30 Aug

A series of questionable priorities. Screwballs.

Posted by Bryan White | Sunday August 30, 2009 | Reviews

screwballs reviewI’ve been aware of Canuxploitation flicks for a long time, but unlike a lot of genre writers with a fondness for the early 80’s, such as I am, I don’t have any particular hang-up on Canada’s graceful bellyflop into the world of exploitation pictures because, quite frankly, I’m not really sure what characterizes them as distinctly Canadian since they’re explicitly made to look like American pictures and often were set in American locations, or at least locations that were supposed to pass for America. There were quite a few of them, too. A trip to the video store’s genres and you could find any number of them leering at you from the shelves. My Bloody Valentine, Def Con 4 and this title, Screwballs, were just a few of the dozens of exploitation pictures that sought to make Corman-grade bank on Canada’s social support of the arts. I know. Recoil in horror, dear American reader. That’s socialism at work.

T&A comedies were never really my thing, man. I’ve seen a lot of them because I was a video store junkie and that often meant renting every tape in the house so naturally you make your way to Porky’s and its sequels and after that, you’ve more or less seen every one of these soft skin flicks. It’s just that some were better than others at telling a funny story and others were just Animal House ripoffs with a pair of naked boobs every ten minutes. Screwballs, unfortunately, falls into the latter category. It’s actually just a Porky’s ripoff with half an already meager budget.

The students at Taft & Adams (T&A, get it?) are a notoriously horny bunch. With the exception of the prudish bitch, Purity Busch, everyone in the student body is nailing someone and for a group of unlikely bros, the bad boy, the rich kid, the nerd, the new guy and the fat kid, seeing her naked becomes priority number one and the driving motivation for just about every zany scene in the movie. I wish I could tell you more about Screwballs, but that’s about all I have. If you haven’t seen boobs for at least five minutes, don’t worry, they’re coming up soon. This production may as well have spent nothing on wardrobe aside from a few pieces of lingerie. And for some unknown reason, this movie takes place, presumably, in the late 50’s or early 60’s as all of these Porky’s knockoffs tend to do. Even though the movie at the drive in is from 1974 (The Arena, which is a sweet Peplum starring Pam Grier).

Screwballs commits a cardinal sin for T&A comedies. It’s not very good and that’s saying something for a title whose only goal was to show you naked women. Its problem is that it’s not consistently funny, much of its running time is painfully unfunny and ill-advised. When you’re making a movie with a such a shallow conceit, you really need to keep the laughs rolling and while a lot of the movie is ca-razy and bonkers, just as much of it is operating about ten steps behind any given episode of Benny Hill. There’s even an elaborate cross dressing scene. Sadly, there is no Yakkety Sax to be heard anywhere. Most of the movie forces the funny by constantly reminding you that many castmembers have double entendres for names, like the fat kid who is known for beating off all the time, Melvin Jerkovski. I readily admit that every time the old women entered the scene and were offended by something, I laughed. For some reason, this stupid joke never gets old. Though how stumbling on to a student jacking off in the walk-in refigerator and giving him a detention instead of arresting him for sex crimes is beyond me.

From scene to scene, there’s not much holding Screwballs together. It has a lot of lowbrow laughs, and that’s fine. I love dick and fart jokes, but there’s not much about Purity Busch that would make me, personally, go to such lengths just to get a look at her without her clothes on and if I’m not convinced of this, neither is the movie, which quickly tears her clothes off in the finale and rushes to cover the coveted treasures up with a credits sequence as quickly as it can. What’s more, our cast is constantly bungling its way into one kinky and adventurous scenario after another, each providing an inventory of thrills far more exotic than anything the virgin that they chase around could ever provide. Case in point, the nerd is serviced by four women at once in order to fire a stuck bowling off his wang via orgasm. Yet in the end this guy goes to great lengths to use science in order to strip a woman naked in front of her classmates. Seriously, Howie. If after that encounter you still really need to see Purity naked, I question your sanity. Call it a day. You win the prize!

It’s not a total bust, though. A title like Screwballs wasn’t the bottom of the barrel and it has its moments. It’s also an interesting artifact from the days of independent video stores. The poster and box art for Screwballs screamed “RENT ME!!” and just about portrays everything you need to know about the movie right on the box. But to its credit, for a movie that was going all out to be the king of the sex comedy, it actually brings the goods. The thing about the sex comedies that Screwballs is trying to capitalize on is that very few of them had nudity like this one does. Porky’s and Revenge of the Nerds, famous for a couple of keys scenes are actually pretty chaste by comparison. Screwballs operates under a modified version of the rules for action movies. If there isn’t a nude scene every ten minutes, you’re going to lose the audience. So if you’re a fan of nude scenes, you’re probably not going to be let down. Furthermore, Russ Meyer regular, Burlesque legend, Raven De La Croix shows up for a quick striptease, if that sort of thing is your bag.

I may be going a little hard on Screwballs, which many consider to be a underdog in the world of 80’s sex comedies, but it just doesn’t have much going for it. It’s from an early script by Jim Wynorski who, a couple of years later, would begin an ongoing career in tits and ass with the inexplicably strange, Lost Empire, so Screwballs acts as a starting point for his inevitable lifetime achievement award from Mr. Skin (who is featured with McBeardo in a DVD supplement). It’s often falling on its face among some of the stupidest, most obvious jokes in the vaunted halls of sex comedy history, but it also hits with a few scenes that are absolutely hilarious. Its biggest problem is that there’s no question which movies its ripping off and even though those flicks have far fewer pairs of “teenage” jugs on display, they’re also a lot more capable in making me laugh. There may not be anything else quite like Screwballs, but right now I’m trying to figure out if that’s good or bad.

3 Comments 

  1. September 5, 2009 2:39 pm

    Hugh G. Rection

    I believe you brought the same ‘sensible’ baggage along with you to this movie that Roger Ebert did to THE BEYOND (ie. you didn’t ‘get’ it):

    http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19980703/REVIEWS/807030301/1023

  2. September 5, 2009 7:15 pm

    Bryan White

    Look, I’m not in the market for brilliance in a tits and ass comedy but a common thread that makes it seem like it has some kind of direction would be nice. Screwballs tries to be everything to everyone and it only succeeds occasionally.

  3. September 10, 2009 9:56 am

    Douglas Waltz

    Screwballs has one single plot thread. Horny teenagers wanting to see the tits that they can’t see. The film documents the lengths to which this group will go to accomplish that. I thought it was a great little comedy and especially was fond of Linda Shayne a.k.a. Bootsie Goodhead.
    Another in the ‘balls’ genre that you may want to check out is Oddballs. More of a summer camp comedy than a teen comedy, still pretty funny. Plus, you get Foster Brooks. Always a plus in my book.


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