The members of my message board ganged up on me and informed me that if the yawning Pia deficit on my site were not rectified within 90 days, they would mount denial-of-service attacks on my site, shave my bunny, rearrange my CDs and kill every member of my family one by one. Actually they didn’t make the threats, but they did simply point out that this site cannot be considered a serious contribution to world culture without the inclusion of the work of Pia Zadora. Unfortunately, none of her famed films are available on DVD, but eventually I was overcome and ordered VHS copies of The Lonely Lady and Voyage of the Rock Aliens. Immediately my status as a pretender in the high-stakes, cutthroat, turn-on-a-dime world of amateur film criticism was brought full before me. I stand humbled, but grateful for the experience.
The VHS tape opens with a trailer for a sleazy-looking 80s sex comedy called My Tutor, the typical thing about a horny teenager who gets a hot older woman for a tutor, which features such notable elements as “Drag strippers… loose zippers… classic rods… classy bods…” This list goes on forever. Then the movie starts. We are outside the Oscars, only here they’re never directly named, going under euphemisms like the “awards presentation ceremony,” and suchlike. Pia walks in alone, with her stiff little walk with her arms held straight down at her sides [walk like an Egyptian statue?], and a woman in the audience says of her “She can’t be anyone if she’s by herself.” During this time have noticed that this movie also stars Lloyd Bochner [Hart’s father] and Ray Liotta, in his first movie role!
We then have a flashback to a high school awards ceremony, accomplished through an unfortunate edit so that it takes several minutes to realize we are not inside the Oscars. So you’re sitting there going “The Oscars is taking place in this tiny little ceremony with a hand-painted sign as a backdrop? Wow, this movie really is low-budget,” before you realize we have flashed back. She wins some writing award for her short stories, and gets up to make a speech. She talks about how she tries to bring something personal to each story, but her teacher cuts her off so desperately one wonders if Pia was going to start going on about sex with… well, who knows, but it seems like something shameful was about to come out. So that night Pia gets permission from her Mom to go to this party with Bernie, her boring boyfriend. There she catches a glimpse of Ray Liotta as a pot-smoker, and meets the son of Roger Thornton, this supposedly legendary screenwriter. Pia [her character is name JeriLee, meaning that the curls in her hair must be JeriCurls] is forced to choose between boring and young Bernie and the screenwriter’s son, a choice symbolized by the large, unusually thick and plump hot dog held directly in front of her face. Pia grasps the wiener—and her fate is set in motion.
She gets into the car with screenwriter boy, Ray Liotta [quite smolderingly hot back then] and his sleazy moll in the back seat. Ray tries to grab Pia’s boob, then enjoys some backseat head from his ladyfriend, all of which is making Pia quite uptight, much to the consternation of screenwriter boy, who was obviously hoping to score some poon. She quietly asks “What time is it?” and he shouts “JUST RELAX!”
SPOILERS > > >
I hate to enter the spoiler zone so soon, but what happens next was so totally unexpected to me, I need to protect the innocence of others. And really… if you want to watch this movie and you don’t know what’s coming, it might be best to protect yourself. Anyway, so Pia wanders into the screenwriter Dad’s study and fondles his things, then goes out back toward the pool. WHY, I do not know. So Liotta grabs her legs and flips her over his head [it’s quite acrobatic], and Pia gets soaked. She climbs out of the pool and starts to run, with Ray running after her and tackling her [while Ray’s girlfriend in the pool laughs]. Then Ray picks up a garden hose with an, again, UNUSUALLY thick nozzle, and RAPES PIA WITH IT!!!!!! Ray’s ladyfriend stops laughing now, and I think actually says “Hey!” That’ll tell him! There is no word on whether Ray turned on the water or not. Then the screenwriter father, Roger, comes home mid-garden hose rape! Man, ONLY in the works of Harold Robbins. My jaw was on the floor. And then, when you think that this is like the first night that Pia was allowed to stay out late since she just graduated… wow, she had a rough first night out!
Her mother, who soon emerges as an UBER-bitch and QUITE a hoot, decides not to do a bloomin’ thing about the fact that her daughter was raped with a garden hose, because she feels that it’s pointless; rich people always win, and besides “She was assaulted, but not raped.” Then Roger Thornton, the screenwriter Pia adores who caught the tail-end of her garden-implement violation, stops by to chat. We find out that Pia’s father died when she was young [absent-father daddy issues, check], and that her mother tells her that talking about writing is boring. It seems that Mom is angling to win Roger for herself, as she makes snacks, inserts herself into the conversation every chance she gets, and cuts off Pia every time she starts to talk about the writing she supposedly holds so dear. When Mom finally gets cut out of the conversation she rises in a huff, snaps “Some people want everything” at Pia, and storms off. Heh heh, I love uber-bitch Moms.
So we see Pia and Roger jogging, and we know immediately that they are going to “fall in love,” which has happened by the next scene. The unspoken text is that Roger is into Pia because he thinks she’s a hot slut for getting raped with a garden hose. Predictably, Mom freaks, but Pia’s mind is made up. They marry, but Roger [hairy front-and-back Roger] can’t get it up on the first night.
So Pia’s dreams of Roger helping her writing career are soon dashed as it becomes apparent that she’s just a trophy wife, and that every man in Hollywood has a young blonde on his arm, including the semi-sexy George, who escorts Popcorn, a little tart who claims “If I was ugly I would kill myself.” No one takes Pia seriously in the slightest. Then she’s on the set of one of Roger’s movies, and the actress is having a problem with the lines she is supposed to deliver. The director goes behind Roger’s back and asks Pia to rewrite the scene. She does, reducing the supposedly long graveside speech to a single word: “Why?!” Roger is PISSED, but the scene goes ahead. When we see the actress deliver the line: “Why? WWHHHYYYYY!?!?!?!?!!?” It is AWFUL, MIND-BOGGLINGLY AWFUL, and yet everyone else in the movie acts like it is a triumph of the artistic imagination. Roger then takes credit for it. Soon Pia is throwing drunken fits and embarrassing him at lunch, and they divorce. You know things are past the point of no return when he picks up the garden hose and asks “Is THIS more your kick?”
Then she gets used by this actor and has to have his abortion. Then she goes to work in this nightclub for Vinny, this sleazoid wanna-be producer who expects his waitresses to be whores. It’s not too long before he turns monster as well, demanding that he write for him alone, causing her to say “If I write for anyone, Vinny, it’s for ME!” Now, I haven’t mentioned this, but supposedly Pia has two successful books, so after a while you start to feel like “Look, if she’s a successful novelist already, why is she so desperate to make it in the world of screenwriting?” I mean, I don’t know, are there a lot of already-successful prose writers who would go through all this shit just to break into screenwriting? Where writers are legendarily treated like shit and their work diluted and destroyed? Maybe Pia really is just THAT stupid. She certainly doesn’t seem to learn anything from any of the men that use her. Oh dear.
Anyway, so Vinny sends her off to have sex with an Italian man and his wife [throughout, Pia having sex with another woman is treated like an unthinkable horror], and afterward Pia walks in his office to find him snorting coke with two naked women on either side. She screams “My script!” and he tosses it to her—still unopened. This precipitates Pia’s MENTAL BREAKDOWN! And if there’s anything that makes a movie wholly worth watching, it’s a mental breakdown. This is a pretty florid one, with her seeing a vortex with the faces of all the characters who have fucked her over appearing dancing around the keys of her typewriter, and finally each individual face in the middle, slowly crumbling. It is something to see.
Anyway, we’ve reached the length of our running time, so it’s time for things to abruptly turn around for no reason. The nice gay director [the implication being that only a man who doesn’t want to fuck her can be nice to her] and introduces her around and helps her… and next thing we know, she’s back at the Oscars accepting the best original screenplay award for “The Holdouts.” She delivers what is supposed to be a big speech excoriating the men she knew and the system, saying “I suppose I’m not the first woman here who had to fuck her way to the top,” and other bon mots. Thing is, the speech isn’t very good; it is unfocused and she never specifically or even expresses one complaint or point of view. She then refuses the award [to a chorus of boos] and walks off the stage with her stiff little walk, and we hear a reprise of this title lounge song, which sounds like Tom Jones, but is actually Larry Graham, who brought us “One In a Million You.”
< < < SPOILERS END
It truly was awful, but really lurid fun awful. This one is worth getting some friends over, boozing it up, and all having a good watch. First you have Pia and her piss-poor acting and—well, personally I find her a bit weird to look at in general, she’s like a Lhasa Apsu—and then just how ridiculous the story is, how stupid Pia is for just letting herself be used again and again, and certain scenes like the mental breakdown and suchlike. She’s so silly and whiny and misguided and pathetic a lot of the pleasure of the movie is in watching her suffer.
Which is part of the slightly unpleasant aftertaste the whole project leaves. I mean—why do I want to watch a movie about a naïve woman who is raped and then used and abused for the rest of the movie? There’s something a little creepily sadistic about it. So this is from a Harold Robbins novel, which often trafficked in sleazy degradation for the titillation of his readers, although disguised as an uncensored look at the dark truth behind Hollywood doors or whatnot. I don’t know, it’s a little [okay, it's a lot] misogynistic, and in order to enjoy it, you have to just accept that and enjoy the cheesy campiness of it all.
Yeah, you probably should. This really is worth gathering some friends for. You will need enhancements.
VOYAGE OF THE ROCK ALIENS is one one of the stupidest things ever conceived on this planet, features Pia, and is a MUSICAL.