Monday, January 26, 2009

Chained Heat (1983)

Reviewed By: Billy

Linda Blair.
John Vernon.
Sybil Danning.
And Henry Silva as Lester.

With opening credits like these, it would be nearly impossible for Chained Heat to NOT be a perfect movie. And, my friends, how’s this for perfect? Within the first 25 minutes, sweet-faced Linda is referred to as “the new fish,” bloated John Vernon shows up naked in a hot tub, we get full frontal from a junkie inmate who ends up with a metal wire wrapped around her neck, and we’re subjected to dialogue so vile I’m embarrassed to even transcribe it.

Oh…and there’s a character called Bubbles the kleptomaniac.

Look, this is going to be a hard review to write, because there’s just so much to point out. Do I talk about the fact that the boom mic gets more screen time than the leading lady (seriously…it dangles down in EVERY scene)? Do I focus on John Vernon…impossibly giving an even sleazier performance here than in Curtains or Savage Streets? And what about Sybil Danning, who does everything she can to convince us she’s a drag queen (other than actually whipping out some genetalia)?

I guess I should go with a brief plot summary…not that there’s anything here that you don’t already know is coming: Linda Blair is Carol, a “good girl” who accidentally hits someone with her car and gets sent to prison for 18 months. She is repeatedly called a “prison virgin” – which, of course, means she’s going to get assaulted at some point and, by the end of the movie, will be one tough cookie herself. Sybil, sporting her usual oily perm and ghastly white facepaint, is Erica, leader of the tough white girl gang. Blacksploitation queen Tamra Dobson plays Duchess, who is, of course, leader of the black girl gang. Somehow, Linda is going to end up in the middle of the race wars…and will actually UNITE the masses…and you know that's gonna be good.

If you’re looking for gratuitous female frontal nudity, Chained Heat is your movie: we get some wonderful shower scenes, including one in which Sybil rubs soap all over Linda’s chest and tells her how lonely jail life can be. Jail director Ernie (Vernon) also tries his hand at seducing Ms. Blair, asking her to become his snitch on all the illegal activity going on behind bars. The problem is, Ernie is actually fueling the drug trade, making sure his “fish” are all addicted to the "good” stuff. In fact, every staffer at the jail is involved in the drug trade, raping prisoners, or engaged in some other kind of illegal activity; my personal favorite is Silva, looking as greasy as,well, as only Henry Silva can…who busts out a few of the girls for a wild night of sex and drugs.

Anyway…a lot happens…Vernon rapes Blair…Dobson and Danning go at it in a good, old-fashioned catfight (which involves chains and switchblades), and Linda’s best friend gets her face bashed in with a police baton, which – of course – causes our girl to finally take control of things and lead the other to a prison riot. And, in a strange Norma Rae-twist, she announces she’s doing it for “better living conditions!” The riot happens so quickly that it’s a miracle the prisoners hadn’t done it years ago; one guard is drowned in a fish tank, after which Dobson announces, “I sure hope they can get the smell out of those fish!” Linda manages to get her hands on an incriminating tape that will bring down the entire jail staff, and before you know it, Dobson, Danning, and Blair are walking arm in arm down the long corridor of jail cell, sisters united forever.

Now, I realize I’ve done this movie a huge disservice by writing a review of it; not because I’ve given away every important plot point that happens, but because I’ve left out so much good stuff. I didn’t mention the thousands of lines of dialogue that can only come from a women’s prison film (“Don’t you walk away from me, you chalk-faced whore!”), I didn’t mention the prisoner who gets a big fishhook through the chin, and I certainly didn’t mention the scene in which John Vernon, his enormous gut jutting out of a silk bath robe, cries for a sexy inmate to “call me Fellini!” But, in my defense, the only way to point out EVERY good moment in this film would be to post the entire script. Chained Heat is full of the kind of jaw-dropping moments that we at Tower Farm live for and that you, dear reader, are here looking for.

So run – don’t walk – and find this movie…and remember, you’ll need at least FOUR FINGERS to “cut that white bitch!”

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