Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988)

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers poster

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers logo

Director: Fred Olen Ray
R | 1hr 15min | Comedy/Horror

I have to be honest, this is not what I was expecting at all. When you’re confronted with a title like Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, it doesn’t leave much to the imagination, but it does leave you open to surprises. This is quickly emphasised with an opening disclaimer which goes above and beyond the usual ‘based on a true story’ proclamations, instead decreeing: The chainsaws used in this motion picture are real and dangerous! They are handled here by seasoned professionals. The makers of this motion picture advise strongly against anyone attempting to perform these stunts at home. Especially if you are naked and about to engage in strenuous sex.

Some pretty sound advice.

On the surface, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is everything you would imagine it to be. It is a movie about chainsaw-wielding nut jobs masquerading as barfly hookers. It is grainy aesthetics and sordid, neon-lit streets, a film with so many absurd plot developments part of the fun is trying to figure out where it’ll take us next ― and by the way, good luck with that.

Despite its title, labelling Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers ‘soft porn’ may be something of a push, but with the amount of senseless nudity on display, you’d be forgiven for thinking as much. You could even throw the word ‘fetish’ in there, particularly when bucketloads of blood collide with bosoms like waves crashing against the rocky shores. This is B-movie acting, porn star extras and enough sleaze to leave you sticky with delight. There are also some fabulous wigs on display.

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers 2
The fashion police would impose a nationwide crackdown on garish bracelets.

But Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is so much more than the overtly lurid trash it admittedly piles on. Far from dull and fatuous, it is the exploitation equivalent of The Naked Gun, driven by the kind of pseudo-noir that seems tailor-made for the suavely inane narration of one Frank Drebin. Our protagonist is named Chandler (as in Raymond), a sleazy private eye living out of the squalid Mark Twain Hotel — or ‘Hot’ as the half illuminated sign boldly proclaims. Chandler is the kind of cynical, straight-talking feller who orders a bourbon with a bourbon chaser, slinging crass similes such as “You could have knocked me over with a pubic hair,” as he glibly saunters from one suspect to the next.

Jack is looking for a nubile dame named Samantha Kelso, a teenage runaway who has fled her over-friendly stepfather, making her way to Los Angeles at the most inopportune of times. You see, punters are dropping like flies on the sleaze-ridden sidewalks of downtown Los Angeles, and having found severed fingers next to a condom and a tube of lipstick, the cops are convinced that hookers are to blame, despite the fact that the chainsaw which has been leaving limbs all over town weighs more than most of their potential suspects.

In your typical crime caper, this might be resigned to a simple case of illogical detective work, but logic has no place in Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers. In fact, the more illogical and wide of the mark your suppositions, the closer you’ll be to finding the right path. In this instance, there is the small detail of the deranged curb crawler currently in police custody, a big-breasted psycho who managed to knock off a couple of cops in the interrogation room after someone left petrol in the suspected murder weapon.

Rookies!

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers 4
Look, a penny!

Chandler drips with the kind of suave ineptitude you would expect from a Zucker/Abrahams/ Zucker production, and when he finally crosses paths with the strange looking man who’s been watching the film’s spate of murders with the staged contrivance of a Days of Our Lives character, he assumes that the massacres are the result of a racket which sells young body parts to the affluent elders of Beverly Hills. Naturally, he is well off the mark. In reality, the man is the leader of a nefarious chainsaw cult that can be traced back centuries to its Egyptian roots — that would be before chainsaws existed — one which brainwashes hooker minions to stage elaborate sacrifices in an intentionally cheap, Mel Brooks-style temple which utilises clearly posted signs offering directions to all and sundry.

As for Samantha, she’s not quite as naive as her mother made out. Not only is she sad to hear that her molesting father has been kicked out of her home (she was actually rather fond of him), she has secretly infiltrated the deranged cult in order to enact vengeance for a runaway friend whose severed head she found in the garbage. Being a big-breasted harlot, that doesn’t stop her from flirting with the seemingly irresistible Chandler, who covers up middle-fingered fights with his girlfriend by juxtaposing them with some spuriously affectionate narration. Rarely have the margins of love and hate been explored so sublimely.

