8.07.2009

Savage Streets (1984)

DIRECTED BY
Danny Steinmann

STARRING
Linda Blair - Brenda
Linnea Quigley - Heather
John Vernon - Principal Underwood
Robert Dryer - Jake
Johnny Venocur - Vince
Sal Landi - Fargo
Scott Mayer - Red
Lisa Freeman - Francine
Luisa Leschin - Maria

Genre - Action/Exploitation/Rape/Vigilante

Running Time - 93 Minutes

Score - 4 Howls Outta 4


Living in New York City automatically makes you tough. I've seen a lot of things that most people would be shocked to see. I've seen drug dealing. I've been caught in a crossfire. I've seen assholes beat up on an innocent blind person. These things don't happen every day thankfully, but when they do, they open up your eyes and make you realize that the world isn't always a safe and innocent place.

Brenda and her friends in SAVAGE STREETS know this first hand, as they have to deal with a demented gang who sexually harass them, abuse them both verbally and physically, as well as forcing themselves on a helpless deaf-mute girl out of revenge. I've never had that problem personally, but then again I was never possessed by a demon more than once or had to share a prison shower with Sybil Danning either. When you mess with a chick like that, you-know-what hits the fan, ya hear? And I wouldn't have it any other way, since SAVAGE STREETS is an awesome vigilante B-movie that'll shoot Cinema Cupid's arrow straight to your heart - or your leg. Whichever comes first, I guess.

PLOT
Badass Brenda (Linda Blair) and her equally badass friends enjoy roaming the tough nights of Los Angeles. While these girls may look and act like a group of hot bitches, they're more concerned about male genitalia and taking care of Brenda's deaf-mute little sister, Heather (Linnea Quigley). The concern intensifies when a gang of thugs called The Scars, led by creep-o Jake (Robert Dryer), almost runs Heather down with their car. Brenda, not taking shit like this likely, decides to get back at them by stealing this very car and joy riding it until they crash into some garbage. The Scars are not very happy about them and plot their revenge over this harmless prank.

The next day, The Scars go to Brenda's high school to initiate their revenge. While Brenda is preoccupied by some snobby blonde cheerleader named Cindy (Rebecca Perle) - who has her name on her outfit just in case you forget it...or she does - in the girl's locker room [SHOWER FIGHT!], Jake and The Scars corner Heather in the gymnasium while she waits for Brenda. They beat Heather up and drag her into the boy's bathroom, where Heather gets raped mercilessly. Brenda and her friends find Heather pretty much left for dead, making Brenda feel guilty for not being there to stop this. When The Scars take it up a level by murdering Brenda's best friend, Francine (Lisa Freeman), things then start getting really bad. Having enough, Brenda decides to take matters in her own hands and deliver hard justice to those who messed with her family. Once she starts doing that spider walk, you know you're fucked!!

REVIEW
SAVAGE STREETS is a film I had never seen before until now and I'm really ashamed by that because it rocked my socks off. Obviously a DEATH WISH ripoff, SAVAGE STREETS is perfect 80s exploitation, with nudity, over-the-top acting and dialogue, and plot elements that aren't subtle and are quite disturbing on paper. This is the kind of film that a lot of stuck up people would probably turn their nose at because it looks and sounds like trash. Well SAVAGE STREETS is trash - GREAT trash that's fun to watch from beginning to end, knowing exactly what it is and using everything in its disposal so you don't forget it.

The story for SAVAGE STREETS isn't complicated at all.

Brenda pulls a prank on The Scars.

The Scars take revenge by killing Brenda's best friend and raping her sister.

Brenda goes to a weapons store, buys a bunch of arrows and crossbow, and plays William Tell with The Scars.

Not so hard to understand, right? And that's why the film works so well. We don't get some bullshit romantic subplot [besides the fake one between Heather and Scars member, Fargo - which leads into the rape]. We don't get some message that what these people are doing is wrong. We get Point A, which leads to Point B, which concludes with Point C without something added in the way to complicate this vigilante story. With a B-movie like this, that's all you want.

