A lot of my B horror movie knowledge stems from sleepovers with my friends watching USA Up All Night. Two movies stand out in my memory from those Saturday nights – Flesh Eating Mothers and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama. The latter is a 1988 flick directed by David DeCoteau which starred legendary 80’s scream queens Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens, and Michelle Bauer. The movie scared me, I kid you not. A sadistic imp is let loose from a magical bowling trophy and goes on to wreak havoc in monkey paw fashion. While I must say the movie is actually horrible watching it years later, I am almost certain it subliminally planted something in my brain that led me to later pledge Tri Delta as my sorority in 1997.
Little did I know back in the late 80’s and early 90’s how notable these ladies were and even though I have been exposed to more of their movies over the years, I had no idea where these women truly came from.
Screaming in High Heels: The Rise & Fall of the Scream Queen Era, written and directed by Jason Paul Collum starts with the downfall of the drive-in movie and brings us to the introduction of the home video market. While I wasn’t of age during the real introduction, I definitely remember when the video store down the street opened and those shelves were stocked with menacing covers.
In a way, the films of Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens, and Michelle Bauer are actually more disturbing than big budget movies produced at the same time. The girls have hundreds of films between them and seeing brief clips of them in the documentary – like Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers – definitely brought back more sleepover and video store cover memories. Along with them, directors David DeCoteau, Ken Hall, and Fred Olen are included as well as actors Richard Gabai and Jay Richardson.
What I find most interesting about this simple hour-long documentary is that each of the actresses seems genuinely thrilled to talk about their past. Going into this documentary, I now know I was prejudiced to think that running around topless and screaming was a hard gig. While Linnea Quigley and Michelle Bauer more or less started in the film industry (Bauer starred in X-rated features before moving into mainstream), Brinke Stevens was the one who sort of fell into the job. Stevens had a degree in marine biology before moving into modeling for comic books, which led to films.
The one downfall of this documentary is that the girls are never interviewed together. Though they only worked together on two films, I would’ve loved to see them discussing the world of B-movies together. I’m sure the opportunity was there, and perhaps they were and it was left on the cutting room floor. Speaking of cutting room, the length of the documentary itself seems abrupt. While it took a bit of time for each woman’s past and leading up to their movie debuts, the documentary moved through their movies and seemed to end. An extended cut would probably be worth it, especially for fans.
It’s funny how growing up watching these girls, I never thought their jobs would’ve been tough. They just had to say some lines, show their boobs and scream. Screaming in High Heels: The Rise & Fall of the Scream Queen Era gives substance that forms each of the women into a real person whom I now have a new level of respect for. Even if you aren’t a fan, seeing the history of the genre, these ladies’ past and their struggles – and the ultimate payoff of some creepy cheap films – is definitely worth the watch.