Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Screwball Hotel (1988)

Directed Rafal Zielinksi
Starring Lori Deann Pallett, Corinne Wahl, Laurah Guillen
Rated R

"Let's face it, guys. All we're good at is goofin' off."

Rafal Zielinski is a God-among-Canucks when it comes to frostbitten teen-trash, having helmed the delirious double-shot of Loose Screws (1983) and Screwballs (1985), to say nothing of the up-north bargain basement editions of Police Academy (Recruits, 1986) and Valley Girl (Valet Girls, 1987). Screwball Hotel was his last attempt at zany youth comedy for a good six years. After this, he dove into other junkfilm genres - ninjas, horror, action-drama, Lorenzo Lamasploitation, etc. That's all well and good, but Rafal's heart is obviously in dumb, big-hearted goofs like this one, which neatly scoops up all the stray gags from Screwballs and throws in an entire beauty pageant's worth of curvy blonde bimbos. It's as if he knew he'd be abandoning all the teenage losers and late-night boner-hunters for half a decade, and wanted to leave 'em with a bang. Well sir, mission accomplished.

Screwball Hotel opens with the Tin Man banging Dorothy on yellow linoleum. Said metal-man turns out to be the happy-go-lucky owner of the stately Rochester Hotel, Mr. Ebell (Kelly Monteith). Dorothy is actually Miss Walsh (Laurah Guillen), his faithful secretary. They're very into role-playing, apparently. Mr. Ebell's good time is wrecked by a visit from the Snidely Whiplash-esque Mr Spaulding (Jack Dillard), who works at the bank.
Ebell owes $300,000 to the bank. He's got five weeks to get the money, and things are not looking good. Most of his staff has quit, and he's only got a handful of guests.
Luckily, he's got a plan: the Miss Purity beauty pageant, the country's preeminent all-Christian beauty contest.

Meanwhile, at the East Point Military Academy in East Point, Massachusetts, Herb (Andrew Zeller), Mike (Michael Bendetti), and Norman (Jeff Greenman), a trio of underachieving cadets, break into the master sergeant's office and hack the school's lone computer, a Commodore Amiga 2000, to change their grades. Unfortunately, they bungle the job, and "You Lose" flashes on the screen. Naturally, they get expelled. If that's not bad enough, their parents throw them out of their homes, as well. So, they're pretty fucked. Scanning the classifieds, they find an ad for the Rochester and hop on the next bus to Florida.

The boys arrive at the hotel dressed like colorblind tourists and meet Mr Ebell, who is dressed like Indiana Jones at the time. Miss Walsh is tied to a pillar in his office, and Mr. Ebell brandishes a whip. When he notices the boys, he unties his secretary, and her just-whipped clothes naturally fall right off. This convinces the boys that they're in the right place. Ebell tells them he can't actually pay them a wage until the spring, but they'll get room and board and tips until then. They agree to his offer, and go back to ogling Miss Walsh.

The boys' first assignment is to help one of the hotel's last employees, the beautiful Candy Johnson (Lori Deann Pallett) with lunch. Candy's carrying a big pot of lobsters, and the sloshing water soaks her white shirt, making it see-through. So that's pretty cool.

But then she drops it, and when Mr. Ebell's right hand man, scheming crooked preacher Mr Stomer (Charles Ballinger) shows up to dress the new recruits down, one of the wayward lobsters crawls up Norman's leg and pinches his testicles.

While we wait on some sort of plot development, various teen sex com hijinks ensue. A jerky guy gets fed a burger that was just on the floor. Herb gets caught spying on Candy when she's working out ("Are you a peeping Tom?" "No, I'm a hiding Herbie!"), and hauls ass out of there. He ends up accidentally hiding in the women's cabana, and after exercise class is over, he finds himself right in the middle of a shower scene.

Norman nearly gets seduced by Cherry Amour (Corinne Wahl, Spring Break) while she sloshes around in a bubble bath, but ends up running down the hallway with his pants down, trying to put out a flaming lobster.

Mr. Ebell attempts to woo a potential investor, but her yappy dog runs off and Mike, distracted by Candy's bent-over ass, accidentally tosses the dog into a clothes dryer, which kills him. Stuff like that.

