"Mom, is this movie in 3D?" "Yes dear... dirt! Dirt! Dirt!" When those lines of dialogue were uttered during Screwballs' drive-in movie set piece (where they are showing The Arena with Pam Grier, which is also a Roger Corman effort), I couldn't help but smile. It's just one of many moments where the script by Linda Shayne and Jim Wynorski makes sly winks at the audience. During this flicks entire, fairly brief, 79 minute running time we know that nobody involved was taking it at all seriously - which may just be why it's so damn entertaining and amongst the top tier of low-budget teen sex comedies that cluttered theatres in the wake of Porky's surprise box-office success.
Produced by Corman's New World Pictures, Screwballs started its life with the less obvious moniker of Crazy Nights. Meant to be a cash-in on the aforementioned Porky's, this does crib the 50s setting and basics of Bob Clark's seminal teen sex comedy, but manages to come-up with its own identity due to director Rafal Zielinski's liberal use of wacky sound effects, sped-up slapstick, and a script packed to the gills with lots of sexual innuendos and random humour. It's a formula that Zielinski would poorly try to emulate two-years-later with (unofficial sequel) Loose Screws.
Welcome to Taft & Adams High. Yes, good old T&A (zing!). Where shenanigans are the name of the game as witnessed by the jock-ish Rick (Peter Keleghan) feigning an injury in order to pose as 'Dr. Pepper' and perform the free breast exams being offered by the school. This, of course, gets him a whole lot of detention and we're introduced to the rest of the guys. There's Brent (Kent Deuters), the rich kid caught making rude fellatio references in French class. New transfer student Tim (Jim Coburn) who ended-up in the girls locker room when given wrong directions. Overweight pervert Melvin Jerkovski (Jason Warren) and an over-excited sex drive that got him in trouble for masturbating in the cafeteria freezer. And practical joke loving nerd Howie (Alan Deaveau) whose use of strategically placed mirrors to spy up girls' skirts backfired.
It's during these detentions that our five new friends decide to make a pact to try and get the virginal Purity Busch (Linda Speciale) naked by the end of the school year. This leads to all sorts of set pieces like the aforementioned drive-in moment, Howie's failed attempt at hypnotism, and even a little bit of strip bowling (which I, like many, consider the flick's funniest scene). There's also a fair share of nudity, a scene set in the library with an over-zealous librarian and throbbing erections that got me chuckling, and Russ Meyer regular Raven DeLaCroix showing up in the finale for a striptease that really has nothing to do with the rest of the movie.
One of the main reasons this works so well has to be attributed to the cast. All of the guys exude a goofy charm and play their stereotypes well. If I were to pick one of them as a standout it would have to be Deveau who gives the geeky Howie a mischievous streak and does a great job with facial expressions. The main cast also gets able support from co-writer Shayne (playing Tim's love interest, Bootsie Goodhead), Donnie Bowes as Principal Stuckoff, and Speciale, who is incredibly cute here and deserves to be the boys' object of horniness - it's too bad this would be her only film appearance.
Screwballs isn't fine art and the people behind it know this. And that's also probably why I love it so much. It's the kind of outrageous, raunchy, and offbeat comedy you just wouldn't see these days that isn't concerned about trivial things like who it might offend or how tasteless it can get. It's mostly concerned with giving the audience a good time and it delivers in spades. This is probably the finest example of the sub-genre and was successful enough that director Zielinski would spend most of the 80s making variations of it with Loose Screws, the Police Academy cloning Recruits, Valet Girls, Heavy Metal Summer, and Screwball Hotel. (Chris Hartley, 10/24/09)
Directed By: Rafal Zielinski.
Written By: Linda Shayne, Jim Wynorski.
Starring: Peter Keleghan, Kent Deuters, Linda Speciale, Alan Deveau.
Severin - August 25, 2009
Picture Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen.
Picture Quality: Severin brings Screwballs to DVD with probably the best transfer they could scrounge up. It's definitely not a great looking one as it looks pretty soft, is littered with specks, and has a lot of grainy moments; but you have to remember the films' age and low-budget origins. Hell, I was just happy to finally get this on disc, so it wasn't a huge deal to me.
Extras: There's a suprisingly robust assortment of special features here starting with a R-rated trailer that doesn't hold much back (and fits into its decade, and sub-genre, perfectly) before moving onto twelve deleted/extended scenes taken from a Spanish VHS tape, a whole slew of interviews, and a commentary track by director Zielinski that's moderated by Severin's David Gregory and John Creegan.
Of the interviews included, I found the chat with co-writer Shayne and Wynorski to be the most fun as they talk about producing the film in Canada and how it came to be. I also quite enjoyed the interview with Canuxploitation founder Paul Corupe as he gives some good information on the Canadian Tax Shelter boom of the late 70s and 80s. There's also talks with Zielinski, co-star Deuters, and effects man Geral Lukaniuk but they're mostly passable. Severin have also included a brief discussion from Mr. Skin and his head writer McBeardo where they talk about the movie and teen sex comedies in general.
The commentary track with Zielinski does repeat a lot of material from his interview but thanks to moderators Gregory and Creegan we do get a decent amount of information as the result of their prodding - even though I feel Zielinski is giving his film a more "legit" reputation than it probably deserves.
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