Tuesday, August 01, 2017


This sleazy cross between a slasher flick and a women-in-prison shocker should be more entertaining than it actually is, especially considering the screenplay is by CHAINED HEAT’s Aaron Butler. HELLHOLE has naked catfighting in the shower room; mad scientists performing illegal brain surgeries; a dungeon; nude women making out; Coleman-lantern-jawed Robert Z’Dar (MANIAC COP) sniffing poppers; and a ridiculous, out-of-control Ray Sharkey performance competing with a cast of actors with impeccable trash-movie resumes. But with a second writer credited with “additional story and new dialogue” and a third writer with “additional dialogue,” as well as A CLOCKWORK ORANGE cutter Bill Butler brought in as an “editorial consultant,” it’s likely HELLHOLE was indelicately cobbled together by too many cooks.

An obviously high Ray Sharkey (THE IDOLMAKER), who wears three different hair styles in his first three scenes, takes bad-acting honors as Silk, a sleazebag who kills a middle-aged woman and coerces her buxom daughter Susan (‘80s TV’s resident dumb blonde Judy Landers) off a ledge. The fall doesn’t kill her, which is good, but it turns her into an amnesiac, which is bad. Bad for Silk, because his boss Monroe (Martin Beck) wants some McGuffin papers Susan and her mother had hidden away. Monroe pulls strings to get Susan tossed into his private sanitarium for women.

Meanwhile, in what seems like a separate movie, suspicious orderly Ron Stevens (Richard Cox) snoops around “Hellhole,” where violent inmates are taken to be experimented on by gay necro Dr. Fletcher (DEATH RACE 2000’s Mary Woronov) and sexually repressed Dr. Dane (VIVA KNIEVEL’s Marjoe Gortner). These actors at least know how to spice up material that lays flat on the page, which is more than one can say for airhead Landers. Completely empty everywhere except inside her bra, Landers is a woeful heroine stuck inside a woeful story steered by woeful director Pierre de Moro (SAVANNAH SMILES).

While the prudish Landers stays clothed throughout, Russ Meyer’s ex Edy Williams (BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS), then in her forties, leads the parade of actresses willing to pop their tops (and bottoms) for a prestige product like HELLHOLE. Director de Moro also landed ILSA star Dyanne Thorne, MIGHTY JOE YOUNG’s Terry Moore, FROGS’ Lynn Borden, and SAVAGE STREETS’ Carole Ita White to add street cred to his sleaze flick. He was unable to rein in Sharkey, however, who plays the world’s most inept henchman. It’s no wonder he never found those papers.

If HELLHOLE holds any significance (dubious), it’s as the final feature film from executive producer Samuel Z. Arkoff, who released it to theaters under his Arkoff International Pictures banner. The legendary studio head formed American International Pictures with James Nicholson in the 1950s and made it one of Hollywood’s most successful independent companies before selling out to Filmways in 1979.


Big D said...

Good review.
Sounds like I might possibly enjoy this one if I was drunk then. Possibly.

Judy Landers is a weird choice for the lead. Didn't she mostly do comedies and bimbo roles?

Felicity Walker said...

Now I’ve got the Spın̈al Tap song stuck in my head :-)