Out of the Dark (1989)

You have no idea how excited I was when this Americanized giallo showed up on Amazon Prime. It’s short on directorial finesse, but it’s packed with talent and weirdness. I also think I may have spent two or three hours in the Hollywood no-tell motel that shows up an hour into this one (my early 20’s were a little crazy, to be honest).

Karen Witter (Playboy Playmate of the Month in March 1982 and ex-wife of Two and a Half Men creator Peter Lorre) is Jo Anne, one of the ladies of Suite Nothings, a phone sex line. Yes, these things once existed in the 1980’s, a decade where a movie could be called 976-Evil and everyone knew what the storyline conceit was.

Ruth (Karen Black!) is in charge of them all, but when they start dying off one by one, the police have to get involved. Lt. Meyers (Tracey Walter, BOB THE FUCKING GOON from Batman) and McDonald (Silvana Gallardo, Rosasio the maid from Death Wish 2) start looking for the killer, who everything thinks is Bobo, a regular caller who finishes quickly and states that “no one can handle nipples better than Bobo.” One wonders if he is the notorious Howard Stern regular!

All manner of celebrities — well, to movie weirdos like me — show up: Divine out of drag as a detective, Tab Hunter, Geoffrey Lewis (Juliette’s dad!), Bud Cort and Paul Bartel (who was an executive producer, too)!

Here’s a weird bit of synchronicity: Karen Mayo-Chandler, who plays one of the telephone girls in this one, also appeared in the phone related horror films Party Line and 976-EVIL 2: The Astral Factor. She was also the girlfriend of Jack Nicholson (and Tracey Walter was in nine movies with his buddy Jack, so one assumes that these things are all related).

Trust me — this isn’t a great or even good movie. But I was entertained. Then again, at 4 AM on a Saturday night, my standards are even lower than usual. But hey — you can watch this on Amazon Prime.

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