1997 saw the battle between Dante’s Peak and Volcano; 1998 saw Armageddon vs Deep Impact; but then there was the clash of the condom comedies too.

Cinema in the 1990s saw some pretty titanic battles between similar movies. In 1997, we had the clash of Dante’s Peak and Volcano for instance, as huge eruptions suddenly found themselves in vogue. Just a year late, it was large objects striking the earth, with Deep Impact pitched against Armageddon. A similar battle was averted when both Outbreak and Crisis In The Hot Zone ended up in development at the same time with similar subject matter, the latter shutting down as the former sped before the cameras.

But there’s a lesser known duel that took place around the same time too. And as Entertainment Weekly described it in its 367th issue, it followed the battle of the ‘condom’ movies.

Before American Pie came along in 1999 and gave the raunchy comedy a fresh boost, fruity-flavoured films were pretty much coming and going throughout the decade with barely anybody noticing. They certainly didn’t garner much in the way of press headlines, and perhaps that’s why two Hollywood studio comedies with a condom quest at the heart of them found themselves up against each other.

First up there was Columbia Pictures. Penned by Takashi Bufford and J Stanford Parker, it gave the greenlight to the film Booty Call.

To unsheathe the basic quest of this one, it follows a pair of friends who’ve been without mattress manipulation for a while. As such, they decide it’s time to do something about that.

House Party 3 and Set If Off writer Bufford had penned the first screenplay for this one, and he apparently did so ‘with a calculator by his side’ so as to make sure he wasn’t writing something that’d be too expensive to make.

He wanted the film to be his directorial debut, although ultimately the job would go to Above The Rim director Jeff Pollack. Pollack would reportedly heavily rewrite the script too, along with Tommy Davidson.

Still, the film went ahead, and Columbia would acquire it.

Jamie Foxx took on one of the lead roles at a time he was best known for his TV show (The Jamie Foxx Show) and was a few years away from his Oscar-winning turn in Ray. He was attracted in part to the movie, as per the Entertainment Weekly report, by a scene in which he does impressions of assorted people in the act of, er, ‘interfacing’.

Davidson, Vivica A Fox and Tamala Jones co-starred.

Separately, and this time with an all-white cast, Warner Bros had picked up a comedy called Rescue Me, that would ultimately change its name to Trojan War.

Swimming With Sharks director George Huang directed this one from a script by Andy Burg (Alaska) and Scott Myers (K9). The situation and characters were different, the premise similar.

Will Friedle and Jennifer Love Hewitt took on the lead roles here (with a cameo by Lee Majors, but not as good as his one in Scrooged), and it had a similar quest at this heart.

In this case a young man called Brad is set to have a night of quality conversation and taking a practical approach to the birds and the bees with the girl he’s set his heart on.

The problem? Well, it’s the same one at the heart of Booty Call: there’s no condom, and he needs to get one.

On the surface, this should be easy. Head down to the chemists, look embarrassed, come out with a packet of sweets and use the vending machine in the pub instead.

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Yet actually, the plot device is at the heart of two 90 minute comedies. Both of which found themselves greenlit and shot in 1996, with a 1997 debut in mind.

What’s more, both projects were written without the knowledge of the other, and two major studios found themselves looking to schedule the movies to their individual advantage. At a time when two other studios were facing a bigger battle over their own volcanic eruption pictures, Columbia and Warner Bros had to – sorry about this – work out whether it was better to come out first or second.

In the end it was Booty Call that won the race to the screen. It – oh lord, I’m not even doing this deliberately – came first, launching on February 26th 1997 in the States. Reviews were not on the kind side for this one, although audiences warmed to is just a little more. Still, the $7m movie returned some $20m at the box office. It pretty much came and went at the time, and that had ramifications for the film that followed.

Trojan War would fumble at the box office, but it wouldn’t stand much of a chance to do otherwise. Having cost $15m to make, the movie was released on September 26th 1997 and was in the end only released on one screen for one week. It was reported that it was the fifth lowest grossing film of all time at one stage.

Still, as you might expect, there’s a bit more of a story here. The film actually got pretty good reviews, but Warner Bros had deemed the commercial chances of the film on the low side. Thus, it gave the movie such a tiny release in cinemas simply to fulfil a contractual obligation it made when it picked the film up in the first place. Instead, it was sent on its way to video as fast as possible.

Neither film left much of a legacy in truth, and that obviously robbed the world of some particularly unusual movie merchandising opportunities. Booty Call though has had a better shelf life to it at least, one of the very few big screen comedies of the 1990s with an all-black cast. Audience response to it has warmed over time, and the movie is available easily enough on demand.

Far trickier to track down is Trojan War, which is harder to find in the UK than a condom in a 90s sex comedy.

A sad end, you might say. I’ll get my own coat.

Lead image: BigStock

 

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