• Invasion of the Scream Queens



    Directed by: Donald Farmer
    Released by: Wild Eye Releasing
    Released on: June 17, 2014
    Cast: Michelle Bauer Brinke Stevens, Mary Woronov
    Purchase from Amazon
    1991

    The Movie

    Donald Farmer's shot-on-video documentary The Invasion of the Scream Queens was first distributed on VHS in 1992. More than twenty years later, Wild Eye Releasing and VHShitfest have decided to release it for the first time ever on DVD in a 20th Anniversary Special Edition.

    The movie is essentially a collection of interviews with the “Scream Queens” of the 80s and early 90s; actresses who starred in low-budget horror films directed by the likes of Donald Farmer (Demon Queen, Cannibal Hookers), Jim Wynorski (Hard to Die, 976-EVIL 2), Fred Olen Ray (Scream Queen Hot Tub Party, Evil Toons) and David DeCoteau (Sorority Babes in the Slime-Ball Bowl O' Rama). Several of the hottest Scream Queens of the 80s and 90s are featured here, including Brinke Stevens, Michelle Bauer, Melissa Moore, Elizabeth Kaitan, and the former Factory Girl herself, Mary Woronov.

    Fans of this era in horror will immediately notice the major omission from the cast: Linnea Quigley. Her omission from the film is unfortunate, since she is widely regarded as the most popular Scream Queen from this era. In the only interview with a director in the movie, David DeCoteau suggests that at the time this documentary was being made, Linnea and he were not on speaking terms, so it's likely there were behind the scenes reasons for her not appearing in the movie. Adding to the strangeness of Linnea Quigley's non-inclusion is the interview with former Bond Girl, Martine Beswick (Thunderball, Dr. No, From Russia With Love). Aside from Trancers II, Beswick didn't act in many horror films, and she definitely wasn't in anything that would classify her as a Scream Queen.

    Invasion of the Scream Queens doesn't unfold like a typical documentary. The movie begins as Brinke Stevens introduces herself and the title of the movie, and after a series of clips and trailers from various horror movies (including: The Vampire Lovers, Cannibal Girls, I Drink Your Blood and more), the movie plays out as a series of interviews occasionally interrupted by footage from the movies the women starred in. The interviews don't occur in any particular order, they aren't of a set length, and there's otherwise no narrative thread to the film. This might turn some viewers off who are used to more polished documentaries, but for fans of the direct to video schlock that the Scream Queens starred in, it's all part of the experience.

    As for the interviews, most of them are great, and show a more intelligent side to these women than they ever got to showcase in movies like Slavegirls from Beyond Infinity or Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers. Most of the women directly address the issues of sex and violence in the movies that made them stars. It's refreshing to see how liberal and progressive their attitudes were. Many of the Scream Queens, Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer for example, started their careers modeling for Playboy and Penthouse, and their carefree attitude towards nudity carried on into their film careers. Though most of the women agree that exploitation for its own sake wasn't something they were interested in. A common thing a lot of these actresses admit in this exposé is that they'd like to transition into more legitimate work, making “real films.” Looking through most of these actresses IMDB profiles is a sad reminder that very few of them were able to succeed in making that jump, and in some cases it's really too bad. Both Michelle Bauer and Brinke Stevens come across as charming and complete naturals in front of the camera. Janus Blythe (The Hills Have Eyes, The Incredible Melting Man) has the attitude of a serious actor, and not a former model or Hollywood bimbo. In other cases though, it's easy to see how some of these actresses careers didn't go beyond low-budget horror and softcore films. Take Ruth Collins interview, for example. She's on camera wearing a skin-tight bodysuit with her tits and groin covered in bright, fake flowers looking like she just came off of a Mardi-Gras float (“It's from Frederico by LaCobia”, she tells us, “and everyone will be wearing it”). She considers herself a “performance artist,” but looks like an exotic dancer. She says she'd like to work with Woody Allen; she just finished filming with Fred Olen Ray.

    The interview with Mary Woronov is without a doubt the best of the movie. Looking incredibly fresh-faced and sexy here (she was 49 at the time), Woronov talks at length about her early film career working with Andy Warhol, Roger Corman and Paul Bartell. “All my movies were B-movies,” she says, “but I like B-movies!” Woronov tells a really funny anecdote about working with Warhol, and why she preferred Bartell as a director. Throughout the interview Woronov is seated in front of a massive oil painting, which she reveals she painted herself. She then discusses her preference for painting over acting because of the creative control it affords her, before discussing at length the meaning of the painting behind her, and several other paintings she's made, all of which are quite remarkable. Fans of obscure 70s cinema will be happy to know that she also discusses her role in Sugar Cookies (recently restored and released on Blu-ray/DVD by Vinegar Syndrome, read Ian's review for more on that film). Like most films she's appeared in, the alluring, intelligent and well-spoken Woronov is the highlight of Invasion of the Scream Queens.

    Audio/Video/Extras

    Invasion of the Scream Queens is presented on DVD with an MPEG-2 encode in 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The image is flat and soft, lacking the image detail that we've come to take for granted in the HD era. Most of the interviews look like they were shot on a VHS camcorder, and probably were. No attempt appears to have been to clear up or remaster the image, and aside from some occasional image stability issues, it's watchable. Frankly, the shoddiness is part of the movie's grungy charm. This is an shot on video documentary presented exactly as it was taken from the VHS it was sourced from. Expect more than that from the video presentation and prepare to be disappointed.

    The audio quality fares a little bit better than the video presentation. It's an LPCM 2-channel mono track that hasn't been digitally remastered or restored in any way, but the audio is nicely balanced and the actresses voices are all very clear and easy to hear. There isn't any additional music or sound effects in the movie, and background noise is at an absolute minimum. Because of the VHS source, there is an occasional drop in quality but it's minor won't impact watching the movie.

    The menu for the DVD is very basic and only features two options: Play and Bonus Features. The extras included on this disc are: a 2013 Interview with Donald Farmer, Deleted Scenes, a Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery, and Linnea Quigley's excerpt from The Invasion of the Scream Queens book. The interview with Donald Farmer and the deleted scenes are going to be of most interest to fans of the movie. The interview with Farmer is massive, clocking in at one hour. It's a very direct, straightforward interview filmed at a convention table but it fits with the style of the movie and provides a nice update on where many of the movie's stars are right now. There are over forty minutes of deleted scenes here, including an extra twenty minutes with Mary Woronov (!). Linnea Quigley's excerpt from the book version of Invasion of the Scream Queens is presented in a slideshow format, and while it's not the easiest to read off a TV screen, it's nice to have something of Linnea's included here.

    The Final Word

    Invasion of the Scream Queens is best enjoyed for what it is, a time capsule from a mostly undocumented era in movie history. It's not a perfect documentary, but fans of direct to video horror and sexploitation from the 80s and 90s will appreciate the flashbacks and the T&A.