February 9th, 2013

LEGENDS OF THE SILVER SCREEN: LINNEA QUIGLEY

Linnea Quigley has always been my favorite of the ‘80s Scream Queens. Throughout the years I have been fortunate enough to meet Linnea at several horror conventions and she has always been genuinely kind and appreciative. So because of her amazing talent (not to mention putting up with my fanboy ramblings), Linnea Quigley is a Legend of the Silver Screen.

Our first Linnea film is…

AUDITIONS (1978) ***

Auditions is a fast moving and fun exploitation flick that kinda plays like a forerunner to reality shows and/or gonzo porn. A producer (we just hear his voice) brings in a bunch of people to audition for the non-existent Fairy Tales 2. (Director Harry Tampa also directed the first Fairy Tales.) He talks to them about their sexual exploits, makes them take their clothes off, and eventually tells them that if they REALLY want the part, they’ll masturbate on screen.

What’s different about Auditions is that virtually all walks of life are represented during the auditions. Sure, most of them are hot girls, but there are also a lot of guys in there too, so I’m sure the females in the audience will appreciate the film just as much as the males. In addition, there’s also a little person who plays his drums, a gay guy that does a strip tease, a morbidly obese chick (who wears tassels), and even the mentally handicapped are represented as well. Folks, this truly an equal opportunity skin flick.

And what skin we get. Hardly a minute goes by in this thing without a hot babe taking her clothes off. And once the producer likes what he sees, he puts them in group scenes where even more hanky-panky occurs.

Linnea Quigley has a small role as a young starlet who does a dance routine (set to music from Laserblast) on a dungeon set. What’s interesting about this scene is that her choreography is very similar to her dance moves in Nightmare Sisters and Return of the Living Dead. In fact, the flick would make a great Linnea Dancing Totally Nude Double Feature with Return of the Living Dead.

But that wasn’t even my favorite scene in the movie. That came when the producer convinced a hot babe to masturbate using a skeleton prop. Folks, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

The set-up of the film is pretty cool, and it moves along at a steady clip. However, Auditions just gets too repetitive after a while. And at 78 minutes, it runs on about ten minutes too long. But still, with this much female flesh on display, it’s pretty hard to write it off.

If you enjoy this one, you should definitely check out Nocturna and Fairy Tales, which were also directed by Harry Tampa.

Next up is…

WITCHTRAP (1989) ** ½

Witchtrap begins with a notice that “This Film is Not a Sequel to Witchboard”. It’s from the same director, Kevin S. Tenney, so I can see where the confusion came from, but I don’t think it was necessary to have a disclaimer in the beginning of the movie or anything. I don’t think anyone rented this back in the ‘80s and said, “WAIT! This ISN’T a sequel to Witchboard!?! I want my money back!” Interestingly enough, Tenney later went on to direct Witchboard 2. I haven’t seen that film, but I wonder if it opens up with a disclaimer stating “This Film is Not a Sequel to Witchtrap”.

A team of paranormal experts are called in to investigate a haunted bed and breakfast. A pair of wisecracking cops are forced to tag along and protect the psychics just in case something goes wrong. Naturally, the ghost of a powerful warlock haunts the B & B and it goes around the premises possessing household objects and killing the psychics.

Linnea gets the “And” billing as Ginger, the video technician. She has a pretty good nude scene and death scene all in one. She takes a shower and is killed when the possessed shower head stabs her in the throat. Other possessed items that kill people: A car, a bullet, a knife, shovel, and an axe. The film also contains a great exploding head, one of the best since Scanners.

Witchtrap isn’t exactly good and there are definitely a few dull patches, but there are quite a few laughs to be had here; intentional and otherwise. Once thing is for sure, I laughed more during this film than I did at Harvey. The acting is often flat, yet the hilarious dialogue usually compensates. The lines are often hateful, funny, and full of pop culture references. (When the cop learns the house is possessed, he says, “You don’t need a detective, you need Bill Murray!”) And some of banter between the cops is pretty great. (“Don’t say ‘spade’ to a brother!”)

Tenney does a decent job at replicating Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead camerawork. There’s even a shot ripped right out of Evil Dead where some unidentified glop oozes out of a dead guy’s sleeve. Tenney also delivers a pretty good final scare, but again it’s the dialogue that makes the film memorable. Some of my favorite lines include:

“I always knew you were a scumbag, but I never knew how scummy a bag you could be!”

and

“I’m going to find that overgrown abortion and give him a 38 caliber enema!”

AKA: The Presence.