Danny Steinmann and Norman Yonemoto also take a thin plot and really deepen it with character development one wouldn't expect from a film like this. I really understand each character completely and I actually had genuine feelings towards all of them. I hated The Scars characters, not because they annoyed me, but because they were a bunch of assholes who treated women like shit and raped a girl who couldn't hear or express herself verbally so someone could help her. That's some really low crap right there. And I wanted these guys to get hurt for that for all the right reasons. It also helped that each member of The Scars had a different personality you can sort of relate to, making your hate for them more justified. And Brenda and her friends were also very different and you can understand why they were the way they were and why Brenda had to do what she had to do to The Scars. This kind of "just enough" character development may sound easy, but a lot of films either don't bother or don't balance it out as well as it should have been. SAVAGE STREETS gets it right and you care about these people, hero or villain.

And the dialogue is good for this type of film. It's mostly cheeseball and funny, but I wasn't expecting anything less. There are some classic quotes here that I still remember after a week of watching this. Here are some examples:

Principal Underwood: "Go fuck an iceberg!"

Who in the hell says that!? It's so stupid, yet brilliantly hilarious!

Principal Underwood: "Now I'm sorry about your sister, Brenda. The police are doing everything they can. But she shouldn't have been there in the first place."

Brenda: "Fuck you!"

Principal Underwood: "You're a tough little bitch, aren't you? I like that. But I don't give second warnings. So consider yourself suspended."

A principal calling a student a "tough little bitch"...classy.

Fargo: "The game's over, bitch. This time you're dead for sure. First I'm gonna fuck you. Then I'm gonna slice you into little pieces."

Brenda: "Sounds nice and kinky to me. Too bad you're not double jointed."

Fargo: "Why?"

Brenda: "Because if you were, you'd be able to bend over and kiss your ass goodbye!"


I love that one. And there are so many others that will stick in your head for days. When you can quote lines from any movie, you know the screenwriters did something right.

The most memorable scene in the film has to be the rape scene. It could have been executed in a really sleazy way, but Steinmann instead treats it tastefully. It's never treated as an erotic act [and it shouldn't be treated as such] and it's actually quite ugly and disturbing to watch. I think the scene really works for a number of reasons. One, it has a very tense build up. You know it's gonna go down but the leading up to it really cements the horrific act. The Scars taunt Heather and pretty much take advantage of the fact that she can't hear or speak, which makes the rape more foul than it already is. Another reason why it works is because Steinmann doesn't focus totally on the rape. While this act happens, Brenda is fighting with cheerleader Cindy in the showers over a misunderstanding. Not only does the viewer get time to digest the whole rape situation so they're not totally turned off, but the commentary between the two scenes is clear: violence has power, but sound has more. The power of words trumps the power of physicality, showing how vulnerable and weak Heather is compared to everyone around her.

Speaking of Steinmann, he really does a great job behind the camera. A former porn director who would later direct FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING [ugh], Steinmann really put his heart and soul into this picture. He wasn't even the first director chosen for this project [Tom DeSimone was] and he pretty much rewrote the entire script every day throughout the film shoot, never really satisfied with the narrative. And it pays off because Steinmann really lets the characters shine through and uses the camera to explore the emotional states of each of them. The scene where Brenda sits in her bathtub, exposing her breasts, is visually exploitative. But if you read between the lines, this moment [which takes place after the rape and Francine's death] reveals alot about Brenda. She has nothing left to lose and doesn't care about being judged for what she has planned. She's comfortable in her own skin and she knows exactly what she has to do. Steinmann also insisted that the actors improvise, which really helped craft their individual characters. That's great directing right there. Steinmann also uses the setting as a character as well, creating a really gritty and dangerous atmosphere where anything goes. We also get stylish shots that definitely reflect the 1980s. We get the slo-mo shot when Heather dances in the gym. We also get a few montages with a soundtrack in the background that will pump you up and get you ready for the next act. And we can't forget the 80s style, with neon colors, big hair, and overall cheesiness. Just a great directorial job here - probably a lot better than a film of this ilk deserves.

The acting in SAVAGE STREETS is actually very good. Linda Blair does an incredible job as Brenda. In fact, I think this may be her finest work as an actress. It took me a while to be convinced that she could be this tough broad getting revenge on gang members, but I bought it. I also bought her vulnerability, her pain, and her struggle to do the "right" thing even when her friends thought otherwise. Plus she got to say "bitch", "cunt", and a whole bunch of stuff that made me laugh. Blair, I have always felt, is an underrated actress who was unfortunately typecast due to her work in THE EXORCIST. But Blair carries this film on her back and really makes it work better than it should have. Her performance is a real guilty pleasure.

