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Case Number 27478: Small Claims Court

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Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988)

RetroMedia // 1988 // 75 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // June 13th, 2014

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All Rise...

Judge Gordon Sullivan is more of a hacksaw hooker.

The Charge

The original grindhouse classic.

The Case

There are legends told that Roger Corman would often his choose projects based on little more than a title, a poster, and a tagline. To him, the film was secondary. Corman was in the job of selling movies, and it's easier to sell a bad film with a good poster/title combo than it is to sell genius with bad publicity. Other exploitation filmmakers have followed his lead, crafting titles that simply beg viewers to pull them off the shelves…at least in the days of VHS. There are, to fans of horror and "bad" movies, a handful of immortal titles. Whether you've seen the films or not, titles like Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers are infamous. Rare, though, is the film that can live up to its outlandish title, making this one doubly remarkable. Fans new and old can now appreciate the film with this excellent 20th Anniversary Edition.

Jack Chandler (Jay Richardson, Wizards of the Demon Sword) is an LA private investigator looking for Samantha (Linnea Quigley, Night of the Demons), a runaway. Like many runaways, Samantha has become involved with a cult, but instead of the usual sex or money loving group, this one is different. These ladies are hookers who wield chainsaws in service of The Master (Gunnar Hansen, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre).

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is a perfect storm of late '80s exploitation filmmaking. First, you've got a softcore porn studio looking to go more mainstream. They don't want to completely throw over their previous expertise, but they know that horror films sell. So, they hire noted schlock-auteur Fred Olen Ray to director. Previously known for Demented Death Farm Massacre, Ray is the perfect choice, and he stocks his film was the perfect actors. Linnea Quigley was already a scream queen by the time of Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, and her experience brings a lot to the film. In contrast, Micheel Bauer had yet to really break out, but this film made her a bit of a cult star. Finally, Mr. Chainsaw himself, Gunnar Hansen is perfectly cast as The Master, bringing the right amount of exploitation cred to the role.

But what exactly do we get? Well, no one will be surprised to find that there are indeed prostitutes with chainsaws in the film. Highlights include lots of gratuitous, '80s nudity. We've got teased hair and that kind of high-cut lingerie that seemed so prevalent back then. Then there's the violence. The Egyptian nature of the cult seems a nice nod to the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis, and the fact that they all wield chainsaws is a nice nod to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. In case anyone couldn't figure it out from the title, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is a comedy, and most of the violence is more cartoonish than anything. Still, the film isn't afraid to douse the screen in blood and body parts. Finally, the last element worth mentioning is the use of the chainsaws, which culminates in an awkwardly beautiful "Virgin Dance of the Chainsaws," which has to be seen to be believed.

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers gets a decent 20th anniversary DVD release. The film's 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is generally clean and bright, mastered from the original 35mm negative. It's in pretty good shape, and for a low budget film of the era, this is as good as it's going to look in standard def. The Dolby 2.0 Mono track does a fine job with the dialogue, but it's not a spectacular track.

Ported over from the previous DVD release we have a 23 minute making-of featurette that talks to the expected participants (with Quigley and Bauer as the most entertaining). The film's original trailer is also included here. New to this edition is a commentary from Fred Olen Ray himself, along with co-screenwriter T.I. Lankford. Those familiar with his work know him to be talkative, and a tireless advocate for microbudget cinema. One gets the sense, listening to the commentary, that Ray has put as much effort into it as he did into the process of filming.

Of course Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is a bad film, that's kind of the point. But, if somehow you don't realize that, you're in for a world of bad acting, poor special effects, gratuitous nudity, and lots of bad humor. On the flip side, it might be a bit tame for some. In a perfect world, Ray would have had more than $50k for a budget and a week to film. In that world, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers would have a bit more gore and even more salacious content. As it is, those looking for a depraved film will be disappointed by the relatively tame one offered here.

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers deserves the infamy granted by its title. Filled with goofy nudity, strange violence, and a wacky premise, the film is sure to scratch the exploitation itch for those with nostalgia for the '80s. This 20th Anniversary Edition adds a commentary, so fans may want to double dip.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 88

Perp Profile

Studio: RetroMedia
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• None
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Comedy
• Exploitation
• Horror
• Independent

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary
• Featurette
• Trailer


• IMDb

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