Film Review: Savage Streets (1984)

Release Date: August 31st, 1984 (West Germany)
Directed by: Danny Steinmann
Written by: Danny Steinmann, Norman Yonemoto
Music by: John D’Andrea, Michael Lloyd
Cast: Linda Blair, Linnea Quigley, Robert Dryer, John Vernon

Ginso Investment Corp., Motion Picture Marketing, 93 Minutes, 80 Minutes (cut version)

Review:

“Go fuck an iceberg!” – Principal Underwood

Savage Streets is a film that stars both Linda Blair and Linnea Quigley and it isn’t a horror film. Sure, some horrible things happen and characters are faced with dread and terror but this is more like a “women in prison” movie mixed with an urban violence film.

It’s sort of strange that it has that “women in prison” vibe, as it takes place primarily in a high school and the urban environment around it but there are too many similarities to ignore, the biggest of which is a big brawl in the gym showers. There are nude bodies and fisticuffs like the greatest of “women in prison” pictures.

The story sees this group of rough high school girls go up against this gang of male punk rock assholes. Well, one of the guys is in the gang very reluctantly and he always has reservations about all the horrible stuff the other gang members force him to do. One of which is raping a deaf girl in the school bathroom, the other is when he is present for a pregnant teen getting thrown off of a bridge just before her wedding night. Yeah, this is a hard and gritty film that is more grindhouse than Sixteen Candles.

If you are into unapologetic, hardcore, ’80s action mayhem, then this is a film for you. Linda Blair may deliver some cringe worthy lines but it’s the ’80s and almost all the dialogue in real life was cringe worthy in that decade.

This isn’t a memorable film, even for grindhouse standards. But it does hit its mark in the right way and it is a good time killer on a Sunday afternoon or on a night where you are binge watching a bunch of similar films from this era.

It’s low budget and almost feels like it was directed by an Italian horror master transplanted to Los Angeles for this shoot. The whole sequence where Linda Blair fights the punk gang in their hideout feels like something Lucio Fulci or Lamberto Bava would do.

Savage Streets is worth your time if you are into low brow, ultraviolent, ’80s pictures with a good amount of boobage.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Other ’80s high school urban violence movies: Class of 1984Class of Nuke ‘Em High, etc.

Film Review: Black Mama, White Mama (1973)

Also known as: Chains of Hate (alternate), Women In Chains (Canada), Hot, Hard and Mean (UK), Chained Women (Philippines), Frauen in Ketten (Germany)
Release Date: January 19th, 1973
Directed by: Eddie Romero
Written by: H. R. Christian
Based on: an original story by Joseph Viola, Jonathan Demme
Music by: Harry Betts
Cast: Pam Grier, Margaret Markov, Sid Haig

Four Associates Ltd., American International Pictures, 87 Minutes

Review:

“Some jive-ass revolution don’t mean shit to me!” – Lee Daniels

This film has been on my radar for years but I never had the opportunity to watch it until recently. I expected it to be a “women in prison” film but with the girls on the run and chained together while they spit racist shit back and forth at each other. However, it is a much better movie than that and to be completely honest, I was surprised about how good this movie actually is.

But really, I shouldn’t be surprised about the film’s quality, as Pam Grier has “the thing”. I can’t really define “the thing” but it’s this quality certain actors have that just makes them standout and rise above everything around them, as a beacon of absolute awesomeness, even if they are in a film that is total shit. Luckily, this film isn’t total shit, so it’s even better than just it’s great star.

Grier does have some help though because Margaret Markov, the white girl chained to her, is really damn good in her role too. You actually care about these girls and their separate agendas where in any other movie like this, you really wouldn’t give a shit and just hoped that violence or a titty were going to pop into the next shot.

Black Mama, White Mama also features Sid Haig in what is now one of my favorite roles he’s ever played. He’s basically a white cowboy criminal kingpin that wears colorful shirts, a sweet hat and rules his particular island of the Philippines with a big posse and big guns.

This starts as a standard “women in prison” movie, except that it takes place (and was shot) in the Philippines. Then there is an escape when the prison bus carrying the girls is attacked. One wants to go one way, to reach a boat with a lot of money, the other wants to go the other way, to her boyfriend and to help fight a revolution to free the island from tyranny. There are police in pursuit, a Filipino kingpin in pursuit, an American kingpin in pursuit, revolutionaries in pursuit, dogs in pursuit and a whole lot of sexy women running away from all of it.

