Endless Bummer: Screwballs 2 (aka Loose Screws) (1985)

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I know we movie reviewers like to throw around hyperbole, but this could be the most morally reprehensible of all the 80s teen raunch movies. There is a 0% chance of anything like this getting close to a cinema release today – I’m sure some sub-Asylum company is still churning out stuff like this now, but there’ll be the faint whiff of post-modernism about it, or the boys will learn a valuable lesson by the end, or something to justify 90 minutes of T&A.

“Loose Screws”, on the other hand, has none of that. Four guys are expelled from BEAVER HIGH for their elaborate schemes to have sex with girls, or just to see them naked. They’re sent to COXWELL ACADEMY, one step up from reform school, although everyone else there seems pretty okay, under the supervision of PRINCIPAL ARSENAULT, gym teacher HILDA VON BLOW and French teacher MONA LOTT. Our boys interact with such delightful fellow students as NIKKI NYSTROKE and TRACEY GRATEHEAD during the movie.

But who are our heroes, I hear you ask? Apart from minor 90s action star Bryan Genesse in a very early role, their careers have sadly not taken them to the heights they deserved (in some cases, this was their only credit of any note). New to the franchise are Genesse as “Brad Lovett” and Lawrence Van Der Kolk as “Steve Hardman”, names which are dull enough to not bother putting in bold. Returning from part 1 are Jason Warren and Alan Deveau, but they aren’t playing the same characters (for those of you with long memories, their former names were “Melvin Jerkovski” and  “Howie Bates”, almost quaint in their simplicity). For “Loose Screws”, they’re retooled as MARVIN EATMORE and HUGH G RECTION. Now, Mr and Mrs Rection, what on earth were you thinking?

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I know what you’re thinking, though. “Mark”, so your internal monologue goes, “I really liked the scene where one of them tricked a bunch of girls into taking their clothes off so he could inspect their boobs. Is there anything like that in this one?” Not only is there a scene like it, it’s almost exactly the same! For those of you who enjoyed the monomaniacal pursuit of untouchable Purity Busch in part 1, helpfully the movie provides us with MONA LOTT, and you’ll no doubt have a great time watching our fearsome foursome pretend to be interested in private lessons, send the fattest of the four to sneak through the air ducts to spy on the girls’ locker room from above (see if you can guess how the scene ends!), pay a masseur so they can feel her naked body, and video-taping her getting undressed. Such japes!

Luckily, we’re not confined to them trying to sleep with their adult teacher. “Loose Screws” has a broader palette than that, with a “plot” centring round a competition with a scoring system relating to number of women slept with, seen naked, and so on. HUGH G RECTION invents a chemical which, when put in the swimming pool, dissolves the bathing suits of the nubile teens while leaving their skin unharmed. Lovett pretends to be a woman to sleep in the girls’ dormitory, and taking advantage of the extreme short-sightedness of the lovely Candy Barr, tries to get her to touch his penis. They take a trip to a strip club and not only witness a rather long wet t-shirt contest, but are called up on stage to spray four lucky ladies with whipped cream. Last but not least, Hardman sort of has sex with the Principal’s wife a few times. And there’s something for the female viewers too! We get one scene where the boys are sat around in their (rather small) underwear, just shooting the breeze.

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Their behaviour is so appalling they’re even expelled from COXWELL, but decide to get their “revenge” at the unveiling of a new statue of the school’s founder. They perform this feat by swapping a video of the school’s history for one of the Principal and Miss Lott having sex, then rig the statue so it emits aphrodisiac gas, causing two women to sexually assault the Principal, and Miss Lott to perform a striptease in front of the packed auditorium. They are, of course, both fired on the spot. As we’ll all agree, trying to do your job fairly, and not acceding to the demands of four sex-crazed juvenile delinquents, is a perfectly valid reason to have your life completely and utterly destroyed. That they appeared to have a few minutes of film left to use, so turned our heroes into a band at the end, with a music video recorded on that same stage, is just the cherry on top of this sundae of cinematic perfection.

