I saw most of Party Line waaaaay back in the early 90s when it was first running on late night cable. I didn’t remember much except Leif Garret wore a wedding dress (!) and people spoke on the phone to each other. Not much to go on, but since I’ve been walking down this lane of fragmented Cinemax memories, I decided to pick up a copy and give it a go.
I mean wow in a good way and a bad way. Like, I have a new appreciation for the psycho-sexual thrillers from the 80s and 90s. It was strange time folks, people still tried to include a story in the midst of its tawdriness. Can you believe it? And for the most part, a lot of these films aren’t as bad as people would have you believe. Well, Party Line is bad though. I mean, it’s about a supposedly incestuous rich brother and sister who bide their time by hitting the club circuit where Angelina (the AWESOME Greta Blackburn) lures horny men into her clutches with offers of real wild sex. Then Seth (Leif Garrett) shows up and slits their throat. He dons a red wig and takes no prisoners.
Enter Dan (Richard Hatch), a typical ‘goes against all policies but gets the job done’, cop who just happened to be at a nite club where the latest murder took place. He’s all angry, but dude he just cares. He ends up being paired with Stacy (Shawn Weatherly looking divine), a by the book assistant in the D.A.’s office. Yeah, you totally see where this is going, huh? But you don’t! Because lo and behold, Dan has a girlfriend, a fellow cop named Butch (Marty Dudek). Threw a wrench in that love interest angle, don’t it? Well, maybe not…
Anyway, Stacy and Dan check out this awesome 80s club with a killer live band and some great synth pop. They actually encounter Seth, who tries to give them false info. This kind of blows up in his face when he’s asked to leave his info with an officer for further questioning. Whoops!
And while all of this mayhem is taking place, there’s a sixteen year old nymphet who likes to call the “Party Line” and talk amongst other horny people. It’s so funny to see this, as it’s such a precursor to chat rooms. I like this idea better because you actually get a voice on the other line. Well, Jennifer kind of enjoys calling 976 numbers when she’s babysitting, so it’s not long before her lecherous employer, Mr. Simmons wants a piece of Jen’s action. He calls the Party Line one night as she’s arranging a date with The Fireman, who is Seth. By the way, she goes by the pseudonym The Explorer, which is kind of gross.
During all of this mysterious mysteriousness, Seth gets pulled over by Butch and he slits her throat. When Dan finds out, he means BUSINESS. He’s going to put some of that Apollo foot to ass and real good like, I tell you!
The next day, Seth shows up at a café with his requisite red suspenders and another Party Line listener approaches him as if she was The Explorer, much to Jennifer’s dismay. Then comes Mr. Simmons and the three soon leave to meet up with Angelina for a night of rough and weird sex. Things don’t go so well though and the anonymous girl and Mr. Simmons end up in a field in Malibu all nekkid and stuff. I’d like to say Mr. Simmons blew that one, but that’s kind of inviting a Three’s Company type joke.
Jennifer realizes she was just inches away from a madman and goes to Stacy to help catch the killer. I mean, someone needs to bring Mr. Simmons’ killer to justice. Right? Right? Oh, damn, I’m losing you…
OK, this movie rules. Aside from Leif in drag, the dynamics of his relationship with Angelina is amazing. She totally rules the roost and when she’s not playing mind games or killing, she’s working out. And she works out a lot. It also doesn’t take much to aggravate her as she’s often calling Seth a “Mama’s boy,” and slapping him. Personally, I think he kind of likes it.
Unfortunately, Angelina is actually the smart one. So it really doesn’t take long for the shit to hit the fan, but c’mon did you really want more than 90s minutes of a transvestite Leif slitting throats? Yeah, I wanted more too. It’s a fun movie, shot pretty well and Hatch is really good. Richard Roundtree shows up for a bit too and he’s always gold. And contrary to what I’ve read, Leif is actually quite good. He’s very subdued, but I think his character calls for that. Now, Greta Blackburn, damn she’s great. She wears only the BEST late 80s gear and has the coolest frosted perm this side of Dynasty! She’s a lot of fun to watch and I think even if this movie was just her slapping Leif for an hour and half, I’d love it all the same!
Party Line was directed by William Webb who also helmed the cruelly slandered film The Banker with Robert Forster – but that’s for another blog day!
This review originally appeared on the blog Genre Girls.