The best approach to low-budget filmmaking is to embrace your limitations.
Auburn native Kiff Scholl puts a big, squiggly neon exclamation point on this idea with his latest feature, “Scream of the Bikini,” which comes to the Auburn Public Theater this weekend. Scholl is coming from Los Angeles to introduce the goofball film to his hometown audience and answer questions about its creation.
Bits of “Austin Powers” and “Zoolander” can be traced in “Bikini,” which follows two super models who are brainwashed through a necklace designed by the nefarious Chair Man. If they can overcome his spell, they must stop other brainwashed women from realizing the villain’s plot: Killing the five United Nations Ambassadors of Eternal Peace.
The most up-front source of laughs in “Bikini” is its awful dubbing. The tone of the recorded voices is silly and glib, lending the image of it being read from a tabletop by lousy actors. Often the voices end while the mouths keep flapping, other times a common expression gets hilariously mangled (“We are surprising you now!”) Not only is the effect funny, it serves Scholl’s equally amusing back story for “Bikini”: It was filmed by a hack South American director in the 1960s, lost, dubbed in German, then dubbed in English, and finally found.
“The dubbing alone kills you, it’s so funny on its own,” Scholl told The Citizen in 2008. “It’ll make you watch the movie and say, ‘What’s going on? It’s like a car wreck, I’m laughing and I can’t take my eyes off it.’”
As the models, actresses Rebecca Larsen and Kelsey Wedeen prance through peril with eyes wider than the Powderpuff Girls. Their skills with guns and hand-to-hand combat are sub-Maxwell Smart. Larsen shoots a gun like she’s rabbit-punching someone, and every throw of a knife and ninja star is obviously a two-piece edit. But all the action is so amusingly bad that the last thought on the viewer’s mind is why Scholl didn’t hire a better fight choreographer.
One of the biggest successes of “Bikini’s” comedy is its lack of cheapness. No gag feels so desperate for a chuckle that it betrays the film’s origin story. Instead, Scholl’s film feels like a genuine glimpse at ’60s spy cinema through the eyes of an Ed Wood type. And it’s every bit as funny as the infamous director’s best (well, worst) for all the same reasons.