An accident en route to a Rocky Horror screening left Judge Paul Pritchard screaming in high heels.
The Rise and Fall of the Screen Queen Era.
Screaming in High Heels, director Jason Paul Collum's affectionate look back at the evolution of the B-movie, is sure to please those with a fondness for cinema's filthy hobo cousin: the direct-to-video horror flick. Beginning with a discussion on how the video stores of the 1980s took the place of the drive-in theatre as the new home of cult cinema, the film explores the evolution of the genre through the careers of three of its most celebrated "scream queens": Brinke Stevens (Nightmare Sisters), Michelle Bauer (Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers), and Linnea Quigley (The Return of the Living Dead).
Collum's documentary primarily focuses on the output of the eighties and early nineties, and draws attention to the numerous controversies that film's like Silent Night, Deadly Night caused at the time of their release. Coinciding with this are interviews with the three leading ladies that add a personal touch, as they recall being at the center of the storm. Each of these actresses are incredibly engaging, and offer remarkably candid accounts of their careers. It's interesting to see how they came into the film industry, and how their lives were forever changed. It's likely many people's perceptions of these ladies will be changed by their revelations.
Of all the insights we are privy to, it's the effect of fame—or more accurately the effect of obsessive fans—on their lives that is most interesting. Clearly being a scream queen has its downsides, as some of the more troubling behavior is not what one would expect a relatively unknown actress to endure.
As someone who is always on the look out for a forgotten cult gem, I found Screaming in High Heels to be a wonderful introduction to a whole host of movies I must confess to never having heard of, but will be seeking out immediately. I've no doubt the likes of Nightmare Sisters or Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers are pure trash…but man do they look like fun. It's pleasing then that Collum was able to get the rights to include footage from so many of these titles, to further wet our appetite. It also helps to break up the endless parade of talking heads.
The standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation of Screaming in High Heels is a mixed bag, due solely to the numerous sources used. The footage filmed for the documentary itself is very good, with a sharp clean image. The various pieces of footage taken from the likes of Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers and its ilk is less impressive; though considering few, if any, of these films have been given pristine remasterings, this isn't exactly unexpected. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo track does its job, and delivers clear dialogue and nothing more.
Bonus features are made up of additional interviews with numerous contributors to the documentary, which could have easily been included into the documentary to help flesh out the main feature. We also get interviews with Brinke Stevens and Linnea Quigley at the Flashback Weekend, giving brief insight into the life of a B-movie actress working the horror convention circuit.
My only real complaint with Screaming in High Heels—and it's a fairly important grumble—is that, at 63-minutes, the film just doesn't have the time to go as in-depth as I would have liked. In effect, it feels more like a very well made DVD extra than a standalone piece. Though key points are covered, Collum is only able to scratch the surface of B-movie cinema. Still, this is a fun look back at the golden age of schlock horror, and the personal touch added by Stevens, Bauer, and Quigley helps it stand out.
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