Double Feature #1: Private Dicks

Tonight's Double Feature is two movies featuring main characters who are parodies of the old film noir gumshoe detectives (a la Raymond Chandler and Humphrey Bogart): Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988) and Reservoir Cats (1968) AKA The Kill.

But, before we start, a quick word on what a Retrospace Double Feature actually is....

I've always been a little unhappy with my movie reviews.  They seem more like those old film photonovels (I just read one on Love at First Bite and it was great): low on actual critiques and heavy on eye candy and plot summary.  Take my recent review of The Lost Empire for example - it's scene-by-scene, with hardly any real review.

I'm not being hard on myself - it's just that I actually hate movie reviews.  I don't care what anyone's opinion of a film is... so, naturally, my look at films on Retrospace doesn't spend much time with analysis.  I like the stories themselves, and the visuals.

If you'll look back, I've been uneasy with calling what I do "reviews" since I covered the The Silencers back in 2008. Call it whatever you like, I just enjoy walking through a movie with my readers, and that's what I intend to do from here onward with the Double Features.

Anyway, on with tonight's double bill: two flicks with exaggerated old school private eyes.  Enjoy.

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988)

I recall renting this with a friend the very year this was released.  When you rent a flick with a title like this, you sort of know what you're in for - a campy good time with a heaping helping of blood and boobs. Too many movies with promising titles under-deliver, but not this one.  This one lives up to its name.

In a way, it's like Airplane!  A silly send-up of the genre, full of ridiculous lines delivered with total seriousness.

A construction worker from Seattle named Bo Hanson (Jimmy Williams) meets a prostitute named Mercedes (Michelle Bauer) in a seedy bar.  A few lines of dialog, and it's clear what we're in for...
Mercedes: "What you need is some TFC to calm you down."
Bo: "What the hell is TFC?"
Mercedes: "Tender F---ing Care"
And it's on to Bo's place where shit gets real...

Elvis plays in the background while Mercedes hangs plastic wrap and puts on a shower cap.  What was this - some sort of kinky business?  Then it's out with the chainsaw! Things are looking very promising for this straight-to-VHS flick.

Jay Richardson plays a private dick, Jack Chandler (obviously a nod to Raymond Chandler) who's on the case.  I can't tell you how many times I've seen the film noir gumshoe parodied, and it's almost never funny.  But I must say, Jay nails it with an understated caricature that had me laughing a good bit.

Chandler meets with the police chief, steals some critical evidence (a matchbook with Mercedes' name and number) and is hot on the trail of the killer.  After all, as Chandler puts it:
"Being a dick is a 24 hour a day job."

Meanwhile, at the other end of town, call girl Lisa (Esther Elise) is at the home of an eccentric jon named Herman (Fox Harris)....

Herman wants to take nude pictures of Lisa.... so he can put them in his calendar to advertise his product - baseball bats.  "Little leaguers just love 'em."

What follows is a simultaneously sexy and odd photoshoot which you can easily imagine the ending: Lisa takes the baseball bat to Herman than whips out the chainsaw.

I should note that after each killing, the camera cuts to a pudgy, creepy guy lurking outside (Gunnar Hansen of Texas Chainsaw fame).

Jack Chandler uses the matchbook to head to the seedy bar where he meets up with Mercedes.  While the two become acquainted, Chandler spies a girl he's been looking for stripping on stage:
"I looked over at the little number on stage.  She was shakin' it pretty good, even if no one was watching. .... You could have knocked me over with a pubic hair.  There she was: Samantha Kelso, humpin' it out on stage for anyone who could stick a buck down her pants."
His interest in Samantha (Linnea Quigley) doesn't go unnoticed. Chandler is drugged and knocked out:
"I guess I shoulda been lookin' at the glass instead of the ass.  That'll teach me."

