As the poster above says "a Jason Paul Collum scream come true", Screaming In High Heels The Rise And Fall Of The Scream Queen Era is clearly a labour of love for Collum, who not only wrote, produced and directed the documentary but also appears as an enthusiastic talking head throughout. For the most part the film is an excellent treatment of it's subject, a subject that has been screaming (sorry!) out to be tackled in just this kind of way.
Setting out to tell the story of the mid to late 80's boom in B movies, filtered through the lives and careers of three of the most recognisable starlets of the period, Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer. Collum's film also prominently features two of the most prolific directors of these actresses, Fred Olen Ray and David DeCoteau, in movies such as Slave Girls Beyond Infintity, Sorority Babes In The Slimeball Bowl-a-rama (known to UK audiences under the far less exciting name of The Imp.) and perhaps most famously Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers. Films that combined wild titles that always promised more than the movie could deliver, gratuitous nudity, terrible puns and occasional violence on tiny budgets.
If I have a criticism of Screaming In High Heels, it's that the film tries to cram a little too much into it's hour or so running time and leaves parts of the story lacking in detail. It begins by covering the decline of the US institution of the Drive In cinema and the subsequent rise of home video as its replacement in fulfilling the needs of exploitation film fans in particular. From there we move onto how the three girls got started in the film business, with some interesting soundbites and clips from the early works of the scream queens, including the revelation that Linnea Quigley was painfully shy! Hard to believe, right? And footage of Bauer in a Playboy video called Flashdancers, complete with New Order's Blue Monday on the soundtrack.
|As they were|
Unfortunately, as with most things, the good times have to come to an end and for Quigley, Bauer and Stevens a combination of three things ended their success. Firstly, the market being flooded with scream queen wannabes, secondly, huge changes in the video industry, namely the proliferation of the massive chain video store such as Blockbuster and thirdly, the inevitable march of time itself. The girls do little to hide their feelings of bitterness on the wannabes, who they feel destroyed the convention circuit for them by ripping off the genuine fans.
Finally we're brought up to date with what the girls did next and this part is a little vague, with Stevens still being active in the horror scene but in micro budget features. Quigley similarly is still active but has done fewer films, having taken time out to care for her sick mother. Bauer says she has largely given the acting up but a quick look on imdb shows she is also still active but to a lesser extent.
Collum does a great job highlighting the three distinctly different personalities he's working with and each has great moments, such as discussing their families reactions to the films they starred in. He has also dug up some excellent clips including a segment on the controversy surrounding the killer Santa flick Silent Night, Deadly Night (in which a topless Quigley is famously featured), with Gene Siskel denouncing first the TV advert and then the movie itself on TV, alongside footage of a protest outside a cinema showing the film (pictured below).
As a teenager during this period, at the time these movies were appearing I was already obsessed with film, working my way through the horror and splatter classics, alongside a burgeoning interest in the Hong Kong cinema I grew to love so much. At the same time I was taking in what I could find from the likes of Kurosawa, Leone, Lynch etc. My appetite for film was voracious and I wasn't particularly picky, so I was quite happy to mix the class with the trash. When these films appeared on the local video store shelves, many of which were from Colourbox video in the UK, I couldn't resist the titles, the gaudy cover art or the fact many of them featured Quigley who I was already a fan of from her appearance in Return Of The Living Dead. I enjoyed them on their own terms, recognising the limitations and embracing them as fun trash, the repetition of the leading ladies certainly helped and added personality (not to mention copious nudity!) if not exactly brilliant acting ability. Sometimes personality is more important than ability and in these movies, this was definitely the case.
|As they are now|
Whatever your opinion of the movies themselves, if you are of a certain age Screaming In High Heels is guaranteed to take you on a nostalgia trip, back in time to the late 80's, and despite the fact it could have gone deeper on the lives of the girls, that was more than enough for me to love it.