Savage Streetsrecommended viewing

Christopher Columbus ain't lookin' for no sausage, homey
★★★
☆☆☆☆
Released: 
1984
Director: 
Danny Steinmann
Starring: 
Linda Blair, Robert Dryer, Johnny Venocur, Linnea Quigley, Ina Romero
The Setup: 
Linda Blair goes out for vengeance after her deaf sister is raped and best friend killed.
Discussion: 

This has recently been put on DVD, and a reader wrote in to tell me of its existence and recommend it. Obviously, after just a brief perusal of its plot, coupled with the fact of Linda Blair and Leanna Quigley, it shot to the top of my list. And this is before viewing the frankly jaw-dropping trailer, widely available on YouTube.

So we open with this guy, Vince, leaving his house as his father yells at him for being such a wastrel, and exhorting him to be home by 11pm. Vince goes around the corner, where he stashes his T shirt and leather jacket, and changes before being picked up by his three buddies in their convertible. They are Red, who actually seems to be blond and just loves the black eye liner, Fargo, shirtless with a perm in a leather vest, and their leader, Jake, generally obnoxious goon with an earring of a razor.

Also walking the night are this group of girls, led by Linda Blair as Brenda. Here is your first sight of Brenda, boobs trapped in this spandex tube top, hair up with a bandana tied around it, and sunglasses. She wears her sunglasses at night! We cut back and forth between the two groups for a while, and if you listen, you will hear that the guys have been told to create a featureless wall of banter by saying “Fuck you! Hey, fuck you!” and the girls have been directed to keep repeating variations of “Uh-HUH! Yeah! All right!” The girls stop to note the display of crossbows and bear traps in the window of this supply store. Hmm, some foreshadowing, methinks. If it’s not clear that we are smack dab in the middle of the 80s, the cheese-metal song “Nothing’s Gonna Stand In Our Way” playing during this scene will remove all doubt.

So we discover that Brenda is highly protective of her little sister Heather [who she looks nothing like], played by Leanna Quigley before she went on to her several legendary exploitation roles. Turns out Heather is deaf, and has apparently not adapted to her disability in any way. So the guys see these hot babes, and realize that the best way to meet them would of course be to try to run them down with their car. They almost hit Heather, which does not sit well with Brenda. The guys then go off to menace this other couple, beating the guy while they hold his girlfriend, rip her shirt off, and play with her tits. You’ll notice that she stays suspiciously silent during this wholesale group molestation. I mean, wouldn’t any of us at least make SOME kind of noise? I suspect it might have been one of those deals where if she made a sound, they would have to pay her more.

Anyway, back with the ladies, who decide that they “want to teach those dopers a lesson,” and talk about how GREAT that would be. They steal the guys’ convertible, make them humiliatingly run after it through the streets, then park it and throw garbage—particularly RIPE-looking garbage, on and into it. I thought this was quite mean and entirely unwarranted, as far as we’ve seen, and was surprised the movie would make the women out to be so hateful and mean-spirited when we’re soon supposed to feel sorry for them. Anyway, the guys vow revenge, and the girls better watch out, because these streets are SAVAGE. Raaawwwrrr!!!

Okay, so now it’s time for aerobics! Brenda and her best friend Stella, as well as some of the others, are all inappropropriately dressed for their aerobics gym class, when some guy with an extremely long nose steps in to watch. They note that he’s got something sticking out the fly of his pants, and he turns around to adjust himself. Then this guy’s girlfriend, Cindy of the blonde perm, comes in and tells him in no uncertain terms that “If I catch you looking at that slut Brenda, we’re through.” Meanwhile, the guys, who are apparently known drug dealers, are bugging Vince when the Principal makes it clear that he doesn’t like them there. I guess Vince is the only one actually IN high school, which I’m glad to hear, since EVERYONE in this film aren’t just the typical 20-year-olds playing high school students, but 30-year-olds playing high school students. Anyway, it becomes apparent that Vince is the good guy of the group, the one everyone had high hopes for.

So Heather comes to meet Brenda after gym class, giving her a gold heart pendant for no reason—other than to up the emotional ante, knowing as we do that she’s about to get it. Again, if Heather’s been deaf for more than a month or two, you’d think Brenda would stop treating her like a retarded two-year-old, but I guess not. Anyway, Brenda tells her to wait right there while she takes a shower and gets ready.

