As the quality, length, and even inclusion of DVD bonus features rolls steadily downhill, fans have begun to take matters into their own hands. Productions like Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy and More Brains!: A Return to the Living Dead easily trump the depth and detail a studio-produced extra would ever go into, because nobody knows what a fan wants to know about better than other fans. Although the limited format of a TV special hampers it a little, Screaming in High Heels: The Rise and Fall of the Scream Queen Era is a respectable and entertaining (if not indispensable) addition to the trend.
Written and directed by Jason Paul Collum (and advertised as "A Jason Paul Collum Scream Come True"), High Heels traces the rise and fall of the B-movie through the disappearance of the drive-in theater, the birth of home video, and into the DVD era. He centers the piece around the three original "scream queens": Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens, and Michelle Bauer, who have nearly 300 schlock film credits between them, and who appeared together in the cult classics Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama and Nightmare Sisters. Other interview subjects include directors Fred Olen Ray (Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers), David DeCoteau (the aforementioned Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama), and Ken Hall (Linnea Quigley's Horror Workout), and actors Jay Richardson (Attack of the 60-Foot Centerfolds) and Richard Gabai (Assault of the Party Nerds 2: The Heavy Petting Detective). Collum also interviews himself, which is an interesting alternative to, say, providing voice-over.
Collum takes the viewer through a quick but informative bit of history on the state of the movie industry before diving into interview footage of the film's three featured veterans remembering how they got into the business, their opinions on nudity, the thrill of going to conventions and meeting the fans, and the excitement of schlock horror exploding into the mainstream. All three women seem happy to look back on that time in their lives, giving the documentary a warm, friendly atmosphere that makes for a nice, funny contrast with clips of chainsaw murders. Their comments are cut together with choice clips from their movies, which is also fun, although fans should know they don't focus much on any individual pictures (Quigley touches on Savage Streets briefly, and there's a couple minutes on parent controversy surrounding Silent Night, Deadly Night, but that's about it).
Although both of the movie's subjects (the state of the industry and the trio of women) are interesting, and some context is probably necessary, there's not enough time in a 63-minute TV special to give the former the discussion it deserves. It might've helped if he'd filtered more of the industry material through the experiences of the three women (even though they were all just starting out), but he leaves that mainly to the other interview subjects. He also doesn't interview all three women at the same time, which strikes me as a huge missed opportunity. They may have only done two (now three) films as a trio, but they must have more shared experiences on the subject than the film shows, and it would be nice to see them interacting with one another in addition to their individual interviews.
It's true that horror fans may be a bit spoiled at this point when it comes to great documentaries (not all of them can be four hours long). Collum's look at the scream queen era only 63 minutes, but even if it would've been nice to see an "extended cut" for home video that pushed the picture to feature-length, what's here is definitely entertaining and captures the fun of the VHS glory days. Quigley, Stevens, and Bauer all appear to be having such a good time digging up their past -- can you blame someone for wanting more?
The cartoon art for Screaming in High Heels is fine, showing caricatures of the three leading ladies around a coffin with a skeleton inside, but it feels like a real missed opportunity to design something that harkens back to the days of sexy, painted VHS box art, which I think any and all movie fans -- especially horror movie fans -- have very fond memories of. The disc comes in a single-disc Amaray case, and there is no insert.
The Video and Audio
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, Screaming in High Heels looks pretty great and sounds as good as it needs to. Colors are bright and vivid, the audio is clean and clear, and if there were any defects in the image, I didn't notice them. Of course, a huge chunk of the doc consists of old VHS footage and footage from films shot on video, so a good portion of the movie was never going to look better than that source material anyway. The one complaint (as usual) is the lack of captions or subtitles on the disc.
Thankfully, my desire for more of the movie is mostly sated by the DVD's bonus features. The highlight of the package is the three extended interviews with Michelle Bauer, Linnea Quigley, and Brinke Stevens (13:58, 14:09, and 14:04, respectively). All three go into more detail about their personal experiences and the way their careers have changed and impacted their lives, and all of it is fantastic (I particularly liked Michelle Bauer's comments about what her daughter thinks about her mother's career).
Also included: "Brinke Stevens & Jason" (22:49) and "Linnea Quigley & Jason" (9:52), two panel clips from a Flashback Weekend. Although these are a nice addition to the set for fans, the audio for the Brinke Stevens panel has some nasty echo on it and the Linnea Quigley panel is fairly short and slightly awkward, as many of these panels -- of which I have attended many -- tend to be.
Fans (especially those who are specifically interested in Quigley, Stevens and Bauer) will find plenty to enjoy in this likable documentary. Although its TV special origins limit the scope of the feature presentation, a nice selection of extras go a long way to making the picture feel complete. Recommended.
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