, passionate Busterburger franchise owner is Lyman Vunk played by Charles Tyner. He’s one of those character actors that have you saying “I’ve seen him before!”. He has a young sexy wife played by blonde buxom bombshell Randi Brooks, who I’m sure is the main thing that adolescents who watched Hamburger back in the cable days remember fondly. She’s the amorous target of Domino’s attention.
Oh, and let’s not forget Mia Vunk, the daughter of Lynman and is a teacher at BU. She’s dating Butkus, but Russell starts to fall for. This sets up Butkus getting jealous and has it out for poor Russell.
There are rules at Busterburger U. What fun would it be if our characters could just cut loose and not get into any trouble?!?! So, there’s no drugs, alcohol or outside food allowed, you’re not allowed to leave campus and absolutely no sex permitted!
I’m not sure why engaging in sex has anything to do with preparing a fast food meal, but we’ll go with it.
Hey, that’s a lot of characters and set up for fun things to go down right?!?! Well, not really. It’s a series of silly, cartoonish gags that aren’t exactly knee-slapping.
There are silly lessons that cover the Busterburger education. Learning about beef, Onionology (the whole class is crying as the professor wears a gas mask and they have to peel onions), They try to revive a giant pickle in a surgery class – after it gives brith to baby pickles. I don’t know.
The students get a crash course in ‘hi-tech’ burger making with this advance assembly line machine to make the perfect Buster Burger as fast as ever. Of course this results in an ‘I Love Lucy-type’ of chaotic crazy mess for Russell who is tasked to sit in the ‘Bull Pen’. Russell finds himself at the mercy of Butkus’ raving remote control that results in paddies and condiments all over the place.
As stupid and idiotic as it all is, it’s the ‘academic’ side of the story that actually contains the funniest parts of the movie! All the other jokes and side stories that fill the rest of the runtime, are dull, uninspired and plain just not funny.
There’s badly staged pratfalls, plenty of politically incorrect jokes that would never fly today, toilet humor, Russell pretending to be gay, and desperate sex jokes. The most memorable scene is the busty Brooks receiving oral sex under the table at a Chinese restaurant. It’s completely ridiculous, but hey it’s no wonder why teens would remember that bit decades later.
I’ve compared Hamburger: The Motion Picture to Police Academy quite a number of times already. That’s one of the big problems with Hamburger – the characters. Whether you’re a fan of Police Academy or not, you’ll have to admit that the cast of characters are somewhat memorable. Wise guy Mahoney, Violent-loving Tackleberry, meek Hooks, accident prone Fackler, intimidating Hightower, the human sound effect machine Jones.
They were a cartoonish mix of characters who were distinctive and each were able to provide some humor to the silly flicks. Hamburger doesn’t have that. The characters in Hamburger are forgettable and bland. When they do try to do their comedy bits it’s bland and very unfunny. I mean, how many times seeing a fat guy shock himself do they think will be funny?
Probably my favorite character out of the batch is Tyner as Busterburger maestro Lyman Vunk. He’s a very buoyant personality and has enthusiasm for his burger way of life. He really embraces reciting his silly bull philosophies to everyone.
Hamburger is on par with Stewardess School, released the same year. I guess there was a wave of films trying to ride the success of the Police Academy series starting to flood theaters at this point. Actually Hamburger: The Motion Picture and Stewardess School would make an appropriate double-feature. They’re quite similar in a lot of ways.
McCloskey is rather an odd choice as the lead. He isn’t very charismatic or funny. Sure, he’s a good looking guy, and that’s really the one joke that his character has. The usual sex comedy trope of the guy trying to get as much sex as he can, chasing around girls and then getting himself in trouble is flipped.
Here, McCloskey’s Russell is constantly being pursued by girls and is trying to turn down sex so he can stay out of trouble and graduate. That’s a unique take on things.
Other than that gag (which, granted results in most of the boobs onscreen), there’s not much else he brings to the movie. His supposed heartfelt romance with Vunk’s daughter is so completely bland and routine…I forgot it was a thing in this movie. McCloskey worked much better as the arrogant boyfriend in Just One of the Guys.
It seems the filmmakers spent the most time and had the most ideas when creating the bizarre burger school. The spoofing of fast food chains and its culture pays off with some chuckles.
Clearly, Hamburger’s main target was McDonalds. Spoofing its popular global reach, its distinctive food names and its official college Hamburger University. Rather than having a clown and his assortment of cronies standing with him under the Golden Arches eating Big Macs, Busterburger makes its own ‘Burger Inspired’ environment, decor, jingles and lingo. I’ll admit, some of it is fun.
