It’s another week here at B-Movie Enema and I think I worried I went too long before covering another Vinegar Syndrome release.
So I’m here to fix that with this week’s movie, Party Line! This 1988 flick had a provocative cover of a sexy girl in lingerie with a phone line wrapped around her leg and torso. It was a memorable movie cover to see in the suspense/thriller section of the video store. The movie basically plays to the 80s exploitation of sexy thrillers. This was perfected probably best in the 90s with movies like Basic Instinct, but these little indie flicks toyed with the idea of mixing sex with murder.
This flick features a rich brother and sister psycho combo. She lures men through a party line on the phone for her brother to kill them. You have Richard Hatch playing a detective who is going after the killers. And then there’s Richard Roundtree playing Hatch’s captain.
This little sexy thriller comes from a time in movies when stuff was poured into video stores. What’s more, these types of thrillers were often a little like the exploitation films from the decade before. Singles were meeting and having a lot of one night stands and casual hook-ups. It was playing a little to that idea of very 80s extravagance with the rich siblings and the SoCal lifestyle and mansion, but also getting a little boost from 80s nightlife as well as party lines and casual phone sex. I really don’t have too much to add to this preamble before going into the movie.
My point is, I’m going in blind, folks. There really isn’t too much I can find through my normal sources to add to the writing or origin of the movie. I can say, though, without a doubt, and with verifiable proof… This is B-Movie Enema’s 199th article! First, can you believe that shit?!? Second, I’m kind of impressed with myself for being at the threshold of something pretty awesome!
Alright… No need to drag this out much more. Let’s dive into this sexy thriller!
The movie opens with a girl picking up a phone and calling numbers from Adult Party Line ads she’s cut out of the paper. I should mention that our brother and sister duo are played by Leif Garrett, returning for a second go around, and Greta Blackburn. Ms. Blackburn wastes no time going tits out so Leif can kill a guy in mid coitus. I salute her service big time.
So yeah, here’s the game… Angelina (Blackburn) meets guy on the party line. She brings home the dudes to bang ’em, and Seth (Garrett) is there to bag ’em by attacking and killing them. They are both, obviously playing off of some thrill thing here. She’s probably having fun sorta fucking guys and he is having fun killing guys… and sorta watching his sister get deep dicked. Hmmm… Welp… Who am I to judge a guy’s kinks?
I do want to point out something that I find both interesting as a tone setter, but also a little gross. during the credits, you see the various types of people who call party lines and for what reasons. Are they there because they are lonely? Are they there to get a hookup for the night? Are they there to catfish people? For those too young to remember, you get the idea of how popular these things were. They weren’t all for sexual reasons, but there was obviously a lot of phone sex and potential hookups happening. Also, if you are too young to know what a fucking party line is, maybe, I dunno… Show your ID because I think you may be too young to be here on this blog.
Anyway… One of the people on the phone is a little girl pretending to be an adult. Worse, she’s talking about not being a tease and talking very, I dunno, I kinda sexily…? It’s pretty gross! I think it was meant to be partial truth that you don’t know who you are talking to on the other end and certainly some of those people may have been underage, but it might also be a joke? If so, is this movie not meant to be taken seriously? Hmmm… Let’s dig deeper, shall we?
Seth does have another game he plays on his side of this whole setup. He comes in and pretends to be the husband to Angelina. He looks through the guy’s wallet to find out the guy’s real name and info about him. Turns out this guy at the beginning is a married man with a family. Seth seems particularly peeved that he is cheating on his wife in Seth and Angelina’s parents’ bed. They knock him out, then use a straight razor on him to, I believe, simulate a suicide. They dump him off and hit the dance club for drinks and a little boogie woogie.
Next we meet Stacy (Shawn Weatherly), a prosecutor, and her sexual assaulty DA boss, Henry. He wants to fuck her and she doesn’t want that. I kinda don’t blame her. Good thing she gets a call from the fuzz saying a body was found. She goes to interview the bum that witnessed the dump and talks with Richard Roundtree who is playing Captain Barnes of the police department. We then meet Detective Dan – a basketball lovin’ cop obsessed with catching a particular drug dealer.
