Directed by Jason Paul Collum
Distributed by Breaking Glass Pictures
Ah, video stores. Anyone out there remember those? Bigger than a RedBox, more interesting than a Blockbuster kiosk? I can remember trolling the aisles of my local Mom-and-Pop as a wee tyke in the 80s, sneaking quick glimpses at the garish and sleazy cover artwork for numerous B-Horror flicks while my parents assumed I was mulling over kids’ flicks and Disney fare to rent. Those VHS boxes promised scary monsters and eye-opening wonders to my young mind (well, they at least promised nubile, scantily-clad young women on the run from psychos, and that was good enough). It’s these days I was reminded of while watching the new documentary from Breaking Glass Pictures, Screaming in High Heels.
Subtitled The Rise and Fall of the Scream Queen Era, Screaming charts the careers of the three major B-Queens of the 80s and 90s: Brinke Stevens, Linnea Quigley, and Michelle Bauer, none strangers to the types of lowbrow, high-fun movies that cluttered the shelves of the video stores of my youth. The documentary begins with a brief history lesson covering the burgeoning video industry in the 80s and how it sounded the death knell for the drive-ins that preceded it. The doc then focuses on our three leading ladies, using a blend of interview footage and film clips to tell their stories.
Each is revealed as having very distinct (and often surprising) histories before they entered the business, at which point the doc focuses on their rise in the industry from sexy starlets to full-on “Scream Queens”. Several topics are covered throughout the doc, including the pros and cons of fandom, the inevitable imitators that arose during the Queens’ heyday, and the glass ceiling that presented itself due to the actresses’ associations with B-Movies. Numerous subjects/contemporaries are interviewed along with the ladies, including Fred Olen Ray, Ted Newsom, David DeCoteau, and Kenneth Hall, all filling in the history and providing context for the era.
Eventually, as with all good things, the video boom and Scream Queen era died (due in part to the emergence of video rental giants Blockbuster and Hollywood Video), leaving our heroines mostly without work. They each coped in their own ways, either choosing to leave the business entirely or finding a new way to market themselves. The doc ends on a bittersweet, if somewhat hopeful note, showing that the ageism that has helped to stifle their re-emerging careers is slowly being eroded by an upcoming generation of filmmakers who were weaned on their films (and are keen to employ them in their own movies).
Breaking Glass Pictures has given this documentary a nice release on disc. The picture and audio quality are both quite good, at least for the interview segments (the quality varies for the various film clips used throughout). The bonus features include a series of interviews, a trailer for Screaming, and a trailer gallery for other Breaking Glass releases. The interviews include two sit-downs at the Flashback Weekend convention, where Stevens, Quigley, and director Jason Paul Collum speak with audience members just before/after a screening of the doc. The three Queens also have separate interview sections, which were cut together from footage that went unused in the documentary.
Screaming in High Heels is a fun and breezy film, clipping along at a fast pace throughout its brief one-hour running time. It’s informative and enjoyable, even if it’s not quite at the level of similar documentaries (such as Not Quite Hollywood or its ilk). Still, while the subject matter may not interest all, it’s certainly worth a watch for fans of the era or of genre-related documentaries.
3 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5