There’s Mr. Pickle who takes the drive up orders. The giant hamburger beds that are in the dorms – I still think look awesome! As a form of punishment offenders are placed in the giant pickle box where condiments rain down on them and the Busterburger theme plays nonstop. The cheesy way you’re meant to clap like you’re flipping meat patties. A church service that revolves around….take a guess…hamburgers! The hymn sung by the choir is amusing.
Aside, from the visual sight gags and jokes aimed at McDonalds, the rest of the humor is all the tried and trusted brand you’d find in most teen sex comedies. There’s some sex antics, notably with Domino trying to get it on with Brooks and each time them getting interrupted. Their sexual rendezvous’s culminate in a helicopter which coincides with Butkus having a brand new car. Guess what happens to it.
Mad Burger Scientist Chuck McCann turns the geek kid into a chicken…..and it’s awkward and extremely unfunny and goes on what feels like forever! He does a lot of clucking…that’s pretty much the entire joke. At points you’ll just wish the movie went back to some lame sex-capades or Butkus yelling at someone.
There has to be some big capper to all the comedy and that comes when all these students reach their final exam, which entails them to manage a genuine real operating Busterburger restaurant for the day. Sounds simple enough. They’ve all been trained and know all there is to know about Busterburgers. But Butkus has an ax to grind and wants to make sure they all fail. So, he makes sure a hungry Eating Club, a violent bike gang and upset cops cause some mayhem for the students.
I won’t spoil anymore but will only tease that milkshakes filled with laxatives are involved.
So what exactly is Hamburger: The Motion Picture’s legacy? Well, it’s certainly an unusual entry in the 80s teen sex comedy genre. It’s not just about high school or college students or teens going on vacation. Targeting the whole fast food culture does give it a unique identity. I mean, I can’t think of another comedy that pokes fun at McDonalds and all that. Even Hot Dog…The Movie was only about skiers.
Speaking of Hot Dog…The Movie, Hamburger was directed by Mike Marvin, who had written Hot Dog. Apparently he was replacement as the original director was let go early in the production.
A Los Angeles Times article on July 4, 1985, described the scene of a Campos Famous Burritos restaurant in Canoga Park, California that was transformed into a Busterburger by filmmakers who were preparing to film Hamburger.
Apparently it cost $100,000 for the remodeling job. The end result of the bright, bizarre looking Busterburger restaurant confused locals. They weren’t sure what to make of the giant bull mascot on the top of the building. Some even went into the place to order lunch and try a ‘Busterburger On A Stick’. When bike gangs started to pull up to the place, explosions erupted from the building and a chicken truck crashed through its wall, I think it dawned on locals it must be some Hollywood craziness.
The filmmakers had to put the restaurant together they way it had been before filming. They ended up having to rebuild an entire wall to the place after the destruction caused by filming the explosive finale. They also had to remove the drive-up Mr. Pickle window.
I find it quite quaint and interesting to read how back in 1985 people were so excited and curious about a Hollywood film being made in their neighborhood – and then it being one of the most notorious low-grade sex comedies of the decade. I wonder if any of the locals ever watched the final movie.
Hamburger: The Motion Picture never made it to DVD. It never made it to BluRay. Just searching to see what streaming service has it available to watch…someone must have it…turned up NOTHING! Even the worst films sprout up somewhere today! So, what gives?
Hamburger was produced by Edward S. Feldman and Charles R. Meeker. Feldman was no slouch. Around this time he produced Witness, The Hitcher, The Golden Child. He later went on to produce, The Truman Show, 101 Dalmatians and K-19: The Widowmaker.
According to IMDB, the film was released independently by its production company FM Entertainment, Feldman/Meeker Production. The company went out of business and it’s up in the air who now exactly holds the rights to Hamburger: The Motion Picture. It’s just floating around out there with no owners and seemingly no one looking very hard to get the rights to it or able to find the original film to use in order to arrange a more updated release. So, the copy of the movie that was released on VHS is the only copy of it to watch.
That seems like the most appropriate end to the story of Hamburger. The best way to watch Hamburger: The Motion Picture today is via YouTube thanks to someone who ripped it from an old VHS copy and uploaded the film.
Unfortunately, despite the fun idea it has at its root, Hamburger: The Motion Picture never manages to raise itself above the low bar that were the typical teen sex comedies that were so popular in the 1980s.
Hamburger: The Motion Picture has become one those cheap, inconsequential films that some might’ve watched on cable television and possibly gotten a kick out of when they were twelve – and that’s probably best where it should stay. It’s not a film that is worth revisiting or one that’s aching to be rediscovered. Sure, there’s some cute pokes at McDonalds and its marketing, but it’s not mindblowingly clever. If Hamburger was made today it would probably have much sharper satire in place of the naked girls.
Hamburger has fallen deep into the recesses of the cracks of ‘forgotten cinema’ and I’d say that’s probably the perfect resting place for it.
Although, I do like the Buster Burger theme song.