That night, Seth hops onto the party line and talks to a teenage girl who likes to flirt with guys. She apparently says all the right things to get guys to wet their pants. She says things like, “These lips have been places not even on a map!” and… other stuff… I guess. Anyway, Seth has a voice that she likes and he asks if she’s truly as adventurous as she says because he wants to meet her. Unfortunately, the parents of the kid she’s babysitting for come home early and she has to bail. But Angelina… She’s still on a party line herself.
And yes, guys… I promise you EVERY girl on a party line with a sexy voice wore only her bra and panties (sometimes a robe) when on the phone with you. There is no way they were less sexy than Greta Blackburn. Trust me. This was the 80s. This was how it was. Now do you see why everyone is so desperate to bring back that decade?
Anyway, Angelina sets up a date with a guy on the party line. Little does he know he’s going to get a face full of Leif!
There’s a lot going on here too… Angelina gets ready for her date while Seth leers at her. Meanwhile, Jennifer, the babysitter that was on the party line earlier is getting driven home by the dad of the kid she babysat. He gets handsy and tries to kiss her. Back at the mansion, Seth tries to pin a rose onto Angelina’s dress but pricks her. She says he can’t do anything right.
Now, let me put my observation skills to good work here. One, clearly, all men are dicks. Can we agree on that? C’mon guys, who’s with me on this? I’m guessing handsy dad will run afoul of Angelina and Seth. Also, Jennifer is really keen on meeting guys on the party line even though she’s, like, 15 or something? I can only guess at these things. I mean why have scenes that mean nothing? Also, Seth is probably a cuck to his sister? He also has mommy and daddy issues? Also, Apollo is following a drug dealer who he’s obsessed with. Lots of threads here, people. One may say… too many threads.
So Angelina set up a date with that guy from the party line, right? Well, they meet at a club. This guy just so happens to be at the same club that a guy that Detective Dan is following. They don’t even get back to the house for Angelina’s Magic Ride before Seth slits the dude’s throat. Inside, Dan finds the drug dealer doing coke with another guy in a bathroom stall. He chases one guy out of the club and tries to commandeer a car to chase, but it’s the guy with the slit throat. Dan’s now run headlong into the serial murders.
But here, we get a little history on Dan. He’s got a bad rap. He’s had cases dismissed for illegally obtained evidence. He’s been brought up on citations of police brutality. But while he’s a vice cop, he has stumbled into a homicide case and they are undermanned. So Dan is on the case! He’s partnered with Stacy, who he doesn’t like… Not because she’s a lady cop, but because she’s a soft yuppie. Oh boy… We got ourselves a good ol’ fashioned odd couple!
We do see a much bigger rift open up between Seth and Angelina too. Seth gives an account of what he saw to Stacy and Dan, but it’s a red herring. Basically, he’s just trolling the cops. Angelina gets really pissed off about how he said anything to the heat. They decide to go to another club and she meets Herk. Herk looks like the love child of 80s Nicolas Cage and Jared Leto’s Joker. Anyway, Angelina and Seth have a little spat in front of Herk. I think Seth is jealous, but also Angelina is always calling him her “baby brother” which kind of seems like he’s beneath her or she’s dismissive of him. While Angelina pretties herself up in the bathroom for Herk, Seth kills him in the alley. When she comes out of the bathroom, Seth tells her Herk left with another girl.
I do want to take a moment to talk about how 80s hot Greta Blackburn is. I mean just take a look at this pic of her over here on the left. I mean… Look at that braid. That hat that also looks like a giant bow? That leather jacket with a tiny little bra like top under it? You can’t see it, but she has a sort of poofy skirt on too. Holy shit, guys. Greta Blackburn is the epitome of the lyric “girls just want to have fun”. Now, granted, sex with her is certain death, buuuuut…
I’m into it.
While watching the news, Angelina finds out that Seth killed Herk. So she confronts him about it. That’s when we find out that the top survey result in the game “What’s Wrong With Leif Garrett’s Character” is a resounding:
And how do I know that? Well, it starts by him looking in a jewelry box with newspaper clippings about an actress who killed herself. I think it even mentions that she slit her wrists or something. Then, Angelina yells at Seth while he’s just trying to feel pretty…
Okay, so that does solidly explains why he’s damaged. Also why he uses a straight razor. Also why he gets mad about the guy cheating on his wife in his father’s bed. When she slaps him around a little bit for acting on his own, he strikes her and that pisses her off real bad. She calls him sick and a momma’s boy. Angelina claims she was a drug-addled alcoholic. Angelina calls him pathetic but also tells him to come to momma, so she clearly knows how to at least try to control him. As for her damage? She’s angry. She was sexually abused by their father and their mother didn’t do anything about it – or maybe didn’t even believe her.