Shot in an astonishing five-and-a-half days, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers was directed by Fred Olen Ray, a Z-budget mainstay whose filmography includes titles such as Cyclone and Beverly Hills Vamp, though most will remember him for 1983’s supernatural slasher Scalps.

On the subject of working within a tight budget in a 2007 interview, Olen Ray would explain, “Money is always a barrier. The more they give you, the more they expect, so you’re always caught short, regardless. I don’t think anything I’ve done was ever budgeted properly for what was expected of me, but that’s just the nature of the business, I guess. There certainly are films I did because there was a paycheck attached. It’s a working man’s world and it doesn’t pay to get too idealistic about things like directing low-budget movies if you have a family to think about. I usually try to find something that interests me in each and every project. It’s not really possible to phone it in. Making a film with no money or schedule is ten times harder than it is to make a big budget show where you’re surrounded by a gang of super-talented people.”

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers 1988
The Leader would choose his disciples well.

Despite his limitations, Olen Ray would work with some pretty notable faces over the years, even teaming up with two time Academy Award nominee Peter Fonda for 2010’s American Bandits: Frank and Jesse James. In line with its offbeat tone and exquisitely deranged plot, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers features a few recognisable cult stars of its own, including B-movie scream queen Linnea Quigley, fellow Nightmare Sister and ex-porn star Michelle Bauer and Leatherface himself, Gunnar Hansen, as chainsaw cult honcho The Leader, here presiding over events with the kind of ironic nod one would expect from such a deliciously acerbic outing. Elsewhere, with an estimated budget of only $23,000, Olen Ray had to think on his feet, many of our titular hookers actually real prostitutes brought in off the streets to cut costs. Who says the movie lack authenticity?  

When it gets down to brass tacks, the absolutely priceless Chandler is only too happy to help the dainty delight that is Samantha, even while wreaking bloody vengeance on the bitches who mutilated her friend because, as he so eloquently puts it, “She’s a nice kid, so maybe I’ll let her stay around awhile. Besides, she’s got a great set of tits!” Quigley would later claim that she rarely allowed her parents to see her films for fear of their reaction, though she was so proud of Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers that she actually let them attend the Hollywood Premier. I suddenly have a strong urge to seek out those other movies.

Action!

After a chainsaw fight that Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood would have been proud of, scantily-clad runaway Samantha turns on the cult who had supposedly brainwashed her, splitting voluptuous lead minion Mercedes in two and continuing to drive the blade home while being drenched with bucketloads of Kool-Aid by some unseen stagehand.

A Heady Brew

Not only just Chandler have a sharp mouth, he has a sharp temper, though he’d probably call the following atrocity an act of pure pragmatism.

Having failed to convince runaway Samantha to return home, hero Chandler headbutts her unconscious and slings her across his shoulder, the first step towards a blossoming romance.

Boy has that aged badly!

Did I say Badly?

After several failed takes, the above headbutt happened for real during a rather unfortunate take that left the dainty Ms. Quigley with a rather nasty boo-boo. Incredibly, neither actor broke character, which means the film’s very real act of domestic abuse was captured for all eternity.

Fortunately for cash-strapped Olen Ray, there was no lawsuit pending.

Choice Narration

While contemplating the emergence of the scared chainsaw cult, hero Chandler waxes political in an attempt to make sense of it all.

Jack Chandler: I’d stumbled into the middle of an evil, insidious cult of chainsaw-worshipping maniacs. I had to wonder if we’d let our religious freedom go too far in this country, or maybe our immigration laws were just too lax.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

One of the nicest surprises I’ve had in a very long time, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers logo is as joyously quotable as any cult movie I care to recall. While horror hounds will delight in the absurdity of its violence, those of the male persuasion will drool over the feast of flesh on display, and John Henry Richardson is a revelation as the preposterously iconic Chandler. The fact that they never made the teased sequel Student Chainsaw Nurses is one of B-movie cinema’s cruellest tragedies.

Edison Smith

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