Okay, so now it all comes to a BOIL! Heather is waiting in the gym, while we know the evil gang of guys is approaching, looking for Vengeance. Meanwhile, there is mucho full-frontal exploitative female nudity in the showers, where Stella is telling Brenda how she purposely got pregnant in order to force her boyfriend to marry her—and despite their obvious real ages, recall that all these people are supposed to be in high school. Anyway, Heather has been left alone in the huge empty gym, so she decides it might be time to walk out to the middle of the floor and start spinning. Maybe she's channeling Stevie Nicks? Actually, given the way she looks and acts here, that's a really good guess. But soon she finds she's not alone. Red is there, and after she teaches him some sign language, he has her practice one that he knows… sticking one's extended finger in and out of a hole made by the other hand. But where's Brenda all this time? Well it turns out that that blonde bitch Cindy went up to her in the shower and said "You stupid stuck-up cunt!" and so they start getting in a topless fight in the showers. Well, it's really a topless avoid-a-thon, as they just dodge each other and don't really fight that much at all. Nevertheless, this takes up a lot of time, during which Heather finally tries to run, but finds herself surrounded by the gang of guys. They drag her into the locker room [I guess it must be the men's lockers—deserted—since we know a huge fight is going on in the women's right now] and rip off her top. They decide that they are going to make Vince go through with it first, and it's clear that he is NOT sure about this AT ALL. The person who wrote me about this movie in the first place pointed out the strange homoerotic vibe amongst the guys, and it has been fairly noticeable [lots of physical hugging and messing around], but shoots into the red zone here. Not only are they really interested in watching their friend rape this girl, and pull his clothes down and push him onto her, but afterward, when Jake is menacing Fargo, Fargo GRABS JAKE AND KISSES HIM.

The gang rape here makes an excellent contrast with that in I Spit on Your Grave or Ms .45 in that THIS is a very good example of a rape scene that is clearly exploitative. The difference? Here, the camera looks down on Heather's breasts as she cringes, intercut with Jake's leering down at her, implying that when we look down on her, we are seeing with HIS eyes—and are thus getting off on looking at her breasts and how she is suffering. In I Spit on Your Grave, the rapes were shot at a distance, so the details of the victim's sexual organs were not very visible, and the point of view of the camera was an objective one, not that of one of the rapists'. Also, that movie spent a great deal of time showing the anguish of the victim afterward, which this film has no time for. So there you go, a little lesson in how to tell an exploitative rape scene from a non-exploitative one! After the rape, Jake kicks her, which was quite over the line, but it's supposed to gear us up to hate him and lead into the vengeance part, so it works within the piece.

Also taking up Brenda's time is being called into the principal's office, where she boldly smokes in front of him, despite being told not to [have I told you yet that Brenda is a bad-ass tough chick? Yes, and you can tell, because she chain-smokes]. Anyway, they find Heather, Brenda has a funny little breakdown at home before heading out to the MX night club, where she and the other women commiserate. There is some band playing, but I'm guessing that they couldn't have music playing AND still record the dialogue, because if you listen, you can hear the loud clomp-clomping of the people dancing right behind Brenda, and if you watch, you can see that they are not dancing in time with the music that was clearly added later, let alone with each other. Even the band's movements cannot be matched with the sound we are hearing. Regardless, soon the guys come in—they call themselves the "Scars," by the way—and menace Stella, the pregnant one who's about to be married. She gets their knife and cuts Jake's face, which of course marks her for vengeance!

SPOILERS [NOT REALLY] > > > Back at school, we have a strangely unnecessary scene of an English teacher analyzing a student's filthy limerick as poetry, then another bitch fight in health class—that Cindy is gonna fight for her man!—which results in her, like many before her [in this movie, that is] getting her shirt ripped off. You know, that just happens a lot more than you might think. After school, Stella tries on her wedding dress and is walking home with it when she is menaced by the Scars. They have promised Vince that they won't hurt her, but Jake ends up throwing her over a bridge to her death on the concrete below. Vince freaks [no, I mean, FREAKS], while the others just laugh. Uh okay, but now that they've crossed the line into murder, shouldn't they be at least a little concerned? Although come to think of it, I don't know why they would be, since L.A. in this movie seems to have absolutely no police force.

Okay, ya ready for some REVENGE? So am I. So somehow Brenda finds out who did it all—as if she didn't know, right?—and heads over to Vince's house first. She holds a knife to his throat, but lets him live when she finds out where the others are and that he's repentant—in fact, he's trying to skip town, rather than face the wrath of Jake, et al. So she goes over to come cloth and garment warehouse—where the guys hang out? I guess?—where she soon encounters Fargo and Red. On the way, she stopped off at the store we saw earlier to pick up some crossbows and bear traps—dang gum it, I knew that would come up in here again somewhere!—and also apparently took time to record some tapes of herself laughing manically that she can place thoughtfully throughout the warehouse. Isn't it funny to think of Brenda sitting around with her tape recorder laughing like a loon for a good 30 minutes to get all this on tape? They don't show THAT part—just like they never show Batman applying his eye liner before getting into his suit. Also not shown is Brenda picking out her VENGEANCE WARDROBE, all black, of course, with black gloves and boots. She has also either gone to the salon or taken some time with her GF's to get into her VENGEANCE HAIRDO, which is a bouff-bouff-BOUFFY perm in the Adrienne Barbeau vein. Holy shit, if this film had starred Adrienne Barbeau—HOLY fuckin' shit.

