Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hellhole (Pierre De Moro, 1985)

If you like women, and I mean, really like women, you'll definitely want to check out Hellhole, the developmentally challenged Cadillac of women in prison movies. It's got every kind of woman your unvarnished heart could possibly desire. Of course, the catch being that all the women are somewhat meshuggeneh. However, if you're like me, and you can't stand being around women who have all their faculties in order, then have I got a treat for you. It's got women who swing axes, body blow absorbing nurses, sandbox girls (there's nothing hotter than the sight of a grown woman playing in a sandbox while wearing a nondescript hospital gown), beastly women who lurk in dark boiler rooms, jacuzzi lesbians, mud bath connoisseurs, Christian fundamentalists with crimped hair, glue-sniffing lesbians (actually, the jacuzzi lesbians and the glue-sniffing lesbians are one in the same, so it should read "glue-sniffing lesbians who like jacuzzis"), shock-haired psychotics, overly enthusiastic shower fight bystanders, and skittish binge eaters. Oh, my, I'm getting tingly just thinking about all the mentally unstable ladies who populate this film's rough and grimy universe. While it may seem like I'm rattling off a random list of socially maladjusted women for my own sick and twisted amusement, let me assure you, I'm not gently tugging on your proverbial carburettor (though I bet half of you wish I was), all these crazy chicks magically appear at some point during this Pierre De Moro-directed motion picture. Yeah, that's right, Pierre De Moro directed this motherfucker, directed the living shit out of it, if you ask me, and there's nothing you can do about it. Imagine if someone really did want to do something about it, wouldn't that be an unexpected turn of events? Out of curiosity, I'd like to see them try, because the makers of this film possess a steadfast dedication to the realm of sleazy trash, and its ornery cousin, trashy sleaze.

It's mildly absurd, well, at least it was to me, that the film's only sane female characters are played by Mary Woronov (Eating Raoul) and Judy Landers (Dr. Alien), two of my favourite people on the planet. Sure, the hospital's administrator (Terry Moore) and a couple of the nurses seemed to be on the cusp of being normal, but they're basically background characters. Besides, you'd have to be a tad unhinged to want to work at a hospital run by Mary Woronov (her legs alone are taller than your insignificant ass). Anyway, the absurdity I'm alluding to stems from the fact that Mary Woronov's Dr. Fletcher (a tribute to Louise Fletcher from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, perhaps?) is trying to cure insanity while behaving in a manner that was clearly sane. On the other hand, Judy Landers' Susan seemed sane simply because Judy's one of the few actress with the innate ability to appear as if she was born without a brain. And, as we all know, it's kinda hard to damage a brain when there's no brain to damage in the first place.

This air of cranial sluggishness adds a subtle layer of confusion to the proceedings, as Silk (Ray Sharkey), a hired killer with a bit of a sadomasochistic streak, is instructed to find the whereabouts of some important documents. You see, the exact location of these documents can be found buried somewhere inside the brain of Susan's mother (Lynn Borden), but since he strangled her in a fit of strangulation with his favourite strangling scarf, he's going to have to dig through the empty-headed morass that is her daughter's brain instead. It's safe to say, this is not going to be an easy task. Compounding matters is the fact that Susan has developed a serious case of amnesia as a result of a nasty fall, and the fact that she watched her mother get strangled to death by a sleazy fiend dressed in leather ain't helping matters, either.

How exactly does one extract information from a brainless twit with amnesia? Since one of Silk's employers is on the advisory board that oversees the state's hospitals, they have set it up that Susan spends her time recovering at not a regular hospital, but at the Ashland Sanatorium For Women. Trading in his usual studs and leather look for a less menacing one, Silk poses as an orderly, and begins to badger the forgetful blonde. Standing in Silk's way, however, is another imposter named Ron (Richard Cox). Pretending to be orderly named Steve, Ron has been hired by another member of the advisory board (one not affiliated with Silk's amnesia scheme) to keep tabs on the goings on at the controversial sanatorium (there have been reports of abuse at this particular facility).

While the fake orderlies both covet what's inside Susan's brain, Silk wants wrestle intelligence from it, Ron/Steve wants to shield its contents from harm, Dr. Fletcher wants to inject her brain with a serum. And not just any serum, one that will revolutionize the treatment of a wide range of mental disorders. Oh, and before you get all excited over the prospect of watching a film where Mary Woronov wields a syringe overflowing with iridescent fluid, I feel I should warn you. Are you ready? The fluid in her syringe doesn't glow; it doesn't even glimmer. But, hey, buck up, little camper. She uses a syringe and preforms liquid lobotomies in a subterranean stetting, what more do you want? Not to sound ungrateful, but how hard is it to fill a syringe with a substance that glows? Let it go, man.