Elsewhere, Detective Dan gets kicked off the case and off the force because he punches Stacy’s boss when he brought up some old beef he and Dan had in the past. Stacy decides to keep using Dan for help because he does have good detecting skillz and stuffs. They just gotta keep it real quiet like. And like any guy down in the dumps about his job, he goes home to look at his trophies and drink a High Life.
Man, have I been there!
Stacy shows up at Seth and Angelina’s house to ask some more questions. She presses for more information, but Seth awkwardly tries to say he’s on his way out. Stacy takes a look around the place and notices their piano, but Seth is real adamant that she not touch the piano. After Stacy leaves, Angelina gets real pissed off about the fuzz comin’ pokin’ ’round and decides to tear up their mother’s wedding dress by hand to punish Seth.
Stacy is no dummy, though. She asks the police to run a check on Seth and Angelina. She also discovers the hairs from the “redhead” who was seen with the victim came from a wig. However, the cuts all come from the same razor. On the highway, Dan’s cop girlfriend pulls Seth over, and when she sees the red wig Angelina wore out the previous night in the passenger seat, he kills her.
Hey, remember Jennifer? She is back on that damn party line and has made a date with Seth to meet. Also on the line, a girl who goes by “Sugar Lips” and the creepy, handsy dad that Jennifer babysat for. They all end up in the outdoor cafe and Sugar Lips catches Seth’s eye. No offense to Jennifer, but she’s a kid. Sugar Lips is hot. Anyway, creepy dad is looking for Jennifer, but Seth says his sister might like him.
And now the trap is set with two victims lined up for the Crazy-Pants family. This does beg the question that my heterosexual life partner, Jason Oliver, has asked before over at Film Seizure. Seemingly, I don’t think you can easily get away with these murders. Granted, they did say that they’ve not found any fingerprints, though I’m not sure how because I don’t think either Angelina or Seth have been particularly careful, so that makes the killer either very smart or very lucky. Yet, dead bodies are piling up all with the same slit throats. All with consistent marks that has to mean the same weapon (within reason I suppose). However, aside from the cop, it’s mostly the same modus operandi. Conceivably, you should be able to mostly link them easily, and quickly, to the party line.
Oh, fuck it… Sexy thriller. Sugar Lips reveals she wasn’t the girl who was supposed to be meeting Seth. Creepy dad pipes up that he thought the girl she’s claiming to be was his babysitter. That catches Angelina’s attention because that means creepy dad is married. That’s her favorite type of victim. She plays more up to creepy dad while Seth kills Sugar Lips. Their bodies are found together the next day with slit throats.
Finally, Stacy gets phone records back to discover party line calls. I should say that the movie does build in the excuse for not having these earlier on the “computer being down again” but at least now Stacy and Dan, who pulled an all-nighter and super hot on the idea of catching his girlfriend’s killer, have leads. I do admit that now the cops have a way to catch the murder siblings, they do come off quite competent. It just took us a long time to get here. More on that in a bit.
DA Henry finds out that Stacy has been working with Dan and he throws a piss fit. He throws Stacy off the case. He won’t listen to what she has to say about what she and Dan found in the murder siblings phone records. She claims he won’t listen to her because she won’t sleep with him. Before handing over everything they have to Henry, they plan to make copies. Lucky for them, Jennifer shows up with what she knows about Seth.
Dan and Stacy listen in on the party line while Jennifer calls. Seth shows up on the line and makes a date with Jennifer. Meanwhile, Angelina plans to go to Rome to get as far away from Seth as possible because she know he’s killed a cop now. He begs her to not go and we get issue numero two-o for Seth:
Yup, he starts making out with Angelina. However, when she rebuffs him and says he’s like all the rest, it immediately leads into his third issue:
Yup, he strangles Angelina and strikes out on his own.
