In Films That Time Forgot, The A.V. Club digs up trashy, obscure movies and looks for memorable moments in films that few people remember.
Film: Hunk (1987)
Director: Lawrence Bassoff
Tagline: “Bradley was a nobody—who wanted a new body. He made a devil of a deal… Now there’s hell to pay!”
Key IMDB keywords: Beefcake; deal with the devil; see through swimsuit; bully comeuppance; laundry drying on clothesline
Plot: At the office of psychologist Sunny Graves (played by Rebeccah Bush), a blonde Adonis named Hunk Golden (John Allen Nelson) explains that he isn’t exactly “real”—he’s the product of a wish made by a dweeby computer programmer named Bradley Brinkman (Steve Levitt). In flashback, Hunk tells Sunny all about how one day the computer at Bradley’s office spat out a piece of software called The Yuppie Program, a self-help guide that became a bestseller. But when Bradley tried to follow up his success by actually researching some real yuppies at a California coastal resort known as Sea Spray—“Where The Well-To-Do Do Well At Doing Well”—he was mocked mercilessly for his battered VW bug, his run-down rental property, and his knockoff designer clothes. Then Bradley met a sexy sorceress named O’Brien (Deborah Shelton), who read him a list of disclaimers before promising to change his life overnight. And though Bradley was skeptical—“Who writes your material, David Letterman?” he snickered—he took the deal, and woke up as Hunk, with a nicer car and house to boot.
While Hunk/Bradley is telling this story, he doesn’t realize that O’Brien and Sunny are the same person, working for an incarnation of the devil named “Dr. D” (played by James Coco), who demands Bradley’s immortal soul in exchange for his makeover. For a while at least, it seems like a fine deal. Hunk rocks a muscular bod (with a generous endowment in the swimsuit area), has sex with a different woman every hour, and most importantly, crushes his former tormenters on the beach. At first, the assortment of studs and bimbos mock Hunk, asking him if his name is “short for ‘hairdresser’ or something,” but once Hunk stars spiking a “v-ball” right into their smug faces, they get flustered. (“I’m gonna wrap your nuts around your neck, squeaky-dick,” one mustachioed jock threatens.)
After one of his feats of super-strength gets captured on video, Hunk becomes a hero to millions, even inspiring his own action figure. But the wave of adulation becomes exhausting, to the point where Hunk turns a firehose on the legions of fans who follow him everywhere. (“You know you’ve made it when your garbage is front-page news,” Hunk grumbles.) And while O’Brien, in her guise as Sunny, tries to keep him focused on staying Hunk, his inner Bradley pines to be released, to make it back to work in time to meet a Labor Day deadline for a new computer program. In the end, Hunk/Bradley rejects O’Brien, and convinces her to resign her demonic commission and resume her true form—which just happens to be a beautiful medieval princess. Bonus!
Key scenes: Before Bradley’s computer (controlled by O’Brien) writes The Yuppie Program for him, all Bradley’s ideas are flops. Early in the movie, his boss (played by ’70s comedy mainstay Avery Schreiber) runs down a list of his terrible software ideas, explaining that the main computer eventually shut down with “D.I.… digital indigestion.”
Later, after he transforms into Hunk, he’s cornered in his bedroom by a former Dallas football cheerleader, who jumps his bones so hard—with an assist from a vibrating bed—that it makes the Jell-O salads in the next room jiggle.
Can easily be distinguished by: The preponderance of veteran character actors in minor roles. In addition to Coco and Schreiber, Robert Morse appears as “Garrison Gaylord,” the swishy Australian host of a Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous-style show called Filthy Rich.
Sign that it was made in 1987: What, besides the nod to Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous? Well, Coco’s “Dr. D” makes a joke about Geraldo Rivera’s embarrassing attempt to reveal the secrets locked in Al Capone’s vault, and Bradley’s pre-Hunk attempts to fit in with the yuppies include playing Trivial Pursuit, buying an Air Popper, and stone-washing his jeans.
Timeless message: Sure, the rich and beautiful may “roar like an asshole” (to quote one of those pretty aristocrats), but that’s only because ordinary schmoes demand so much of them that they crack under the pressure.
Memorable quotes: After being transformed into Hunk, the former Bradley Brinkman looks into his underpants to check out the appendage he calls “Oscar,” then looks up bewildered, muttering, “My best friend since the seventh grade is missing.”
Available on DVD from BCI.