VHS Vednesday: Party Line
PARTY LINE (1988). Starring Richard Hatch, Shawn Weatherley, Leif Garrett, and Greta Blackburn.
It's a fact of life (and Hollywood) that any new fad or advancement in technology will serve as the basis of a thriller or horror movie (with the movie usually being released just as the fad's time has passed). Case in point: Party Line, an "erotic thriller" inspired by the advent of the 976 chat line.
Despite the impression given by the salacious video box cover above, the killers in this movie are actually preying on men (which makes for a refreshing change from most slasher fare). The killers in question are Seth (Leif Garrett) and Angelica (Greta Blackburn), a supremely dysfunctional brother-sister pair who take out their anger at their dead abusive father by striking at unfaithful husbands like him. Angelica lures the suckers into bed, and Seth makes short work of them with Daddy's straight razor.
Maverick cop Dan Bridges (Richard Hatch--the Battlestar Galactica guy, not the Survivor guy) gets pulled into the case when the psycho siblings claim a victim at the nightclub where he's keeping tabs on a pimp. The case gets personal when Dan's girlfriend, a motorcycle cop nicknamed "Butch" (Marty Dudek), has the misfortune of pulling Seth over for speeding and becoming collateral damage. Now, it's no more Mr. Nice Guy. Well, kind of. I like Richard Hatch, but if there's one thing he's not, it's a bad-ass. It's fun watching him try, though.
Of course, the movie tries to play up Dan's supposed bad-assery by hammering home the old trope of "maverick = good, by-the-book = bad." Even when it's pointed out that Dan's disregard of procedure and civil liberties ruined the D.A.'s case against a killer (and freed him to kill again), we're supposed to think that it's the D.A. who's the asshole. It's that kind of movie.
The high point of the movie is the twisted relationship of Seth and Angelina. Leif Garrett and Greta Blackburn play their scenes with gusto, with Garrett convincingly portraying Seth's cold menace...which dissipates into weak snivelling when his dominant sister confronts him. Plus, he's in drag for the final showdown. That's right, Leif Garrett as a psycho killer in a wedding dress. What more could you want? (Okay, you could want a better script, tighter direction, and a lot of other things...but you're getting Leif Garrett in a dress and you're liking it!)
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
In addition to the aforementioned stars, the cast also includes Richard (Shaft) Roundtree as the traditional hard-ass police captain. It's a thankless role, but every cop movie's got to have one, if only to shout "You're off the case!" It's also interesting to see some performers more familiar for their voice work: Angela Gibbs (Sealab 2021) as a desk cop; Patricia Patts (the voice of Peppermint Patty in a couple of Peanuts specials) as a teenage party-line user who becomes a vital witness; and Terence McGovern (DuckTales) as one of Seth & Angelina's victims.
Labels: vhs vednesday