Judge Bill Gibron is not necessarily "hip," has never been considered "hot," and is a couple decades away from being 21. Yet he received enough hot thrills to recommend the warm chills of this delightful Something Weird double feature.
Hairbrained Hellcats Crazed for Crime!
With an upcoming arranged marriage hanging over her head, Diane McClunkey decides to whine incessantly for minutes on end until her pappy relents. Since Dad is someone who rarely changes his overalls, let alone his mind, it's not long before Diane is handed over to her preplanned paramour—but not before we get an extended exchange filled with lame fornication entendres. Thereafter things move rather quickly in Diane's life. She's married, interrupted on her wedding night, dumped the morning after, and suddenly part of a dope-selling syndicate. In between, she meets up with one of the most instantly unlikeable characters in the history of cinema, exploitation or otherwise—Lousy Pervert Ernie. A drooling, deranged mess, Ernie likes his "fun" on the rough, and routinely fatal, side and he's got Diane, or any number of her barhopping gal pals, in his murderous sights. It will take a foot chase, a gun-slinging shootout with the cops, and a completely gratuitous sequence of table-top go-go dancing to put this perplexing story of a supposedly Hip, Hot and 21-year-old to rest.
Things are a lot less unctuous down in the fabulous French Quarter, and reformed robber Toni wants her gal pals to drink in all the decadence. She has a few freaked-out glamour fits before letting in her former friends and they proceed to dish the dirt about the men who make their life miserable. Kitten tells a story about the bridesmaid who bedded her dim-as-a-dirt-clod husband. She then informs the others about a "gorgeous hunk" of insurance salesman that she planned on porking, only to have her naked roommate Chris steal him away. All Dody has to say is that she's married to a CPA named Lester P. Chester and the conversation immediately turns to crime. See, Toni has one more score for her girl gang and if the others are willing, they plan on procuring the Mardi Gras crown of "King Sex." With the $500K the bauble is worth, they can all fly down to the Caribbean and live like slutty queens. There is only one thing keeping them from a successful haul and it's not their combined single-digit I.Q. No, Toni is all touchy-feely with a local law enforcement officer and when the cops learn of the upcoming larceny, they set up the she-mob. The robbery goes sour, Toni and Dody end up running through the New Orleans streets during the big parade and Chris shows up to provide Hot Thrills and Warm Chills to anyone who's willing.
Violating every tenet of its title, Hip, Hot and 21 is creepy, cold, and as aged as a bucket of bad cheese. Trying for a combination of cornpone and crime, but only delivering more of director Dale Berry's delusions, this film practically foams at the mouth with its rabid ridiculousness. Take the opening setup. Diane doesn't want to leave her home, arguing that she shouldn't be forced into a loveless marriage. Still, once we see the one-room shack that she calls "abode," we wonder why she'd ever want to stay. Her father is a surly cuss who looks like the coughed-up core of a rotten apple, momma's a mountain, and the whole place reeks of a serial killer's secret sanctuary. When we get to the city, things clean up only slightly. Diane hangs around the hags from the local strip club, almost all of whom deal dope for some foreign fop named Al. As she gets in deeper and deeper, we witness a down-and-out junkie kill herself, an asexual bedroom romp featuring the beefiest, most menacing gal ever to put her piggish mug on screen, and an elongated dance number by Russ Meyer star Lorna Maitland. Yet it's at the point where Lousy Pervert Ernie shows up that the film falls off the logical train and derails itself over and over again. This pile of pandering portliness is a less macho Joe Besser with a jones for beating the bejesus out of babes. As he stutters and stammers, pawing at the visiting vixens with saliva-filled seediness, we suddenly feel the need to shower in industrial strength battery acid. Where it was previously a farce with even more mindless underpinnings, the arrival of this slimy sex fiend gives Hip, Hot and 21 an oily snuff film quality. There's not a great deal that Dale Berry can do about it. Since he is a filmmaker who doesn't believe in the simplest of cinematic ideals, like continuity, internal narrative logic, or acting prowess, he is left with the lingering aroma of said filmic feces filling the air.
Just as Lousy Pervert Ernie "made" Hip, Hot and 21, spreading his stink all over the screen, famed NOLA stripper Rita Alexander is the groovy, gratuitous, guiding light of Hot Thrills and Warm Chills. With a voice so Creole you'd swear she was smothered in filé and served with a side of andouille sausage, and hair so teased and tweezed it looks like carnal cotton candy, this drag queen icon wannabe percolates like an out-of-whack coffee pot all throughout this sham of a sex-crime caper. Maybe it's her drawn-in eyebrows, pre-arched in smug surprise. Perhaps it's her stacked-and-racked body particulars. It could also be her advertised talent of balancing cocktail glasses on her bosom (which she does demonstrate). Whatever it is, it's Alexander and her terrifically tacky Toni that keeps us glued to our seats. Another improvement over the previous Berry effort is the attempt at an actual storyline. The entire narrative leads up to the heist and we begin to visualize just how a director like Berry will handle the clockwork concept. The answer is fairly obvious. Since such an elaborate crown caper would require a mansion, some pyrotechnics, and a lot of extras, we never see the deed. Instead, Berry plants a hidden camera among the Mardi Gras crowd and has Alexander and her pal run rampant. Intermittently, a fake cop arrives and fires into the sea of people. We also get one dazzling doozy of a finale. It features Toni, a locked mausoleum, and the approaching dusk. It proves that with the right performer, the proper place, and the slightest amount of skill, anyone can create a compelling sequence of sinister surrealism. While the title may be a bit confusing (can "chills" really be warm???), Berry actually delivers a semi-straightforward film.
Since he's a lesser light in the world of the wanton, Something Weird Video obviously had a hard time locating pristine prints of these films. Both Hip, Hot and 21 and Hot Thrills and Warm Chills are riddled with scratches, loaded with dirt, and occasionally scuttled by inappropriate edits (as if material was removed and then later placed back in). Still, with all these distracting elements, the 1.33:1 full-screen transfers have a crisp, monochrome finish, offering basic black-and-white cinematography in all its light and shadow spectacle. On the sound side, Berry employs some incredibly bizarre backing tracks (call it Pablo Reverie and the Raiders meets a tired Tito Puente) and the Dolby Digital Mono delivers them all in shrill, sonic statements. The dialogue occasionally gets lost in the din, but overall, there's a nice nostalgic ring to the reverberations. As for bonus features, SWV treats us to three archival peep show loops, a trio of trailers featuring fabulous titles like Eat, Drink and Make Merri and Miss Jessica is Pregnant, and a gallery of underground sexploitation movie magazine covers with audio oddities. While nothing here is as instantly memorable as the main features, one of the shorts, something called Cherry Flip, features the unappetizing idea of a naked female soda jerk. Just don't ask where the "hot fudge" comes from and everything will be all right.
So if you're looking for a new exploitation maven to champion, if you've worked your way through the perverted productions of Conde, Novak, and Friedman, if the directing dimensions of Findlay, Wishman, and Sarno have long since stopped satisfying your craving for carnality, if you need a respite from the Mahons and the Cresses and the Campas of the world, Dale Berry just might settle your horny hash. Like a set of corporeal Cliffs Notes, Hip, Hot and 21 and Hot Thrills and Warm Chills deliver more brain busting than groin grabbing, and frequently substitute kitsch and camp for slap and tickle.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Something Weird Video
Review content copyright © 2006 Bill Gibron; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.