When Chandler awakes he's in a room with Mercedes, Samantha, and a chick named Ilsa (Tricia Burns).
"If my head wasn't hurtin' so much, I'd have sworn I was in heaven..... heaven for guys that like big tits."
Unfortunately, there's that creepy Gunnar Hansen guy spoiling the fun. He reveals that this is actually an ancient chainsaw worshipping cult.
"Oh,yeah.  What do ya do - pray to Black & Decker?"

Chandler is almost cut to pieces but the gas runs out on the chainsaw.  The cult members head to the 7-11 to get some fuel (Chandler asks for a cherry Slurpee) and leave him guarded by Samantha.

He learns Samantha is actually infiltrating the cult herself as revenger for a murder a friend in Oxnard (don't ask).  She unties Chandler, but won't escape with him.  Chandler has a job to do - to get Samantha back home safe to her family.  So, he head butts her and gets outta Dodge.

At Chandler's apartment, he and Samantha make sweet, sweet offscreen love.  After, they break into the cult's temple, only to be quickly apprehended.  Poor Samantha is injected with a mysterious serum containing "The Blood of Our Ancestors".

Samantha: Ouch!
Mercedes: Oh, come on. I'm sure you've been stuck with worse things tonight.

Cut to the Black Mass led by Gunnar Hansen.  The congregation of hookers sip from a chalice of motor oil, while Samantha does "The Virgin Dance of the Double Chainsaws"!

There's an epic chainsaw battle between Samantha and Mercedes, with Chandler's girl coming out victorious.  The two embrace as the police arrive.
Chandler: Glad you could make it.  You're a little late.  What took ya so long?
Chief: Letterman was on.  He had some pretty damn good guests.
Chandler: I don't know how many times I have to tell you.  Buy a VCR.  You can tape those things. Crime rate in this town will probably go down ten percent.

Reservoir Cats (1968)

Admittedly, I picked this movie only because of the title.  I figured it must have been where Tarantino got the name for Reservoir Dogs.  A few seconds of research revealed this to not be the case:
One popular and oft-told story about the origin of the title is that former video store employee Tarantino used to mangle the title of the French film Au revoir les enfants, and his mispronunciation gave birth to the phrase "Reservoir dogs."
Still, I'm not totally convinced he didn't rip this movie, as it would seem right up his alley - a gritty grindhouse-worthy revenge flick with plenty to turn-off and offend casual film buffs. Tarantino connection or not, I am still glad I watched this for a very specific reason I'll get to later.

The movie begins with Antoinette Maynard cruising along in a badass Mustang.  Antoinette has a pretty impressive list of exploitation work on her IMDb filmography.  But it's actually a little bit sad as nearly every role is a nameless bit part: "cavegirl by creek", "slave girl with earrings", "brunette salesgirl", "roommate", "hippie girl", "girl in sunglasses", and my favorite "Orita's partner in orgy".

As tends to happen in a lot of these revenge films, Antoinette is abducted and raped by a gang of "heroin smugglers" in a seedy warehouse.  Truthfully, I fast forwarded past this bit as it seemed long and beyond gratuitous.

I should have mentioned the film begins with a shot of a dead cat - actual roadkill.  A clue this was going to be a rough ride.

So, how does Antoinette exact her revenge?  By going to a private eye, paying him $100, and having sex with him. Go figure.

The private dick is Charlie Apple (actor Walt Phillips) and he is excessively annoying.  He speaks in the stereotypical film noir/Raymond Chandler fashion throughout.  What's bizarre is that this film has taken a 180 degree turn into comedy.  From graphic rape, to comic hilarity.... this is perhaps the strangest shift I've seen in a film.

As Antoinette explains the heroin smuggler gang rape (including a plot point about her brother being mixed up in the gang), we hear Charlie Apple's "comedic" thoughts. Truly bizarre, amazingly inappropriate.

The next scene blew my mind, and is the aforementioned reason I'm actually glad I watched this film.  It's not the scene itself, but it's place in my brain from decades past.  Let me explain:

Do you remember a scene or two from a film whose title is long forgotten.  You vividly remember the scene, but for the life of you, you don't recall the film?.... and it's bugged you for literally decades. This is that scene.

