Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988)

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers poster

Tagline: They charge an arm and a leg!
Director: Fred Olen Ray
Writers:  Fred Olen Ray (screenplay) (as Dr. S. Carver), T.L. Lankford (screenplay) (as B.J. Nestles)
Starring: Gunnar Hansen, Linnea Quigley, John Henry Richardson, Dawn Wildsmith, Michelle Bauer, Esther Elise, Tricia Burns
R | 1hr 15min | Comedy/Horror
Budget: $23,000 (estimated)


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 of things, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is everything you would imagine it to be. It is a movie about chainsaw-wielding nutjobs masquerading as barfly hookers. It is grainy filters and sordid, neon-lit streets; a narrative scattergun that would leave the likes of Tarantino creaming themselves as bucketloads of blood collide with bosoms like waves crashing against the rocky shores. It 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 that initially leaps to mind. 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 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 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 in L.A., 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 that has been leaving limbs all over town weighs more than most of their potential suspects. To be fair, there is the small detail of the deranged curb crawler they have in their 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.


Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers 4
Look, a penny!

Chandler drips with the kind of suave ineptitude you would expect from a Zucker/Abrahams production, and when he finally crosses paths with the strange looking man who has been watching the 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, and who could blame him? 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. Never have the margins of love and hate been explored so sublimely.

Shot in an astonishing 5 and a half days, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is another from a proud heritage of sleazeball trash, one of a plethora of very particular productions which begin with a marketable title and devise the plot from there. This was a unique process that would result in such gems as Cannibal Women in the Avacado Jungle of Death and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, titles which proved relatively successful thanks to the kind of cult following that is still very much alive today.

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

In line with its offbeat tone and exquisitely deranged plot, this addition to the canon features an oddity of a cast, including B-movie scream queen Linnea Quigley, fellow Nightmare Sister and 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 that the movie tends to revel in. With an estimated budget of only $23,000, director Fred Olen Ray had to think on his feet, and many of the hookers in question were actually real prostitutes brought in off the streets. Who says these movies lack authenticity?  

Of course, when it gets down to brass tacks, Chandler is only too happy to help the dainty delight that is Samantha while she wreaks 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.

Best Kill

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 apparently 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.

Most Absurd Moment

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.

Interesting Titbit

After several failed takes, the above headbutt happened for real. Fortunately, neither actor broke character, and they were able to use the kind of realistic footage they otherwise couldn’t have dreamt of. The fact that it was the last scene of the day was also somewhat fortuitous for, particularly for the injured Ms. Quigley.

Most Absurd Narration

While contemplating the emergence of the scared chainsaw cult, hero Chandler waxes political as he attempts 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.

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers logo


One of the nicest surprises I’ve had in a very long time, this racy sleazefest is as joyously quotable as any cult movie I care to recall. While gore hounds will delight in the absurdity of its violence, those of the male persuasion will be left drooling at 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 cinema’s cruellest tragedies.

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