Plot: If you want to meet a host of colorful, horned up, and sometimes creepy people without leaving the comfort of your living room, you can always pick up the phone and dial into a party line. These group phone sessions bring together an eclectic assortment of locals looking for a wide scope of social interactions, from boredom relief to venting to seeking out sexual trysts. In the same chat where two teenage girls are pretending to be women of the world, Seth (Leif Garrett) is prowling the phone lines looking for sex, or so he claims. In truth, Seth and his sister Angelina (Greta Blackburn) are luring in party line users with promises of wild bedroom hijinks, only to cut their throats once the good times have ended. The two have racked up quite a body count and the local police are left with few leads, which means if Detective Dan (Richard Hatch) is going to end this violent operation, it won’t be a simple task. But when someone close to him is drawn in by the sadistic siblings, can Dan somehow blow the case wide open and save his girl before its too late?
Entertainment Value: I had a lot of fun with Party Line, a colorful blend of slasher cinema and erotic thrillers, populated with quirky characters and of course, a massive blast of 80s movie vibes. The narrative is basic, but gets the job done and has a couple of nice twists, but the real draw of this one is the offbeat atmosphere and performances on showcase. As I said, Party Line has elements of both slasher movies and erotic thrillers, but it refuses to commit much to either side, so it has this strange, restrained texture, with little sleaze or violence included. You will see a few bare breasts and some mild bloodshed, but those elements aren’t prominent or graphic in the least. While that might sound like bad news, the lack of blood and breasts is balanced out by how flat out weird the movie is at times, which keeps the fun consistent. The pace is a tough slow in some stretches and I have seen some people that were bored with Party Line, but between the awkward dialogue, odd sibling dynamic, and combination of wooden and over the top performances, I was never bored for a second. I think this is a fun one, despite some issues with the pace and some strange content choices, so if you like awkward, off the wall thrillers, give Party Line a call.
A movie can sometimes be bolstered by strong, classical style performances, but a movie like Party Line shines when the cast takes some offbeat chances, especially when they rarely seem to be on the same page. Richard Hatch is our detective and he seems a little out of place, but is fun to watch as the hard edged cop out for justice. The character isn’t given much depth or development, so Hatch is a little wooden, but brings a light Dirty Harry style vibe to the role. I think his performance is hilarious and adds a lot to the movie, but I have seen a lot of others claim he is miscast or drags down the film, which I disagree with. The money performance in Party Line however, belongs to Leif Garrett, who goes for broke as the unstable, impulsive brother half of our murderous, incestuous villains, really dialing up his effort here. He has some gonzo moments and Garrett makes the most of them, including the wild highlight where he pleasures himself while enjoying the feel of a wedding dress. The cast also includes Greta Blackburn, Richard Roundtree, and Shawn Weatherly.
The Disc: Vinegar Syndrome has graced Party Line with a new 4k scan and restoration, sourced from the original camera negative and while I know VS always delivers, this is just a phenomenal presentation. The print looks pristine and shows no signs of wear of age, as if the movie was just released today, such a crystal clear and super sharp looking treatment. I found fine detail to be much richer than expected as well, this movie has been treated to the preservation spa royal package, another dynamite restoration from Vinegar Syndrome. An informative interview with writer Richard Brandes is included, as well as the film’s trailer.