We’ve waited almost 34 years to see The Lonely Lady as it played on cinema screens during its cruelly brief Universal theatrical release. Only 1983’s most depraved trash-film degenerate whose sense of camp was so finely tuned that the combo of Pia Zadora plus Harold Robbins set off an alarm-bell that sent them flitting, without hesitation, to the nearest multiplex, earned the privilege of experiencing on the big screen a motion picture that’s been called “a baby Valley of the Dolls”, “the funniest trainwreck ever lensed,” “Pia Zadora’s most shocking role,” and “the Showgirls of the Eighties.”
An even smaller segment of the initial LL audience stumbled upon their life-changing movie ticket through magical good fortune. In my case, it was a doubly mystical milestone. My grandmother’s selection of The Lonely Lady for her precocious, film-crazed tween grandson not only left an indelible impression as the filthiest, most lurid motion picture I’d ever seen, it opened up a literary world of riveting, highly educational, frequently pornographic sagas euphemistically known as “beach books” which ensured I was completely corrupted before puberty. She had, you see, chosen this film because she’d read the Robbins novel, as she told me on the taxi-ride home, sending me straight to a collection of paperbacks which my saintly, beloved, closet-freak meemaw had been quietly enjoying in plain sight for as long as I could remember: In addition to the brilliant Mr. Robbins (The Adventurers, The Betsy, 79 Park Avenue), during my early teen years I discovered the best of Jackie Collins (Hollywood Wives, The Stud, The Bitch, Lovers & Gamblers), Judith Gould (Sins), Sidney Sheldon (The Other Side of Midnight, Bloodline), Sally Beauman (Destiny, possibly THE filthiest) and of course Jackie Susann (Valley of the Dolls).
British quad movie poster for ‘The Lonely Lady’ for sale at Westgate Gallery
As much as I cherish all of the above masterworks, only one of them spawned a movie in which Pia Zadora loses her virginity to a garden-hose wielded by Ray Liotta. And now, thanks to Shout Factory’s gorgeous Blu-ray release, the first time this cult essential has been available on home video since the days of VHS, a whole new generation of thrill-seeking tweens can start learning everything their parents won’t tell them and be better prepared for the Hollywood careers that so many of them have already chosen.
Top 10 things about The Lonely Lady:
10. The soundtrack includes Pia’s cover of “The Clapping Song.”
9. The bizarre and inappropriate Eurotrash accents of so many bit players in a story set entirely in the San Fernando Valley, Hollywood & Beverly Hills.
8. Pia’s brilliant writer character is named “Jerilee Randall.” Jerilee Randall!
7. Jerilee’s attempt to get her indecently too-old, impotent and obscenely hairy-backed husband hard by cooing “Gently, gently”.
6. Instead of the luscious bi-sexy babes of Cinemax, the lesbos here are all repulsive predatory gargoyles, like the long-breasted bikini-clad matron in the hot tub who purrs the horrendously looped pick-up line “It’s wonderfully relaxing!”
5. The lesbian Italian movie star (who tricks Jerilee into a threesome with her toad of a husband) is cross-eyed, but her nipples point in different directions, too.
4. Post-threesome, Jerilee is so disgusted with herself she showers with her clothes on and promptly suffers a nervous breakdown.
3. The best nervous breakdown scene EVER, in which the keys of Jerilee’s typewriter become the faces of her tormentors, before rising from the keyboard into a swirl of mocking sound-bytes and cheesy shattering optical effects.
2. The Blu-ray’s bonus “Network TV version” of the film features an extended typewriter-mad-scene and other unique bits to make up for the absence of the eight nude sex scenes Pia dutifully performed.
Jerilee’s bonkers nervous breakdown scene from ‘The Lonely Lady.’
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘REAL ACTUAL FILTH!’: Finally some John Waters movies in high def