DVD Review: Screaming in High Heels (2011)
Review by Annie Riordan
Oh, 1980s. You crazy decade, with your cold wars and your leg warmers and your WHAM! songs and your big hair. Yes you had your faults, but I choose to remember only the good times we shared, especially those golden summers spent roaming the aisles of the closet-sized video store across the street. It was dark, hadn’t been dusted in years and had wire racks covered with sticky puddles of solidified soda. You actually had to peel the video you wanted off of the shelf with considerable force, and risked disturbing a sleeping Daddy Long Legs in the process. But it was worth it. The 80s was the Golden Age of Shit, sagging beneath the weight of hundreds – thousands! – of direct-to-video horror movies with garish covers, ridiculous titles and big-titted scream queens. The 70s may have belonged to Jamie Lee Curtis, but the 80s were ruled by a Triumvirate of Topless Temptresses, better known as Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer. It is to them that this hour long documentary is entirely dedicated.
And it’s about time. No hardcore horror fan worth their salt will dispute the fact that Quigley, Stevens and Bauer were the pillars of the low budget horror community back in the day. It’s just common knowledge. Cookies are good. Koalas are cute. Quigley, Stevens and Bauer are Goddesses of the B movie scene. See? But no one has ever really asked “Why?” Granted, most people were too busy staring at their lacy panties and bursting bosoms to give a fat shit “Why” they had attained such fame – it was enough that they had, and were perfectly willing to oil up their bosoms and wiggle on cue. But there’s hundreds of Hollywood hopefuls stripping off for the camera every day. There always were and there always will be. What made this particular threesome stick out? (pun intended)
Though only a mere hour long, this seedy, sticky little shockumentary which reeks of the 80s takes the time to delve into each actresses background, from humble beginnings (Quigley was a shy Iowa farmgirl) to failed career aspirations (Stevens wanted to be a marine biologist) to perfectly timed happenstances (Bauer was pumping gas for a living when she answered an ad for “Body Models – $75 a day!”).
From there, the film jumps right into the Jello and starts wiggling, covering the early films (how is it that I’ve never seen Savage Streets?) and on into their famous collaborations, including the cult classic Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama and, my personal favorite, Nightmare Sisters – just because I so love the little pink dress, pigtails and oversized lollipop combo that Stevens dons at one point. I’ve always wanted an outfit like that. Wait, is that weird?
Without even meaning to, these three hot babes carved out their own niche in the film industry, not just because they got naked, jiggled and acted dumb – although they did a lot of that too. They had fun doing it and that sense of fun spilled over the celluloid and infected the audience. These were girls you could hang out with, have a few beers with, maybe even bang! In the 80s, guys could fantasize all they wanted about Morgan Fairchild and Heather Locklear, but they damn well knew they didn’t have a chance in hell with either. However, Linnea, Brinke and Michelle seemed somehow more real, more accessible, as if you could pop next door and fully expect it to be answered by one or all three, wearing lacy teddies, giggling and holding a bowl of popcorn.
The other thing I love about this documentary is its sketchy quality. No attempt is made to clean up the clips featured, and they’re shown with all of their static, bad lighting and shitty out-of-focus awesomeness. It’s like sitting in a private booth, watching a stag strip that’s been smeared by years of jizz, lubricant and Cheeto dust. It’s awesome, on a par with those sticky video store shelves.
These three chicks did for slasher films what Bettie Page did for the pin-up industry: they made it friendly, fun and memorable, within reach of the average fan. They’ve earned their place in history, and Screaming In High Heels is here to remind you of that fact, lest you forget.
Screaming in High Heels is on Region 1 DVD on August 28th, from Breaking Glass Pictures/Vicious Circle Films. (For a similarly gleeful alternate response, see Ben’s review.)