Theme Song: A disco blend of the Love Boat theme and any number of detective show theme songs on top of a tropical vibe.
The theme song was composed by Stu Phillips who also did the themes for Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and Knight Rider.
Interesting Dated References: Being a private detective who is into extreme water sports and hanging out on the beach; Americans being really interested in Hawaii.
Best Line: In reference to the superiority of a female whom you want to defile and murder as compared to the other females you’ve been defiling and murdering — “She is something else … caviar … and we’ve been eating catfish.”
Social Context: As the 70s became the 80s, several of the previous decades best-loved crime investigation shows came to an end: Hawaii Five-O, The Rockford Files, Kojak, Barnaby Jones, and Mannix, to name a few. Presumably, television producers and networks must have been going nuts trying to get a viable replacement in the works.
The formula was pretty simple: crime, investigations, and (ideally, thanks to the success of Hawaii Five-O) a beautiful locale. The pilot for Simon & Simon was filmed in Florida, giving it a tropical vibe, but after getting picked up, the series was relocated to San Francisco. The biggest winner was Magnum P.I., which placed itself in the same fictional universe of Hawaii, going so far as to mention the Hawaii Five-O task force by name in the first few episodes. Waikiki was producer Aaron Spelling’s attempt at this same formula. It was not picked-up.
Summary: Waikiki opens with scenes shot inside Rex’s Disco on Kuhio Avenue. Rex’s was a famous club previously called Rex & Eric’s, mostly noted for dancing and, of all things, backgammon. Rex’s features prominently in the plot of Waikiki in that it’s the homebase for our two detectives.
So, Rex (the owner) sees a gorgeous blonde in his club. She leaves and is immediately trailed by some dude in a late-70s suit. She realizes she is being trailed, and runs to another guy who, as it turns out, is in on the kill. They force her into a car, but not before mugging a cabbie who tries to intervene.
The following morning, two detectives (Donna Mills, in her second failed-pilot appearance on The Betamax Rundown, and Darren McGavin) are at a crime scene staring at the corpse of the blonde from the disco. The corpse happens to be clutching the ID badge of the cabbie who had tried to intervene. Since Darren McGavin is crabby and no-nonsense, he immediately decides to go arrest the cabbie, who is in the middle of some type of family reunion. The mother of the cabbie gets super upset and vows to help exonerate her son.
Her big plan is to hire two beachy private investigators. When we meet David, our first investigator David (played by Steve Marachuk), he’s is in bed with a woman. He gets a phone call and agrees to take the case. Now he has to stop being in bed with a woman and go round up his partner Ronnie (Dack Rambo), who is on an extreme boat with a woman.
The writers really want the audience to know these guys enjoy women and having fun. They also enjoy not buttoning their shirts all the way to the top, having wind-blown hair, and Jeeps without side doors. So our two PI’s begin to head to the police station to investigate.
Right before they show up at the station, our persecuted cabbie is abducted by his friends and taken to a safe hiding spot. That doesn’t stop David from wandering freely around inside the police station without anyone questioning him. Eventually he finds Detective Cassie (Mills), who can’t help but spill some beans about the case.
Meanwhile somewhere where rich people hang out, a domineering brother boasts to his meek brother about how slick they are at murdering chicks. These two brothers are the real murderers, and the writers want us to know that they are super rich. The one brother, Mark Barrington, is totally domineering over Lloyd Barrington, the other brother. They decide to go murder another chick later that night.
As luck would have it, our two PIs are sitting around talking about how they should investigate privately when they notice brother Mark following a hooker on the street, at which time they decide to investigate publicly. Unfortunately, Mark catches wind of the public investigation and takes off running. Then it turns out the hooker was actually Cassie, who was undercover in a bad Jheri-curled wig. She yells at David and Ronnie for screwing up her investigation.
Darrin McGavin yells at the two PIs as well. So far we’ve got rape, serial murder, disco, and prostitution. All that considered, the overall tone of Waikiki is pretty light-hearted.
After seeing Cassie’s picture in the paper the following day, Mark Barrington realizes the hooker he was chasing was a cop, and that makes him want to murder and rape her even more. Good thing for him, Cassie is already being reassigned to go disco dancing, and conveniently for the story, they wind up at the same disco club together.
Mark unsuccessfully tries to lure her back to his place, and instead invites her to a party the next day. Frustrated, he immediately stalks and kills the first woman to catch his eye. He even dumps her body in the exact same spot as the other corpse.
While all that’s going on, Cassie hangs out with the PIs and spills more details about the case. Then they all conspire that Mark Barrington might be the killer.
Then it’s pool party time! David and Ronnie are working undercover at the Barrington estate. They snoop around the house and find people doing drugs and having orgies. Then they find all of Mark Barrington’s pornos. They watch one, and after seeing a specific lei used on the porno and in the crimes, decide Mark Barrington is the killer. This whole time Mark is watching them watch the porno and gritting his teeth. Confused and possibly aroused, the two PIs decide they need to go get Cassie to come watch the porno with them. Barrington removes the tape and when they get back with Cassie, they stand around all confused.
They decide to tell the sergeant what they have discovered, but not before Mark cuts the brake line on Cassie’s car. The guys manage to save her, then they plead with the sergeant who takes no action. David and Ronnie drop Cassie off at her house to be alone, despite the fact she is in imminent danger.
She is immediately abducted. Realizing they are dumb, the PIs go back to check on Cassie and find the police have already arrived. The duo runs to the Barrington estate to try to find her. The party is still fucking going on! Meek brother Lloyd is totally wasted and tells them Mark took her to the fields where all the other corpses have been.
So then the police and the PIs rush to the fields. David does that hilarious thing from the 80s where you hang from a helicopter and kick the person you are pursuing. After kicking Mark, they capture him before he can kill Cassie.
And now we wrap things up with a nice little bow. Days later, the two PIs sit on the dock with Cassie, who is now out of a job due to her bean-spilling, and talk about getting her to come aboard as a PI. They offer her a partnership, and then McGavin runs onto the dock asking her why she isn’t at work. Then the guys laugh and throw her in the water.
Poster and Box Art: The video box artwork for Waikiki is an average, early-80s airbrush illustration. The characters don’t really look accurate to their real-life counterparts, and the shading techniques leave a little to be desired.
Mill’s character looks nothing like her, and the two guys are only mildly recognizable. Overall the coloring is weak as well. Compositionally though, the work is great: A woman running, some surfing, giant cresting wave with palm trees shooting out of it … really, aside for the likenesses, the technique is nice. Bonus points to the illustrator (Marla Tarbox) for getting her name clearly printed on the front of the box.
Availability: Used VHS on Amazon.