Black Mama, White Mama is exceptional when looking at it within the context of being some throwaway, run of the mill, sexploitation, grindhouse, “women in prison” movie. It feels less grindhouse-y and more like something Cannon Films would make in the ’80s.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Pam Grier movies from the era. It’s not a standard “women in prison” film and it’s not an urban action drama but any Grier film will still probably flow well with this regardless.

Film Review: Hellhole (1985)

Also known as: Hell Hole (alternate spelling)
Release Date: April 26th, 1985
Directed by: Pierre De Moro
Written by: Aaron Butler (as Vincent Mongol), Lance Dickson, Mark Evan Schwartz
Music by: Jeff Sturges
Cast: Ray Sharkey, Judy Landers, Marjoe Gortner, Edy Williams, Mary Woronov, Terry Moore, Robert Z’Dar

Arkoff International Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

This is a film that I didn’t even know existed until recently. Somehow it evaded me in countless pillages of mom and pop video stores throughout the ’80s and ’90s. But it does have some people I like in it, so why not check it out?

The film sees a woman murdered by some crazed madman that looks like a middle aged punk rock mobster hybrid. Kind of hard to describe him but it’s the ’80s and this isn’t even a B-movie it’s more like a D-movie. Anyway, the woman’s daughter sees the murder, is then pursued and chased until she falls about ten feet and gets amnesia. She is then locked up in an insane asylum where they do crazy experiments that turn female patients into killer zombies. Also, the man that murdered her mother is there, working as an orderly.

In a lot of ways, this is an absolutely awful movie. However, it isn’t all a waste because it’s got some great character actors in it and frankly, it’s full of so much ’80s horror cheese that it should satisfy you, if that’s your thing.

The film has Mary Woronov, who was great in Death Race 2000Eating RaoulRock ‘n’ Roll High SchoolNight of the Comet and so many other B-movies. We also get Marjoe Gortner, who I enjoyed in Starcrash and as the villain in American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt. Then you have the “Maniac Cop” himself, Robert Z’Dar in an early role before he’d star in a slew of B-pictures, usually as a psycho killer… okay, always as a psycho killer. But he’s a guy with serious gravitas, a good presence and a chin that would make Bruce Campbell’s take a month off.

I’ll be honest though, there isn’t a whole lot here, apart from the cast, that is all that great. However, I was a bit surprised with how well it played out for what it is. At its core, it is a women in prison movie with a horror twist. There are boobs, lesbian stuff and whatnot. Sadly, there isn’t as much of it as you’d expect from this type of film. But hey, we get killer women prison zombies, so things balance out.

Hellhole isn’t a complete waste of time and it is only ninety minutes. If you didn’t get your fill of Woronov being a psycho in an operating room in Night of the Comet, then this should be up your alley.

Film Review: Caged Heat (1974)

Also known as: Renegade Girls
Release Date: April 19th, 1974 (Washington, D.C.)
Directed by: Jonathan Demme
Written by: Jonathan Demme
Music by: John Cale, Mike Bloomfield
Cast: Juanita Brown, Roberta Collins, Erica Gavin, Ella Reid, Rainbeaux Smith, Barbara Steele

New World Pictures, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t you realize sex is what put you behind bars in the first place? Stealing to dress better for a man. Fornicating from the back of the pockets of women using pimps. Killing to eliminate a sexual rival. Give me contrition! Let’s have redemption! Repentance! Repentance! A worm’s death to society!” – Supt. McQueen

While the “women in cages” sub-genre of exploitation films weren’t new by the time that Caged Heat came out in 1974, Jonathan Demme did a few things that set this one apart from those before it and thus, made it one of the most memorable pictures of its type.

For one, Demme cast horror icon Barabara Steele as the prison warden, a departure from the oppressor being a man. He also put her in a wheelchair and made her sex deprived.

Demme also added in elements of social consciousness, feminism and liberal politics. These new elements broke the mold and made Caged Heat a more interesting film than all the previous “women in cages” flicks.

