“My little turdballs!”
Who could possibly forget the iconic opening lines of Never Too Young To Die from 1986? Easily one of the most oft-quoted lines in cinema history, that opening dialogue pretty much sets the stage for the rest of the film. For those (select few) who may not know, the film was a “not your momma’s James Bond” type entry in which a high schooler finds himself embroiled in a scheme to poison a city’s water supply. What sets apart this film from others—like If Looks Could Kill, which is similar in approach but not in kitsch—is that it is an incredible schlockfest in plot, characterization, and pretty much every other component of filmmaking.
The film stars John Stamos as Lance Stargrove, son of famed spy Drew Stargrove (played by former Bond, George Lazenby), who joins forces with a femme fatale (played by Vanity) in order to thwart the machinations of sinister Velvet Von Ragnar (Gene Simmons), a hermaphroditic terrorist/double agent/cult leader/burlesque performer (it’s very complicated). Never Too Young To Die has gained a cult status not only for its campy elements but it was featured heavily in the VHS/video store days and in syndication, and has yet to show up (legally) in a digital format or on DVD/Blu-Ray. It opened in theaters 30 years ago today, directed by Gil Bettman and written (in part) by Steven Paul (the Baby Geniuses series). Here’s just a small taste of the film in this trailer made for television:
While that film plays up the “American action hero” aspect of the cheesy film, and the sexiness of Vanity, it doesn’t sell some of its greatest highlights, including a titular song for the main character that plays over a gymnastic routine (yes, Lance Stargrove is armed with gymnastic skills—that he never uses—and a Q-like roommate, whose inventions barely work). Not only do all of the characters repeat the name of Stamos’ character repeatedly in the sequence, but the chorus is literally “Stargrove!” Behold its power-pop synth goodness:
The film was before Stamos’ reign on Full House, when he was best known for his soap work on General Hospital. But in this interview/behind-the-scenes promo package from the time of production, Stamos is excited for the movie. He would eventually be less than thrilled with his involvement in it, calling it a “piece of shit” in a The Hollywood Reporter retrospective from 2015. But at the time he had high hopes for the film, as did Vanity and Simmons, who is his usual creepy self while awkwardly modeling his bustier and stiletto heels:
Since its 1986 debut, the movie has joined a pantheon of ’80s “so bad it’s good” list of terrible films, and been received and reviewed by multiple series on the internet. The film is part of the trifecta of schlock that the Red Letter Media gang viewed as part of its inaugural “Best Of The Worst” web-series. After watching Russian Terminator and Ninja Vengeance, the group digs into the ’80s sleaze and charm of the film, calling it the “biggest disappointment” and that despite its “all-star cast” the film is more fun in concept than execution (jump to 21:56 for their thoughts on Never Too Young To Die):
And lastly, for those that still have a Stargrove-sized hole in their souls and demand more coverage of the film, there’s an excellent episode of the We Hate Movies podcast dedicated to the Stamos vehicle. It’s a great, fun episode that was requested by a listener where the guys (Andrew Jupin, Eric Szyszka, and Chris Cabin) pick apart the entire film and find lots to love in Simmons’ scenery chewing, Robert Englund’s unexpected appearance, and even find time to speculate on the romantic relationship between Jabba The Hutt and Salacious Crumb. Give it a listen to enjoy the few dizzying highs and the many, many soul-wrenching lows of Never Too Young To Die.
While it’s not as good as a re-release of the film to theaters (or even a proper release to modern home video), hopefully this stroll down 30 years of memory lane for the James Bond Jr. wannabe Never Too Young To Die will help bolster its growing and rabid fanbase who constantly quote the film’s many lines like “Turdballs,” “Scumbuckets,” and “STARGROVE!” While the film may not have led to a desired franchise or any sort of success for anyone involved, it has certainly left an indelible mark on many hearts of those who love cheesy action flicks.