English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Director: Fred Olen Ray Starring: Linnea Quigley, Michelle Bauer, Gunnar Hansen, Jay Richardson Screenplay: Dr S Carver, BJ Nestles Country: USA
The first time I saw Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers was on Joe Bob Brigg's Drive-In Theater, and Michelle Bauer was on as a guest. There was discussion of an early scene, and how much of her ended up on camera. The short version of this review is that this would be a spectacular Blu-ray release, but this key sequence has been compromised, and how important it is to you will decide whether this movie is worth picking up.
The movie is about a private detective who's looking for a missing girl, played by another Scream Queen, Linnea Quigley. Because this is a Fred Olen Ray movie he finds her while she's dancing at a strip club, and he was actually there looking for a chainsaw wielding prostitute, again because this is a Fred Olen Ray movie. The detective's enquiries take him to a cult lead by the original Chain Saw master himself, Gunnar Hansen.
Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is a cheaply done quickie that easily earned its spot on Drive-In Theater by abundantly meeting two of Joe Bob's legendary "Three Bs" requirements, and if you count Hansen as a beast then it meets all three. The boobs and blood are here in force, though. Two other "Bs" are somewhat lacking on this release, and here's where I suddenly turn into an open matte Nazi without ever realising I was one. In Bauer's first scene she strips down and kills a john, and there's a lot of her on display in the version I initially saw. This Blu-ray is cropped to 1.78:1, which may well be the original ratio it was showed at in cinemas, but this release missed a trick in the scene where Bauer doesn't quite turn one. When I first watched the Blu I started questioning my memory, but I pulled out my DVD and my recollection was vindicated. Whereas the viewer will at some point see everything on this Blu, on the old DVD, VHS and television broadcasts there was a lot more of her bush and bum on display. This is particularly apparent in the part of the scene where she deliberately shows the john her ass, but the viewer doesn't see it on screen. I had some trepidation about this release when I read it was 1.78:1, and when I watched this part I felt like an important movie in my pubescent years had been George Lucased. I guess some could argue that longer looks at Bauer's pubes aren't worth all this fuss, but then some could also argue that fuck you. Some might also argue that this transfer was supervised by Fred Olen Ray so the ratio must be correct, but then some could also argue and the horse you rode in on. The displaying it all aspect of the version I first saw undeniably gave this sequence a stark bluntness, and it help set the tone for this unapologetically ridiculous movie.
And make no mistake, this is a silly, silly film. The setup is a satirical film noir following our hero the detective, which allows for plenty of jokes about private dicks. If the tagline, "They charge an arm and a leg!" induces groans this movie probably isn't for you, because puns are as sophisticated as the humour gets. The humorously over the top gore is little more than blood spraying, but sanguine certainly spurts in large quantities when chainsaws meet flesh. I suppose the chainsaw murders are why 88 Films have included it in their Slasher Classics line, despite it not really being a slasher. It's more of a jokey movie about a cult. Unless 88 Films want to release Blood Feast and Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh I guess they don't have enough movies for a separate Cult Comedies line, so a slasher it is (though it's not really).
I think I saw Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers before I'd seen The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but I knew that Hansen had played Leatherface. I just didn't know what he looked like under the mask. I still remember that when he delivered his first line in Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers I felt sorry for the poor schlub that was the worst performer in a film not exactly brimming with talented thespians. It wasn't until the end credits that I realised this guy who had no business in front of the camera was Hansen. Revisiting the film I think my initial critique was too harsh, and that Hansen's acting skills are on a par with some of the other cast members, and are better than the genuine ladies of the night that appear later the film, so he's not the worst after all. I've never really got the appeal of Quigley, but she's the same as usual here. My favourite Scream Queen has always been Bauer, and while I had seen a sanitised for television version of Sorority Babes in the Slime Ball Bowl-A-Rama, my first viewing of Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers was when I first took note of her. Yes, this would be why I'm heartbroken at the cropping of her initial scene, but I still maintain that it's stupid to crop full frontal nudity out of a Scream Queens vehicle!
Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is certainly that rare exploitation film that lives up to its title. It's a ludicrous comedy with nude women chainsawing people, and if that doesn't sound like a winner I suspect you've clicked onto Digital Retribution by mistake. I'm not sure why you would've read this whole review without realising your error, but clearly you did.
When Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers starts up it's a little touch and go quality wise. It looks better than I expected, but there's some vertical lines, print damage, and noise. Fred Olen Ray explains in his commentary track that HBO borrowed the negatives to make their own scan and never returned the first reel, so that section of the film had to be sourced elsewhere. The negatives were used for the rest of the film, and it looks much better. It's still a low budget flick, obviously, but this restoration has done the movie proud. There're still specks and spots and grain can get heavy, but the movie looks good, and aside from bushgate the framing looks appropriate. There's a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix, but I didn't think the 5.1 mix added much to the movie from the portions I listened to. The movie doesn't call for a lot of 5.1 flashes, and I thought the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (listed as an LPCM on the cover) mix was clearer and suited the film better. The Blu-ray is loaded with extras, so we get two commentaries, an archival making of, a retrospective, the Nite Owl footage from the DVD release, the trailer, Linnea Quigley's Horror Workout, a commentary for that with Quigley and Ken Hall, a booklet with an interview with Hansen, and a reversible slick. The reverse art seems the same to me as the displayed art, except the BBFC rating and Slasher Classics banner are removed. So we get an open matted version of the cover, at least. The first commentary is with Fred Olen Ray and David DeCoteau, and it's an informative track presented by two guys that have made a lot of movies of this ilk. The second track is with Calum Waddell and Justin Kerswell, and I enjoyed hearing about the film's UK reception and censorship hassles. The pair also argue the movie's classification as a slasher, but they didn't convince me. The 23 minute archival making of comes from the DVD release that brought us the Nite Owl wraparounds, whereas the 21 minute retrospective provides new interviews with Fred Olen Ray, star Jay Richardson and Bauer, with DeCoteau popping in as well. Linnea Quigley's Horror Workout gives the viewer plenty of opportunity to check Quigley out in this bonus feature that is inconceivably even more absurd than the main feature. It's mostly two big dancercise numbers where Quigley boogies with zombies and women at a sleepover, respectively. There's also a collection of trailers from other 88 Films releases.
If this release had just included an open matte version of Bauer's bare bloodletting it would earn a perfect rating from me, so for those less obsessed with this part of the movie it'll be a fantastic Blu-ray. Information repeats a bit because of the plethora of extras, but all of the goodies are fun and engaging, and the movie itself is a cult themed cult classic.
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Originally born unto this world as Terror Australis.net back in March 2002, Digital Retribution is a proudly Australian website devoted to all things horror, cult, and exploitation that strives to promote Australian films and filmmakers while sharing its questionable taste in ultra-violent smut-laden local and international offerings with the rest of the world.