The struggle between good and evil…it’s been a classic theme in movies since the beginning. Of course, the ultimate expression of this battle is when you have God in one corner and the Devil himself in the other. The two have been duking it out since day one, after all. Our film today, though, imagines what could happen were the Devil to demand a rematch on the whole Garden of Eden thing. It’s the 1984 New Zealand production Second Time Lucky.
The film starts with God (Robert Morley) agreeing to Satan’s (Robert Helpmann) request for a redo on the whole humanity thing. God then dispatches Gabriel (John Gadsby) to find a subject who will not fall to temptation. We then head off to a college party where a young man named Adam (Roger Wilson) is upstairs working on his big speech for the next day’s graduation ceremony. At the party he meets Evelyn, Eve to her friends (Diane Franklin), and she immediately catches his eye. This is a rowdy party, however, which leads to a raid by the cops. Turns out, though, that Gabriel is one of the cops and he whisks Adam “back to the beginning,” the Garden of Eden
In the garden we also meet the Devil’s contestant in this little game. Of course, it is Eve…or perhaps he just creates someone who looks like her, it’s never really made clear. What I do know is that it’s Diane Franklin again and she ends up spending the next 30 minutes or so completely naked (it is the Garden of Eden, after all). Eve actually seems not to know she’s on the Devil’s team at first. She helps Adam name various things in the garden like “banana.” Then she realizes Adam has a “banana” between his legs too (with two berries). Ugh. It doesn’t take long for her to give in to a puppet snake and eat the apple before trying to seduce Adam and get him to take a bite as well.
Now, it would seem that the game is over. Adam gave in to temptation…but no. It would seem that the actual thing Adam is supposed to resist is having sex with Eve. Gabriel even informs him that God gave him a warning sign on that whole thing. All I’ll say is that it involves his “banana,” you figure out the rest. So now, Adam is whisked off to several different eras of history where he must resist Eve’s advances. First they end up in ancient rome, then he’s a soldier and she’s a nurse/spy in World War I, then he’s a cop and she’s a moll in gangster era Chicago. The last stop has Adam as an 80’s glam rocker and Eve as a groupie working for an evil music exec called Lou Cipher.
Second Time Lucky really gets off on the wrong foot since its entire premise is severely flawed. I mean, I’m no theologian here, but let’s think about it for a second. Why exactly would the Devil want a rematch on the whole Garden incident? If we go by the account in Genesis, Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit so sin enters the world. Seems like the Devil kind of came out on top on that one. I could’ve possibly gotten on board with the idea of two college students as the new Adam and Eve, but that segment ends up occupying a small portion of the film. As we jump from ancient Rome to World War I, and so on, the movie just drags. The random nature of the scenarios Adam and Eve are put into doesn’t help. I mean, why exactly does the fate of humanity hinge on the actions of strange 80’s rocker!?! Plus, what started with fairly lighthearted discussions of “bumps” and “bananas” turns downright serious. The attempts at comedy are completely abandoned by the time we reach the World War I segment, and we’ve still got two time periods to go.
If the film has anything going for it it’s Diane Franklin. Franklin is probably best remembered for playing nice girl roles in 80’s teen films. She was the foreign exchange student who wins John Cusack’s heart in Better off Dead and one of the medieval princesses in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. She starts this movie as a nice girl, as well, sporting cute curls, brainy specs, and a smile to die for. So I was a bit baffled at why she eventually ends up on the devil’s team in this one. It’s also quite strange to see this actress who traditionally played nice girls end up naked in much of the movie. Still, Franklin shows great versatility in her various roles. She’s especially fun as the gangster’s moll, but this ends up being one of the shortest segments of the film. Roger Wilson is serviceable as her Adam, but our God and Devil need some work. Robert Helpmann as Satan is ridiculously over-the-top, while the almighty himself, Robert Morley, lounges on a throne the whole time and tries to look like Marlon Brando as Jor-El. Talk about collecting a paycheck.
Second Time Lucky was a bit of a struggle to get through, I must admit. It has a premise that doesn’t entirely make sense and just gets more complicated and confusing as it goes on. If not for the smile of Diane Franklin, it’d be a total loss.