Wednesday, February 17, 2010
What a difference 20 years makes for some films. Unfortunately, this is not one of them.
Directed by schlockmeister William A. Levey (BLACKENSTEIN, THE HAPPY HOOKER GOES TO HOLLYWOOD), HELLGATE is as awful as they come. Throughout much of it’s running time, HELLGATE manages to stupefy its viewer with the worst acting, worst special effects, the worst sex scene in film history and manages to spoil a blood-gushing beheading that proves bad filmmaking can’t be taught but is ingrained into one’s DNA.
Taking the dead girl hitchhiker legend, mixing it with a sad-looking biker gang and adding a ghost town amusement park as your set sounds like it could be a fun mash-up. However, when you make WELCOME BACK KOTTER’s Ron Palillo as your dashing leading man, all bets are off. For example, I don’t want to call anyone unattractive but when the worst sex scene in history came on as I was dozing off, I thought it was a guy banging another guy (played by Joanne Warde as Bobby (!) and Evan J. Klisser as Chuck). This provided more of a shock, albeit momentarily, than this rest of this goddamned thing could muster up in any of it’s other scenes.
Palillo plays the guy in the 80’s who nearly runs over the dead hitchhiker (Abigail Wolcott) who was killed by the world’s shittiest biker gang back in the late 50’s. Nothing about these guys seems like the late 50’s. Her grief stricken father who runs the ghost town amusement park receives a crystal from a maintenance man who found it in one of the attractions. It seems to shoot out a terrible blue laser that reanimates the dead and blows shit up, depending I guess on how the grief stricken father feels at the moment. Cut back to 1989 when Horshack is driving to meet his girlfriend (Petrea Curran) and the worst sex scene couple at their vacation house. He picks up the hitchhiker who immediately finds him to be her knight in shining convertible and will use her undead crystal given powers to woo him back to the house and join her in undead love forever.
The rest of the movie involves a terrible diner set that can’t even get the 80’s right. Then there’s the lone biker who survived the grief stricken father’s revenge who grunts loudly and smashes windows and sharpens axes and knives only to show up at the end after you forgot about him and immediately gets zapped by the dad and the crystal. There’s also other women who find Palillo irresistible in his Chess King collection. I don’t even dare go into the lapses in character continuity and general logic that make you want to get an IQ test as quick as possible if only to make sure you haven’t been literally dumbed down by this criminal head-thumper.
I’ve noticed I’ve not made mention of the actual script. I’m trying not to. In a way, HELLGATE deserves to be seen if only to peep upon the worst dialogue ever to spill out of an actor’s mouth. Seriously, people say shit in this movie to pad the running time. There’s no other reason to repeat the same unfunny jokes as Levey has his actors do.
Apparently Palillo was to Levey what Kinski was to Herzog given that this was his third go around with the director. Together they did SKATETOWN USA (1979), COMMITTED (1988) and HELLGATE. Levey directed nothing else after this. His last known credit according to IMDB was on an E! True Hollywood Story on Joey Heatherton in 2001. Wolcott is an ex-model turned cosmetics manufacturer married to Quest Restaurant Executive Chef Tom Valenti. This whole sordid affair was filmed in South Africa. It is no KILL AND KILL AGAIN (1981) and suffers from a serious lack of Ken Gampu.
Had this not been double featured on the Anchor Bay release of THE PIT (1981), I’d have never watched it again. The transfer for it is quite good. How Anchor Bay decided to pair the two up, I’ve no idea and I have to say, there’s that movie nerd fan inside of me that’s glad somebody took the time to put this out and give it the best treatment it possibly deserved. That said, HELLGATE is a stinker of the highest order.
Here's the ending from YouTube. Everything you need to know is right here. Pay special attention to the grief stricken father on top of the car once he's thrown off into the building. That's HELLGATE in a nutshell.
Good luck. You'll need it.
HELLGATE cover photo nicked from www.narnarland.com