Monday, September 10, 2012

Boarding House (1982)

Directed by John Wintergate
Starring Kalassu, Lindsay Freeman, Selma Kora, John Wintergate
Rated R 

"Last week the Hoffman house was open for boarders. Along with the residents...something else moved in!"

For most of the 20th century making a feature film was an enormous and prohibitively expensive pain-in-the-ass. Trucks full of lighting equipment, giant expensive cameras with a range of specific lenses, reel to reel recorders and boom mikes, and the lab processing of miles of fragile film were all required to make even the cheapest low-budget quickie. The trashiest ultra-cheapo roughie would still cost you more than 5 or 10 brand new Jeep Cherokees.

And then came Videotape. The consumer grade video camera made it possible for any jerk with $700 and a pair of VCRs to shoot, edit, and foist upon the world, a craptacular feature film. And, if two-hours of internet research is to be trusted, the first shot on home video feature to receive a North American Theatrical release was 1982's BOARDINGHOUSE.

It is easy enough to give the plot of the film in a nutshell, because there is not really a nutshell's worth of plot to begin with. A crappy house in the San Fernando Valley has been the scene of a series of unexplained "telekinetic" deaths and has been bequeathed to an amoral young (if 45 is young) swinger named Jim. He runs and classified ad for roomies that begins with the phrase "Girls Girls Girls!" and encourages attractive and unattached party  (age 18 to 25 - No Fatties!) to move into his pad for dirt cheap rent and some good times.

Apparently back in 1982 women in Los Angeles were more concerned with inexpensive rent than with their own personal safety, so in the wink of an eye, a bevy of busty beauties move in with Jim a settle into a life of constant sexual harassment and telekinetic hi-jinx.  As the girls are getting settled a latecomer named Debbie shows up and, in a super-fake English accent, begs to get in on the action.  The girls are skeptical, but after Jim gives her a sleazy once-over, she is welcomed aboard.

A note about Jim. Director John Wintergate realized that the character of Jim, a middle-aged scum ball who the script requires to make out with a bunch of topless 20 year old starlets and have off-putting mechanical shower sex in a 46 second scene that is 45 seconds too long, was too complex a figure to place in the hands of just any actor. So, despite looking like a cross between Marty Feldman and Mike Reno from the band Loverboy, Wintergate cast himself in the demanding role. He must have also worried that the role of the alcoholic gardener would prove too nuanced as well, so he donned a leather jacket and a mothy wig and grunt/mumbled a spellbinding performance.

It's all laughter and topless splash fights in the pool until strange telekinetic horrors begin visiting the fun-loving girls. Bloody hallucinations in the shower, refrigerators that spew yogurt at your face, bars of soap that spin with unearthly fury, and flying eggs are just the beginning of the nightmare. Things get worse for the girls (and the audience) when we begin seeing an amorphous evil blob with 8-bit computer sounds right before something gory is about to happen.

Things come to a head when the girls throw a pool party/orgy and host an impromptu concert for the band 33 and a Third (Apparently a real band featuring Wintergate's wife, Kalassu). The fuzzy blob gets busy and has girls gouging out their own eyes and veteran cops turning their weapons on themselves. I won't spoil the ending for you, but I will say that Jim spends a few minutes screaming, "No Debbie! No!"

With it's total lack of production value, it's flimsy plotting and dialog, and it's profoundly bad editing, BOARDINGHOUSE is pretty thin soup, even for fans of laughable crap. Maybe the ample supply of buxom 80's boobies is enough for some fans to give it a look. The film is available on DVD from Code Red and would probably be a much more satisfying experience for fans of nudity than the third generation VHS transfer that I watched. But in truth, no format is going to make this shot-on-video disaster look good.

- Kent "Woodshed" Shelton

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