Friday, October 19, 2012

Party Line Review

YEAR: 1988


Before the dawn of the internet and smart phone age, land line telephones were actually used for entertainment purposes. Most of us recall sex lines as the main form of “entertainment” provided by 800 and 900 numbers. The second most notable kind of “for entertainment only” phone ventures were party lines. A party line was essentially a conference call where people “hung out.” To be sure, “hanging out” on a party line most likely became a heated discussion on who had the largest privates or who has had the most things inserted into the most holes.

The film PARTY LINE uses the party line concept as a story catalyst. Siblings Angelina and Seth (Played by the immortal Leif Garrett) are (somehow) incredibly rich and totally nuts. They use a party line to lure people out on dates. They usually go to a pastel night club that exclusively plays third rate Rick James style funk jams. These dates usually come to a gruesome end by Leif Garrett slitting some pervy throats with a straight razor.

Seth and Angelina separately have implausible psychoses. Seth has a major Oedipus complex. He dresses in his mother’s clothing (seeing Leif Garrett do this will make you laugh) and Angelina pretends to be his (sexy 80’s) mother. Whenever Angelina knows Seth is spying on her, she undresses. They have a very damaged and sexual relationship. Their abusive parents are long dead and they just wallow in each other's insanity in a giant mansion while occasionally murdering people for kicks.

When people start missing, the detectives show up. Dan (played by soap opera veteran and all around sweet haired dude Richard Hatch) and Assistant D.A. Stacy (Baywatch Babe Shawn Weatherly) are cobbled together to crack the case by Captain Barnes (Played by Shaft) even against the wishes of District Attorney Henry. Stacy and Dan hate each other at first because She’s a “Yuppie Cop” and Dan isn't by the book. Common for a movie of this ilk.

The few moments in the film that involve characters directly associated with the party line itself are my favorites. Mr. Simmons babysitter Jennifer calls the party line while on the job. Mr. Simmons is like most dirty bearded bald dudes in low budget movies. He tries to get with Jennifer despite her constant rejection.

Mr. Simmons gets the phone bill, sees a random number charged to his bill, and decides to call it. It’s Jennifer’s party line. He gets caught up in the fun. . . and ends up lying naked in a field. Blue. And Dead.

The worst part of this whole movie is that it’s a detective story with absolutely no mystery. Aside from being completely bland and basic, you know ‘whodunnit’ in the opening scene of the movie. The best part of this movie is most definitely the type of film it represents. It seems like the type of flick you’d catch on USA Network or Cinemax back before either network got the bright idea of airing “original programming.” Watching PARTY LINE reminds me of growing up with limited parental supervision, devouring a pack of gas station string cheese, and staying up late enough to catch that infomercial about spray painting bald spots

The entire premise of PARTY LINE is great because the Party Line is non-essential to the plot or final outcome of the story. Seth and Angelina could just go to the club and find some random person, lure them outside and kill them. . . in fact that actually DOES happen in this movie. The only reason the party line is used is to attract an audience with it’s name. PARTY LINE is a better name for a movie than TWISTED BROTHER AND SISTER KILL PEOPLE AT AWESOME DANCE CLUBS. PARTY LINE was an identifiable, tangible thing back at the time this movie was released. But alas, a film cannot be sold on name alone. It’s almost as if the writer of the script was working on a detective movie and heard about this party line phenomenon and decided to throw it in.

Movies like this are beyond criticism. It stars a coked out 1970’s teen heart-throb, Soap opera actors, John Shaft, and a Baywatch Babe. This was made for a specific audience. It was made for video stores and Cable TV. Director / Producer William Webb made a fairly lengthy career out of generating movies like this. Such classics as ONE MEAN BASTARD (Starring Brian Bosworth and MC Hammer. . .) and CALIFORNIA GIRLS. If you dig mid-budget, straight to video fare, I can almost guarantee you will enjoy how over the top the siblings are. You will marvel at Officer Dan’s perfectly sculpted hockey hair and bomber jacket. You’ll undoubtedly chuckle at the wicked pedo-style of Mr. Simmons.

From the opening scene you can tell whether or not you will enjoy this movie or not. It’s cheaply made. It’s poorly acted. It stars Leif Garrett. Give it a go and turn off your brain for 90 minutes.

He’s become Mr. Simmons’ greasy brother.


Patricia Patts, who played Babysitter Jennifer voiced Peppermint Patty in YOU’RE THE GREATEST, CHARLIE BROWN, BON VOYAGE, CHARLIE BROWN (AND DON’T COME BACK) and SHE’S A GOOD SKATE, CHARLIE BROWN. I’m unsure if she was hired because she was the best voice talent alone, or if having the name PATricia PATts had anything to do with it


Officer Dan has a DIRTY HARRY poster on his wall. This is of course, because He’s a loose cannon.


Standard laserdisc sleeve.

A Woman in black lingerie laying twisted and face down (presumably dead) bound by a red telephone cord. I’m guessing she’s face down because she wasn’t in the movie. Which strikes me as odd.

The “I” in the title is also red as well as wavy. Like the cord.


“Some talk. Some listen. Some DIE.”


“Time was when the most irritating thing a kid could do with a phone was play hoary jokes on unwary victims. But the age of innocence is past; the latest parental nightmare is the party line”
-People Magazine

This is ridiculous. They use a quote from PEOPLE magazine to try to explain the concept upon which the film is based. Did they think there were enough people out there that would rent or purchase the movie and not know what a party line was so they needed to put a vague and menacing quote on the package? Seems like a pretty weak marketing ploy. Almost making it look like PEOPLE Magazine wrote this after viewing the movie.

This quote is featured in a white, offset box on the back of the sleeve. The rest of the package is black and red with white text.

Nevermind that the quote has nothing to do with a critical review or mention a single thing about the film.


I’d recommend something like Chicken Schwarma. The garlic and yogurt sauce will blend nicely with how pungent Leif Garrett’s acting ability is.

Drink wise, I’d say a creamy, large, cool glass of whole milk. Mixed with the schwarma sauce, your spit will be awesome.

-M. Johnston

1 comment: