During Oscar season, Melissa Leo created her own “For Your Consideration” ad looking youthful and sexy. She needed to remind people that she wasn’t the haggard mother in The Fighter, the worn out woman from Frozen River or the fatigued widow on HBO’s Treme. She had a glamorous side. At the start of her career she had no problem looking cute for the camera. She was a fresh face off the bus who found her first starring role in the oldest profession. Melissa Leo launched her career as a Times Square teenage hooker in Roger Corman’s Cult Classics: Streetwalkin’.
Cookie (Leo) and her brother (Kick-Ass‘ Randall Batinkoff) arrive in the Manhattan bus station. They’ve just been kicked out of their father’s house. She hopes mom will take them in. But mom has zero maternal instincts. Luckily for Cookie, she meets a friendly face in the cold Port Authority facility. Duke (Dale Midkiff) has a soft spot for the young lady and a job opportunity for her. Turns out he’s a pimp. While the movie skips over the transformation, Cookie quickly takes to being a hooker. She gets a rush out of working a corner with the other ladies in lingerie. Her friends include Queen Bee (Batman‘s Julie Newmar) and Star (Treme‘s Khandi Alexander). Her and Star do a fine double team of a submissive john. She’s living a good life in the Big Apple.
She like earning the big bucks for Dale since she really loves the guy. Dale has a special kinda love that reminds his girls that his heart comes with a price that must be met nightly. Cookie gets spooked when she sees what Dale does to one of his girls that isn’t earning quota. This leads to her meeting up with Finesse (Starsky and Hutch‘s Antonio Fargas) and Jason (Oz‘s Leon Robinson). They think she wants to change management companies. This lead to an all out pimp war with Dale and his pal Creepy (Ally McBeal‘s Greg Germann) not wanting to lose their top earner.
Far as teen hooker films of the ‘80s go, Streetwalkin’ is a top dollar production. There’s a lot of young talent on the screen getting their first chances to shine. Melissa Leo doesn’t hold back in the role. She makes sure the movie earns an R rating. It’s a rush to see Huggy Bear put classy pimp moves on the screen. Julie Newmar really looks too good for a veteran hooker working the street. She doesn’t resemble the ladies found on any of the Hookers at the Point entries. But there’s no need to complain since it’s a chance to seeing Catwoman get catty in lace. The movie was really shot in New York City at night instead of Corman’s lumberyard in Venice, California. The true gritty nature of the locations adds to the seedy nature of the action. You can almost smell pizza grease clinging to the sidewalks. Streetwalkin’ is proof that Melissa Leo wasn’t born a frumpy middle aged woman.
The video is 1.78:1. Like any good Manhattan street shoot, there’s a fine roughness to the transfer. You get a good sense of what a summer night looked like in the glittery slimy glow of Time Square before it was cleaned up by Disney. The audio is 2.0 stereo. It’s a rather direct mix that doesn’t get too frilly.
Audio Commentary with director Joan Freeman and producer Robert Alden. They were married when they co-wrote the script and made the film for Corman. They still act rather amazed that they were able to make a low budget film at night in New York City.
Freeman would go on to direct Satisfaction with Justine Bateman and Julia Roberts with Alden producing.
Roger Corman’s Cult Classics: Streetwalkin’ provides us of glimpse of a young Melissa Leo working Times Square. She does a fine job as the girl who goes from high school to hooker. This is a fine example of this ‘80s genre with an exceptional cast. Interesting that 25 years later, Leo would team up with Alexander on Treme.
Shout! Factory presents Roger Corman’s Cult Classics: Streetwalkin’. Directed by Joan Freeman. Starring: Melissa Leo, Julie Newmar, Khandi Alexander and Antonio Fargas. Written by: Joan Freeman and Robert Alden. Running time: 83 minutes. Rating: R. Released on DVD: August 2, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Melissa Leo, Oscar, Roger Corman, Roger Corman's Cult Classics, The Fighter, Treme