Screwballs (1983)

Available on Netflix streaming, as of 8/15/2012
on DVD and Blu-Ray via Amazon

(This review may contain spoilers)

With the arrival of the affluent middle class of the 1980’s we began to see a new consumer demographic. Teens suddenly had spending money and Hollywood was ready to give them what they wanted in exchange for their fast-food earned dollars.

So what did teens want?


At least, that’s what teen boys wanted, and the movie industry was ready to deliver. Now, I’m not saying that this was in any way a new revelation. After all, films had been finding ways to show us the female anatomy for decades, but wrapping this showcase for female nudity in the guise of a teen comedy became an art form during the Reagan era.

You can probably make a good argument for laying the blame on John Landis, who gave us The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) and Animal House (1978) which kind of set the standard for what would go on to become a whole genre unto itself.

Or you may even go one step further and call out Porky’s (1982) as the defining film, from which all others derived their formula.

However you get there though, there’s no denying that Screwballs was an attempt to cash in on the same market.

As these types of films go, there’s enough here to make it worth your while. The humor, while juvenile and mostly hit or miss, does occasionally deliver a genuine laugh or two. There’s also ample opportunity to ogle, and jiggle fans are well served.

What I find most fascinating about Screwballs however is the utter failure of the director to deliver at the end of the film.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around a group of high school teens (seemingly played by 30 year-old actors) who vow to get a glimpse of the homecoming queen’s goods before the end of the school year.

(Spoiler Alert)

Throughout the film, there’s many a misguided attempt to shed the clothes of the high school hottie, Miss Purity Busch, played by Linda Speciale. As you’d expect, the film culminates in the successful unveiling of those much desired breasts during the height of the homecoming celebration activities.

However, in what should be the grand climax, director Rafal Zielinski fails to reward the audience in a satisfying way.

Immediately, as Purity’s clothes are ripped from her body leaving her naked in front of the homecoming crowd, the ending credits begin to roll. She hunches over in an attempt to cover herself, and much of the frame is obscured by the text. The action continues with reaction shots of the crowd and peeks back at Purity, but all while being blocked out by the credits.

So after setting this up for 82 minutes, we get left with a quick unsatisfying peek.

With all the build up, you would at the very least expect a good 2 or 3 second reaction shot of her standing there in front of the crowd, stunned look on her face, but no.

Ultimately, I think it would have been awesome if it ended with one of those three camera, multi-angle shots you used to get of explosions in actions movies. The kind where you see the same explosion from different angles to heighten the impact.

You could have the dress being ripped off revealing the full frontal, CUT, the dress being ripped off shown from behind to get the crowd reaction shot, CUT, the dress being ripped off from a side angle showing the whole scene. You get the idea.

Despite the shortcomings of the ending, if you’re the sort who enjoys a good 1980’s T & A film, you could do a lot worse than watch Screwballs. It wouldn’t be the first film I’d recommend from the genre, but when it’s after midnight and you just want something stupid to entertain you, give it a view.

-C I


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