"You're not mentally ill, you're emotionally disturbed," is my favourite line in the entire movie, and it's uttered by Mary Woronov's Dr. Fletcher when Judy Landers' Susan tries to explain that she doesn't belong in a place like this. The crazed-looking redhead constantly grabbing at her hospital gown, on the other hand, does belong in a place like this. If I was a fake orderly pretending to work at Ashland, she would have been the first patient I would have asked out on a date. Of course, she's not listed in the credits (alas, there's no one listed as "crazed-looking redhead constantly grabbing at her hospital gown"), which always seems to be the case when it comes to crushing on mentally ill women who appear in the background of women in prison movies made during the 1980s. Well, whatever your name is mysterious redhead who likes to grab at their clothing, I wanna play in the sandbox with you. Call me. Wait a minute, did you say, "play in the sandbox"?!? Yeah, that's right, I said play in the sandbox.

While I'm on the subject, it should be noted that the statuesque Dr. Fletcher is a big fan of sand (put it in a box-like structure and you're looking at one giddy doctor). In fact, my second favourite line spoken aloud in Hellhole is when Dr. Fletcher tells a curious visitor to the sanatorium that she "finds sand to be much more therapeutic than water" in response to their query about the merits having a sandbox on the premises instead of a swimming pool.

After watching a sandbox fight get broken up by a couple of Dr. Fletcher's goons (unlike the security who work at most hospitals, these guys wear all black, carry nightsticks, and use the c-word a lot), Susan finally musters up the courage to ask Ron/Steve about hellhole. Even though he plays dumb, the look of horror on his face when she says the word "hellhole" should tell Susan everything she needs to know about hellhole (it's too early to tell if her non-functioning brain was able to pick up on what he was putting out there with his face). Meanwhile, over in Silk's room (yep, he's moved into Ashland, all right, and has turned his space into a pervert's paradise), the sleazy assassin is confiding with Vera (Edy Williams), a shapely patient who is acting as one of his spies. Telling her to find out all she can about this Steve fella (who he calls "half a fag"), Vera starts snooping around the showers in her white panties wielding a bar of hypoallergenic soap.

Why is Vera wearing panties in the shower? And I had no idea they had hypoallergenic soap back in the 1985 (I thought everyone just used Dial and hoped for the best). An excellent question and a valid point. But there's no time to dilly-dally over such trivialities, a shower fight is about to commence. How do I know a shower fight is about to commence? Um, hello, a bunch of naked women are showering together (one, albeit, is inexplicably wearing white panties), the film's called "Hellhole," not A Walk to Remember, and a mean-looking chick sporting a mullet has just taken exception with the fact that Vera is currently washing her girlfriend's back with a bar of hypoallergenic soap, so, of course, a shower fight is about to commence.

The coolest aspect about this particular sequence was not the sight of two pantie-adorned–Vera's opponent (Ann Chatterton) is, you guessed it, wearing panties–women fighting in a shower while surrounded by a cheering circle of curly-haired cunts, but the fact that one of the C.C.O.C.C's almost buys it while running to get a spot in the circle. Remember ladies, whenever you find yourself in a situation where your presence is needed to make a girls only shower fight seem more exciting than it really is, always walk, never run, your safety and overall well-being is important to us.

When an unbalanced woman with crimped hair wearing Tretorn tennis shoes (Marneen Fields) has finished ranting and raving in the dinning hall, we get our first glimpse of Mary Woronov in all her evil glory. Didn't you mention Mary Woronov being in a previous scene? Yeah, I did. But she was seated during that particular scene. And you what they say? A walking Mary Woronov is a... actually, I have no idea what "they say." All I know is there's something about the way Mary Woronov moves in this movie. Every step seems to have been meticulously thought out beforehand, which gives her character a weirdly alien temperament. Anyway, the woman in the Tretorns stops ranting and raving almost immediately when Mary Woronov's Dr. Fletcher enters the room. After coaxing her down from the table she was standing on, the leggy doctor instructs her goons (one of whom is played by Robert Z'Dar, whose unique jawline is the stuff of nightmares) to take her away.

Take her way, eh? I wonder if they're going to take her to hellhole? Who am I kidding? Of course her crimped ass is going to hellhole; that's where everyone goes when they misbehave at Ashland. With the help her assistant, Dr. Dane (Marjoe Gortner from Starcrash), Dr. Fletcher injects five ccs of an experimental drug they've been working on into Miss Trethorn's brain. After some promising writhing by their unwilling test subject, the patient dies. No biggy, right? Little does Dr. Fletcher know that Don/Steve has been watching them from the shadows. The most disturbing part about Don/Steve's reaction was that he seem more horrified the post-mortal kiss Dr. Fletcher plants on the dead girl's lips than her actual murder (necrophilic lesbianism was, unfortunately, still frowned upon back in 1985).

Speaking of irregular lesbianism, Hellhole is chock-full of dyky goodness. While Susan is busy taking an unauthorized tour of hellhole (where she finds a world full of steamy pipes and rattling chains), the goons are busy busting up some equally unauthorized instances of girl-on-girl action. Two gals (Marie Lamarre and Judith Geller) are caught naked together inhaling amyl nitrate in their room, another two (Edy Williams and Natalie Main) take a mud bath together (Natalie is credited as "mud girl"), and one of the women from the first lesbian encounter I mentioned is found sniffing glue with a slender brunette (Lamya Derval), who is credited as "jacuzzi girl." Since it was the jacuzzi girl's first transgression involving unlawful cunnilingus, Dr. Fletcher doesn't send her to hellhole, but instead invites her to take a soak in her private jacuzzi... While she's soaking, a kimono-wearing Dr. Fletcher coyly offers up the shapeliness of her right leg as a gift to her newfound friend.

