If I were writing this review at any time other than 4:40 AM and had more than two hours sleep in the past two days, I wouldn’t be full of hyperbole, pacing through my house, mumbling to myself things like, “Savage Streets is the greatest movie ever made!” and “Why did they make any more movies after this?”
I often discuss movies with my dad and I often describe ones I love as “a piece of shit, but an entertaining piece of shit.” Was I more lucid, that’s probably how I’d describe this film. But seriously, this movie has everything you want to watch in the middle of the night. It is unapologetically 1980’s exploitation filmmaking, a roughie that would never hit the scream today, small or large.
I was trying to suffer through Dude Party Massacre 3 on Shudder. It’s a movie that’s getting a lot of buzz. And I can see why some folks would like it. It’s very Adult Swim in tone, execution and humor. It also reminds me of a Troma movie and my sense of humor is one that enjoys the strangeness that comes from an earnest yet deranged slasher like Don’t Go in the Woods more than something that sets out to be silly for the sake of being silly. To be honest, I was a bit depressed, because I was hoping for something more.
I’ve had Savage Streets in my Amazon Prime queue for some time. It was time for it to rescue me from my doldrums.
Imagine if Pat Benetar’s “Love is a Battlefield” lasted for 93 minutes. Also, imagine if Pat didn’t use dance to defeat the rival gang, but instead had a crossbow. That is the best summation of this movie that I can give you.
Brenda (Linda Blair, and if I have to tell you what other films Linda has been in, you can never read our site again) and her deaf-mute sister Heather (Linnea Quigley, the only scream queen I know who put out a workout tape) are wild in the streets with their gang the Satins, looking at Playgirl Magazine while dressed as only folks in the 80’s could dress. They keep getting into scuffles with a gang called the Scars, ending with the girls stealing and trashing the gang’s car. Jake, their leader, vows revenge after Brenda goes even further by scratching his face.
Well, he and the gang waste no time. While Brenda is fighting another girl in a locker room brouhaha, the gang isolates her sister and rapes her. You may notice that the gang seems to be more interested in touching one another than touching her sister. Two of them even embrace one another and kiss. These are the kinds of things that you will unexpectantly see in this film. It’s one that rapidly switches tone, going for the darkness of man on woman crime to a wacky scene where the students put drawings of penises on a health room chart. It is a movie that will change that tone on a dime, ensuring that you are never ready for what happens next.
The Scars up the ante by killing Brenda’s soon to be married and pregnant friend Francine (Lisa Freeman, Back to the Future). There’s a Pretty Woman like scene of the girl trying on her wedding dress while everyone watches and again, you aren’t ready for the tonal 180 when the gang throws her off a viaduct.
Meanwhile, policing all of this insanity at the high school is John Vernon as Principal Underwood. He seems like he is barely containing himself from killing every child that is in his educational system.
Earlier in the film, Brenda and her girl gang notice bear traps are on sale. This seems like something that totally makes no sense. Not so. Because when Brenda hunts down the Scars, she uses one of those traps to kill one of the gang members by snapping it onto his neck. Then she takes a crossbow after the rest of the gang.
Sure, Jake escapes. But he really should have stopped when he could have. Brenda douses him in paint and sets him ablaze, just in time for a cop to pull up and watch the guy die. What school do these girls go to?
All of the girls visit Francine’s grave and Brenda comments, “At least we set things right.” Her friend Stevie earnestly looks at her and says, “No Brenda. You set things right.” I almost set my couch on fire in pure joy.
Danny Steinman has few movies on his resume but, chief among them Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, a film I described as “the scummiest, vilest Friday of them all,” as well as The Unseen and this film. And now I’m sad, because I wish he made a hundred movies, ninety-nine of them being sequels to Savage Streets. It also has uncredited direction from Tom DeSimone, who crossed over from porn to make movies like Chatterbox, Hell Night (also with Linda Blair!), Reform School Girls and Angel III: The Final Chapter.
PS – I am loving this long interview with Steinman that you can find right here.
Cherie Curie from the Runaways shot at least one day of footage as the lead in this film before Linda Blair took over, but I can see no one else as Brenda in this movie.
There’s also a subplot that doesn’t matter much at all, with Brenda facing off with cheerleader Cindy over her boyfriend Fadden. Also — Faden owes Jake tons of money for coke.
I really need to let you know how great Robert Dryer is as Jake. He’s pure menace, bringing an edge to this film that shocks you with its brutality.
Also — the dialogue! From the principal yelling, “Go fuck an iceberg!” to Jake intoning ” I am going to cut your heart out and eat it!” and nearly everything Brenda says, this movie is packed with quotable quotables.
This is on Amazon Prime, which is great, because the DVD and blu-ray releases are out of print. It’s the kind of movie that feels so good before the sun comes up. Go Brenda! Shoot those Scars up! Use the beartrap!
UPDATE: Kino Lorber will re-issued Savage Streets on January 5, 2021, with pre-orders generally sent several days in advance of street date. The Blu-ray is loaded with extras featuring audio commentary tracks by actors Robert Dryer, Johnny Venocur, and producer John Strong, along with actors Robert Dryer and Sal Landi discussing the film with cinematographer Stephen L. Posey. In addition, director Danny Steinmann and producer John Strong, along with actors Linda Blair, Linnea Quigley, Robert Dyer, Johnny Venocur, Sal Lindi, and Scott Mayer each offer their own interview segments.
You can also pick up DVDs from RoninFlix! Check out this awesome new cover!