Sunday, March 24, 2013

Desperate Teenage Lovedolls (David Markey, 1984)

In order to get in the mood to write about Desperate Teenage Lovedolls (word on the street is, the film was originally titled "Desperate Teenage Runaways," but Kim Fowley, former manager of The Runaways, threatened to sue), I've been listening to "Survive" by The Bags on repeat (and by "repeat," I mean two times in a row). Okay, before you say, "aren't you special," the song is featured in the movie; just in case you were wondering why I was randomly namedropping this classic slab of L.A. punk rock. In all honesty, what I'm really trying to do is summon my inner punk. And, yes, I have an inner punk; his name is Steve, he likes the Suburban Lawns, eats nothing but Doritos® Fromage Mordant, wants to perform cunnilingus on Sharon Mitchell in the worst possible way, and spends most of his time sniffing glue underneath the Santa Monica Pier. The reason you initially doubted whether or not I had an inner punk was probably because I rarely ever need to tap into him. In fact, the only time I ever seem to require his services is when I'm watching Repo Man; which is something I try to do at least once year ("Ordinary fucking people. I hate 'em"). In other words, Steve's not a big part of my life. However, I needed him desperately (no pun intended) when it came time to watch this micro-budget tribute to the L.A. punk scene (the only punk scene I subscribe to). And after listening to "Survive" by The Bags multiple times, I feel like I'm ready to delve into this gritty, shot on super-8, cult, trash, camp masterpiece.
It's a good thing I did, because I was immediately put off by the lack of synthesizers on the soundtrack; I kept telling myself: "Relax, man. Not every film can have synthesizers." Nevertheless, the film does use the music of SPK to punch up the drug trip gone awry scene. And, as most people know, SPK are one of the few bands that can be truly call themselves "industrial" (most so-called "industrial" bands make house music with distorted vocals slapped over top of it - not that there's anything wrong with that).
Reminding me of Ladies and Gentlemen - The Fabulous Stains, Breaking Glass, and Smithereens (films that sport ambitious female characters who crave fame and fortune, but quickly find out that both are not all that they're cracked up to be), Desperate Teenage Lovedolls, written and directed by David Markey (founder of the punk zine We Got Power! - I'm a wealth of information today), tells the tale of The Lovedolls, an all-girl punk band who become unwitting victim's of their own success.
When two long lost friends, the leggy Kitty Carryall (Jennifer Schwartz) and the exceedingly brunette Bunny Tremelo (Hilary Rubens), reunite at a bus station in Venice, California, they both agree that now is the perfect time to put The Lovedolls back together.
Even though it's still early, I'm having no trouble whatsoever picturing the members of Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill watching Desperate Teenage Lovedolls on their respective tour buses.
The third member of The Lovedolls, it turns out, is locked up in a mental hospital. Which, surprisingly, isn't going to be that big a problem, as Alexandra (Kim Pilkington) is planning her escape as we speak. Smashing her guitar over the head of her doctor (Jordan Schwartz), Alexandra makes a run for it.
Meanwhile, out in suburbia (our trip to the burbs is accompanied by a cheeky music cue taken directly from The Brady Bunch), Kitty, who is wearing a kick ass green sweater dress (if you don't think sweater dresses can kick ass - well, they totally can), and Bunny are rehearsing. When Kitty's mom (Jordan Schwartz) starts hassling her, Bunny decides to bail. Chilling in her room, showing off her amazing legs (which are tastefully encased in a pair of light purple pantyhose), Kitty is shocked to find Alexandra hiding under some blankets.
After telling her mom to "go fuck herself," Kitty and Alexandra leave in a huff. Well, actually, Kitty does the majority of the huffing during their exit. What I should said was, after hurling a series of fuck-based insults in the general direction of her mother, Kitty, along with Alexandra, leaves in a huff. I guess that's better. Either way, Kitty is now a teenage runaway.
While hitchhiking with Alexandra, you'll notice that Kitty is now wearing black pantyhose. Granted, you'll have pause the movie in order to properly appreciate the magnitude of the hosiery change. But trust me, her light purple pantyhose have been replaced by a pair of jet black pantyhose.
If you don't believe me, watch the outtakes. In them, you'll come across an extended version of the hitchhiking scene. And in this extended version you will clearly see that the shapely stems jutting out from the bottom half of Jennifer Schwartz's kick ass green sweater dress have been lovingly re-poured into a pair of super-tight, jet black pantyhose. To make matters even more titillating, there's a run in her hose (a long run that starts on her left thigh and goes all the way down to her knee).
You think that's titillating? Wait until you see the part where Jennifer Schwartz tells Kim Pilkingston to stop wasting her time using her thumbs to hitch a ride and proceeds to lift up the bottom of her kick ass green sweater dress to reveal even more pantyhose-ensnared leg. They're going to be mopping you off the floor.
And get this, she actually says, "The thumb trick doesn't work, but the pantyhose does," while hiking up her kick ass green sweater dress. Now, the only reason I think of as to why this scene didn't make it into the final version of the film was because of bad pantyhose continuity. Like I said, Kitty Carryall is wearing light purple pantyhose when she leaves in that huff I mentioned earlier, and seconds later, she is wearing jet  black pantyhose. People who leave in huffs don't usually have time to change their pantyhose. If she had left in say, a casual and relaxed manner, then I would have bought the pantyhose change. But not in a huff. It doesn't pass pantyhose muster.
Which is a shame, really. Because there's nothing sexier than a leggy woman, or in this case, a leggy teenage runaway, who knows how to harness the power of her shapely stems.
Most people when talking about Desperate Teenage Lovedolls seem to go on and on about the controversial scene where Kim Pilkington shoots heroin...for realz. Yet, here I am, rambling, semi-coherently, about, what is basically, a deleted scene. Oh, well.
As expected, Alexandra's drug habit prevents her from becoming a Lovedoll (you're supposed to develop a debilitating drug habit after you become famous, not before). Nonetheless, that doesn't stop Kitty, who hits the streets in search of a new drummer. Running into Patch Kelly (Janet Housden) while putting up flyers, Kitty asks her to join the band. Of course, not before thanking her for killing her mother. Here's a sample of the dialogue heard during Kitty and Patch's first meeting: Kitty Carryall: "Thanks for killing my mother." Patch Kelly: "No problem."
After stealing a guitar from some homeless guy in an afro wig, The Lovedolls soon find themselves on the road to superstardom. Only problem being, their manager, Johnny Tremaine (the amazing Steve McDonald from Redd Kross), is a bit of a scumbag (he rapes Bunny, puts Boy George on hold, and thinks a Beatles reunion with Kevin DuBrow from Quiet Riot as John Lennon's replacement is a good idea). And, oh, yeah, there's this all-girl gang called the She-Devils who are still pissed over the fact that Kitty killed their leader, Tanya Hearst (Tracy Marshak-Nash), with a switchblade during a violent confrontation on a Venice beach.
You could tell that Kitty and Bunny had finally "made it" just by looking at colour of their tights (colourful tights = success). Lounging around their mansion in Brentwood, Kitty, whose legs are fashionably sheathed in purple tights, and Bunny, who's rocking a pair of pink tights, have a contented air about them. However, as anyone who has ever watched a movie like this before knows, it all could fall apart at any moment. Meaning, the hottest band on the planet could be washed up in a matter of months. Scratch that, they could be washed up in a matter of days.
Despite its extreme low budget (the film purportedly cost around 350 dollars to make), Desperate Teenage Lovedolls manages to overcome its financial difficulties by fully embracing the D.I.Y. spirit of the L.A. punk scene. Boasting a campy edge (Steve McDonald's drug trip while wearing blue spandex trousers and his talk back while watching Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway are pure camp) and moments of violence (at least seven people are murdered in this film), the film isn't your typical tale of a couple of gals who go from the gutters of Venice to glamour of Beverly Hills. Uh-uh, it earns its status as a cult classic through sheer moxie and hard work.

