Screwballs
Severin // R // $19.95 // August 25, 2009
Review by Bill Gibron | posted November 11, 2009
M O V I E
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
The Product:
The word "masterpiece" doesn't get tossed around a lot when critics discuss the sex comedy, and with good reason. Either they're insanely silly excuses for rampant T&A (Squeeze Play! Waitress! Stuck on You! ) or unfathomably popular pieces of wistful cinematic drek (say "hello", Porky's...). But when it comes to faithfully executing the concept of young people doing the dirty boogie - or at the very least, consistently thinking and acting on pent up passions for the same - nobody does it better than Screwballs. Not Lloyd Kaufman and the otherwise amazing Troma tramp stamps from the early '80s. Not Bob Clark and his hackneyed reminiscences about growing up in the boondocks of Southern Florida circa 195?. Not dozens of direct to video and cable crapshoots where bikini shops and car washes give excuses to producer's girlfriends to show off their sugar daddy's inability to think beyond his...you get the idea. No, Screwballs is sensational because it's bizarre, indecipherable, ever so surreal - and overloaded with questionable va-va-va-voom. How could you not love something that barely excels at that?

The Plot:
At T&A High, the boys all have one undeniable goal - to see school virgin and stuck up homecoming queen Purity Busch in her birthday suit. The altogether. The buff. Her supposed assets are legendary, and a group of five dispirit personalities will do anything to personally check them out. They include chronic masturbator Melvin Jerkovski, dorky science geek Melvin Bates, fun loving cut-up Ricky McKay, self-proclaimed BMOC Brent Van Dusen III, and recent transfer student/regular guy Tim Stevenson. One day, when they are all in detention, they decide to pool their resources. With the help of "friendly" coeds Bootsie Goodhead, Rhonda Rocket, and Sarah Bellum, the boys will each use their wit and cunning to come up with a way to check out Purity's pom-poms - and it looks like her last public act will be the perfect place for the unveiling.

The DVD:
When the dictionary of cinematic genres is written, Screwballs should hold a special place as the authoritative definition of "sex comedy". Rarely does a film encapsulate as flawlessly its motion picture categorization as this surreal 1983 Canadian classic. Really nothing more than a series of scatological set-ups waiting for their puerile or prurient punchlines to arrive, writers Linda Shayne and Jim Wynorski give director Rafal Zielinski a wonderful, weird premise from which to essay his raunchy ridiculousness. Sure, the characters are more caricature than complicated, and when it comes to skin, some of these babes have issues only a plastic surgeon could love. Yet the magical mixture of lame burlesque humor, low budget filmmaking, and fascinatingly floppy flapjacks result in real bare bodkin bliss! Indeed, the reason Screwballs is a boner-fide masterpiece is not because of its directorial flare, use of creative convention, or attention to personality or plot detail. No, this is perhaps the only movie of its type that actually feels like it was made by a group of horny 12th graders, hormones and hot flashes clouding their every attempt at logic.

You really do have to love the structure here - Purity Busch, our snooty stuck up heroine is given the legacy of some legitimate mythic mammaries, and the rest of the movie is spent watching five guys try to spy them. How can that not be a winner? From the get go, Zielinski makes the wise decision to keep the quest front and center. Everything else is throwaway - onscreen just long enough to make an impression, and then carted off for more adventures in boob-spotting. The best material revolves around uber-nerd Howie Bates and the various absent minded contraptions he builds to try and disrobe Ms. Busch. While they always backfire, the resulting ancillary cleavage will definitely cures what carnally ails ya. Similarly, the tired whining of the transfer student (ready to throw down the minute anyone gets frisky with his sis) works well as a counterbalance to all the kookiness. The cheerleaders - who include a bust enhancing exercise in their daily regiment - are presented as the archetypal slutty high school skankolas - proud of their puppies and always welcoming some friendly petting. It's a combination that few films even strive for. Even Porky's put down the sex shtick long enough to try and have some redeeming era-appropriate nostalgia. Yawn.

But Screwballs doesn't even care about that. Instead, what it wants to celebrate is up on the screen for everyone to see - rare naked human libido. There's no need to get back at some redneck strip club owner, no storyline about a struggling New York bistro and the crazy cast of semi-competent servers who work there. We don't get involved in love, coming of age, or any other reflective bullspit. There's no attempt to turn the women into proto-feminist talking points. No, at its core, Screwballs is naughtiness for the sake of nookie, boys and girls doing what biological dictates and society frowns upon. Sure, it's stupidly funny, about as coherent in its comedy as the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker films like Airplane! Granted, the gals we see sans clothing couldn't compete with the plasticine honey humpin' across late night subscription cable nowadays. And in the end, when the big reveal is made, we start to wonder if all the titty-based rigmarole was worth it. When the results are as blissfully sweet as this, the answer is Hell-friggin-yeah! Screwballs is indeed a classic - just not for the standard cinematic reasons. As a movie, it's junk. As a faux-funny erotic epiphany, it's epic.

The Video:
Thank you, Severin Films, for finding a wonderfully crisp and somewhat clean print of this film to transfer over to DVD. Most versions of the title were trapped in VHS hell - faded, dirty, and pan and scan. The 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks absolutely terrific. While far from perfect - this was a movie made on the cheap, after all - it looks a heckuva lot better than one would expect.

The Audio:
Not much really to talk about here. We get Dolby Digital Mono 2.0, meaning that both speakers play the same flat, rather dull sonic mix. There is no attempt to clean up the track, to give it any post-Reagan era oomph! Instead, the dialogue is easily discernible and the musical scoring is more than adequate.

The Extras:
Added content is where Severin shines, and Screwballs is no different. We are treated to a terrific audio commentary from director Zielinski (very insightful), interviews with the filmmaker as well as with star/writer Linda Shayne, costar Kent Deuters, F/X artist Gerald Lukaniuk and co-writer Jim Wynoski (terrific). There's also a talk with Canuxploitation expert Paul Corupe, deleted scenes, a theatrical trailer, and a conversation about '80s sex comedies with nudie film expert Mr. Skin. Taken as a whole, they provide a lot of information into why Screwballs was so successful, as well as why it remains a beaver benchmark some 26 years after the fact.

Final Thoughts:
While it may sound like the perverted rantings of a middle aged dirty old man, Screwballs was a great deal of mindless, miscreant fun. It has pre-silicon skin bags to spare, and a dopey devil-may-care attitude toward everything else that turned a potential paltry Greed decade dud into a Highly Recommended romp. In fact, after experiencing a similar level of unhealthy pleasure with the recently release Troma Sexy Box set, it's obvious that the most well-known examples of the genre were not necessarily the best. This crackerjack Canadian cavalcade shames every lame Tinseltown take on the material - and most of the time, it's not even making sense. That's the beauty of a movie like Screwballs. You want breasts? You get breats! You want mindless toilet humor? You get mindless toilet humor? You want something to stand the test of time? Believe it or not, it does.



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