Thursday, 6 July 2017
Rent raunchy and ridiculous from the mind of B-movie exploitation legend Fred Olen Ray (the helmer of such delights as Beverly Hills Vamp , Scream Queen Hot Tub Party  and Ghost in a Teeny Bikini ), Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (released on VHS in the UK as simply 'Hollywood Hookers' but with a picture of a chainsaw in between the two words due to the ridiculous edicts of the 1980s and '90s James Ferman-headed BBFC and their bizarre fear of the word 'chainsaw' due to a certain Lone Star State set power tool spree themed motion picture and its continued status as a 'video nasty') is a title that gripped me when i was twelve years old back in 1992 and got my first issue of The Dark Side magazine. Having loved horror, fantasy, SF and basically anything genre since i was a tiny toddler, discovering film magazines that catered to the more Mondo Bizarro side of cinema was a revelatory experience back in the pre-interwebs age, opening up brave new worlds of directors such as Ed Wood, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Lindsay Shonteff and - of course - Fred Olen Ray, an interview with whom was carried in that first issue that i owned. Even as a (just) pre-teen, i found the notion of chainsaw wielding sexy ladies enticing: what could stimulate the imagination of a boy who's hormones have just begun to run wild like a video box image of a lingerie-clad Michelle Bauer wielding a buzzing saw like a sexy Ash from Evil Dead (not that Bruce Campbell isn't a handsome guy: i can appreciate stuff like that now i'm older)?
Obviously my young bad self went on a mission to seek out such movies, and thanks to a local video shop with a very lax policy on film rating certificates (i think the guy only refused to let me rent one movie ever: i think it was a volume of Electric Blue, so he may have had a point) i soon came home from school after a stop-off at said VHS and Betamax emporium with a copy of the truncatedly-titled Colourbox Video release clutched in my clammy little palms. I'm pretty sure i quite enjoyed it, but i was bound to at that age, when the worth of a motion picture was judged on the amount of 'killings' and 'boobies' above anything else. So i watched it again for the first time in 25 years last night, just out of curiosity of course, and wondered what my sophisticated Tarkovsky and Bunuel-appreciating older self would make of it.
Setting the gleefully tongue in cheek tone of the whole thing, the flick opens with a caption warning that the "CHAINSAWS used in this Motion Picture are REAL and DANGEROUS! They are handled here by seasoned PROFESSIONALS. The makers of this Motion Picture advise strongly against anyone attempting to perform these stunts at home. Especially if you are naked and about the engage in strenuous SEX." So, fair warning there as well as a taste of the gleefully crazed goods to come.
The tale is narrated in flash back by Jay Richardson (star of many of Olen Ray's other adventures in filmmaking, such as Haunting Fear , Wizards of the Demon Sword  and Teenage Cavegirl  ) as a '40s style gumshoe - opening the way for many a "private dick" joke ("That's what this town has been needing for a long time - an honest dick!") - with the archetypal pulp-noir name of Jack Chandler, filling us in on the Meaty Deetz of his latest case with a voiceover that seems like Humphrey Bogart's Sam Spade with an even more sardonic streak and a teenager's sense of humour, or even Harrison Ford's mumblings over the original 1982 cinematic cut of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (and curse the Director's and Final Cuts, i LIKED the film noir narration...) if he'd had a penchant for puerile puns. Chandler has been hired by Mrs Kelso of Oxnard, Southern California to find her runaway daughter Samantha (Linnea Quigley, scream queen star of many a fright flick including Silent Night, Deadly Night [Charles E. Sellier Jr., 1984], Return of the Living Dead [Dan O' Bannon, 1985], Night of the Demons [Kevin Tenney, 1988]) who's fled home to get lost in the bright lights of the big City of Angels. His inquiries bring him into the orbit of a Satanist / Ancient Egyptian chainsaw cult led by The Master (Leatherface himself of Tobe Hooper's iconic 1974 Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Gunnar Hansen) and his harem of hacksaw whores including crazed 'Cuisinart Queen' Lori (Dawn Wildsmith, who was at the time the current Mrs Olen Ray - appearing in many of Fred's flicks such as 1986's The Tomb, 1988's The Phantom Empire and 1990's Alienator, before her own alienation and divorce saw her replaced in Fred's next flurry of films by his then current crush, Brinke Stevens), slinky baseball bat beating brunette Lisa (Esther Elise, Vampire at Midnight [Gregory McClatchy, 1988]) and the fabulous "built for comfort, not speed" with "great headlights" Mercedes, played by Michelle Bauer (appearing here as 'Michelle McLellan', one of Ms Bauer's many monikers across the movies including 'Michelle McClendon', 'Kim Bittner', and for her early naughty stuff 'Pia Snow' [i can heartily recommend the pseudonymous Ms Snow's leading role in the thoroughly strange 1982 sci-fi porn classic Cafe Flesh, directed by the amazingly named Rinse Dream]).