I’ve not even mentioned the soundtrack yet, with songs like “Do The Screw” and “I Have A Rubber In My Wallet”! I hope you enjoyed this review, anyway. The movie itself is so thoroughly rotten but so single-minded in its pursuit of boobs and sex that it passes through some sort of event horizon to become good again. But is it good enough to watch? I think a healthy amount of laughing at, rather than with, the movie will be necessary…but they really pack stuff in there. The weird golf course sex scene! The synchronised dancing! The bench gag!

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Canada, for a few years in the 1980s, had a tax law which made it financially worthwhile to make movies there, and for some reason a lot of them were Porky’s-inspired sex comedies, often with “balls” in the title (probably relating to Canadian-filmed “Meatballs”). This started with the first “Screwballs” in 1983 and had just ended by the time of semi-sequel “Screwball Hotel” in 1988, so we ought to admire just how much terrible filmmaking they managed to fit into that time.

Rating: thumbs up

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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.

Endless Bummer: Party Camp (1987)

There’s a Hall of Fame of 1980s teen movies – John Hughes is obviously member no. 1, then there’s directors like Savage Steve Holland and actors like John Cusack and C Thomas Howell. There’s not a lot of new stuff to write about any of the classics, but what we do have is an almost endless treasure trove of garbage. When someone like me – who once built a full-sized armchair entirely out of 80s teen movie VHS tapes, my collection was so large – still manages to discover unheard-of movies from the era, then I feel I have a responsibility to you, dear reader, to help you navigate these treacherous waters. Welcome to our new regular feature “Endless Bummer”, and hopefully we’ll rediscover a few classics and re-bury a few pieces of crap.

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Days after watching it, I’m still not sure which of those categories “Party Camp” falls into. It feels a bit like a movie made by someone whose only frame of reference for American teen culture was other movies like this – things happen just because they’re supposed to happen, and their escalation without understanding leads to some inadvertently bizarre scenes. Anyway.

Jerry Riviera is a cool teen outsider type who has one thing on his mind – ladies, and specifically the beautiful Heather, who works as a lifeguard at Camp Chipmunk. He sees her photo in…a magazine article about summer camps?…and immediately decides to get a job there. Taking a quick break to feel another camp counsellor’s boobs on the bus on the way, he pursues his goal and is ultimately successful, thanks to his team’s victory in a hastily thrown-together tournament. Hurrah!

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He’s the counsellor in charge of the Squirrels, the loser’s cabin…because that’s how you get repeat business at a place like this. As it’s the natural order of things, there’s a jock cabin (whose stupid code name I’ve forgotten, and I’m certainly not watching it again to check), and the jocks must make the nerds’ lives miserable. Although mostly it’s the hacker nerd setting up a system which allows them to spy on such activities as women getting changed and the manager of the camp indulging in bizarre bee-themed S&M with her assistant.

The jokes are unbearably lame and the setups are obvious from a mile away, but it’s all good fun. These movies had their standard formulations and this one sampled them – put a Ferris Bueller type in the middle of “Meatballs”, add a completely standard love plot, and bob’s your uncle. There’s also a narrator guy who only we see…until the end, when he introduces the contestants for the final race. It’s a bit odd, but it’s pleasant enough.

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I mentioned inadvertently odd moments, and this movie has em. As well as having a fun, consensual S&M relationship front and centre, there’s the nerd camper who’s also a gun nut. He brings a sack of automatic weapons with him, which is frightening enough; but later, when the jocks take the nerds’ spying equipment, they hold the manager at gunpoint until he gives it back to them (they’ve also kidnapped the jock counsellor and his slutty girlfriend). Next scene, everything is fine. What?

So, for a film which appears to have little relation to reality or common sense, it’s plenty of fun. Watch with a stiff drink and a forgiving mind, and you’ll have a good time. Andrew Ross as Jerry had a very short career – this was his first role, then he had a tiny part in another movie, a single episode on some TV show and he was done. Did no-one need a third rate Matthew Broderick in the 1980s?

Rating: thumbs in the middle