You may recall, I had a similar experience with Night of the Living Babes (Movie Review #49), but this is even worse.

The scene starts with a guy ascending to a room atop a vile and seedy stairway.  The music is creepy, and it gave me a bad vibe....

He enters a room where a couple are having sex.  The stranger cuts her throat.. and that's it.  There was just something off putting and dark about the whole affair.  The combination of music and rank atmosphere reminds me a lot of Eraserhead - you'd have to see it to know what I mean, I suppose.

Charlie Apple arrives at the scene (apparently this is the apartment of Antoinette's mysterious brother).

I should mention here that I not only remember that aforementioned disturbing little scene from decades ago, but I also actually remember the process of renting the VHS tape.  It was 1988.  I worked in a department store in San Bernardino and I dropped by the video store that night on the way home.  I spent what seemed like an hour trying to decide what to rent - nothing seemed good.

Finally, I just grabbed Reservoir Cats, a tape with box art that seemed at least semi-intriguing and proceeded to check out.  The lady at the counter literally said, "You spent all that time looking and this is what you chose?"  She shook her head disapprovingly.  I probably should have listened to her and checked out Animal House for the millionth time instead.

But then, I would have missed this scene...

Antoinette is asleep (naked) on Charlie Apple's couch when a blind humpbacked janitor cleans the room.

Read that sentence again.  This happens... for no reason whatsoever.

Meanwhile, Antoinette's brother arrives and knocks out Charlie Apple.  His fellow heroin smugglers take the private dick to the same warehouse where Antoinette was raped and rough him up (luckily, no rape).

Then, Antoinette arrives to help and has sex with Charlie Apple on the same disgusting mattress where she was raped.

Most would have clicked "stop" at this point, but I'm in too deep to turn back now.

Antoinette gets captured by the heroin gang (and is, naturally, ravaged by a big lesbian) and is held in a seedy little room.  There's a very good reason why wood paneling became synonymous with sleazy 70s-ness.  It seems like the grittiest and worst scenes the decade had to offer seemed to take place among wood paneling.

Swedish Sexbomb Uschi Digard shows up as a hitchhiker who takes off with the car of Antoinette's brother. There's a couple car chases, and the movie ends in the most poorly choreographed gun battle I've ever seen (and that includes Lee Marvin's Prime Cut, which is saying something).

The end fizzled long after the novelty of this weird long forgotten film wore thin.  This is one film I can solidly not recommend.  It's neither funny nor entertaining, and it crosses the line of bad taste with its multiple sexual assaults.  Not a fun watch. Not recommended even in your most desperate hour when your unable to find anything at the video store.  Pull a random tape, it's bound to be better than this (unless it stars Adam Sandler).


  1. Reservoir Cats sounds cheap, tacky and luridly perverted. Where can I get a copy??

  2. AnonymousJuly 03, 2015

    One of the great side notes about HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS is that in the big Chainsaw fight with Linnea and Michelle Bauer at the end, both ladies are totally naked save for the body paint. YET, mainstream TV shows and magazines ran clips/photos from that scene despite their no-nudity standards and practices at the time! Pretty sly way of evading censorship, Fred Olen Ray!

  3. I saw "Reservoir Cats" a few months ago. I think it had a different title originally, as the part at the beginning looked like it was filmed a lot more recently than 1968. Anyway, you're description is pretty spot-on. IIRC, I saw it on YouTube, but it may not be there anymore. YouTube has a lot of sexploitation movies from this era, an almost endless supply.

  4. I meant the part with the roadkill; That looked a lot newer than '68.

  5. AnonymousJuly 04, 2015

    I like your movie "Walk-Throughs". That's a good description. Great work, sir. Your site is one of my favorite

  6. I had no idea Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is a private eye film. I added it to my private eye list at Letterboxd. http://letterboxd.com/retrohound/list/private-eye-films/detail/ I don't think I bother adding the other one.