Retro Film Report #12: Screwballs (Part One)
Screwballs is the perfect early eightees teen comedy. It has all the necessary elements : an imbecilic plot, tons of horny teenagers, and loads of gratuitous T & A.
I say "early" eighties because around 1985 John Hughes wiped the slate clean and movies like H.O.T.S., Porky’s and Hardbodies went bye-bye (and wouldn’t be revived again until American Pie). Screwballs stands perched at that magic moment when movies like this were in every theater. However, unlike its cousins Risky Business, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Last American Virgin, this one had no serious elements whatsoever.
Screwballs was written by the combined forces of Jim Wynorski, the sleazy mastermind behind such crap classics as Chopping Mall and Sorority House Massacre II, and one of the female stars, Linda Shayne (as Bootsie Goodhead). The two had gotten to know each other from Humanoids from the Deep, where Shayne played Miss Salmon. Legendary producer Roger Corman wanted to capitalize on the success of Porky’s and tasked both Shayne, an aspiring writer, and Wynorski, Cormans former marketing guy, with the task of making a Porky’s clone.
The plot is this: Five guys are stuck in detention, all stemming from independent incidences involving a certain Purity Busch. Purity is a virginal and manipulative cheerleader, and all five guys decide that it is their mission in life to catch a glimpse of her naked….. let's be clear, this ain’t Shakespeare.
A few minutes into the film, you start to notice that all the cars are from the 1950s, and some girls are using hula hoops – another clue that this is a period piece from maybe the early 60s. Yet, every other aspect of the setting is clearly early 80s, Obviously, they are trying to link up with the Porky’s gravy train by making it from this time period, but it comes off as some sort of a hiccup in the time-space continuum where it’s a mesh of both decades.
Remember the last 5 or so seasons of Happy Days? It was like they just gave up trying to make everything look vintage, and so you had 50s/early 60s characters sporting Farrah Fawcett hair and bright blue eye shadow. Screwballs is like that.
Anyway, the movie begins by showing how all five dudes end up in detention. Kind of a Breakfast Club sort of vibe, where each guy in detention is from a different walk of life. But instead of kids “discovering themselves” and the artificial social boundaries that surround them, this is just a pack of horny teenagers who want to see some girl naked.
Detention #1: Rick, the smarmy gum-smacking jock stud
One of the most memorable scenes of the movie involves Rick dressing up as a doctor and administering breast exams to the Freshman girls. Amazingly, the girls disrobe and don’t suspect a thing. I guess that’s just how the world works in early eighties teen comedies…. a willing suspension of disbelief to see a little boob. Ultimately, Purity Busch has him busted before Rick can examine all the girls.
I was somewhat disturbed to see the girl from Anne of Green Gables (Jennifer Inch) topless… just doesn’t seem right. Sort of like that scene in S.O.B. where Julie Andrews shows her boobs – Mary Poppins shouldn’t be doing such a thing!
Detention #2: Brent Van Dusen, III, the James Spader-esque wealthy douche bag
In French class, the teacher arouses herself demonstrating French pronunciations and hurriedly leaves Brent in charge. Brent imitates his titillated teacher and proceeds to take a model replica of the Eiffel Tower and push it into Purity’s mouth. Purity is only too happy to oblige since she notices the teacher has returned. Brent is caught red handed, and once again, thanks to Purity, another guy lands in detention.
Sidenote: Coincidentally, I recently published a picture on the Retrospace Tumblr blog of a chick swallowing the Eiffel Tower. What are the odds?
Detention #3: Melvin Jerkovski, the constantly masturbating fat perv
Melvin is working in the cafeteria when Purity strolls up and lays on the sexual innuendo ordering her food – “nuts”, "cherries" and “sausages”, etc.
It gets Melvin all hot and bothered, and he attempts to “clean the pipes” in the meat locker. Unfortunately, he’s caught in mid-jerk by the school secretary. Not a pretty sight.
Detention #4: Tim Stevenson, the slightly goofy nondescript new guy
Tim is utterly lost in the labyrinthine halls of T & A (Taft and Adams) High School. Even with a map, he can’t seem to find his way around. Unfortunately, Purity is there to point him in the wrong direction – directly into the girls’ locker room.
This seems to me an opportunity wasted for some gratuitous nudity. The viewer never gets to see the actual girls in the locker room – only Tim tossed out on his ass, and busted by the principle. It simply doesn’t add up…. until you realize that Shayne and Wynorski cut a bunch of scenes from the film.
The director, Rafal Zielinski was from Poland, and let’s just say the Europeans have a very different sensibility towards nudity and sex. Shane and Wynorsky have stated that some scenes were just too over the top, and had to be deleted for American audiences. What scenes were they? We may never know, but it strikes me that this may have been one.
Detention #5: Howie, the stereotypical nerd / sex starved maniac
The scientific expertise Howie employs in this movie to see women undressed is truly breathtaking. In this scenario, Howie perfectly aligns all the security mirrors in the school hallway, reflecting one off another, to give him a view up the skirts of the girls as they come down the stairs. Just as things are looking good, Purity Busch arrives with a teacher…. and, thus, the final card is dealt. Our five hormonal heroes have detention together.
But, just as criminals learn how to be better criminals in prison, our 5 boys in detention learn how to be better pervs. They collectively pledge to get a glimpse of the culprit behind all their punishments – the Homecoming Queen, Miss Purity Busch. This will involve a series of ingenious plans. But I'll save those for Part 2. Stay tuned!