I’m not sure if it’s the moment everyone’s been waiting for but it’s finally arrived. Dwayne Johnson‘s comedy reworking of cheesy TV classic Baywatch is about to dive into the box office looking to rescue a fat wad of receipts. The series about lifeguards and their ability to not wear very much is fondly-remembered by people of a certain age and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or indeed a swimming instructor) to work out why.
The ludicrous storylines were one factor. The main draw was a chance to catch the likes of Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff in their skimpies, throwing themselves into the action with gusto, often doing it in lingering slow motion. In the days before the internet these weekly appointments with the Hoffmeister’s Mitch Buchannon and his crew were essential viewing.
Johnson and co reimagine the franchise without leaving much to the imagination. Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach and Ilfenesh Hadera ensure those who weren’t there first time round get the general idea by wearing an array of eye-popping outfits. But has this sexy yet practical fashion statement helped or hindered movies over the years? I pull on my goggles to find out…
RAQUEL WELCH – ONE MILLION YEARS B.C.
Long before C.J. Parker put on a red one piece, Raquel Welch roamed the land clad in a fur bikini, meting it out to her fellow cavemen and dishing it to the dinosaurs in One Million Years B.C. The production showcased the smouldering star in a way that was guaranteed to get bums on seats. Though it was a remake of a 1940s American film, British horror legends Hammer were behind the half-naked revival.
Despite the titillating presentation, it was at least a female-led action adventure. Bearing in mind the release date of 1966 this makes it a rarity, even by 2017 standards. And alongside the spectacle of the charismatic Welch was the sight of animator Ray Harryhausen‘s stop motion creations, which still hold their intricately-rendered charm today.
DANIEL CRAIG – CASINO ROYALE
Daniel Craig is now seen as a game-changing James Bond, yet his initial casting was not rapturously received in some quarters. The colour of his hair and quiet demeanour were just two of the issues highlighted by aficionados of 007’s exploits. That was swept aside when Casino Royale opened and audiences got their first proper eyeful of a harder-edged spy. Of course a certain item of clothing got people talking into the bargain.
Positioned neatly under his rippling torso, Craig’s trunks caused a sensation. The sequence cannily reversed the hackneyed image of the Bond movies as a parade of female eye candy. It showed that when it came to saving the world, this version of Ian Fleming‘s hero would do it a bit differently to his illustrious predecessors. He even went totally starkers for a memorable torture scene that had the men of the world crossing their legs.
CARRIE FISHER – RETURN OF THE JEDI
The late, great Carrie Fisher will forever be remembered as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars movie trilogy and beyond. One scene that fans like myself have etched into their minds is the infamous “Jabba’s Palace” scene, where the slimy crime lord decided to stick our poor heroine in a gold two piece. And there wasn’t even a pool to go swimming in! Thankfully it wasn’t long before she was rescued by Luke Skywalker, otherwise she could well have gone rusty.
Whilst warm memories abound of this fun entry in the saga, Fisher herself wasn’t a fan of the gawp-inducing garment, reportedly advising current Force wilder Daisy Ridley to avoid such costume changes. So while it pains me to criticize this much-loved tale, I’m going to have to say Leia’s slave outfit hindered the movie and set a bad example for female audiences on this planet and in other galaxies.
SACHA BARON COHEN – BORAT
The first male on this rundown was a pectoral powerhouse who travelled the globe romancing women and setting the world to rights. My next choice on the other hand is the polar opposite. Sacha Baron Cohen is known as a comedian who spared no blushes. The movie Borat, based on his supposedly Kazakh reporter character, took matters to a whole new level, drawing humanity’s attention to a criminally revealing item of swimwear in the process.
His day glo “mankini” set tongues wagging and stomachs heaving, both in the film itself and during a promotional trip to Cannes, where Cohen got more than a little cheeky on the Croisette. It would be easy to say this development hindered the release but then again it was classic Borat. The whole point was to cause as much awkwardness and amusement as possible. So it’s a definite fashion fail, but a true comedy triumph.
URSULA ANDRESS – DR. NO
In 1962 James Bond was well-known as a literary character, however his merits as a cinematic star had yet to be tested. When Dr. No hit the big screen the success of this mission wasn’t guaranteed. Producers gambled on some notable aspects of the movie: rugged lead Sean Connery and the casting of Ursula Andress as Honey Rider, the first Bond girl.
Her debut scene, emerging from the Jamaican sea clutching conch shells, was used as a key element of the film’s marketing and it paid off in spades. Andress not only provided the glamour, she was also the equal of Connery with her onscreen power and striking presence. Even though the Bond girls have been attacked for embodying stereotypes, there’s no denying the impact this bikini-based move had in setting up one of the most enduring franchises of the past couple of centuries.
So, in summary have swimsuits helped or hindered the movies? In all honesty while they’ll always be used for the shallowest of purposes, they have been invaluable tools in promoting a variety of films. Baywatch is no exception – we’ll see how its combination of high octane thrills and sun-kissed skin fares as the results wash in.