And our final Linnea flick is…

SCREAMING IN HIGH HEELS: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE SCREAM QUEEN ERA (2012) ****

As any exploitation movie fan who was alive in the ‘80s knows, Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens, and Michelle Bauer were the three biggest Scream Queens of all time. And if you are a said fan (like me), then director Jason Paul Collum’s documentary, Screaming in High Heels: The Rise and Fall of the Scream Queen Era will be a wonderful trip down memory lane. Not only does it feature Quigley, Stevens, and Bauer talking about some of their best movies, guys like Jay Richardson, Fred Olen Ray, and David DeCoteau offer insights about drive-in theaters (cool drive-in intermission shorts are shown) and old school Mom & Pop video stores.

As wonderful as it is to see Quigley, Stevens, and Bauer again (they are all looking great), I have to admit that the sheer amount of clips from their best (and worst) films makes Screaming in High Heels highly recommended. We get scenes from Witchtrap (Linnea’s death in the shower scene is shown), Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-A-Rama, Psycho from Texas, Slumber Party Massacre, Savage Streets, The Tomb (they show the hilarious nightclub scene), Creepazoids, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout, Nightmare Sisters, and Silent Night Deadly Night and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In addition, we get to see clips from Up All Night, Hard Copy, Joe Bob Briggs’ Drive-In Theater, and MTV’s The Big Picture (all of which are sadly long gone). The coolest part I thought though was when Brinke becomes a question on Jeopardy.

Look, these ladies are three of my favorite actresses of all time; so of course, I’m going to eat this movie up. Even with that in mind, Screaming in High Heels: The Rise and Fall of the Scream Queen Era is still probably the most important movie you’ll see all year. I think the big thing you’ll take away from the movie is that Linnea, Brinke, and Michelle were just three down to Earth girls who stumbled upon an unlikely career.

Their interviews are very revealing. We learn how they grew up and got started in the industry. (Sadly, although Bauer talks about her Penthouse work, she neglects to tell us anything about her porno days.) Some of my favorite anecdotes revolve around the making of Nightmare Sisters. We learn that it was shot in four days and how the immortal bathtub scene was done. There are also some pretty cool stories about the making of Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers and how Linnea didn’t know about the uproar around Silent Night Deadly Night because she was filming a movie in Mexico.

Bottom Line: Any self-respecting Scream Queen fan needs to check this out ASAP.

Next week’s Legend: Michelle Bauer, starring in three films using her XXX pseudonym, Pia Snow!

FLUCTUATIONS (1970) **

This month is of course Skinamax-A-Palooza, but I also wanted to take some time to look at other avenues of erotica you might not find late at night on cable television. That not only includes some XXX films (which I’ll be covering in my next Legends of the Silver Screen column), but also some softcore oddities of yesteryear. And Fluctuations certainly falls into the latter category.

I don’t know about you, but every time I see a credit for “Karate Consultant” in the opening credits for a '70s skin flick, it just sorta makes me smile.

Fluctuations’ “narrative” cuts back and forth between a chick reading a smut novel to two dudes performing karate in their living room to a gal doing what has to be one of the most deliberate and drawn out stripteases in recorded history. Then a chick gets it on with two guys, only to be interrupted by her dominatrix, who whips them with her hair!

None of this is any good, but it does have a certain hypnotic quality about it. But after a while, the whole thing just gets frustrating. I mean you’re never sure if the chick reading the book is imagining all the sex or if it’s happening elsewhere in her apartment building. And the incoherent editing is the dead giveaway that the film is one of those deals where a director’s incompetence is trying to be passed off as “artsy”.

None of this would matter if the sex scenes where actually hot. The problem is that the sex scenes aren't shot very well and all the crisscross editing ruins their momentum. In the end, Fluctuations just jumps around so much that you can never get your bearings. It’s like someone took a half a dozen stag reels and haphazardly edited them into a karate instructional video or something.

The film does have one terrific line: “If there was only some way I could cut it off, I could throw the rest of you away!”

SUBMISSION (1969) **

Barry is a psycho/con man/rapist who preys on lonely rich women. Vicki (Jennifer Welles) is Barry’s wife, a candy bar obsessed chick whose perpetual arrested development causes her to act like a little kid. Barry gets Vicki to help out in his get-rich-quick scheme, but she eventually falls in love with their next target.

The plot of Submission is more or less just an excuse to string a mess of sex scenes together. The good news is that any scene with Welles is pretty much a winner. There’s a great scene where she deep throats a candy bar and the part where she masturbates with a lit candle is pretty hot. The other scenes uh… well… can’t hold a candle to the ones with Welles.