Roger Corman initially didn’t want to distribute the film but then Jonathan Demme raised the production money on his own. Impressed, and maybe seeing a bit of himself in Demme’s ability to raise the capital on his own, Corman decided to distribute the film through his company New World Pictures. Before this film, Demme had worked on The Hot Box (another “women in cages” movie) and the biker film Angels Hard as They Come for New World Pictures.

Caged Heat, regardless of its cult success and its refreshing take on an overused exploitation gimmick, is not a good film. It isn’t awful, as the vast majority of “women in cages” movies are far worse, but it certainly doesn’t stand up to the test of time and it is a mess of a story.

Barbara Steele is as alluring as always, even if she is a fascist crippled bookworm. But watching her in this feels like a major step down in her career. Granted, she never reached superstardom but if she had any momentum, this probably snuffed it out. Plus, she was playing like seventh fiddle to a bunch of less talented actresses billed before her. She also didn’t get to do anything too interesting other than her stage performance during a dream sequence.

The other villain of the story is this male doctor who administers therapies that leave women mindless and helpless so he can rape them.

There are three other notable people in this film. The first is Juanita Brown, who was in Foxy BrownWillie Dynamite and Black Starlet. The second is Roberta Collins who played Matilda the Hun in Death Race 2000 and also starred in other “women in cages” films like The Big Doll House and the appropriately titled Women In Cages. She was also in Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive and the 80s teen sex comedy School Spirit. Lastly, there is Rainbeaux Smith who has the Frenchiest spelling of “rainbow” for a first name ever and was also in that awful shit storm of a film Laserblast. She was also in ParasiteUp In Smoke and had an uncredited bit part in Logan’s Run.

The biggest highlight of Caged Heat is the big prison break shootout finale. It isn’t necessarily an impressive action sequence but it was pretty well executed for a first-time director. And being that this was Demme’s first picture, as a director, it set the stage for what would come, as he has made some solid pictures throughout his career.

And while this film is full of boobies and violence, it isn’t as over the top as other pictures like it. It certainly gives you plenty of those things but there’s more to Caged Heat than just tits, ass and violence.

Film Review: Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS (1975)

Release Date: October 1975
Directed by: Don Edmonds
Written by: Jonah Royston
Cast: Dyanne Thorne, C.D. Lafleuer

Aeteas Filmproduktions, Cambist Films, 96 Minutes

Review:

Well, if I am going to review a film that fits the sexploitation and Nazisploitation genres, what better film to pick than Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS? No, really? Is there a better one? If so, I need to know.

Man, is this film fucked up. I had heard about it in books and from film buddies for a long time but just watched it. It’s actually available on YouTube, as long as you have an account that verifies you are at least 18 years-old. Truthfully, this is how I am finding a lot of the old exploitation and grindhouse films I’ve been watching lately.

Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS is bizarre and actually pretty shocking. It is especially refreshing in that this is one of the few exploitation films that I have watched that I feel delivers on its hype. They obviously can’t show you every heinous atrocity committed in full detail, or else this would have gotten an X rating. However, they do show more than what you’d expect and most of it is quite disturbing and uncomfortable.

The premise sees Ilsa use her power running a Nazi medical experiment camp for her own personal source of sexual stimulation. Her brand of stimulation comes in the form of torture and unrelenting cruelty. Throughout the film, she finds new and interesting ways to torture her subjects. A lot of her techniques are actually really creative and the minds behind this picture are definitely some sick and twisted individuals. Also, there are boobs literally every five minutes.

The fact that this ties into the Nazis makes the film actually feel somewhat plausible. It’s no secret how horrible the Nazis were and there has never been a single group or political power as feared as the Nazis. Anyone wearing Nazi outfits and symbols in a movie, immediately tells the audience that they are something to be feared and that they have no lines that they won’t cross. Ilsa doesn’t even see the lines, she just goes for it and is committed to her detestable craft.

Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS is also an example of a “women in cages” movie. These were big in the 1970s and this is just an extension of that formula. This time the prison is a Nazi camp and the warden is a very evil woman.

This is not a great movie but it is certainly entertaining and worth a watch if you have the stomach for it. The violence is quite gratuitous but nothing an adult shouldn’t be able to handle. And if you are curious about grindhouse pictures of the 70s, this should definitely be on your list of movies to see.