Our introduction to Mercedes is pretty unforgettable as she picks up construction worker Bo (Jimmy Williams) in "the kind of dark, quiet, sleazy place where dark, quiet sleazy things happen". and escorts (DO YOU SEE?) him back to her personalised motel room replete with wall-mounted shrine to the King of Rock 'n' Roll himself. After settling her perplexed punter down on the bed with a drink, she switches on the music to dance whilst disrobing to the strains of Elvis, and continues her sensuous striptease whilst all the while placing plastic sheeting over the pictures of Presley and donning a shower cap - it's great that naked sexy murderers are aware of the perils of splatter stains If it's wrong to think that the crazed manic grin on her face as she revs up her chainsaw is hot, then i just do not want to be right. Po' Bo is very soon in pieces over the whole thing of course, and the physical comedy as his groping hand reaches Mercedes' blood-spattered breast as she carves him up, only for her to pull the now-severed appendage away and toss it over her shoulder whilst continuing to euphorically and orgasmically dismember him is a grin-inducing companion piece to all the gleeful gore.
"Blood plus breasts equals brilliant!", decides my twelve year old self. For all the thin veneer of adulthood i may have built up over the years, the kid's onto something pointing out the primal power of such a sanguinary mammary conflagration.
Chandler's investigatory trial leads him to an assignation with Mercedes, in a scene wherein the flirtatious banter doesn't exactly go for Bogie and Bacall levels of undercurrent subtlety ("Jack," she purrs with a snarl, "i'm going to fuck your brains out", to which he dramatically gulps and says in a 'Thinks' inner monologue "I didn't like the sound of that..."). During all of this, Jack notices through his booze-infused haze that the blonde stripper gyrating on the stage of the nightclub wherein their assignation is taking place is the missing girl he's been assigned to search for.
"You could have knocked me over with a pubic hair. There she was: Samantha Kelso, humping it out on that little stage for anyone who could stick a buck down her pants."
Having espied his Quigley quarry, our distracted detective suddenly realises that his drink has been Mickey Finned by Mercedes, and thinks "I guess i should have been looking at the glass instead of the ass - that'll teach me" as he collapses into unconsciousness, only to awaken as a prisoner of the coven of call girls ("If my head wasn't hurting so much, i'd have sworn i was in Heaven - Heaven for guys who like big tits"). Tied to a motel bed, Jack finds himself involved in perhaps the strangest Bond villain confrontation on film as he's greeted by Hansen's mysterious dark and bearded Master, replete with sub-Fleming dialogue. "We're very honoured to have you here, Mister... Chandler" intones the man with the masterplan as he explains his belief system to a bemused gumshoe. "What do you do?", asks Chandler, "pray to Black & Decker?", his insistence that Ancient Egypt "never had chainsaws back then" rebuffed with "But there were the Chainsaws of the Gods!" and an insistence that flesh must be sacrificed to appease these eldritch deities to which the cult prays.
Finally captured and taken to the sacred temple of the slasher slappers, Jack finds himself the sacrificial offering in this cut-price cut 'em to pieces Temple of Doom as an enslaved Samantha, drugged with the 'Blood of Anubis' and her near-naked body elaborately painted with serpents, dances the Virgin Dance of the Double Chainsaws - a routine wherein she sinuously slithers her body whilst swinging powerful tree-felling equipment in each hand. Which is certainly interesting, but the scene does perhaps go on a little bit too long. Or at least it seems to, but then time is not Linnea. Oh, ho ho. That was funny when i was twelve, too.
Like Indiana Jones, though, Samantha manages to break through the conditioning which has made her "at one with the Gods" and turn her chainsaw on the Master (possibly because even in a film as absurd as this, his pronunciation of "Horus" sounding like he was making sacrifices to some guy called Horace kind of of spoiled the whole incantation bit) - thoroughly disemboweling him before engaging in a final lightsabre-style chainsaw battle with Mercedes ending with buckets of blood blasting from Bauer's breasts as the temple of the titular trollops topples.
"They never did find the guy who called himself the Master", Chandler V.O.'s, seemingly setting the scene for a never to be seen sequel, I mean, sure, i saw Sam giving him an unscheduled appendectomy, but something deep down inside tells me we hadn't seen the last of him...". You had. Look, it was a fun hour and fifteen minutes, but let's not spoil things, eh? No, i'm not sad that Student Chainsaw Nurses never materialised. Well, not any more. I've had two and a half decades to deal with that disappointment. So, then: a film that i pruriently preferred a long, low time ago - and still found fun yesterday. I guess over the last two and a half decades, i haven't grown up all that much after all.