“Cheap Turd”: the mysterious charm of Valet Girls (1987)

Valet Girls

Valet Girls (1987)
Dir. Rafal Zielinski
Starring. April Stewart, Meri D. Marshall, Mary Kohnert
Valet Girls is a poorly made, badly paced, atrociously acted, flatly filmed, desperately unfunny, trashy near-exploitation movie; it has almost no redeeming features; so why is it so great?

val2Mostly, this must be due to ‘period charm’ – they probably do make crappy movies like this nowadays, but somehow the tone of the modern post-Farrelly brothers, bottom-of-the-barrel comedy is incredibly charmless even by the standards of the z-grade sub-Police Academy humour that plagued straight-to-video films 30 years ago.

What’s funny (peculiar) about Valet Girls is that it doesn’t even have the courage of what convictions it has – the movie poster and publicity suggests a raunchy (indeed, near-pornographic) teen movie, but it is in fact, significantly less titillating than Porky’s, Revenge of the Nerds or even the aforementioned Police Academy itself.

val3The perfunctory storyline can be summarised extremely briefly; three girls (April Stewart, Meri D Marshall and Mary Kohnert – only the latter was to make further appearances on film) start working as valet parking girls in LA in order to make it in show business. Ironically, the film seems to have been in part an unsuccessful attempt to launch the music career of the appealing but not overly star-powered Meri Marshall; as far as I can tell she had some success in Germany. To that end, she sings a handful of forgettably likeable synth-pop songs, somewhere between Tiffany and Debbie Gibson stylistically.

MeriD

So what is the appeal of the film? Partly the utter woodenness of the three leads –  their intense anti-charisma becomes, to the sympathetic viewer, a kind of endearing charisma. The same can’t be said for the irritating young men who are outwitted by the girls throughout the film and whose names I can’t be bothered to look up. Probably the biggest names associated with the film are John Terlesky (best known to sci-fi/fantasy fans as the title character in the below-par comedy sequel Deathstalker II) and Ron Jeremy, in one of those roles that demonstrates why his career never took off when wearing clothes. Naturally, being the kind of film this is, it wants to have its cake and eat it; we are supposed to see the girls as go-getting young business women, aiming for the stars, but doing it all for themselves; all well and good; and in fact they are both smarter and tougher than the males in the film. As luck would have it for the people trying to sell Valet Girls to a youth audience, though, the girls’ business venture requires them to be sexy (at least I presume they are supposed to be sexy) and to dress (relatively) sexily throughout.

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Mainly though, it is that ‘period charm’ – modern movies set in the 80s may carefully research and study the hairstyles, the fashion and music of the time to give an authentic 80s appearance for those too young to remember, but Valet Girls is a compendium of the kind of attempts at fashion that were unsuccessful then and have never been revived, but which were nevertheless a pervasive part of the 80s pop culture universe; witness for example the majesty of the jerky new wave-ish cover of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’ played by ‘The New Psychotics’; an 80s movie producer’s idea of what the kids might (but didn’t) think was cool. All eras have these kind of things, but the time preserved here has, like the 1920s seen through John O’Hara’s Appointment in Samarra, a poignancy even in its silliest details; for those of the right age, this was their youth and is an era which shall never return.

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Valet Girls may be the longest 90 minutes or so you will ever watch – and in terms of plotting, acting, comedy and direction it makes Weekend At Bernie’s 2 look like Weekend at Bernie’s, but on the other hand, if you are old enough to remember the 80s (or wish you had been alive then) and wallowing in amateurish anti-nostalgia appeals to you then you could possibly do worse.

Footnote: the title of this article isn’t just me being mean, it comes from a ‘hilarious’ moment of Police Academy style humour where one of the girls insults one of the many irritating men who populate the film:

Rosalind (April Stewart): “Cheap turd!”
Archie Lee Samples (John Terlesky): “what!??”
Rosalind: “I heard”


For similar experiences see also:
Biggles; Adventures in Time (1986) (80s nostalgia)
Mesa of Lost Women (1953) (50s B-movie nostalgia)
Her Reputation (1933) (30s B-movie nostalgia)
Grange Hill (1978-1990-ish) (an authentic British 80s childhood experience, only without the swearing)

 

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