Linnea Quigley as Heather doesn't do a whole lot for much of the film. But I'm sure playing a mute helped with her performance because let's be honest - Quigley isn't the greatest actress in the world. But she's convincing as a teenager in this film and she's quite endearing as a deaf-mute girl. It's weird seeing her dressed like she's from the 1950s though. John Vernon has a cameo-ish appearance as the sleazy Principal Underwood. Besides the "iceberg" comment, Vernon pretty much flirts with Blair the entire time he's on-screen. Not much of a part but memorable nonetheless. And Robert Dryer as Scars leader, Jake, looks older than one should be in High School. But he brings the creepiness and the sleaziness down to a tee. I really hated the character, but that's because Dryer played him so well. It's not the best acting performances in the world but hell, SAVAGE STREETS benefited from them anyway. Fun, fun, fun times for all.

And I gotta mention the awesome pop-metal soundtrack. It's so 80s that I can't help but love it. I need to find this soundtrack STAT!

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE PRACTICING MY AIM ON THE ARCHERY BOARD

- Back in the 1980s, you were allowed to drive while drinking beer. Lindsay Lohan was definitely born a bit too late for her type of DUI fun.

- "Anything over 10 inches is a waste." Well, I don't have that problem. I mean...hell...if she can't handle my foot long, screw that bitch! Yeah, now where's my Extenze pills?

- Today's gym class exercise: "Lift those knees. Suck in that gut. Tuck in those butts under." Funny, I heard that's the same exercise Richard Simmons uses in his personal time. Burn those calories and sweat to them oldies!!

- Jake had a razor blade as an earring. Talk about looking sharp!

- Principal Underwood told The Scars to "Go fuck an iceberg." Not a good idea. You may think you're big and strong going in there. But once you're inside, you'll sink and your heart will [not] go on!

- Some jock named Wes liked to get the ladies' attention by "seducing them" with his jeans zipper down, revealing his tucked in shirt. That's pretty [open] fly for a white guy!

- Don't rape Linnea Quigley. She'll have Linda Blair on your ass, ready to kill you. Or worse yet, she'll turn into a zombie and eat your brains. Or perhaps you want a piece of lipstick shoved in places it doesn't belong. Either way, leave Linnea alone!!

- After she got raped, the girls took Heather to Doctor's Hospital. Gee, I'm glad they took her there because this hospital obviously has doctors working there, unlike the other hospitals in town! (rolls eyes)

- Brenda gave up believing in God after her father died. That explains the pea soup vomit, the head spinning, and telling people that their mothers suck cock in Hell. Or maybe it was just her time of the month. Menstrual cycles...demonic possessions...same thing, right?

- The Scars liked to grope each other and kiss on the lips every chance they could get. I had no idea The Village People were trying a new edgier and gayer image back in the 1980s.

- The English teacher actually gave her students permission to discuss the act of "giving head". Isn't this subject what got Mary Kay Letourneau in big trouble to begin with?

- The Scars threw Francine over a bridge, killing her and her unborn baby. While this is a horrific crime, at least the troll will appreciate the human sacrifice as a toll.

- The Scars wanted to play "Hide the Salami" with Brenda. Let's hope there's no "cream cheese" around her "buns" region...

THE FINAL HOWL
SAVAGE STREETS wasn't made to please everyone. It's trash. It's exploitative. It's a DEATH WISH wannabe in the greatest B-movie sense. And that's what makes the film so great, because it doesn't hide what it really is. Great performances, a skillfull directorial job by Danny Steinmann, and much better script that any film like this deserves - SAVAGE STREETS deserves a watch, a rental, and a buy because it's that damn great. And if you don't believe me, then you better kiss your ass goodbye. And I hope you're double jointed.

3 comments:

  1. the sneering (homo-phobic) snobAugust 7, 2009 at 5:49 PM

    A vulernable Linda Blair is perfect but a tough Linda Blair is much more difficult for me to deal with. In the fantasys i have about her she`s always totally compliant, submissive, and appreciative (the way all chicks always should be) as that incredible little darlin` lets me bugger her senseless.

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  2. I hate this movie. It's so fucking over-the-top like a a Charles Bronson movie and what the shit is with Lina Blair's hair? I think Linda Blair was possessed again.. by a circus clown.

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  3. It's supposed to be over-the-top since it's an exploitation film. I doubt this was supposed to be a very serious, dramatic film. It's meant to entertain, which this film does. As for the hair, it was the 80s. Everything was bigger in the 80s. I respect your feelings on the film though and I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it more.

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