Stacy and Dan set the honeypot trap for Seth by having her dress in a super sexy red dress. Jennifer asked for Seth to wear the same thing he did the night before – the “fireman’s getup” with the red suspenders and what have you. At the bar, Jennifer sneaks in with a fake ID (I mean I suppose she did, we don’t know and have to wonder how this 16 year old girl does all this stuff and how soon it will be before she gets in over her head). She and Dan stay on the lookout for Seth, but Jennifer misidentifies a guy in a black shirt, red suspenders, and wavy hair. When Dan goes after him, Seth strikes in women’s clothing in the bathroom where Stacy was powdering her nose.
Dan chases after Seth and gets the license plate TEMT ME and has the cops run it. Meanwhile, back at Seth’s place, he keeps calling Stacy “Angelina” but also knows she’s an investigator too. Seth decides to play some Russian Roulette with Stacy while Dan is on his way. At the police station, DA Henry hears Dan’s name and flips out like a man child he is. While Henry has his little bitch fit and Dan is on his way to save Stacy, Seth admits to killing his father for raping Angelina.
He keeps saying he did it “for you” but I’m not sure if he’s saying that about Angelina or his mother or what. He wants Stacy to be his new Angelina, but… I dunno… Leif Garrett is crazy in this and is saying crazy things. They dance on the balcony and she pushes him off. He appears to die from smashing into the sidewalk but he is missing when she and Dan go to check it out. Seth slashes Dan’s wrist to disarm him and goes after Stacy. He corners her in the pool house and she and Dan shoot him dead.
I guess that leads to the fourth problem Leif Garrett’s character has:
Party Line is almost a forgotten great. It’s pretty good but just barely misses the great line for late 80s sexy exploitation thrillers. What makes it really good are Angelina and Seth. They are legitimately engaging and interesting. They hold this movie together for the most part. Considering you know from the very beginning they are the killers, and you spend about 70 minutes or so of the 90 minute runtime with them. That part of the movie is interesting. Yeah, sure, you can ask questions about the piles of dead bodies suddenly showing up which should have brought the heat down on them more than it really did. However, overall they were interesting. Plus, they had a weird relationship. I wanted to watch Seth and Angelina as much as I could.
Where the movie is a little flat is the rest of the story. Yes, there must be a cop chasing these killers, but the extra story with Henry, and the creepy dad obsessively going after Jennifer – these are things that bogged down the movie. It felt a little crowded. I would have liked the Henry and Stacy thing to be cut out. That would have been the absolute thing to cut if I could cut anything. The focus probably should’ve been on the brother and sister duo, the murders, and the cops chasing them.
I will say there is one very, very smart thing this movie did. It would have been very easy to make the Richard Hatch and Shawn Weatherly characters become love interests. They are the leads. She’s pretty, he’s action man and had some rugged good looks. It would make sense in almost every movie to do this. So much so it is a well-established trope. This movie did not do that. Hatch’s Dan had a girlfriend and he is pissed about her death and is more inspired than ever to nail the son of a bitch who killed her. Stacy believes in him and they work well together as friends. Maybe later on they are lovers, but that’s not in the way here. They are partners and that’s fantastic. Neither one is starry eyed over the other. I really tip the cap to the movie for that.
Gosh… I think I can go ahead and end this party for this week. I don’t think there’s much more I can say about Party Line. Next week, though… It’s a milestone, and I should maybe aim for some low hanging fruit to celebrate.
When I tried to figure out what #200 would be, I had to think on it long and hard. Do I go quiet and just pick a movie and celebrate the number of articles posted or should I pick something that’s easy? Should I go for something like The Room? The movie that everyone has talked about ad nauseum? What about Miami Connection? Aw jeez… People talked a shit ton about that too. I mean there’s no way I should do Samurai Cop…
Then it hit me. Maybe Samurai Cop is a no go because of how often that’s been talked about, but what about the thing that kind of ties all of those movies together? I have to say, the choice I made makes me feel like a goddamn genius. And I have a whole bunch to say about what it is that I chose. So without further ado… Let’s reveal what it was I chose for my momentous 200th installment…
Come back next week for B-Movie Enema #200 – Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance!
One thought on “Party Line (1988)”
Boy, that “unstable momma’s boy serial killer who wears his mum’s clothes” trope is really on full display here. I wonder how many pieces of media have made use of that one over the years (though it seems to be dying out as of recently)? Thanks, Hitchcock. And Ed Gein too, I guess.
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