Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Carhops (1975)

AKA California Drive-in Girls
Kitty Can't Help It
Directed by Peter Locke
Starring Kitty Carl, Pamela Des Barres, Marcie Barkin
Rated R

"It's a real sympathy wound."

Here's what important to know about The Carhops. It's not about carhops. The carhopping is over with two minutes into the film. So then, what is it about? Hard to say. Rape, mostly.

Kitty (Kitty Carl) gets fired from her job as a carhop on her first day. She was banging the boss when his wife walked in. This doesn't seem like a good time to make major life changes, but her fellow 'hop Vicky (supergroupie Pamela Des Barres) convinces her to throw caution to the wind, leave home, and start all over again with a bunch of her flaky friends. Kitty bites, rents an apartment in Vicky's neighborhood, and takes one last ride with her screwy, over-protective, wildly racist mother (60's sitcom regular and Joyce's cousin, Fay DeWitt). As they wind their way to Kitty's new pad, mom spies all the hippies and drop-outs cruising the streets.
"Close your eyes, and you can see Charles Manson," she mutters. Somehow or another, their conversation drifts to hitchhikers. Mom mentions that she read in Reader's Digest that every time someone one stops to pick up a hitcher, there's a black man in the bushes waiting to pounce. Kitty is incredulous.
"C'mon, mom", she says. "Don't you know black is beautiful?"
"Well," mom snorts, "If I had to be raped, I'd rather it be with somebody white and ugly than black and beautiful."
So that was pretty crazy.

Meanwhile, just across the street, the weirdly-accented (Hungarian?) call-girl Cindy (blaxploitation's go-to white chick, Lisa Farringer), buys weed from Vicky and entertains some fucker with a horrendous mustache named Tom ( Mr. Stockard Channing himself, David Debin).

Vicky trots over to Kitty's to hang out and gets propositioned by schlubby neighbor Albert (the awesomely named Walt Wonderman). She rebuffs him, so he goes home to goose his cheating wife, Sherry (Marcie Barkin, The Van, Chesty Anderson US Navy) who puts raw chicken down the back of his shirt. And then we flash back to earlier that day, when she took two hippies home and boned 'em. They speed the camera up for the fuck scene. It's funnier that way.

Cindy and Tom finish balling. He pays her (she has a taxi meter on her bedstand) and then she asks him to move in with her.
"On one condition," he says. "You have to rape me at least once a night."
What's with all the fucking rape talk in this movie?

Later on, some other dude comes over. He strips down, puts a bag on his head, and stands in the shower while Cindy hits him in the ass with pies.
"Is this banana cream?" He asks. "You know I can only get off with pumpkin pie!"
"Haha," Cindy laughs. "You're lucky I took the candle off."
What candle?

At this point, you may be wondering when the plot kicks in. Well, that's gonna take a while. First, there's a scene where Vicky plays the acoustic guitar and sings a folk song while Sherry, Cindy, and Kitty look on. When it's over, they all tell her how horrible it was, and then everybody encourage Kitty to fuck their men. That was pretty crazy, too.

Somewhere along the way, Kitty scored a new job as the secretary for a mince-y gay fellow named Barry (Paul Ross) who says stuff like this:
"I got my teeth kicked in at the leather bar last night because I wore suede. You know how much I hate regimentation!"
Barry has some important client, Macgregor (Jim Deleon, Linda Lovelace for President) that he needs to impress, so he tells Kitty she has to go to dinner with him. They go to some sleazy nightclub where a gum-chewing contortionist performs.
"Hahaha," laughs her grabby date. "It's one shithouse after another."

McGregor drives Kitty home and tries to get invited in, but when she spurns him, he grabs her by the hair and pushes her down to the ground.
"If you scream," he growls, "I'll bash your head on this concrete. Now just be quiet, and relax."
Seriously, more rape bullshit?
Vicky's girlfriend BJ (Asher Brauner) shows up out of nowhere and chases him off. Kitty is strangely non-plussed about being saved.
"Now I'm out of job," she sighs. "I should have just lied there and let him do whatever he wanted to."
"Don't worry about money," BJ says, helpfully. "I've got 20 dollars in the bank."
By now, you are probably desperate for a plot. Well, sorry. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

BJ and Kitty end up hitting it off, so they go to the desert, where they make sweet 70's love. Afterwards, BJ terrorizes her with an iguana. When she gets back, Cindy asks her to go with Tom to a movie, so she can catch up on her clients. Kitty agrees, and they go to see a porn/gore flick called Dr Demento's Chamber of Lust. Then they go back to Kitty's and fuck. The next day, Kitty meets Vicky's other boyfriend, Pat (Don Baldwin, Gator Bait). Imagine that, they get along as well, so she goes to the beach with him and they run around holding hands and skipping rocks. Then she goes with Albert on one of his business trips to San Francisco, and we spend the next ten minutes watching them goof around at various SF tourist traps while life-sapping muzak plays on the soundtrack.

Back at the hotel, Kitty and Albert start to get amorous. He goes out for liquor, but when he comes back, he walks into the wrong room and climbs into bed with Uschi Digard. Her boyfriend shows up, kicks Albert in the ass, and then jumps on the bed and starts whaling on Uschi. By the way, the entire reason I decided to watch Carhops - besides the fact that I thought it was about carhops - was because Uschi was in it. She's in it for about 7 seconds.

So anyway, Kitty arrives back home from SF feeling pretty optimistic, but things take a turn for the terrible when that fuckin' creep Macgregor climbs in through a window and attempts to rape her at knifepoint.

Right before he has his evil way, mom and Albert (where'd they come from?) burst in. Kitty is freed, but Albert gets slashed in the belly. Macgregor bails, punching Tom in the face (what's he doing here?) and stealing his car. Then BJ roars up in his black Charger (where'd he...etc.), and they chase after him. Tom pees his pants. Standard 70's car-fight hijinks ensue. Amazingly, we have arrived at our film's conclusion, and still, no plot to speak of. That's probably harder than it seems. I actually tried it once in college, to write an action movie that was all action and no story. It's pretty impossible. You've got to give it to the two numbskulls that wrote this thing, they managed to waste an entire hour and a half without one single identifiable storyline. Remarkable!

Oh, and there's a twist ending, but my print is too dark to make it out. Drop a line if you know what it is.

In Summation: Carhops has an excellent poster and an excellent title, which not only got it made, but is apparently still convincing saps like yours cruelly to watch it. At the time, director David Locke was just peeling himself out of the X industry. He's since gone on to produce dozens of cheap horror movies, including the recent Hills Have Eyes remake and its sequel. Porn and gore, apparently, is something Locke can do with panache. R rated sex comedies, on the other hand, are just not his forte. Bland, creepy, and depressingly unfunny, with less nudity than you'd like and more threats of rape than you could possibly need, Carhops is useful only to Uschi completists and groupie enthusiasts keen on seeing Pam Des Barres strum an acoustic guitar. I didn't exactly feel cheated, but I'm pretty numb at this point. You'd probably be pretty disappointed.

Availability: Carhops is available on DVD.

- Ken McIntyre

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