Lee Majors Week: The Cover Girl Murders (1994)

No, this isn’t a VHS retrofit of ABC-TV’s 1984 TV movie The Calendar Girl Murders starring Tom Skerritt. Haven’t you been following along at all this week?

So, we have Lee Majors starring in a watered down TV giallo for the USA Network (that eventually replayed on HBO) that grafts Baywatch onto Friday the 13th as a bunch of nubile young ladies frolic across the island sands à la Agatha’s Christie’s oft-used Ten Little Indians as plot fodder. Hey, what’s not to like when Lee’s costars are Adrian Paul from Highlander . . . and Jennifer O’Neill!

So, what do we have here? Ugh, do you really want to know?

Ah, you gotta love those generic VHS potboiler covers of yore.

Well, piggish Rex Kingman (cast-against-type Lee Majors) is a magazine mogul none to happy that one of the models “he made” has giving him the professional brush now that’s she’s a TV star. And she’s quickly dispatched via straight razor by a Halloween-masked marauder (Richard Nixon, is that you?). And . . . off we go to some tropical island to save the King’s ready-to-go-under-can-only-be-saved-by-a-swimsuit-edition magazine with a hot, ponytailed photographer (Paul) and Lee’s right-hand madam, oh, we mean editor and ex-lover, Kate Brannigan (O’Neill). But guess what? Our rubbery ex-president is also on the island, fully equipped with rifle scopes, explosives, and shiny implements of giallo destruction. Oh, snap! That establishing murder wasn’t real? What? That was Kate’s nightmare? Oh, so, nix Richard Nixon . . . and cue the red-herring creepy groundskeeper — the one in need of a bath, a shave, and a few treadmill sessions — before settling down with a nice cigar as he jerks to those Polaroids of the girls he taped to the wall next to his cot.

This is a film where, deaths be damned, the magazine must be saved, so it’s a kill-and-camera snap world. And since this a cable TV giallo, the slash is lacking, the blood is missing, and (plot spoiler, stop reading!) it’s all a big dupe set up by Kate — with the models in on the scam — to push the tyrannical Kingman over-the-edge. So, not only do we have ol’ Aggie in the script model, we have a soupçon of oh, Henry James’s Turn of the Screw — only with the always pleasurable-to-see Bobbie Phillips in a bikini draped across tree trunks, riding horses and jet skis, and running in slow-mo montages to pad out the film’s lack of plot and short run time.

Seriously, this isn’t all that bad — in a porn, uh “adult thriller,” kinda way. In fact, if you used this USA potboiler’s production values — and cast a bunch of known porn-to-mainstream actresses, like Michelle Bauer, Marilyn Chambers, Traci Lords, Linnea Quigley, Moana Pozzi, and Teri Weigel in the cast — and upped the skin quotient in a direct-to-DVD release model, we’d be onto something other than this red, white and blue blade-dull giallo.

While it would be very cool to see Lee Majors in a real, bloody Neapolitan insect-and-junk-science-driven-killer romp, you’ve seen worse watered down U.S. telefilm horrors. Check it out for yourself on You Tube. Oh, and be sure to check out our review of Lee and Jen’s other film we reviewed this week, the much better he-man actioner, Steel.

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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