Starhops (1978)

Stephanie Rothman was studying at UC Berkeley when The Seventh Seal made her want to become a filmmaker. She was the first woman to be awarded the Directors Guild of America fellowship, which was one of the reasons why Roger Corman hired her as his assistant (selecting her over another applicant, the woman who became his wife Julie).

She directed It’s a Bikini World, which was not the kind of movie she wanted to do and was semi-retired until working on the film Gas-s-s-s. She then directed The Student Nurses, an exploitation film that she was not aware was an exploitation film, as she had carte blanche to explore political and social issues in the film that interested her.

She said, “I went and did some research to find out exactly what exploitation films were, their history and so forth, and then I knew that’s what I was doing, because I was making low-budget films that were transgressive in that they showed more extreme things than what would be shown in a studio film, and whose success depended on their advertising, because they had no stars in them. It was dismaying to me, but at the same time I decided to make the best exploitation films I could. If that was going to be my lot, then that’s what I was going to try and do with it.”

She wasn’t interested in making a sequel to The Student Nurses or making The Big Doll House, but her next movie was The Velvet Vampire. Moving to Dimension Pictures, she directed Terminal IslandThe Working Girls and Group Marriage.

However, attempts to go mainstream were stigmatized by the films that she had made. Before ending her movie-making career, the rumor was that she reshot some scenes in Ruby and definitely wrote Starhops before taking her name off it, as it was not the film she wanted it to be.

It is, however, directed by Barbara Peeters, the only other female director from New World Pictures. She famously warred with Corman over the additions to Humanoids from the Deep and directed favorites like Bury Me an Angel and the TV series The Powers of Matthew Star.

But what about the movie itself? Well, it’s a trifle, about three waitresses, Danielle, Cupcake and Angel, who all work together to stop their fast food restaurant from going broke. Of course, Dick Miller shows up, as this is a Roger Corman-associated film.

What’s interesting about Angel is that she’s played by Jillian Kesner-Graver, who was not only Fonzie’s girlfriend Lorraine on Happy Days, but worked with her husband Gary to preserve the films and legacy of Orson Welles.

Starhops isn’t really funny. Or sexy. It’s just kind of there. But sometimes, you watch a bad movie and learn about some interesting people.

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