Sleazy 80s Revenge flick
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Savage Streets (1984)
24th Sep 11
The little girl from The Exorcist grows up to be a chubby-cheeked avenging angel with big jugs whose sister is Trash from Return of the Living Dead and whose foul-mouthed principal was the Mayor in Dirty Harry.
Welcome to the 1980’s once again, ladies and germs. Specifically, welcome to Savage Streets, a relic from that decade now unearthed by the estimable Arrow Video for a DVD release that reveals it to be more entertaining and fun than it ever was. It’s worth noting that this now bizarrely charming picture is appearing in the UK uncut for the first time : in retrospect it’s astonishing to realise that the BBFC outright rejected the movie for cinema and video release in 1984 and 1986, respectively, even banning the original video trailer from being legally seen! Finally they slapped an “18” certificate on a video version in 1987 that had already been truncated (courtesy of the distributor) by over 10 minutes, and still demanded cuts! Have you ever been more grateful to live in the year 2011?!
So, roll up, roll up, Savage Streets is in town, uncensored at last. See! Twenty something high-schoolers in black leather and spandex! See! An exploitation movie version of L.A. where the pawnshops do “weekend special” discounts on crossbows and bear traps to meet your amateur vigilante needs! See! Scene-stealing school Principal John Vernon tell an alarmingly aged Linda Blair “You’re a tough little bitch…I like that!” And see! Blair cut her school enemy down to size with a curt “You stuck up cunt!” while displaying all the hallmarks of her Hollywood crack-whore phase.
Director Danny Steinmann made this marvelous B-picture en-route to helming one of the nastiest, sleaziest major studio releases of the decade, the unloved Friday The 13th: A New Beginning. As a side note, it’s worth pointing out that, if all of the Friday movies have blurred in your mind to one single 12 hour machete fest, Steinmann’s fifth entry stands out upon revisiting thanks to its unapologetic leching over its young female cast and an amusing tendency to make its canon-fodder characters as obnoxious and / or perverse as possible. Go check it out!
Savage Streets has Blair as a tough cookie student at a high school where teachers routinely lead class discussions about what “giving head” means and a weirdo homo-erotic gang sporting eyeliner keeps everyone living in fear. Linnea Quigely, looking a lot younger than her real age at the time, has the victimized deaf-mute role a la Jennifer Jason Leigh in Eyes of a Strangeror Chuck Bronson’s daughter in Death Wish 2. As with the latter, the flick sentimentalizes her character so much in the early stages (Quigley, usually cast as sexually confident bad girls, plays sweet and vulnerable surprisingly well) that it’s no surprise when she is stripped and subjected to a typically queasy 80’s gymnasium rape. Not that you’d know much about that if your only previous experience of this film was the aforementioned cut version: any violent or sexual content was pruned to the extent where the BBFC might as well have substituted entire reels with the test card.
After another pal is hurled off a bridge, Blair – sporting a spectacular rock-solid 80’s perm, various eye-hurting bra-less outfits and the finest eyebrow acting this side of Roger Moore – puts on her best black leather outfit, sets her left eyebrow to the “dramatic arching” setting and becomes a distaff Charles Bronson, pursuing the gang with (you guessed it!) crossbows and bear traps. A typical pop song of the era trills “Justice for all” as our heroine suits up for revenge.
Blair, who gets a wholly gratuitous nekkid bathtub scene to show off her fan-worshipped norks, is a lot of fun to watch as a badass with Anita Dobson’s hair (or is it Brian May’s?). Her oddly endearing delivery of kiss-off lines like “It’s a shame you’re not double jointed, cos then you could bend over and kiss your ass goodbye!” punctuates a final half-hour of vigilante violence featuring arrows in necks, heads in animal traps and the obligatory full-body burn of the kind that was everywhere in the decade’s exploitation flicks.
With key dramatic moments transformed into laugh riots thanks to the outrageously duff disco-dancing taking place in the background, Savage Streets is never less than gaudy fun. It shows as many perky boobs and unshaved beavers as possible, the girls are hot in an 80’s kind of way, and the obligatory communal girlie shower scene segues neatly into the inevitable hair-pulling cat fight. It’s a highlight of Linda’s dubious post-Exorcist II career and the fabulous John Vernon gets to deliver one of the decade’s greatest lines of dialogue (to a gang member): “Go fuck an iceberg!”
Arrow Video’s superb Special Edition is adorned with the label’s usual, informative booklet, double-sided poster, new and appropriately gaudy artwork, and all the extras you could hope for. Aside from three different audio commentaries (the best of which features the loveably acerbic Danny Steinmann), you get various featurettes. The best feature the two female stars : an interview with Linnea Quigley, who hasn’t aged nearly as well as Blair, reveals that Runaways star Cherie Currie was originally cast in her role and also has the actress reflecting uneasily on shooting the rape scene. A sit-down with a very proud Blair, meanwhile, sees the veteran actress fondly recalling locker room bitch fights, black jumpsuits and various quotable lines of dialogue apparently inserted by late-comer producer John Strong (sample : “I wouldn’t fuck him if he had the last dick on Earth”).
Versions Despite a fairly decent Region 1 2-disc edition being available, the Region 2 Arrow Video release is probably the one to go for.