So Brenda appears to Red and Fargo with her crossbow and invites them to come in after her. Red has some reservations, which causes Brenda to say "What's the matter boys? Get a girl all hot and horny and then lose your nerve?" This drives Fargo into a frenzy of sexual banter, including him saying that they're "Gonna play 'hide the sausage.' I'm gonna hide that sausage so far up you that Christopher Columbus couldn't find it." Okay, first of all, I THINK we are mixing some metaphors here. Secondly, you don't want to LOSE it, do you? You DO want to keep ahold of at least one end of it, don't you? But truth be told, I don't think Fargo is putting a great deal of thought into his speech. Regardless, he finds one of the aforementioned tape recorders of maniacal laughter, and a second later Brenda launches an arrow through his throat. Then Red, who is wearing a jacket that says "sex probe," by the way, meets up with some of her bear traps. Then Brenda makes to light a cigarette, because she is a TOUGH DAME!, but can't get the lighter going with her gloves on! I listened to the commentaries on this part, and they said that Blair did a good job of improvising once she couldn't get the thing lit, and they just didn't have enough money to go back and shoot it again. Although I'm not sure I believe this, because of something that happens later…

Meanwhile, Jake is revving his car in an alley, and for some reason Vince is standing right in the center of the alley ahead, saying "NO!", and essentially just waiting for Jake to kill him. No set up, no how they got there, no nothing—Vince was just standing in the middle of the street. Anyway, Jake runs him over. This is dictated by movie justice, because Vince DID rape Heather, even though he didn't want to, and therefore he has to die, but we make a concession to his being reluctant by having him be killed by someone other than Brenda. There are RULES, people! Anyway, then Jake shows up at the cloth storage center to PAR-TAY! He opens the door to find—Red and Fargo's stiff, bloody corpses!

Then Brenda steps from out of the night. She shoots an arrow into one thigh, then another into the other. She really is a crack shot with that crossbow! And as far as we know, she's never fired one before an hour ago. I guess righteous vengeance gives you good aim. Jake is satisfyingly freaking, and she shoots one, and it hits right by his head. Then Brenda gives a little floridly disingenuous speech about "Oh gee, I'm out of arrows," leading up to my favorite line [or rather my favorite delivery:] "But I'll tell you what. I've got some more in the car!" She lures him over by the car, which is another trap, and strings him upside-down in the doorway of a fence. But she wasn't planning on him bonking her in the head with the fence door! She falls and is moaning and whimpering for so long you start to wonder if she was really bonked THAT hard [and, as we know, Blair cannot act], or if she's only fooling so he'll get closer. Turns out we're supposed to think she was really bonked, because now we're supposed to understand that she's on the RUN!

Blah, blah, chase through this warehouse, where suddenly Brenda is by some paint marked FLAMMABLE. She throws a whole quart in Jake's face [he looks like he really gets it, too], then tries to light him on fire. This is where I think—I HOPE—that the faulty lighter from earlier WASN'T just an accident, because it works to heighten the [admittedly meager] tension here. Also pretty good is that she gets paint all over herself, too—who's to say SHE won't go up in flame as well? Which would be an AWESOME ENDNG, but I think you know the way things go. The police arrive just as Jake's flaming corpse collapses in the parking lot—oh, so there IS a police force!—and apparently Brenda doesn't face any legal troubles whatsoever from the fact that she just killed three people with extreme premeditation. < < < SPOILERS END

After a graveside epilogue, we have the big song that plays over the credits [and also over the disc menu] that goes "And there are no more innocent—No More!—innocent hearts!" Which had me making up little tunes with similar lyrical structures, such as "There are no—No!—No more—Hearts!—Innocent—No More!—hearts of innocence—No!" All of the songs but a few here are by John Farnham, who—this is all news to me—is actually a fairly big star in Australia, and was the lead singer of the Little River Band for a while [after they were hitmakers]. He has contributed songs to Voyage of the Rock Aliens and Rad. Holy shit, I SO need to see RAD right now.

As for this, well, it's amazing trash. One of the few parts of the commentary [there are multiple commentaries] I listened to said that "this movie has EVERYTHING the poster promises," and I don't think I could sum it up better than that. There's lots of exploitative nudity, lots of stupid teen trauma, girl fights, bad teens engaging in smoking, evil street gangs, and vengeance with crossbows and bear traps. It's ridiculously fun and trashy, and everyone seems to be in on it. At the beginning, I was kind of reflecting to myself how Linda Blair was never really meant to be a star, because of her bizarre persona and the way she stands out by about a mile from every movie she's in, but this movie had fun with that and used it to make her more outsized. This is just really fun teen trash—and aside from that, it's all very 80s, with almost nonstop music and insane fashion and hairstyles happening throughout. Yeah, this one pretty much demands to be seen.

Should you watch it: 

If you love the 80s and love exploitation.