10 May 2010

Savage Streets

In collaboration with a selection of the finest film blogs the infranet has to offer Lost Video Archive is proud to contribute this quality post to Blair Week, a six day extravaganza expounding on the virtues of Linda Blair and her legacy of quality motion pictures. Don't believe me? Just read on...

United States 1984
Director - Danny Steinman
Vestron Video, 1985, VHS
Run Time -1 hour, 33 minutes

Somewhere along the way I became a Linda Blair junkie. I think this is a fairly common weakness, but because it is frequently predicated on a rather shallow but unsurprising appreciation for cheap nudity it’s not something readily admitted. I’m pretty sure it happened when I was about 13 and my friend’s older brother loaned us his Night Patrol video. It’s a movie loaded with crass low-quality humor that I didn’t quite get at the time, but I did understand tits, and Night Patrol has a healthy share of those. I was also old enough to understand that a great deal of the films tension rested upon the protagonists desire to get in Linda’s pants, which to everyone’s great delight happens at the end. By that time I was already sold down the river.

Linda didn’t turn out to be such a great actress, but that revelation came at a time when there was plenty of work available that didn’t require much acting per-se. The childlike behavior and almost unnatural innocence she brought to The Exorcist, turned out to be  an asset in her career as an adult. Linda came of age at the exact moment that American exploitation film was at its peak, and Savage Streets is premium example.

Made the same year as Night Patrol, Savage Streets claims right there on the back cover to invoke yet another Linda vehicle, the previous year’s epic Chained Heat. Initially this claim is confusing because plotwise, Savage Streets actually appears to be an example of that brand of juvenile dystopia films particular to the 1980’s. Typically these featured hyperbolic warring punk-cum-new-wave street gangs who combined Bowiesque face paint and teased hair with studded leather and switchblades. They were the heirs to the delinquent youth scare films of the 50’s but they tried to fuse the modern mosaic of pop cultures into a hyperbolic but plausibly threatening future. Punk, rap, and metal among other subcultural in-groups were all equally threatening attacks on the status quo and contemporary exploitation films often combined them all into one militaristic drug soaked nightmare in films like my personal favorite, Death Wish 3. Savage Streets is rife with the childish arrogance that made parents of the 80’s shudder for thought of a future ruled by their own coke addled offspring. The best part of all this of course, is that scare films usually end up becoming popular with the generation they portray.

In Savage Streets Linda is the leader of one such group of unruly high-school girls whose smoking-in-class contempt for such elders as school principal John Vernon sends shivers up the spine. Such virulent threats to the status quo however are couched within the safety of other standard distractions. The rest of the high-school landscape is a choice mix of comedic flirtations and shirt-ripping shower cat-fights, a veritable teen-women-in-prison-comedy that just proves youth rebellion of the future is, if nothing else, still predictable. When her deaf sister (Linnea Quigley) is brutally raped and her best friend killed by another more violently unhinged gang reminiscent of a watered-down Warriors, Linda perms her hair and goes full vigilante, invoking Jenifer Hills and Paul Kersey all in one pouty-lipped self-aware package.

It should be pretty clear at this point that Savage Streets is much more than just a delinquent youth movie. That may be an overarching theme, but within it are mixed other distinct sub-genres of exploitation. I realize that describing the film in terms of its resemblance to other genre standards makes it sound like an incomplete copy of them all. But the awesome thing about Savage Streets is that it doesn’t overburden itself with any complicated logic, or try to be clever or original. In fact, it’s honest to the point of self  mockery. And that’s exactly what’s great about it, it is a paper thin and imminently predictable string of cheap thrills. There is no reason to feel at all guilty about enjoying every minute because it doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t.

All these sites contributed rad content to Blair Week:
Satan's Hope Chest - Chained Heat and Savage Island
Camp Movie Camp - Grotesque and Nightforce
The Horror Section - Hell Night
Full Moon Reviews - Bailout
Illogical Contraption - Repossessed
Lines That Makes Things - original Linda inspired artwork
Breakfast In the Ruins - Exorcist II
B Movies and Beyond - Summer of Fear
The Manchester Morgue - Rollerboogie
Happy Otter - The Chilling
Ninja Dixon - The Witchery
Unflinching Eye - Linda's fall from grace.
Lost Video Archive - Savage Streets and Born Innocent


Jay Clarke said...

OMG, Night Patrol. I think we both had the 13-year-old-watching- it-with-friends-on-VHS experience. Then of course, we all recited the Unknown Comic's jokes on the playground the next day.

Great review for Savage Streets, this looks like a must watch!

Aylmer said...

And so it begins. Great write-up Seth!

The Goodkind said...

Thanks! Looking forward to what everybody else has coming!

Phill Tuma said...

The Cover Art for Savage Streets reminds me of the "Two Weeks" woman from Total Recall.

Anonymous said...

Good start! Savage Streets is very special.

KiP said...

I taped this off late HBO (Night Patrol too) and remember it being pretty skeezy.

That's Danny Steinman for you - the sometime porno director also made A New Beginning, the scuzziest Friday the 13th of them all. The book "Crystal Lake Memories" touches upon what an asshole he was.