Scream Queen: it's a term that immediately brings to mind beautiful women, covered in blood, belting out an ear shattering yell while battling whatever serial killer or monster they're pitted against. The late eighties and early nineties were the heyday of the scream queen, and in 1992, b-movie director Donald Farmer decided he'd gather together all the actresses he knew who fit the bill, and make a documentary, pithily titled Invasion of the Scream Queens.
The film consists mostly of interviews with actresses, and one male director (David DeCoteau), along with clips of many of their films. Farmer does in fact get interviews with a lot of very well-known and respected screamers, such as Michelle Bauer, Brinke Stevens, Mary Woronov, Monique Gabrielle and Elizabeth Kaitan, as well as some others that aren't nearly as well known, such as Tammara Souza, Deborah Stern, Veronica Carothers, etc.
The great thing about the film is that Farmer lets the actresses simply talk about themselves in their own terms, framing what they do however they like. There isn't the sense that he's trying to impose a point of view or particular slant on them. Of course, he's the one asking the questions (which generally aren't heard), but he's not forcing these women into his own, narrow conceptual box.
What may surprise some people is that these aren't mindless bimbos. For the most part, they're very put together, intelligent and thoughtful, even if they do spend their working days topless and splattered with blood. Woronov is an accomplished painter (her interview spends a lot of time talking about her art) and Brinke Stevens has a master's degree in marine biology.
The actresses spend a lot of time talking about nudity, and when and when not it's appropriate. They also discuss their films, how they got into the business, working with various directors, and related anecdotes. Invasion of the Scream Queens is a very engaging film, and something of a snapshot of the b-movie industry in the early nineties. It was shot on video, and has a lot of quality issues, but this doesn't materially detract from the enjoyment of the film. Highly recommended.
The image is presented in 1.33:1 standard and as I said has a lot of issues. There are tracking lines, dull colors, etc. It looks very much like a 20 year old movie shot on video, which it is. However, it helps to look at this as a historical document, and appreciate the less than stellar quality and all the nostalgia that it calls up.
Audio is Dolby 2 channel, and isn't fantastic either, with some crackle and hiss from time to time. Once again, you shouldn't be watching this film expecting crisp sound and flawless video, so this isn't really a problem. No alternate audio or subtitles are included.
There are quite a few extras here, included an interview with director Donald Farmer, and some cut sections of several of the interviews. Farmer is a thoughtful guy, and he has a lot to say about the state of the industry then and now.
The eighties and nineties were a great time for b-movies, and Donald Farmer was living it. Luckily, he decided to capture that moment and share it with the rest of us. If you have any interest in this era, these movies, or these actresses, this is an excellent peek into what was going on. It brought back a lot of happy memories for me, and probably will for you too!