That’s also because in addition to being a hot mama, Welles is a rather fine actress too. She really brings her juvenile character to life. The other gals in the flick just don’t have the same kind of screen presence Welles has, and as a result, their sex scenes aren’t nearly as memorable. Plus, the scenes that focus on Barry going nuts and attacking random women don’t really work. But no matter how uneven the flick is, I can’t exactly hate any movie in which Jennifer Welles makes love to a candy bar.

AKA: F.U.C.K. (Free Underground Cinema Kids).

THE CODE CONSPIRACY (2002) NO STARS

The Asylum strikes again. Before they started making “mockbusters”, they did this Christian-themed thriller. And as far as Christian-themed thrillers with the word "Code" in the title go, it’s even worse than The Omega Code. Heck, I’d even go so far to say that The Code Conspiracy is the worst Asylum movie I have ever seen.

David Warner plays a scientist who cracks a code that supposedly explains the existence of God. The government gets antsy about the whole thing, so they send a hit squad to terminate him. Some dullard eventually cracks the code and the government comes after him too.

You know, just when I think I’ve seen the most boring movie ever made, along comes The Code Conspiracy. In the beginning of the film, Warner talks about evolution being related to the passage of time. Well, time stands still when you watch the movie. I can’t remember how many times I hit the “DISPLAY” button on my DVD remote. I don’t know why I bothered, because every time I hit the button, only a few minutes had passed. And believe me, those few minutes felt like an eternity. Heck, even when I dozed off on the movie, when I woke up I was disappointed to learn that mere minutes had passed.

The Code Conspiracy is also really cheap looking. There is next to no action and a lot of the movie takes place in someone’s living room and/or office, which makes it look like the director filmed the flick at his mom’s house. They at least had the budget to get Warner, Maria Conchita Alonso, and Lou Rawls, but they only appear fleetingly. What’s worse is that there’s a scene where Alonso says she’s going to go into the hot tub naked, but they never show it.

If there had been a terrible CGI monster in this movie, I may have been charitable and given it at least a Half Star. As it is, The Code Conspiracy is one big bore. The only thing it has going for it is the scene where Warner disguises himself as a rabbi. Other than that, the whole flick is 109 minutes of Cinematic Ambien.

In the end, The Code Conspiracy doesn’t prove the existence of God, but it sure as shit proves that Satan is alive and well and making boring ass movies.

THE CHANGE-UP (2011) **

As a fan of ‘80s body-switching comedies, I was looking forward to this. I dig Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman. And with guys like that switching bodies, how could it possibly go wrong? In many, many ways I’m afraid.

Bateman plays an uptight lawyer and family man. Reynolds plays his stoner movie actor friend. One night they piss in a fountain and wish they had each other’s lives. Naturally, the wish comes true and they switch bodies. Predictably, Reynolds learns how to be a responsible guy while Bateman learns how to loosen up a bit.

The Change-Up is jam-packed with gross-out humor, but none of it works very well. The stuff that revolves around Bateman and his twin babies is especially dire and the scenes of reckless child endangerment are rather pathetic. I know you’ll all tell me I should lighten up, but the scenes of babies playing with knives and sticking their faces into light sockets just didn’t sit well with me. Not only is it in poor taste, it’s just not funny.

There is one scene in particular that is just plain wrong. It comes when Bateman is changing his kid’s diaper and it shits in his face. As a father, I could relate to this scene if it was done right. But as filmed, it’s just gross for the sake of being gross. All I have to say about this scene is that I hope whoever was in charge of doing the special effects seriously questioned his line of work when he was asked to CGI a baby’s butthole and make projectile shit erupt out of it.

And speaking of CGI, all of the nudity in the film is CGI, so what is the fucking point? I mean you have world class hotties like Olivia Wilde and Leslie Mann in your movie. If they don’t want to get naked… fine. But if you CGI shots of them being topless, it’s cheating. I hope this isn’t a trend that continues into the future.

I did enjoy the two lead performances. (Although I will say that Reynolds does a better job at playing Bateman than Bateman does at playing Reynolds.) I just wish they had better material to work with. Sure, they have some good moments sprinkled here and there. There are even flashes of an infinitely better movie hiding on the edges of the film. But the rampant over the top gross-out humor just isn’t funny and cripples the movie. Sometimes, less is more.

And speaking of less is more, there is no earthly reason this thing needed to be two hours long. Yes, you heard me, TWO HOURS. A stupid body-switching comedy has no business being 90 minutes long, let alone 120.