One of the downfalls of being as movie-obsessed as we are at Tower Farm is that it’s hard to be surprised anymore. You know how it is…if I haven’t seen a certain sleazy movie, I’ve at least read about it. Or seen the trailer on YouTube. So on those rare occasions when a tarnished gem does find its way into my life unannounced, it’s like – as Kathy Griffin would say – getting a gift from baby Jesus. And trust me, baby Jesus doesn’t like visiting Tower Farm often…so we’re grateful for anything we get.
I happened to stumble upon Savage Streets during a whim trip through Best Buy; the cover picture, with Linda Blair sporting an enormous frizzed-out mane and carrying a crossbow, immediately made my arms and legs quiver like Jell-O. By the time I’d read the words “gloriously nuanced role by Linnea Quigley” on the back, I was literally running to the cash register with my credit card outstretched to the clerk. Could this be it? Could this be one of those lost masterpieces that have somehow escaped my conscious all these pathetic years?
Well, friends, if you’ve never seen Savage Streets, let me put it this way: Jesus gifted me for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and every one of the almost thirty birthdays he’s missed. Savage Streets is not only one of the sleaziest movies I’ve ever seen…it’s got to be one of the sleaziest ever made. Period. Kooky, campy, and dated beyond words, this movie is like an amalgamation of everything that defines cheap-o exploitation of the early 1980s: girl gangs, boy gangs, “teens” played by 30-year-olds, a power-metal soundtrack, topless shower room girl fights, rape, revenge, and – in the center of it all – Linda Blair in perhaps her finest performance.
Now, I stand by my contention that Linda Blair is the greatest actress the screen has ever known. Sure, she may not be the “chameleon” that Meryl Streep is or show up in hoity-toity fare like Kate Winslet. But I dare you to take one look at Linda Blair – strutting down the street with a skin-tight bodysuit, softball-sized beads, and bandana-wrapped head – and tell me she’s not the best thing to happen to movies since Europeans decided it was OK to show nudity. Really…take a look…I dare you:
Although she looks kind of like Gloria Estefan impersonating Lucille Ball, our Linda is actually playing Brenda, a street-wise high schooler who leads around a gang of fast-and-loose partygirls who look at Playgirl Magazines and exchange dialogue including:
Stevie: Hey guys…would you check out the schlong on him? I bet he has to put it on the nightstand when he goes to bed!
Maria: Hey…anything over ten inches is a waste, I always say!
Wow. Well, even though these girls talk like total hookers, they have hearts of gold. Linda, for example, patiently drags around her deaf-mute sister Heather, played by the one and only Linnea Quigley. The fact that Linnea utters not one word of dialogue in this movie is an immense help to her performance…it’s actually kind of hard to believe this is the same girl who got topless-ly impaled by a pair of antlers in Silent Night, Deadly Night. Anyway, not only is Heather deaf-mute, but she’s also apparently a time-traveler, as she acts and looks like she’s coming to us straight from the set of “The Donna Reed Show.”
At the same time that we’re being introduced to the bad girls, we’re also meeting the bad boys, who make up a gang called the Scars. I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in…yes, these four dweebs actually call themselves the Scars. Gang leader Jake is wonderfully played by Robert Dryer and is a complete sleazeball who looks way too old to be hanging around high schoolers all day. He’s also got a razor blade dangling from one ear, which I guess is tough in a Grace Jones kind of way. The other Scars are equally awesome, and include the oddly named Fargo, a swarthy Italian fond of showing off his chest hair, and Red, a punk rocker who’s awfully touchy-feely with the other boys. For example, the following picture. What’s going on back there? And why am I not part of this gang?
The set-up for the whole rest of the movie comes in a series of scenes that are almost too good to be true. Here is a visual and some captions to help you understand why this movie is so cool:
1) First, we get Linda-Brenda and her cohorts in gym class, doing some sort of jazzercise routine while a gym teacher with the most amazing, severe red perm you’ve ever seen shouts out orders including “tuck those butts under.” Huh? The gym clothes, by the way, come straight from the Cyndi Lauper Halloween collection.
2) At the same time, the Scars show up in the high school and have a run-in with Principal Underwood, played by King Sleaze himself, John Vernon. Looking as bloated and hungover as he does in most movies of this period, John gets the Scars all riled up by threatening them and calling them “fa**ots,” which I’m pretty sure most principals would get fired for unless they’re in Alabama.
3) We also meet a blonde cheerleader named Cindy who hates Linda-Brenda. In case you forget Cindy’s name, it’s right there on her shirt.
4) Deaf-mute Heather shows up at the gym, and presents her sister with a heart locket and a tender embrace. For us connoisseurs of screen trash, this sudden sweet interlude involving the virginal Heather can only mean that she’s going to get raped within the next five minutes.
5) Linda-Brenda and Cindy get into a fight in the girls’ locker room showers. Said fight also involves dozens of naked girls tussle-ing in the background.
6) The Scars drag Heather into a grimy bathroom and have their way with her.
Wow. And from this brilliant 15 minutes, Savage Streets only soars to new heights, becoming a revenge flick in which Linda-Brenda somehow comes up with a leather catsuit that fits her bulky frame and starts running around with the crossbow pictured on the box cover. The montage as Linda suits up and prepares for her night of savagery is the best of its kind; first of all, it's set to a rockin’ song with the repeating lines, “Justice for one, justice for all." We also get full-on naked Linda soaking in a tub contemplating what she’s about to do, her enormous mammaries bobbing in the water like pool buoys. Finally, she starts zipping up her catsuit...and zipping...and zipping...how many zippers are on that thing?
Brenda (seconds before nailing Fargo with the crossbow): Too bad you’re not double-jointed.
Brenda: ‘Cause if you were, you’d be able to bend over and kiss your ass goodbye!
How it is that Linda-Brenda has such good aim with a crossbow is never explored, but suffice it to say she’s a talented woman. It’s too bad that during the final confrontation with Jake she becomes a blubbering idiot who completely forgets how to defend herself. That was disappointing. But the movie does end on a high note as her friends basically turn all the blame on her, responding to her comment “We made things right” with “No, Brenda…you made things right…God help you.” Now, that’s not nice. They might as well just tell her she’s going hell for killing those guys.
There are so many great moments in Savage Streets that it would be impossible for me to describe them all. The classroom fight during which Linda-Brenda yanks off Cindy’s top? Classic. The scene in which Linda-Brenda’s best friend gets tossed off a highway overpass? Priceless. The bizarre, lanky teacher who talks about oral sex and looks like a distorted version of Shelley Long? Just plain fun.
Look, this is trashy movie-making at its finest. So I say thank you, Jesus; thank you for letting this movie get made, and thank you for bringing it to my attention. I won’t expect anything on my birthday this year.
FIVE FINGERS for the movie…and one right back at you, Cindy!