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Party Line Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Vinegar Syndrome

Party Line Blu Ray Large

Directed by William Webb
Written by Richard Brandes
1988, 90 minutes, Rated R
Released on February 26th, 2019

Richard Hatch as Dan
Shawn Weatherly as Stacy
Leif Garrett as Seth
Greta Blackburn as Angelina
Richard Roundtree as Captain Barnes
James O’Sullivan as Henry
Terrence McGovern as Mr. Simmons

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Seth and Angelina are young, attractive, wealthy siblings who happen to be completely insane. Their parents died under dubious circumstances leaving them all alone in their large house in the hills. The duo loves to party, frequently visiting the hottest night clubs in Los Angeles. It is not uncommon for at least one of them to bring somebody home for the night. Seth has a favorite toy, and no it’s not his red Ferrari, but rather his late father’s straight razor. He keeps it extra sharp and uses it on the throats of unsuspecting victims. Seth and Angelina use the popular 976 party lines to make contact with their potential targets, arranging for late-night hookups and murder.

Dan is a vice cop on the trail of a powerful drug lord and is not the best detective on the force. He has a history of breaking rules to get convictions. After spending years having cases thrown out of the courts, he has made an enemy of the District Attorney. When Dan stumbles upon the body of the latest slasher victim, his captain transfers him to homicide and pairs him with an attractive Assistant District Attorney named Stacy to work the crime. The bodies continue to pile up and the duo are not having an easy time of it until they figure out that the victims all share one thing in common: according to their phone records, they all loved to use party lines. Now, it is up to these two to manipulate the system and set a trap for their killer, but it won’t be that easy.

Before the internet and the rise of social media and decades before Tinder, people used a series of (area code) 976 phone numbers to meet potential dates. These numbers were lucrative for the companies behind them, charging users a by-the-minute fee. The program targeted the lonely and the unfaithful, promising a good time, but when the monthly phone bill came, they proved costly and caused more problems than they were worth. People got hooked and couldn’t stop dialing and the numbers thrived. It was only a matter of time before somebody thought to make a movie about the phenomenon and soon enough the horror genre came calling.

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Party Line came out in the late 1980s during the era of “New Wave horror”. Everything is polished and pretty. Music and fashion play a large part in the proceedings and the villains are every bit as attractive as their victims. Seth and Angelina are living in their own world where they do not see their targets as real people. They are merely a means to an end, a ticket to the next opportunity for bloodshed. Angelina is the stronger of the two, frequently calling the shots as to who will be their next victim. Seth does the actual killing and is the more emotional one with a lot of mommy issues. He frequently dons his late mother’s wedding dress to relax, something that sends Angelina into fits of taunting anger.

Director William Webb (The Hit List) keeps things moving as we follow the killers through the night clubs and party scenes, and the cops who are trying to stop them. The screenplay, written by Richard Brandes (Penny Dreadful), revisits a lot of familiar territory but contains enough quirky moments to keep things interesting. Leif Garrett (Cheerleader Camp) stars as the psychotic Seth and infuses the role with menace. He plays well off of his co-star Greta Blackburn (Time Walker) and the two share most of their scenes together. On the opposite side of the law is Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica) as Dan, the hot-head detective trying to stop the killing. He shares great on-screen chemistry with Shawn Weatherly (Shadowzone) as his partner Stacy. Richard Roundtree (Shaft) gives the picture some street credibility as Captain Barnes, bringing gravitas to the role.

Party Line is a product of its time. It is a mixture of a slasher film and an erotic thriller with a police procedural thrown in for good measure. The central conceit of psychopaths using the phone system to select their victims is pretty novel and is well-executed. The body count is decent, but there is not a lot of graphic bloodshed and less nudity than expected. While this is an interesting time capsule, it may be more of a rental, as there is not a lot of merit for repeat viewing, except perhaps the thrill of watching Leif Garrett getting slapped around in a wedding dress.

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Video and Audio:

The original camera negative has received a 4K scan and looks terrific. The picture is presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is full of bright colors and rich blacks. Flesh tones appear natural throughout and there is plenty of small-object detail.

A DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix preserves the stereo recording with well-balanced dialogue and music cues. This is a solid track without any evidence of hiss or other distortion.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.

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Special Features:

Screenwriter Richard Brandes sits down to reflect on the project in Party Line Fever (16 minutes). He details how he came to Hollywood as an actor-turned-writer and marvels at the speed at which this film came together. He shares a few production anecdotes and seems pleased with the finished product that helped launch his career.

The original theatrical trailer has been included.

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Movie: Threestars Cover
Buy Amazon Us
Video: Fourandahalfstars
Audio: Threeandahalfstars
Features: Twostars
Overall: 3 Star Rating

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About The Author
Robert Gold
Author: Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer - USA
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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