A brunette woman buys some grub at Tony's Tacos, yet there's no one in the credits listed as "brunette woman at taco stand" or "taco-eating lesbian with a perm." Weird. Just a second, it would seem that Michele Laurent plays the taco lady, and is credited as "Tony's Tacos Patron."

I'll admit, it was exhaustive work keeping track of all the crazed women who appear Hellhole. For example, did you know that Dyanne Thorne (Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS) shows up briefly as an inmate named Crysta? Well, she does. Let me give you some free Hellhole-watching advice: Don't let all the extraneous characters distract you from what's important. The bulk of your focus should be on Mary Woronov and Ray Sharkey, as they're the only ones who seem to be having any fun with their roles. The combination of Mary Woronov's imposing figure and Ray's coke-fueled unpleasantness was an absolute delight. It's too bad their characters couldn't have put aside their differences and gotten along better. It's true, she's a shy lesbian who's into medical experiments and pencil skirts, and he's a registered sex offender who likes to strangle people, but I'm sure they can find some common ground.. After all, I'm currently dating a deranged redhead with severe body issues, and I couldn't be happier.

Taking yet another look at the film's credits, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say the "crazed-looking redhead constantly grabbing at her hospital gown" was played by Tanya Russell, as she's credited as "freaked-out inmate," which is close enough, if you ask me.

video uploaded by MxHorrorx2nd


  1. I love this flick. It's one of the proud gems of my VHS collection.

  2. Damn, can't find it on Netflix. That's one hellavella post! I'll make time soon to read it all, but the film definitely has my interest.

  3. Hellhole was one of my Grandmother's favorites. Watched it oh so much! I miss The Landers girls. Such a staple of my viewing youth. They taught me so much...

  4. I too own this on VHS, to the surprise of absolutely no one.

    I'm pretty sure "taco-eating lesbian with a perm" is a Cramps song.

  5. @SonOfCelluloid: You should be proud.

    @Mr. Xploit, Esquire: If you lived in Toronto, Ontario, you could drop by Eyesore Cinema and rent the living shit out of it.

    @Cinema Du Meep: I'll admit, I was a little thrown by your Grandmother comment. But upon further reflection, I don't see why a Grandmother can't love Hellhole just as much as the rest of us.

    Judy and Audrey Landers are sages.

    @Thomas Duke: What's the deal with people owning Hellhole on VHS?!?

    Okay, two people saying they own it on VHS isn't exactly worthy of a "what's the deal," but still...

    Pretty sure, eh? I'm gonna have to check their discography.

  6. Wow, that's a lot of women! "Glue-sniffing lesbians who like jacuzzis"? "Taco-eating lesbian with perm"? LOL. Someone on IMDb said that this film used to be on late night HBO back in the day, but I don't remember it. Maybe I was watching Night Flight.
    Night Flight season promo 1985, with Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains:

  7. Don't tell anyone this, but I'm not 100% sure if the taco-eating lesbian with a perm was a lesbian. Hell, I don't think she was even eating a taco (it looked like she ordered a burrito). Sexually ambiguous burrito-eater with a perm would probably be a more apt description.

    I don't blame you, Night Flight looks cool, man. Holy crap, they showed Blood for Dracula and Flesh for Frankenstein?!? Sweet.


  8. Hello Yum-Yum! It's been a while but I'm back in the blogging game after my brief hiatus.

    HELLHOLE is one of my 80s faves (no big surprise)that I haven't revisited in quite a while. Thanks for stirring up some sleaze soaked memories.

    I do believe HH is Mr. Ray "I don't have HIV or a drug problem" Sharkey's crown jewel in his tattered cap!

  9. I missed you. :)

    Now that you're back, I'll have to get around to putting the final touches on my Evil Toons entry (it's been languishing unfinished for a few months now).

    I wanna be Ray Sharkey's character in Hellhole when I grow up.

  10. I'm on pins and needles awaiting your EVIL TOONS review!

    I hope Madison Stone did not disappoint...her performance in ET is not as filled with retro wordplay like her turn in PARTY DOLL A GO-GO...and I know how you modern girls prefer synthetic futures and day glow lingerie.

  11. I was watching West Side Story the other day, and I couldn't help but notice that a couple of lines of dialogue were used in Party Doll A Go-Go! Ooo-belee-oo. And you can punctuate it... Ooo.

    Anyway, I watched Evil Toons way back in June 2011, so I hope I can put something together that will satisfy your pins and needles (my memory of it is a tad sketchy and I don't possess the DVD anymore).

  12. I also really love that the guy who directed this did Savannah Smiles. What a way to follow that up!