Joysticks [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - MVD Visual
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (20th April 2024).
The Film

On his first day at River City's newly-opened video arcade, geeky virgin Eugene (Grease 2's Leif Green) has his pants stolen by Lola (Weird Science's Kym Malin) and (Kim G. Michel) – the groupies of studly arcade owner Jefferson Bailey (Wacko's Scott McGinnis) – and run-ins with benign arcade junkie Dorfus (Evilspeak's Jim Greenleaf) and arrogant King Vidiot (Fright Night Part 2's Jonathan Gries) and his punk subjects. It's not all fun and games at Jeff's arcade, however, because wealthy Joseph Rutter (The Living Daylights' Joe Don Baker) is trying to shut down the arcade after discovering that sixteen-year-old daughter Patsy (Zapped!'s Corinne Bohrer) cannot stay away from the place. When Jeff and company prove too smart for Rutter's lamebrain nephews, Arnie (Angel's John Diehl) and Max (Leprechaun's John Volstad), Rutter steps up his assault by appealing to the media and the mayor (Baker's Walking Tall alum Logan Ramsey) with charges of depravity and harm to minors with bought-off King Vidiot as his number one exhibit. It all comes down to a video game challenge, and Eugene will have to help Jeff face his inner demons and grab the joystick after Rutter takes Dorfus out of the picture.

Although light on actual sex for an R-rated sex comedy, Joysticks fully exploits the jiggly possibilities of tightly-clad and topless women suggestively jerking the video game joysticks to the tunes of Ray Knehnetsky including a truly godawful yet catchy theme song ("Totally awesome video games!"). A game of strip arcade allows for more jiggling bare breasts in close-up, and Baker – who seems to be having a good time with his arms full of topless chicks – as Rutter adds some S&M accoutrement in typically conservative prurient embellishment when he describes the unwholesome atmosphere of the arcade to the mayor's panel (which starts with a The Music Man "…there's trouble in River City" homage). Greenleaf's slovenly Dorkus – who the director Greydon Clark admits is patterned after John Belushi's Animal House character – provides the bodily-function humor throughout with "The Dorfus Maneuver", Rutter's wife (cartoon voice actress Morgan Lofting) is, of course, a repressed nympho, and Bohrer's “valley girl” is amusing yet often incomprehensible. Gries' goes over-the-top King Vidiot (yet still manages to be overshadowed by Baker), but his beef with Jeff isn't particularly well-delineated.

Diehl and Volstad do the best they can with thin roles, but their work gets caught up in antics of the glut of bumbling sidekick characters on both sides (Clark also throws in a video-game-possessed monk and an extra doing a Curly-impression for no particular reason). The trauma that has prevented Jeff from playing video games is a bit lame, or at least lamely recollected (and I'm not sure whether that was intentional or not), and his training for the final challenge of course takes the form of a Rocky-esque montage (not so much funny in its content as the fact that all of this is supposed to have taken place in fifteen minutes). Indeed, the film is so glutted with teen comedy and movie parody elements that getting Eugene laid almost becomes an afterthought (in fact, his central character falls by the wayside for much of the running time). Singer/actress Becky LeBeau (Bikini Drive-in) and Playboy Playmate Lynda Wiesmeier (Evil Town) are among the arcade's patrons.


Joysticks was announced as a DVD release by Media Blasters as part of their Guilty Pleasures line in 2006, but that release was canceled presumably due to rights issues. Liberation Entertainment put out a "digitally remastered fullscreen" DVD the same year, and that one actually did make it to the streets before being pulled. Scorpion Releasing's 2012 DVD was advertised as a thirtieth anniversary edition since the film was shot in the fall of 1982. Scorpion Releasing upgraded the film to Blu-ray in 2015. While we assumed that the disc featured the same HD master struck for the 2012 DVD, the specifications for MVD Visual's "Rewind Collection" 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen Blu-ray describe it as a "2K scan and restoration in (in 2015) from 35mm film elements" and there seems like no other reason for owner Multicom to have done a new transfer at that time (especially when they did not start striking new masters for streaming until a few years later). The Blu-ray retains the bold colors while boasting more natural skintones and significantly enhanced detail so that jiggling braless tops are that much more gawk-worthy, primary colors stand out from clothing and Gries' punk make-up, and there appears to be more picture information on the left side of the screen. There are several shots on the arcade set where the practical lights and the star filters have an effect on sharpness, but a new scan might have made more of the night-for-night scenes, but this is not one of the Multicom properties that got upgraded to 4K when they started courting streaming services.

