Thunder in Paradise is a direct to video release from 1993 that also served as a jumping off point for a television series of the same name that starred Hulk Hogan as its protagonist, RJ “Hurricane Spencer”. Throughout its short-lived run it also featured other wrestlers, such as Giant Gonzales, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, Stin, Terry Taylor (Red Rooster) and even manager Jimmy “The Mouth of the South” Hart.
This series and I have an odd history, officially only this movie and 2 other two-part episodes that were made into films have been released in the United States on DVD. The DVD collection was put out by Lionsgate. I did happen to find a complete series release from Carol Media that I bought from Germany but when it arrived I was disheartened to find out that it did not retain its English audio at all, instead the entire series is dubbed into German. I was happy at least to have all the episodes even if they were in German. I have since found an unofficial set that has all the episodes and have been working my way through it.
The film is about RJ Spencer, a former Navy Seal, who along with his partner Brubaker (Chris Lemmon) own a high tech speed boat called Thunder. We’re keyed into Spencer’s military prowess by the movie opening with him and Brubaker invading Cuba to save a defector’s wife and son. RJ frequents Paradise Beach Resort which is owned by Megan Whitaker. Only Megan may not be the owner for long as she must marry within 72 hours or she will lose the entire resort. Fortunately for her RJ is hard up and is facing losing Thunder so she asks him to marry her and she’ll pay off Thunder. The marriage should be believable enough to fool her asshole uncle Edward played her by Patrick Macnee who was John Steed in The Avenger, because her daughter loves Spencer, but Edward is hellbent on ousting the whole thing as fraud. That’s the short of it at least.
There is also a strange brass necklace that RJ found in a shark’s belly that he gifts to Megan’s daughter Jessica, here played by Robin Weisman who doesn’t return for the series itself, that the evil Kilmer (Sam Jones of Flash Gordon) is after. He attempts to steal it from Jessica after RJ and Megan’s wedding by having his beau lure Jessica away from the wedding. The necklace breaks into a bajillion pieces and Sam runs like a bitch and sends in his heavy, played by Giant Gonzales, to manhandle RJ who ran after them when he heard Jessica’s cries.
The necklace it turns out is a treasure map, RJ and Brubaker go after the treasure but Megan insists on tagging along. Kilmer kidnaps Jessica and Kelly LaRew, Megan’s bridesmaid, and makes them draw a map of the islands that the treasure is on. Kilmer catches up to the crew and forces them to hand over the treasure and leave them to die in the cave the treasure was found in. It’s up to RJ who is apparently half whale to find a way out of the cave through an underwater passage that leads to the ocean so he, Megan, and Brubaker can escape and save Jessica and Kelly.
The film and series were both produced by the co-creator of Baywatch as well as Hulk Hogan himself. It’s a cheesy film that serves as a great intro to the series itself. Hell, it was later edited into the first two episodes of the series with a few cuts. Hulk Hogan is featured most prominently in the film, here appearing with an eye patch due to a real-life ski-doo accident, this is explained away in the film as being an injury dealt to him by Kowalski, played by the late Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. They even have a small scuffle during an arm wrestling match in the film. Brutus and Jimmy Hart are also in the film and series. It often feels there isn’t a film that Hulk was in that Brutus wasn’t part of.
Hogan here is it at one of the heights of his career, he had already done Rocky III, No Holds Barred, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Suburban Commando, and Mr. Nanny so he was no stranger to film or acting by this point. I really do feel that Hulk is one of the most important wrestlers turned thespians, his acting (some would say overacting) paved the way for many more wrestlers. I really enjoy his acting, it’s larger than life much like himself. He may be playing to the rafters but it is still a wonder to witness. His turn as RJ Spencer isn’t the most exciting or funny role he has had in his career but no one else could bring what he brings to the character. His interactions with Jessica are sweet and shows he really cares about her even if her mom Megan isn’t too impressed with him. Hogan gets to do some action here as well and I love when he gets to do that. Seeing Hogan shoot out of the hull of a boat on a ski-doo is what film is made for in my opinion.
I have no nostalgia connected to this film so I’m coming at it purely from a guy who loves wrestlers who act stand point but it is one you should seek out if you like Hulk Hogan or Baywatch. You can get it on the Thunder in Paradise collection DVD put out by Lionsgate which is pretty affordable on Amazon. I really do hope that one day we get the series this film spawned on a proper home media release.