February 29, 2016

Lost Actor Found: Lolita Lorre from SCREAM FOR HELP (1984)

Lolita Lorre and David Allen Brooks in a scene from SCREAM FOR HELP (1984) - courtesy of Lorimar PIctures
Lolita Lorre and David Allen Brooks in SCREAM FOR HELP (1984)
"Whatever happened to Lolita Lorre?" I often wonder.

Well, not that often. But every couple of years, I like to revisit her classic home-invasion thriller, Scream for Help (1984). This god-awful UK/US co-production was an adolescent favorite of mine. I'm not sure why. HBO had it in constant rotation in the late-1980's, and it had lots of nudity and violence. So yeah, not sure why it appealed to me.

Ever wonder what a mutant hybrid of Death Wish (1974) crossed with an ABC Afterschool Special looks like? Then Scream for Help is the flick for you. It starts with a teenage girl silhouetted pensively against a sunset while deadpan narration intones: "My name is Christina Ruth Cromwell. I'm 17, and I live in New Rochelle. I think my stepfather is trying to murder my mother." Needless to say, from this shampoo commercial-esque shot forward, I was hooked.

Shot of Rachael Kelly from SCREAM FOR HELP (1984)
"I think my stepfather is trying to murder my mother."
Spoiler Alert: Christie's jerk stepfather, Paul, really is trying to murder her rich mother—but nobody believes her because she's, like, a girl. However, after several of Paul's ineptly staged "accidents" seemingly kill everyone but the mother, Christie finally manages to blow the lid off his murder-for-inheritance racket. But that's just the first half. Then the movie abruptly veers into the home invasion genre as the now-desperate Paul, his tough-broad girlfriend Brenda, and her sweaty, psychotic husband Lacey descend on the house, intending to kill everyone. Suspense, betrayal, murder, and oddly scripted, needlessly intense arguments about pancakes ensue.

Shot of Lolita Lorre and Rachael Kelly from Michael Winner's SCREAM FOR HELP (1984)
Lolita Lorre and Rachael Kelly in SCREAM FOR HELP (1984)
The performances in this high-pitched Nancy Drew-meets-Last House on the Left curiosity are uniformly wacko, but one pleasant stand-out is the amazingly named Lolita Lorre as femme fatale "Brenda Bohle." She acquits herself well, given how amusingly off-tune this movie is. Better bloggers have more eloquently described Scream for Help's harsh, earnestly inharmonic charms—so I'll just leave the oft-mentioned "Pancake Scene" here.

PAUL: She's gonna make blueberry pancakes. She makes great pancakes.
BRENDA: I can make pancakes.
PAUL: Kid makes 'em better.
BRENDA: How do you know? You ever tasted my pancakes?
Yeah, so the whole movie is like that. There's enough teen drama clich├ęs, misplaced intensity, bombastic music cues, adolescent angst, slapping, stabbing—and solemn narration (regularly delivered with an urgent, bathetic sincerity reminiscent of Honey Whitlock's "Dear diary, my husband is trying to murder me" voiceover in Cecil B. DeMented)—to fill 10 bizarrely plotted juvenile fiction/vigilante justice movies. But thankfully, veteran director Michael Winner saw fit to cram them all into this one.

Then there's Brenda's spectacular death scene, which has to be seen to be believed.

And then—much like Brenda Bohle—Lolita Lorre made a hasty retreat, and dropped off the map. Her IMDB page lists this as her sole credit, without so much as a solitary follow-up part in an episode of L.A. Law. And despite a small, but ardent cult of horny-teenage-boys-turned-movie-geeks wondering where this pretty lady was, little could be found about Lolita Lorre, the actress.

She was hot, she could act, and she kept a straight face while filming Scream for Help. So who was she? And what happened to her?

Lolita Lorre, actress

I, too, was similarly curious about Lolita (albeit in respectful, purely platonic way, of course) and I was lucky to find this: a biographical data questionnaire—filled out by Lolita, herself—for John A. Willis, the editor of long-running annual publications Screen World and Theatre World. Along with her birthday, birthplace, and other interesting Lolita Lorre factoids, I was particularly interested to find out her old stomping ground was Ellen Stewart's La MaMa, the legendary, off-off-Broadway experimental theatre club that launched the careers of (among others) Joe Pesci, Mary Woronov, and Danny DeVito. I knew there was something I liked about this broad.

Lolita Lorre, actress
Lolita Lorre, actress

I also found another questionnaire—as well as a curriculum vitae, on which she credits herself as Lolita Lesheim. And this time, she left Scream for Help off her resume. As Robert Muldoon would say: "Clever girl."

Lola Lesheim aka Lolita Lorre, from SCREAM FOR HELP

These days, "Lolita Lorre" is better known as Lola Lesheim, a married yoga instructor/actress living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She's still working, and is currently repped by a local agency called Wehmann Models & Talent.

Things to do in 2016: Get stoned, re-watch Scream for Help, and formulate some interview questions.

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