NOTE: This release was delayed after the original pressing was discovered after pressing to have audio defects. Since some copies made it out to pre-order customers and reviewers, MVD elected to issue their new edition with altered artwork and a new UPC (old: 760137142072/new: 760137152866) to avoid confusion.


The LPCM 2.0 mono track proves quite active for a low budget mono film with clear dialogue, constant background music and video game noises throughout, and a nice rendition of the quotable theme song. Optional English SDH subtitles are also included.


New to this release is an audio commentary by MVD Rewind Collection's Eric D. Wilkinson, Cereal at Midnight host Heath Holland and Diabolik DVD's Jesse Nelson who describe the film as "Porky's in an arcade" and even suggest that the film's admittedly hit-and-miss humor is the result of trying to emulate a "facsimile of a facsimile" as they all convey their amusement and awe of the Animal House-esque Dorfus and the actor who seems to have been typecast in such roles during the eighties. There is some discussion of "R-rated sex comedies then versus now" and what might not be acceptable today – along with a little whinging on some behavior that was always "questionable" in real life but not unheard of in films of this genre; however, the trio also convey their affection for the film, and particularly Wilkinson discusses the efforts of himself and his graphic designer brother David Wilkinson (the killer of Wilkinson's slasher homage The Violence Movie) put into designing the discs menus, disc art, and slipcover to emulate eighties video games. The fan commentary does not feature a lot of production anecdotes and asks some questions answered by Clark on his commentary track from the Scorpion editions – like what Baker was doing in films like this between major lead roles and prominent character roles in mainstream films – suggesting that none of them have listened to it, or at least consulted it recently; and this would be a major oversight had MVD not ported over the extras from the earlier editions.

In the audio commentary by director Greydon Clark, reveals that the original title was "Video Madness" – which is still quoted in the dialogue – but decided that "Joystick" would be more suggestive; indeed, it proved too suggestive for distributor Jensen Farley so they compromised on the plural form even though neither the theme song or dialogue are subtle about the title's double meaning. Clark actually got permission to use the munching Pacman animated transition between scenes which seems like it would cost more than film's budget nowadays, and also points out bit parts by collaborators Candy Castillo (Angel's Brigade) and Michael Starita (executive producer of The Return and Wacko), as well as the contributions of art director Donn Geer (Satan's Cheerleaders) and cinematographer Nicholas Von Sternberg Jr. (Uninvited). Although Clark provides a lot of background information on the film, he could have used a moderator since there is an increasing amount of dead space in the track as it continues.

There is a bit of overlap with the interview with director Greydon Clark (17:37) which offers a more concise behind-the-scenes story of the film's conception, shooting, and reception before moving onto his subsequent work, including his collaborations with Menahem Golan such as The Forbidden Dance – which was hurriedly developed to compete with previous partner Yoram Globus' Lambada – and Dance Macabre with Robert Englund which was originally set at a horse riding school for girls rather than the final film's ballet academy (and derived from a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera which was announced with My Bloody Valentine's George Mihalka in the director's chair and a slasher version of "The Raven" set to star Klaus Kinsi which was offered to Alan Birkinshaw). He also replaced the director for Golan's Moscow-shot Mad Dog Coll aka "Killer Instinct", which was shot back to back with Golan-directed Hit The Dutchman featuring some of the same actors in the same roles. He very briefly mentions his pre-Joysticks films, including interest in remaking or making a sequel to Without Warning, but goes into more detail about his collaborations with Baker who he initially wanted for The Return, including the actor's insistence that he not be doubled for scenes not showing his face in Wacko even if it meant only being paid for half the time.

Also new to the disc is "Coin Slots" (2:49), a faux trailer short written and directed by Cinemassacre's Newt Wallen and featuring Wilkinson that feels more like a porn parody than an eighties sex comedy but is otherwise in the spirit of the film.

The disc also includes the film's theatrical trailer (2:09) – which looks better and runs longer than the trailer on the Scorpion editions that looked like it was ripped from a pixellated YouTube upload – as well as trailers for four other MVD titles.


The disc comes with a reversible cover, two-sided foldout poster, and slipcover (the latter first pressing only).


Although light on actual sex for an R-rated sex comedy, Joysticks fully exploits the jiggly possibilities of tightly-clad and topless women suggestively jerking the video game joysticks.


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