Editor’s Note: Sam loves this flick as much as I do, i.e., we crushed on Betsy Russell back in the VHS days, and he’ll give us another take on the film — later this month — as we unpack its inclusion on the Excellent Eighties set during this, our Mill Creek Month celebration.
Betsy Russell was a teen dream in competition for our teen hearts alongside Deborah Foreman (Valley Girl, My Chauffeur). And with her curly mop of black hair — and that cap! — she was a tomboy after our hearts. After co-starring alongside Phoebe Cates (Fast Times at Ridgemont High) in Private School (1983), she earned her first starring role in the action-thriller Avenging Angel (1985), a role that she earned after Donna Wilkes (Blood Song) turned down reprising the Angel role over money.
Russell is perfectly cast as Tomasina “Tommy” Boyd, a strong-willed garage grease monkey with dreams to become a stock car driver. Daunted by Randy Starr (Gerard Christopher; went on to become Superboy in the 1989 to 1992 series of the same name), a sexy, chauvinistic fellow racer, she plans to beat him on the track and earn his respect — and love. All in all: Tomboy is a dumb film but a fun film, filled with sexism, bad n’ bouncy ’80s new wave tunes, and cheesy comedy — basically all the things we expect from our ’80s comedies of yesteryear. (A flick about “female empowerment” deserved better than a T&A Crown International take.)
As with Deborah Foreman, Russell was poised for stardom, but never broke through. While on the set of Avenging Angel, an offer came across the desk for a role in Lawrence Kasdan’s box-office western smash Silverado (1985); Betsy turned down the part; it went to Rosanna Arquette. Leaving the business shortly after her role in the low-budget actioner Delta Heat (1992) with Anthony Edwards, Betsy came out of retirement to work in the Saw horror franchise (we’ve reviewed them all, search for them).
If you’ve read our Mill Creek reviews — or plowed through the box sets yourself — you know their box sets are primarily comprised of now public domain films from the Crown International Pictures’ catalog; a catalog that’s all over the place across every genre imaginable. Yeah, Crown loved the adolescent comedy-drama racket, in particular, and wanted some of that Fast Times and Risky Business, well, business, with the likes of films such as Coach, Hunk, Jocks, Malibu Beach, and My Chauffeur, and My Tutor just to name a few. And thanks to Mill Creek, we’ve watched and reviewed them all this month during our February Mill Creek blowout.
Director Herb Freed is someone known all too well in the B&S About Movies’ offices, with his work in the horror flicks Haunts, Beyond Evil, and Graduation Day. The Eric Douglas in the credits is, in fact, the less successful (and sadly) no-longer-with-us brother of Micheal and son of Kirk (Saturn 3). And yep, that’s uber cutie Cynthia Ann Thompson from Cavegirl, which we’ve also reviewed on the site via our Mill Creek travels this month.
You can relive the ’80s with Betsy in Avenging Angel, Out of Control (1985), and one of her later comeback films, Chain Letter (2010) on Tubi TV. Unfortunately, there’s no freebie uploads of Tomboy to enjoy online and it’s currently offline at Amazon Prime. But thanks to Mill Creek, there’s plenty of opportunities — at affordable prices — to get your own copy.
While Tomboy became an oft-run HBO favorite and VHS rental, Tomboy didn’t see a DVD reissue until 2006. Mill Creek eventually recycled the film on several box sets: Too Cool for School Collection (2009), which also features The Beach Girls, Cavegirl, Coach, Hunk, Jocks, Malibu Beach, My Chauffeur, The Pom Pom Girls, The Van, and Weekend Pass. In 2011, Tomboy was also released in two four-pack sets with a combination of those same films. And you can also pick it up as part of their 50-movie set B-Movie Blast and Excellent Eighties, both which we’ve unpacked this month.