Oh, and at one point, Mike dresses up like a frog to try and bang Miss Walsh.

Mr Stomer makes a $50,000 drug deal with a couple of machine-gun toting Cuban gangsters. Naturally, he puts the cocaine in a tin can labeled "Artificial Sweetener" and places it on a shelf in the kitchen, where it can be easily mistaken for flour. He does write "Do Not Use" on it, though. I mean, he's no fuckin' dummy.

Meanwhile, for whatever crazy reason, Cherry Amour really wants to bang Norman, even though he weighs 300 pounds and appears to be developmentally challenged. She requests a bottle of champagne be sent up to her room, and that Norman brings it personally. Being a virgin, he's terrified, so his friends volunteer to coach him via a wire and earpiece.

He shows up at her room, and she greets him in a leather n' studs S&M outfit. He uses all of his Mike's wired-in lines, but she ignores him as she tears off his clothes and tosses him on the bed.
"I...I love you!" He tells her.
"Let's see what you say in 20 minutes, honey," she snarls, before cracking a bullwhip.

While all this madness is going on, Mr. Ebell is constantly trying to drum up investors for the hotel. At one point he entertains an Australian farmer, who is thinking about investing for his sister, Lisa (the awesomely named Katerina Head). While Ebell and the farmer are having dinner, Mike flirts with Lisa, who tells him to come up to her room later on. He does, and crawls into bed with her, noting how soft her hair is and what wonderful things she can do with her tongue. He quickly realizes he's in the farmer's room, and he's in bed with a sheep. The farmer is pretty pissed about it.
"If it makes you feel any better," Mike says, as quickly makes his escape, "I was trying to have sex with your sister, not your sheep!"

Later on, a wild party gets underway in the hotel's ballroom. Seems the chef made pudding with Mr. Stomer's 'artificial sweetener', and it was quite popular with the guests. So, now he's in pretty big trouble. The mob guys show up to collect their drugs, and when he tells them he's lost it all, they warn him that "The Cobra" will be paying him a visit very soon.

Speaking of trouble, Ebell's ready to throw in the towel, since his employees have completely cocked-up the deal with any potential investor he had, but Mike comes up with the idea to turn the ballroom into a casino. Which they do, in like five minutes.

They even get Cherry Lamour to perform a disco tune. They make $60,000, but they still need another 240 grand. Candy and the boys put their heads together and come up with the idea to stage an oil-wrestling competition at the casino, using the girls from the Miss Purity Pageant. I like the way they think.

The fellas dress up like nuns and Moses to trick the Jesus chicks into wrestling Satan (Mr Ebell in a devil outfit). It's pretty good. Better than I expected. In fact, it caused me to Google "Oil Wrestling Boston" right afterward, to see if I could attend a similar event myself. Turns out I cannot, unless I want to time-travel back to 1989, or find a dude-friendly lesbian bar in New Hampshire. Both options seem too complicated. I guess I missed the boat on this one. Anyway, back to our story.

I'm not sure why this happens, but after the oil wrestling fiasco, Stomer takes control of the hotel and fires our heroes. They vow revenge and start to bugs-bunny a plan to sabotage the TV broadcast of the pageant.

They needn't have worried, since the pageant quickly starts to unravel all on it's own. One girl recites a dirty poem about butts, and an all-girl band starts out singing a happy gospel tune, but it quickly devolves into some kind of industrial punk-dirge freakout Sensing a set-up, Stomer cuts the pageant short and just announces the winners. Miss Purity accepts her crown, and then tears off her dress and dances topless with the runner-up. I don't know why any of this is happening, but I'm glad that it does.

So it's naked mayhem, basically. And then, "The Cobra" strikes. And then things get even crazier.

Although I would stop short at calling this one a genre classic - at 99 minutes, it's way too long for a breezy teenage romp - the sheer volume of ogle-worthy girls, the hilariously obnoxious synth-score, and the goggle-eyed overacting of the up-for-it cast all make this one a must-see.

Your eyeballs will thank you.

Availability: Screwball Hotel is available on VHS.
- Ken McIntyre

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