video uploaded by Dave Markey


  1. I didn't realize she was shooting heroin for realz. That's pretty punk rock.

    There's a sequel to this movie that is partially a remake of Billy Jack (!). An interesting oddity.

    This is an excellent portrait of pre-cleanup Santa Monica, if anyone cares.

    There should be like a 100 movies about all girl punk rock bands. It automatically makes a movie good.

  2. The director mentions that the heroin was real on the DVD commentary.

    A sequel, eh? Just to let you know, it's Dave Markey week at the HOSIgh.

    Less remakes, more all girl punk rock band movies.

  3. I first ran in to Dave Markey from all the SONIC YOUTH videos he made. His aesthetic seems to be "turn on the camera, let stuff happen."

  4. Dave Markey directed the video for The Muffs' "Lucky Guy."

  5. Redd Kross's "Desperate Teenage Lovedolls Theme" is one of the catchiest songs I've ever heard. I can't get it out of my head.

  6. Tell me about it. Oh, wait. You just did. What I mean is, I agree with your statement that the theme from Desperate Teenage Lovedolls is quite catchy.

  7. I badly need to get my sweaty hands on a copy of this.

    And any review that mentions Suburban Lawns (Su Tissue what a work of art!) gets my vote.

    So glad that you keep this fantastic blog going.

    Cheers from the Swede.