Savage Streets/Review

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Savage Streets director Danny Steinmann (Friday the 13th Pt 5: A New Beginning) came from the 70s-80s porn industry and was offered a chance to make this teen gang film by a friend who was producing it. 18 hours after accepting the job, he showed up on set ready to roll. What he made was essentially one of the best 80s exploitation films I've ever seen.

The beautiful Linda Blair (The Exorcist) stars as Brenda, a tough, sexy chick. Out on Hollywood Boulevard, Brenda wears a low cut tee-shirt, silver shades and jiggles along with her gang of chicks. Brenda's little sister, Heather (Linnea Quigley) happens to be a deaf mute, so Brenda looks out for her as much as she can. Meanwhile, The Scars gang, led by Jake (Robert Dryer), are out cruising. When Jake spots Brenda strutting along the street, he tells his pal to pull over so he can see if he can get some of that action. Heather ends up walking across the street and the Scars almost run her over. Jake apologizes for this rudeness and tells Brenda they should get high together. Turns out Brenda thinks that Jake is scum and she tells him to take a hike. Trying to save face, he tells Brenda to "get lost" (after she's around the corner) and the gang take off. Later on that night, Brenda and the girls spot The Scars walking around and she gets a plan. The girls steal Jake's 50s convertible and go to get ice cream. When Jake and the gang see this, they chase after the car, but can't keep up, of course. Full of frustration, Jake can't do anything but scream. Later, The Scars find the car abandoned...filled with trash. Jake plans on getting revenge for Brenda's disrespect.

At their high school, Brenda and her friends are in gym class doing calisthenics (looking hot as hell). A jock named Wes comes in and begins staring at Brenda and she stares back. When Wes' girlfriend, Cindy (a head cheerleader) comes in and sees this, she gets pissed and tells him not to go near Brenda anymore or else! After the class is over, we get some very nice shots of the naked girls taking a shower. When Brenda is confronted by Cindy for being a "slut," a fight breaks out. Of course, the showers are on and the two go at it like wildcats. For some reason, two other girls (naked) are also fighting in the background. Nice!

Meanwhile in the gym, Heather is waiting for Brenda. The Scars gang member Red (Scott Mayer) appears and begins to flirt with her. The creepy thing about it is that Red is acting nice while Heather tries to teach him some sign language. He can't do it right, but he makes a hole with his hand and uses his forefinger to slide it in and out. Heather giggles and does it too. Then he suddenly begins to force himself on her, but she pulls away. She tries to get out of the gymnasium but when she opens the door, she sees The Scars' gang members. They decide to rape Heather and since she can't scream, no one will hear her. This is a very brutal sequence that reminded me of I Spit On Your Grave. Also, like that film, they have a junior gang member named Vince (Johnny Venocur) who Jake forces to rape Heather as an initiation. It's sick stuff. Danny Steinmann cuts back and forth from the cat fight to the rape, which makes it even more twisted visually. After Heather is found nearly dead, Brenda and her friends find out what has happened and they're devastated. Instead of showing Brenda in the hospital, the film moves to a local music club, to have some rock music in the background to heighten the drama. Brenda sits and broods about her sister, downing Coca Cola like whiskey and telling her girls they've got to find the guys responsible for the rape and get some payback. They know the cops won't do it!!

In a change of pace, Brenda's friend Francine is pregnant and is getting married, so the girls leave their plans of revenge behind for the time being. That is until Jake and his boys find Francine walking down the street doing some errands and they chase her. In one of the most shocking and outrageous scenes in the film, Jake throws Francine off an overpass. When Vince sees this insanely sadistic act, he flips out and screams at Jake and tells him he hates him. Jake screams back: "YOUR ASS IS MINE!!" When Brenda finds out about Francine, she decides it's time to get revenge. She goes home and sits naked in the bathtub smoking a "ciggie" as the camera slowly pans into her anguished, but vengeful face. Brenda then gets in her silver jeep, heads to the local sporting goods store, picks up a crossbow and gets into full on Death Wish-Dirty Harry mode.

This movie was a complete surprise to me. I wasn't expecting something so great. It was the film I was waiting for. It made me realize that this was basically the early 80s version of one of my favorite 70s exploitation cult films Switchblade Sisters. Although Linda Blair is really the only tough chick in it. It actually is MORE graphic and over the top than that film. It walks the line between an 80s big hair/rock n roll/over-the-top melodrama and down-n-dirty/grindhouse/gang/revenge flick perfectly.

Linda Blair gives such a great performance in the exploitation sense of the word. She doesn't shy away from any of the outrageous things she must say or do. She's also really nice to look at. Everyone involved in the film committed to being as sleazy and raw as possible, including veteran actor John Vernon (The Outlaw Josey Wales, Animal House), who is like the Anti-Dean Wermer in the film. I can honestly say this movie is a treasure of early 80s exploitation cinema. Its got everything in it: T & A, hysterical dialogue, a corny rock score, brutal violence and plenty of over-the-top acting. If you want to sit down and watch an entertaining, raunchy 80s exploitation film, Savage Streets will deliver across the board. Highly recommended!


Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. A Massachusetts native, he is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life. He holds an AS with Highest Honors in Communications and Interactive Media Design.

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