Endless Bummer: Screwballs (1983)

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Our “Endless Bummer” season of more obscure or unusual teen movies continues with something that reminds us of nothing more than “Porky’s” with no morals. That seems pretty horrific, doesn’t it? When you start thinking that “Porky’s” was kinda sex-positive, and had that whole storyline about fighting anti-Semitism…and that’s when you think “oh my god this movie is so repellent it’s made me wax lyrical about bloody Porky’s” and pour yourself a stiff drink.

“Screwballs” has one slightly unusual feature, and that’s the makeup of its main cast. The intro shows the various ways our five heroes end up in detention, and luckily they’re all sleazy ways. Rick dressed as a doctor and gave breast exams to the new students (called “freshmen”, which means if my wife is correct, they were supposed to be 14 years old. Yuck). Brent sexually teased the movie’s villain “Purity Busch” (what a name) in French class. The even better named Melvin Jerkovski was caught masturbating in the meat locker. Howie, the nerd, rearranged every mirror in the school in order to see up the skirts of cheerleaders after practice. And poor new kid Tim was tricked into entering the girls washroom. Anyway, the weird thing is, these five would be enemies in a normal high school movie – the cool guy, the rich guy, the pervert, the nerd and the new guy. But here they’re all united in their hatred of Ms Busch and decide that, before Homecoming, one of them will have sex with her (or they’ll see her naked).

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A simple and beautiful concept. I mean, breast exams! Let’s talk about the ladies of the movie a little, too. Purity is played by Linda Speciale, whose career sadly went nowhere after this (although, fun fact, she was in the first episode of “Breaking Bad” and is the only person to be naked on screen in that show). She plays the part with a sense of knowing just what effect her beauty has on her horny teen classmates, despite being the allegedly uptight Christian virgin, which is odd-ish. The somewhat looser-moralled Bootsie Goodhead is a different kettle of fish, though. Played by Linda Shayne, who also co-wrote the movie and is now better known as a writer and director, has to do all the work in her romance with new kid Tim, delivers the hopefully-wrote-it-herself line “wanna play hide the salami?”, entices an erection from Howie to help him get a bowling ball stuck to his crotch to pop off, and never lets a dirty smile stray from her lips. She’s great, even if the film is thoroughly rotten.

There’s a Spanish Fly scene, where a bottle of the stuff in the punch at a boring party (for the opening of the school’s airplane repair garage? Were they offered an aircraft hangar to film in for the day and wrote a scene around it?) turns everyone into blackout-drunk sex maniacs. There’s a strip bowling scene, where everyone seems delighted to take their clothes off. There’s a way too long scene set in a strip club (just in case there weren’t enough boobs for you already). There’s a cheerleader practice scene where the girls chant “we must, we must, we must develop our bust” – hurray for feminism!

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It’s just scene after scene of the guys trying ever more elaborate ways of either getting into Purity’s pants, or just getting them off her. The weird thing is, at least three of the guys are getting regular sex with other girls, so I’m not sure what their motivation was, other than cold-hearted revenge. Yes, ladies and gentlemen (although mostly gentlemen, I presume), the closing scene of “Screwballs” is celebration as the famous five sew metal into Purity’s prom dress then get a super-powerful magnet to pull it off, leaving her topless in front of the whole school. Just drink in the sexual politics on display there. And yet…it’s horrifically entertaining. It’s so single minded!

I’d be genuinely interested to find out what Linda Shayne thinks of this now, but I wonder if the lion’s share of disappointment must be heaped on the head of ISCFC regular…Jim Wynorski! As well as giving us one good movie (“Deathstalker 2”) and about a hundred pieces of garbage (everything else he’s ever done), he worked a variety of movie jobs, including writing stuff like this. He was probably the person who thought that five guys pursuing a view of one girl’s breasts would be funny and charming, not a horrific series of ugly meaningless sketches with no continuity. Director Rafal Zielinski appears to have found his level early in his career, and would go on to basically nothing (although he did do “National Lampoon’s Last Resort”, which I quite liked). Well, he tried his hand at arthouse movies for a while too, so let’s hope they were slightly better than this.

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Watch this to be reminded that although we still have a long way to go to get true gender equality, we’ve still come a long way in 30 years. Can you imagine the ungodly furore if this movie was made today?

Rating: thumbs up

PS – while this was watched / enjoyed on Youtube, the blu-ray from Severin Films looks amazing, packed full of special features, including an interview with Shayne and Wynorski. Worth picking up, I’d say, even if the film is bizarrely terrible. Actually, Severin look great, and their site will be getting some of my £££ soon.

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