When Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers was released on VHS in 1988, I was eight years old and just then allowed to watch horror movies. My guess is that this film wasn’t one that my local video shop carried, because I would surely have remembered the cover, which shows a shapely woman who, with a trick of perspective, looks like she’s holding a six foot chainsaw. Not that I’d be allowed to, of course. My folks were fairly liberal when it came to violence in movies (this was the era of Stallone and Chuck Norris films, after all), but anything with too much T&A on the cover? Forget it.
But in Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers there’s not a sex scene to be found. Oh they get close. At the moment of their john’s peak arousal, the women pull out the heavy equipment and the blood starts to flow. Well, perhaps squirt would be the better word. So since there’s technically no sex, would this movie have been an acceptable choice for young Patrick King? Maybe, but there’s no way my parents would have gotten past the cover. Such was middlebrow morality in the 80’s. I guess a whole lot hasn’t changed since then.
Going into this thing, if you have any doubt that this is a straight up horror-comedy (which is certainly possible since the cover looks like any number of 80’s exploitation films that took themselves more or less seriously), the opening block of text will dissuade you of that idea:
The CHAINSAWS used in this Motion Picture are REAL and DANGEROUS! They are handled here by seasoned PROFESSIONALS. The makers of this Motion Picture advise strongly against anyone attempting to perform these stunts at home. Especially if you are naked and about to engage in strenuous SEX. My conscience is clear, (signed) Fred Olen Ray.
The movie’s basic plot, though of course plot isn’t the biggest concern here, involves private detective Jack Chandler (Jay Richardson), a Philip Marlowe type private investigator on a mission to find Samantha (scream queen Linnea Quigley), a runaway who might or might not have joined a chainsaw sex-murder cult. There are maybe five or six other women in the cult, but who’s counting after a while. And of course any respectable sex-murder cult has to have a leader, a guru, if you will. This cult’s leader is Gunnar Hansen, who by this time had a slight association with movies about chainsaw murder.
For most of the movie, Hansen’s unnamed character watches the women from impossible angles as they chop men to pieces. He hides in the bushes outside hotel rooms and apartments and grins approvingly, though there’s no way he could see anything from his vantage point. He’s given some lines in the final act, and he’s pretty good. But he’s totally wasted because this act is mostly padding and filler to get to that 70 minute feature film runtime for proper video distribution.
But until that last act, the movie really lives up to its awesome title. Everything from the silly noir-style narration to the cheesy jokes to the blood and limbs that hit the women in the face as they saw men into pieces is done with a splattery gusto. Naturally, this is a great party movie, especially if you can get drunk enough in the first hour to make the final act kind of tolerable.
Though I’m not sure director Fred Olen Ray had any subtext in mind, or any time to think about such things (the movie was shot in less than a week), in its way, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is as much of a parody of 70’s and 80’s porno movies as it parodies slasher films. The dialogue, especially in the “seduction” scenes are replete with double entendres and sexual innuendo that would only ever work in a bad movie, and all porno dialogue is bad. It’s a rule. And slashers have always been much like porn in that you need a kill every few minutes, just like porno has a sex scene at predictable intervals.
Director Fred Olen Ray is a cult filmmaker who’s had his hand in just about every popular low budget, straight-to-video genre. He’s made over 150 films, sometimes as many as four a year. He once shot a film in a single day. So the slapdash nature of the film makes sense, as well as the padding at the end. I mean, you would think that a chainsaw duel between two barely-clothed women would be cool, and it is, kind of, but it’s also very slow. Those chainsaws are unwieldy, especially for someone weighing barely 120 pounds. The same goes for an erotic chainsaw dance that goes on for what seems like an interminable amount of time, though it only lasts a few minutes.
So the concept worked for a little less than an hour, but those 55 minutes are entertaining as hell. And I imagine being on the set had to be pretty fun, too. Imagine being the person off screen who has to toss bad fake blood and silly looking fake body parts at a topless woman who gleefully waves her chainsaw around.
Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is certainly a good bad film, though the last act keeps it from being great. So grab a drink and give it a watch. Or if you’re a teetotaler like myself, just turn the thing off around the time Gunnar Hansen starts talking. Trust me, you’re not missing anything.