B-MOVIE BLAST: Coach (1978)

“I’m here to teach basketball. Now if you’ve got something else on your minds. . . .”
— Coach Rawlings, setting her students . . . straight (no pun intended, well, maybe)

Wow.

And double wow.

Do I remember the days when Cathy Lee Crosby was in competition for my wall space with Farrah Fawcett and the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, next to my Runaways poster with a young Sandy West. And the days before James Cameron forever set our Micheal Biehn-memories in stone with Kyle Reese and Corporal Hicks. But here’s Mike, fresh from his first TV bows on the 1977 series James at 16 and Logan’s Run (as a Sandman!), in his first feature film role . . . and on his way to starring in the forgotten (rightfully) twin-cinema ditty that was Hog Wild (1980) — a film that I always confuse with Hot Dog: The Movie (both which need the B&S About Movies once over) that I, in turn, confuse with Hamburger: The Movie.

Why am I confusing Michael Biehn with David Naughton with Leigh McCloskey in first place? Oblivious, my analog cortex is suffering a systems failure . . . but not enough that I can’t remember that Micheal was Johnny Ringo in Tombstone alongside Val Kilmer, so I seem to be functioning well within all VHS parameters.

Geeze . . . the Stallions? Really? Here comes the dumb sex jokes.

In case you haven’t guess by the one-sheet: Coach is a ’70s teensploitation romp produced on a TV movie budget, but made for the drive-ins, by, you guessed it: Crown International Pictures. So, yes. There’s boobs. And there’s gags. And PG-rated sex crossing the R-rated borderline. But this high school isn’t the Delta House and the school’s student body wouldn’t make it into Faber College. Where’s Pee Wee and Ballbricker when you need ’em? Where’s the titillation? Cathy Lee looks great in those shorty gym shorts and white sneakers, but that’s it? I’ll need a bit more than Cathy Lee having an affair with Micheal Biehn’s high school basketball-star student.

So, Cathy Lee is an uber-sexy, natch, ex-Olympic medalist track star hired to coach a high school’s boy basketball team. But, oops! In that ol’ women-with-a-guy’s-name-or-feminine-name-that-can-be-male-truncated screenwriting trope (e.g., Samantha becomes Sam), gruffy ol’ principal Fenton “F.R” Granger, played by ubiquitously gruff actor Keenan Wynn (who made a career out of being ubiquitously gruffy, or crazy; see Laserblast), thought that Randy Rawlings was a man! (Of course, this is a Cathy Lee movie, so ol’ man Granger ain’t around much.) Anyway, he can’t fire her based on her femininity, so he plots to make sure the team loses their games so he can fire her on job performance grounds.

Oh, and B-movie actions fans, take note: Brent Huff, he of epic-beyond-epic Nine Deaths of the Ninja, Armed Response, and Strike Commando 2 is here, in his feature film debut as one of the students. By the way: Brent is still going strong: he’s got four films in post-production for 2021, but you can also see him in a support role as Officer Smitty in the pretty decent, ABC-TV cop procedural, The Rookie.

One of my all time favorite flicks — and one of Sam Elliot’s best, early performances, long before he was amazing us with his trademark, gruffy-scrappy roles in the likes of Road House — was the 1976 coming-of-age-drama, Lifeguard (do seek it out). In that film, Elliot is Rick: a thirty-something, California beach lifeguard who loves his life, but is cajoled by family and successful friends to “become an adult,” while he deals with forbidden love. I can’t help think that, if Paramount Pictures, as with Lifeguard, had backed Coach — instead of Crown International Pictures — Cathy Lee would have had herself an insightful, heartwarming dramatic role about a woman dealing with the same “endless summer” issues of Elliot’s lifeguard; a woman who faces her life’s question: The Olympics are over. Now what?

Instead, she ended up in a Crown-made teensploitation not-so-funny and not-so-titillating (dumb) comedy with no message and nary a plot.

So it goes for TV’s first Wonder Woman — who then ended up in the John “Bud” Cardos disaster that is The Dark, which Roger Ebert (rightfully) referred to as a dumb and inept, maddeningly unsatisfactory thriller. Sam found The Dark as not riveting but entertaining. And I hated it. And Sam will probably hate Coach, which left me entertained but not riveted. But Coach could have been so much better. Like Goldie Hawn’s Wildcats similar better. And Cathy Lee Crosby certainly deserved better than that awful Network “Standards and Practices” costume. Yikes. If only Cathy Lee was in Lynda Carter’s wears!

No, Really! Back in 1974, and before Lynda Carter, Cathy was Wonder Woman for a Warner Bros.-backed ABC-TV movie.

You can watch Coach on You Tube and pick up a copy as part of Mill Creek’s B-Movie Blast 50-Film Pack. Oh, and speaking of Wonder Woman . . . ugh, did you see Wonder Woman 1984? Don’t. Go watch an old Jess Franco movie, instead.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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