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After leaving her abusive home behind her with little brother Tim in tow, Cookie finds herself in New York. Stuck without a job, Cookie takes on a job of being a hooker for an ill-mannered pimp named Duke (what better way to make a living in New York?). But when Duke's temper causes him to kill a few of her fellow prostitutes, Cookie runs and takes refuge with another pimp named Jason. Duke obviously isn't too happy to have one of his girls leave, but Jason's not about to roll over, either.
Oh, the roles you take to try and get noticed when you're starting out on the big screen. Leo DiCaprio had CRITTERS 3, Jim Carrey had EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY, and Melissa Leo? Well, she dabbled in the exploitation genre with a little number called STREETWALKIN'. And fresh from her Oscar win for THE FIGHTER, what better way to capitalize on Ms. Leo's sudden surge in popularity than to release this Roger Corman gem on DVD? I'm sure Melissa Leo is thankful that this number is out on DVD, as are those people wanting to see her topless. But the bottom line still remains: is the rest of the film worth watching?
A highlight for me was seeing Julie Newmar, the former Catwoman, as an older but still quite lovely hooker named Queen Bee. Ms. Newmar portrays the motherly type of character (as did many of the prostitutes in the film), imparting wisdom on life in general as well as taking a shine to Cookie and Tim. As for Melissa, she is very convincing as a kid that's forced to grow up too soon, fitting the part despite actually being slightly older than her character's age. Bonus points to Dale Midkiff (making his big screen debut), who exudes an Elvis-like feeling about him but also has his over-the-top outbursts of rage that are entertaining in more than one way.
Despite the obvious handcuffs of being a Roger Corman film (budget, nudity requirement, etc.), the film also sports a great locale. Being filmed on the streets in mid-80s Times Square, the film is filled with authenticity. Simply put, the film looks and sounds gritty because it really is. As for the sex-for-money scenes, there's your typical nudity, but as a whole, the encounters are more humourous than anything.
Any negatives about this film come from the clichéd story, the campy dialogue and the fact that the film is a product of its time. In other words, it's dated. The budgetary restraints also curtail just what was shot, so to compensate we have extended sequences of Midkiff's character beating people and trashing rooms. The film might also not be considered 'sleazy' enough for some (it is an exploitation film, after all), but the well-choreographed action scenes, good performances and Midkiff's character help to even things out. It's not the best hooker film, but it's better than PRETTY WOMAN in my book.
Video: Presented in 1.78:1 ananmorphic widescreen, the transfer is what you'd expect from a hopefully-forgotten segment of Melissa Leo's acting career. Colours are good with natural-looking skintones, although the film has trouble with details due to its overall soft picture. As well, there's consistent print damage throughout the film. Considering that the film's lack of popularity and knowledge of existence, you could do much worse.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stero mix is like its video counterpart. Hisses and pops appear frequently in the mix, as well as the entire recording sounding as if it was recorded in a tin can. Still, you work with what you have.
The sole extra is the audio commentary with director/writer Joan Freeman and producer/writer robert Alden. The duo have quite a bit to talk about, including getting info from local cops and hookers on how to inject realism into the roles, the challenges of working with a Roger Corman budget and other goodies. It's an informative talk (especially given the film's obscurity), but I wish that Alden could've talked more about that firing...
Trailers for other Shout Factory releases are included.
Also, props once again to Shout Factory for including a reversible cover for the film, but unfortunately my cover has that dreaded hole punch in it, thereby ruining the reverse side. Dammit!
Melissa Leo's acting chops along with many others were on display here in good form. The story is kind of meh, but the geniune atmosphere of the entire film makes up for it. Despite the okay transfer and audio, the entertaining and informative commentary wraps things up quite nicely. See it for this 'other' Duke of New York.