THEN: When June comes around, my mind shifts to two movies that are a must watch every single year. The sun shines bright and the beautiful sandy beaches are filled with bikini clad ladies ready to plunge into the deep blue sea. What lurks in the water you may ask? Well in 1978 after the incredible success of Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece JAWS, along came one of the most entertaining sequels of all time… and that was JAWS 2. One of the most memorable things about the film for yours truly would be the young and pretty Jackie Peters. This young lady proved to have a serious set of lungs when a great white attacks her and a group of friends trapped on their boats. Donna Wilkes gave this part her all and man was she scared shitless – shockingly nobody pushed her off the boat to make her stop!
Now I kid, I kid, because as a young boy sitting watching this awesome sequel, I couldn’t take my eyes of Ms. Wilkes. The actress was the quintessential cutie from the late Seventies. With her gorgeous eyes and girl-next-door appeal, it was not hard to see why all the boys at Amity Island loved Jackie. Yeah sure she didn’t deal with pressure all that well, but if you saw all your pals getting chomped on you may react the same way. JAWS 2 was basically a “dead teenager” movie before they became trendy in the early Eighties, and my goodness, Donna was one hell of a (literal) “scream queen.”
After facing off against that big fish, the actress made several television appearances but she soon found herself back in the genre we love best. In the 1980 flick SCHIZOID, she appeared opposite folks like Klaus Kinski, Craig Wasson and Christopher Lloyd (yes, Dr. Emmett Brown from BACK TO THE FUTURE and so much more). This is one of those classic early Eighties movies that features a ton of “red herrings” including our very own Ms. Wilkes. In many ways she outshined the leading actress Marianna Hill – a legendary talent in her own right. If you want to check out this cheesy shocker you can, thanks to the fine folks at Scream Factory who released this and HOSPITAL MASSACRE as a must own two-disc set..
Horror filmmakers clearly had a good thing on their hands with Ms. Wilkes. Next up, the pretty young actress appeared as the female lead in the Frankie Avalon starring 1982 shocker BLOOD SONG… and yes, we are talking the BEACH BLANKET BINGO surfer dude and the Beauty School Dropout Fairy Godfather in GREASE. The actress shined in this cult horror flick and frankly the movie is fun slasher times. Frankly there was something about this adorable girl which helped make these flicks all the more amazing. This one is a little bit harder to find as its only DVD release is currently out of print. But if you are a fan of Wilkes – or especially Mr. Avalon – this is one you shouldn’t miss.
If all this genre goodness wasn’t enough, Donna next appeared in one of the most entertaining cult flicks of all-time. I’m talking about 1984’s ANGEL. If you don’t know it, you should! The tagline was unforgettable – “High School Honor Student by Day… Hollywood Hooker by Night!” Wilkes is b-movie perfection as Molly “Angel” Stewart a “fifteen-year-old” street walker you don’t wanna mess with. It’s been awhile since I witnessed the greatness of ANGEL so tonight upon researching this article it seemed like a great time to revisit. I’m so glad I did. She is pretty fantastic here and the rest of the cast is damn impressive as well. Rory Calhoun, Susan Tyrrell and John Diehl are all terrific. This revenge/thriller made some bucks and spawned a few sequels, but none of the other ANGELS could compare.
Continuing her television career she appeared in a number of shows including “T.J. Hooker” and “Father Murphy,” but the actress wasn’t finished with horror yet. In the 1988 flick GROTESQUE, she starred opposite another horror legend, Ms. Linda Blair. This strange movie was part home invasion, part torture and part comedic with tons of bizarreness goings on. This is my least favorite of Wilkes horror-centric resume, but it is clearly worth checking out. In fact, it is incredibly fun to watch both Blair and Wilkes play off of each other. And the crazed “punk rockers” are sort of awesomely atrocious! Okay, maybe this flick isn’t too bad after all.
NOW: Since the early Nineties, Donna Wilkes seemed to disappear from the limelight which was very sad for horror fans. Thankfully however, the actress is reemerging with a recent appearance in the David DeCoteau directed flicks MY STEPBROTHER IS A VAMPIRE!?! in 2013 and 90210 SHARK ATTACK in 2014. She has graced horror fans presence at conventions and even recently showed up at one of my favorite places in Burbank, Dark Delicacies, to sign a few autographs. I’ve yet to meet Ms. Wilkes in person, but from the looks of it, she still has tons of spunk and charm. If you’d like to see what Donna is up to, you can check her out on Facebook or on DonnaWilkes.com. Now it’s time to return to another viewing of JAWS 2.