In honor of Michelle Bauer’s upcoming appearance at Chiller Theatre this October, here’s a review of her epic magnum opus, HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS, the Fred Olen Ray classic. Enter this review with an appreciation of cheese.
You know exactly what you’re going to get when you watch a flick titled HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS. And by “what,” I mean “bad.” And by “bad,” I mean “cheesy, silly, ridiculously bad.” And by that, I mean one of the greatest cheesy, silly, ridiculously bad movies I’ve ever seen, one I suggest to any horror fan who loves to laugh. Fred Olen Ray’s name is synonymous with crudely made exploitation a few cuts below Corman; but with HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS, he put together one of the most fun rides a bad horror flick can offer.
A plot description is a good indicator of just how silly this flick is: A private detective is hired to find a pretty young virgin who has been abducted by the leader of a chainsaw cult of prostitutes. Lots of dick jokes ensue. Blood flies. So do boobs. That’s about it. And Michelle Bauer’s naked.
Okay, so let’s review what’s bad. Well, actually it’s all bad. But I love it. The script is a bizarre mix of film noir detective work, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE dismemberment, and from out of nowhere romance, none of which really gels. The acting is borderline incompetent, with Michelle Bauer, Linnea Quigley and Jay Richardson as the dick Jack Chandler acting sometimes as if they’re all in different movies. And Gunnar Hansen sleeps through this thing as if he swallowed a bottle of Ambien before Olen Ray yelled, “Action!”
Yes, that Gunnar Hansen, who ended a long sabbatical from the silver screen to act in this flick. Well, not really act, per se. The special effects of the “spray blood with a garden hose” variety, once a victim meets the teeth of the saw. The climax pits chainsaw wielding Quigley against Bauer, and follows close on the heels of Quigley’s Virgin Dance of the Double Chainsaws. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried, folks.
So what on Earth is there to love about this flick? Everything I just mentioned. Olen Ray is smart enough to play the whole thing for a laugh. He knows he’s beating you over the head with dick jokes, while directing five different scripts mashed into one, acted out by people whose talent levels lie mostly south of the quality border. But he and his cast are having a ball with it, and if you’re like me and get that, so will you. There’s a point in one of the disc’s extras where he admits some actresses are chanting two different things because they’re all drunk. And the sequence made it into the film. And look, he’s gone out of his way to supply horror fans what they want: boobs, gore and Gunnar. There are naked women with fine physiques all over this movie, most notably and impressively Michelle Bauer.
The first time I saw HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS, she became my scream queen of choice, and she still is all these years later. Her dance for one of her johns is precious, especially because it was scored to a different song from the one she references in the film. As for the violence, if the blood comes from a spray hose, it’s to enhance the comedy; nobody’s supposed to take this film seriously, and any serious approach to gore would have worked against the film. And who sets all the boobs and gore into motion? Olen Ray went out of his way to get Gunnar Hansen, who wasn’t even acting at the time. The director didn’t bring in some Leatherface wannabe to portray the guru of the chainsaw cult. He brought in the original Leatherface! Low budget filmmaking is often an exercise in turning your weaknesses into strengths, and Fred does exactly that.
Fortunately, Fred Olen Ray’s own company, Retro Media Blasters, released HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS. So it gets all the love it deserves in the way of extras. There are trailers for this and two other sleaze flicks; two episodes of Night Owl Theatre, with Olen Ray himself, and his hot wife; and a 23 minute featurette. It’s actually more in depth than your usual fluff piece, and there are some great stories from behind the scenes; such as the one about the British advertisements with its altered title (I’m not sure if that qualifies for the Horror Movie Relocation Program or not; you be the judge). Okay, great if you’ve been a fan of the film since it first showed up on late night cable in the late 80s (count me in on that crowd). But the best feature of all is on that Michelle Bauer is naked on the main menu screen. See, Fred knows to give his audience what it wants.
Is HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS a good movie? Not on your life. But sometimes a flick doesn’t have to be good to be entertaining. This flick serves exactly the purpose it set out to, and low aspirations in this case make out for an enjoyable ride. So while it doesn’t hold up to, say, THE OMEN as a classic, I’m just as proud to have this one in my collection as I am Damien’s first film.