Pop Culture Gadabout
Friday, August 22, 2008
      ( 8/22/2008 06:19:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"BEING A DICK IS A TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR-A-DAY JOB." Look at a title like Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers and you pretty much know what you're gonna get: buxom starlets, severed limbs, a shoestring budget and plenty of intentional and/or unintentional camp. The creation of fecund exploitation moviemaker wrestler Fred Olen Ray, Hookers has recently been released in a snappy new 20th anniversary Retromedia DVD edition which advertizes it as "The Original Grindhouse Classic." Despite the Grindhouse appellation, this flick has no legit connection to the Tarantino/Rodriguez camp, though Fred does tack the same cheesy retro "Feature Presentation" opener before his flick that appeared with Death Proof and Planet Terror. Vaguely dishonest? Sure. Well in keeping with the dictates of z-movie hucksterism? Also, sure.

Ray's movie concerns an unshaven "private dick" named Jack Chandler (Jay Richardson) who is hired to find an Oxnard runaway named Samantha (scream queen Linnea Quigley) on the streets of L.A. Sam, it turns out, has hooked up with a chainsaw-wielding cult of streetwalkers led by burly Gunnar Hansen (the original Leatherface – much less creepy as an Anubis-worshipping high priest than he is squealing like a pig). Though our wisecracking narrator Chandler points out the movie's core absurdity – the fact that a self-described "ancient" cult would utilize modern chainsaws ("Who do you pray to? Black and Decker?") – the movie blithely refuses to cobble together even a flimsy defense of itself. Forget it, Jack, it's just Los Angeles.

The whole nonsensical shmear ends in a seedy warehouse temple where we get to watch a drugged-out body-painted Quigley dance the Virgin (hah!) Dance of the Double Chainsaws, then duel the cult's high priestess with one of the saws. To those who recall Miz Q.'s memorable topless graveyard dance in Return of the Living Dead, the dance is a bit of a letdown, but, then, it's hard to move sensually when you've got a heavy power tool in both hands. Ray ends his flick leaving room for a sequel, but to the best of my knowledge he never followed up on this. Guess he said all he had to in the first 'un.

Of course, the burning question in the minds of most would-be Hookers viewers is, "Do we get any nekkid gurls with 'saws in this flick?" Yup, we surely do. Ray obliges with two – count 'em! – two agreeably blood-drenched murder sequences as cult members first seduce than dismember a burly construction worker and a nerdy bow-tied perv. In one of the movie's cuter moments, the lunatic Mercedes (Michele Bauer, here billed as Michelle McLellan) covers an Elvis poster with plastic sheeting to protect it from the impending spatter as her handcuffed beau Bo (Jimmy Williams) cluelessly watches. The lady may worship Anubis, but Elvis is still the King.

The new 20th anniversary DVD comes with a commentary track by Ray and his co-writer T.L. Lankford, a "making of" documentary that primarily consists of the director standing in front of a curtain and talking into the camera, plus an episode of "Nite Owl Theater," one of the pre-Morella-styled introductory sequences that Ray filmed with his wife Kimberly Ray for earlier Retromedia DVDs. In the documentary, Ray (who also has a series of soft-core sex comedies to his credit under the name of Nicholas Medina) reveals that the film was initially funded by an adult film company looking to go legit. Now that's funny . . .
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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