17 August 2005 | Casey-52
Entertaining mix of social commentary, girls and murder
It's a shame that Arthur Marks' THE ROOMMATES is for the most part verrrrry hard to come by because it's one of his best! It's a hell of a lot better than CENTERFOLD GIRLS, that's for sure, and while it's no BONNIE'S KIDS, it is a unique blend of beautiful girls and 70s drive-in elements. While the four leading ladies only share one or two scenes together, this is typical of the four-independent-and-beautiful-twentysomethings subgenre of the drive-in. New World's NURSES and TEACHERS films, as well as THE STEWARDESSES and Al Adamson's rip-offs, featured beautiful girls who were friends, but their individual stories were followed more closely. The social politics of the time (the sexual revolution, women's lib) also play heavily in character development, as in the aforementioned films.
Marki Bey, who would soon become SUGAR HILL before becoming a featured player on "Starsky and Hutch", gives probably her finest performance as a smirking librarian who makes no apologies when she jumps from one man to another who catches her fancy. Pat Woodell, besides contributing a little nudity in a shower scene, is given little to do despite her star billing. She was the only established star of the cast, yet she's obviously not the character Marks was most interested in. Laurie Rose had the most varied career of the girls, from David Friedman skinflicks (ADULT VERSION OF JEKYLL AND HIDE) to Lee Frost sleaze (POLICEWOMEN) to Filipino action pics (THE HOT BOX). Here she is given probably her most interesting and sensitive character. Today she is a professional bellydancer and doesn't look on her past too highly, but she should at least be proud of her work in this film. Roberta Collins is the most vivacious of the quartet, and as evident in most of her films, is an adept comedienne who totally endears herself to the audience. How could anyone watching her films NOT fall in love with her? One of the strongest actresses of the 70s drive-in, she also handles dramatic scenes astonishingly well. Unbelievably, she never graduated to the bigger and better Hollywood roles she so richly deserved.
Also on-hand are two more popular drive-in beauties. Christina Hart (THE STEWARDESSES, JOHNNY FIRECLOUD) is a seemingly innocent cousin of Woodell's who turns out to be a conniving little sexpot who plans on having the swingingest summer of her life. Connie Strickland, the blonde bombshell from BUMMER!, appears in a small role as a vacationing water-skier who is the killer's first victim. Strickland didn't get to star in too many films, usually in small character roles; Marks would use her again in CENTERFOLD GIRLS. Look fast for Uschi Digart in an orgy scene and Albert Cole (THE INCREDIBLE TWO-HEADED TRANSPLANT) as a biker!! ROOMMATES is a little slow-going. The first 15 minutes set-up the four best friends, who have lots of dialogue discussing their personal politics and establishing the two goofball comediennes (Marki Bey and Roberta Collins) and the more serious lasses (Pat Woodell and Laurie Rose). Following a wild party where Rose beats a jock in a sit-up contest, the girls take off for their summer vacation at a lovely resort. And all of a sudden, a charming comedy in the vein of SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHERS becomes a twisted killing-spree-whodunit with beautiful girls falling dead left and right (very much like the Sebastians' THE SINGLE GIRLS from the same year, or New World's NIGHT CALL NURSES and STUDENT TEACHERS). All four gals manage to pair up with respective male partners in-between the murders, and the film successfully jumps back and forth between these two very different parts.
I think The Hoyk's review below is a little off; Tarantino probably never saw this film (which was never available on home video and is still near impossible to find) so its influence on him is zero. Hopefully some DVD company will come along to rescue this one from obscurity and release it with appreciative extras with Marks and the six featured actresses and the tender loving care it deserves. It's not a four-star, solid 10 exploitation feature, but there is still plenty here to keep fans of 70s drive-in fare happy.