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Friday, June 27, 2014


This is one of those documentaries in which you're either very interested in the subject, and thus won't mind so much sitting through eighty some-odd minutes of talking heads with the occasional film clip...OR, you have no interest whatsoever in scream queens or the movies they appear in or a documentary about them, in which case it's unlikely you'll ever find yourself watching director Donald Farmer's INVASION OF THE SCREAM QUEENS (Wild Eye Releasing, 1992) anyway.

Of course, if you're in the first group, then these are some pretty nice talking heads and chances are what most of them have to say will have you perking up your ears. This is because (a) these ladies are just plain fun to look at, and (b) anyone with a passion for B-movies, and especially low-budget horror flicks, will find inside info and anecdotes here that are quite engaging.

I wish I could say this is true of the entire film. Unfortunately, it alternates between the good and the not so good, since some of these actresses tend to be on the yakky side and it's not all riveting stuff. Plus, I was surprised to find so few film clips on display to spice up some of these monologues--indeed, although we hear about the making of several movies, we rarely actually get to see scenes from them. And a number of them aren't even what I would consider "scream queen" material anyway.

One disadvantage I had in watching this is that I never really sampled a wide variety of films of this nature, choosing instead to pick a few favorite actresses and concentrate exclusively on renting their videos (or watching heavily edited versions of them on "USA Up All Night"). So the best passages, for me, are the ones in which they're onscreen talking about movies and filmmakers that I'm familiar with. This includes Michelle Bauer (my all-time favorite scream queen), Martine Beswick, Brinke Stevens, and the venerable Mary Woronov. (Linnea Quigley is conspicuous in her absence here.)

Michelle Bauer tells us how she got started in the B-movie biz after meeting Fred Olen Ray during a "Playboy" video shoot. She's strikes me as the most talented and professional of the bunch (with the exception of Mary Woronov), although this may be entirely due to the fact that I've had the hots for her ever since the day I first rented HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS.

Always lovely Martine Beswick talks about the catfight scene with Raquel Welch from ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. and also her co-starring role in another well-remembered Hammer production, DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE (from which we actually get to see a lengthy film clip). Later, another familiar face, Elizabeth Kaitan, speaks at length from the balcony of her apartment.

Perky Janus Blythe is almost unrecognizable as the actress who played Ruby in THE HILLS HAVE EYES for Wes Craven and has some stories about working with snakes and meeting Jonathan Demme on the set. Soft-spoken Melissa Moore turns out to be both cute and captivating as she relates her experiences working with Roger Corman and getting to appear with BLOOD FEAST's Fuad Ramses himself, Mal Arnold.

Several other women are featured as well, including Ruth Collins (LITTLE DEVILS), Goth-y sisters Marya Gant (A POLISH VAMPIRE IN BURBANK) and Katina Garner (HALLOWEEN NIGHTS), Deborah Stern of Mark Pirro's NUDIST COLONY OF THE DEAD, and writer-star Vivian Schilling (TERROR EYES, SOULTAKER).

The stories these women tell are interesting because they're real behind-the-scenes accounts of their experiences making B-movies, rather than pre-written Bruce Vilanch-style quips for them to recite. Most of the participants speak in a warm, relaxed manner in which they let their natural charm come through rather than having to do shtick for the camera.

Video and sound quality are on par with an old VHS tape you might stick in the machine after finding it lying under a couch cushion for several years. (Some parts may have you reflexively reaching to adjust your tracking.) The videotape-level visuals don't bother me at all--in fact, they're rather appropriate even though some of the clips look like third generation dubs--but the sound made me wince a few times. (This may have been due to my watching a screener, however.) There are rough transitions and, overall, the casual, unpolished air of home video.

There's a lot to like for fans of these actresses and their movies in INVASION OF THE SCREAM QUEENS. For me, however, there just wasn't enough of it, and too much tiresome footage that threatened to yakkity-yak me to sleep. So as much as I gained from watching it, I must admit that I was a little relieved when it finally ended.

(NOTE: I reviewed a screener without the extras. The official disc should include a new 2013 interview with Donald Farmer, deleted/extended interviews from the original production, and an excerpt featuring Linnea Quigley from the out of print book that started it all, "Invasion of the Scream Queens.")

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