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Fred Olen Ray
Gunnar Hansen, Linnea Quigley, Jay Richardson, Dawn Wildsmith, Michelle Bauer, Esther Elise
Writing Credits:
Fred Olen Ray, T.L. Lankford

They charge an arm and a leg!

One of the few sleaze-horror movies that actually delivers on the lurid promise of its title (and what a title!), this trashy treasure from the irrepressible Fred Olen Ray also sports a classic exploitation cast, toplined by "Scream Queen" Linnea Quigley. Quigley plays a cute young runaway whose desperate dive into the Hollywood prostitution racket lands her smack in the middle of a demonic chainsaw death-cult, presided over by none other than Texas Chainsaw Massacre's "Leatherface," Gunnar Hansen. This deliberately over-the-top item makes no pretense about its primary mission - the display of female nudity and severed body parts - and comes through with flying colors, so to speak. Highlights include a decidedly un-subtle cross-dressing hooker, an Elvis-loving cultist who covers her movie posters with plastic before chainsawing her next john, a victim's-eye view of a chainsaw attack, and a body-painted Quigley performing the "Virgin Dance of the Double Chainsaws!"

Box Office:
$23 thousand.

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 75 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 8/5/08

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Fred Olen Ray and Writer TL Lankford
• “Making Of” Featurette
• Trailer
• Original “Nite Owl Theater” Episode


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

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Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers: 20th Anniversary Edition (1988)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 31, 2008)

While it might be possible for a flick called Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers not to take a relentlessly tongue in cheek approach to its subject, the 1988 cult classic definitely doesn’t avoid the campiness implied by its title. Prostitutes in Hollywood start to chop up clients, and private detective Jack Chandler (Jay Richardson) finds himself on their trail.

Chandler ends up on this path when runaway Sam Kelso’s (Linnea Quigley) parents hire him to find her. It turns out she’s one of the chainsaw killers, but she’s not the only one. Chandler discovers a cult behind the crimes and tries to dig deeper into this crazy series of murders.

Over the last 20 years, I guess Hookers has earned a reputation as a “great” “B” movie. I put “great” in quotes because no one believes the film achieves any form of true greatness. All involved realize it’s objectively a cheesy, tacky film, but they find its charm comes from its over the top nature.

Hookers combines the horror and film noir genres as it creates a rollicking spoof – or at least that’s what it hopes to do. Personally, I don’t think it succeeds. Once you get past its wacky title and theme, the film lacks much real cleverness or creativity. Its plot seems incidental to the action. The story exists as an excuse for nudity and over the top violence, both of which it delivers.

But that’s about all the flick gives us. I think its tone is a problem, as movies like this are interesting only if they take themselves at least slightly seriously. Hookers can’t decide if it’s an embrace of “B”-movie goofiness or a parody of the genre, but it does know that it’s intentionally campy and absurd. Some may dig the way the film winks at its audience, but I think it doesn’t work. For my money, “so bad it’s good” movies only work when they end up that way by accident. This one emulates those movies, and by doing so, lacks their charm. It’s like seeing an REO Speedwagon cover band; the original stinks other than for its cheese value, so a copy of that original feels pointless and silly.

I suppose the spoof format potentially forgives a lot of flaws. Is the acting intentionally bad or are the terrible performances part of the gag? I lean toward the former, as I doubt most of the cast could act their way out of the proverbial paper bag. The film’s desire to spoof tacky movies does complicate matters, though; it’s tough to tell what’s intentionally crummy and what’s just weak filmmaking.

Again, I tilt toward the concept that Hookers is a poorly made flick that tries to spoof poorly made flicks. Fans of this kind of stuff will disagree; 20 years after its release, Hookers still boasts a cult audience, so clearly someone likes it. Maybe I’m just not enough of a fan of drive-in cinema to embrace it, because Hookers does nothing for me.

The DVD Grades: Picture D/ Audio D/ Bonus B

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although I don’t expect much from a 20-year-old low-budget flick like Hookers, the result disappointed nonetheless.

Source flaws created a consistent concern and seemed awfully heavy for a flick from 1988. I witnessed many instances of specks, blotches, marks, green vertical lines, and other forms of debris. An awful lot of these problems arose throughout the movie, and we occasionally encountered jumps from missing frames.

Colors were another concern. Skin tones tended to seem awfully orange, and the other hues appeared murky and heavy. Blacks were too dense, and shadows demonstrated mediocre delineation at best. Low-light shots were usually rather bland.

Sharpness had issues as well. Some parts of the movie showed decent delineation, but much of the film seemed soft and flat. I also witnessed occasional shots that looked blocky and rough. At times the movie showed reasonable definition, but not often. At least it lacked edge enhancement, but that was pretty much the only positive I could find here. According to the disc’s commentary, the original source footage is missing and this print was the best the producers could do. I appreciate that, but this remained a poor image nonetheless.

If you hope for more from the monaural audio of Hookers, you’ll remain disappointed. Speech was erratic. Some lines appeared reasonably natural, but most varied from dull and flat to harsh and edgy. Effects fell into the same realm, as those elements tended to be screechy and rough.

Music fared no better. The examples of score and songs were tinny and without any life. I can forgive the poor audio more than the weak visuals, but this track still left me cold.

At least Hookers comes with a mix of extras. We open with an audio commentary from writer/director Fred Olen Ray and writer TL Lankford. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They discuss cast and crew, shooting on a low budget with a very short schedule, sets and locations, the script and their collaboration, and a mix of other connected topics.

I might not like the movie, but I think this commentary provides a lot of fun. Ray dominates the chat and proves consistently informative and entertaining. Both he and Lankford go with a “no holds barred” approach, so don’t worry about self-censorship; when a guy tells us that his wife just got “big fake tits” before the movie’s premiere, you know he’s pretty open. The commentary offers plenty of good notes about the flick and simply turns into a very enjoyable experience.

Next comes a 23-minute and 18-second Making of Featurette. It includes remarks from Ray and actors Linnea Quigley and Michelle Bauer. The show looks at the flick’s origins and path to the screen, cast and crew, budgetary and production constraints, stunts, the movie’s legacy, and general stories from the shoot.

Ray covers so much during his commentary that inevitable repetition occurs here. Nonetheless, we get plenty of fun tales, and the inclusion of the two actors helps. Ray continues to dominate, but Quigley and Bauer throw in more than enough good material to justify their inclusion. Expect an entertaining piece here.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a five-minute and eight-second episode of Night Owl Theater. This was a promotional attempt by “Retromedia” and it was created a few years ago. Ray introduces a film and talks about a “free stuff” program discontinued in 2003. It’s insubstantial, but there’s a little skin, and we get to meet Fred’s wife Kim and her “big fake tits”, so it’s worth a look.

Consistently campy and silly, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers seems to work for fans of “drive-in cinema”. Personally, I think the movie tries too hard to be wacky and over the top, as it’s too self-conscious about its genre trappings. The DVD presents consistently poor picture and audio but it offers some nice extras highlighted by an excellent audio commentary. I don’t think much of the movie or its presentation here, but I expect fans will want to check out the DVD if just for that commentary.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 3
0 3:
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