I don’t know what it is about the ’80s and their obsessive need to make highly chronological trailers that walk you through most of the movie! But here’s another one! Thankfully the spoilers aren’t too huge, but once you watch the movie you’ll find that you’ve essentially already seen most of it, all that’s missing is the ending.
On the upside, the trailer does feature the fantastic soundtrack and that alone should get you in the mood and give you a reason to give this film a chance!
Do you remember The Exorcist? Of course you do, everyone does, and if you don’t that means you haven’t seen it. Now picture a movie in which the possessed teenager from The Exorcist, aged eleven years, dons a tight costume with a little crossbow and hunts a street gang seeking revenge. That sounds a little weird, right? Now, before you get too excited – sadly there’s no spinning head, no gallons worth of puke being spewed at a priest or even a demonic possession. I’m very sorry to say.
But there is Linda Blair! Who? Linda Blair! Yes, you guessed it! The actual actress that played little, messed-up Regan from The Exorcist is back! With a vengeance! Sort of….
To be completely honest, this is a pretty standard ’80s “vigilante flick”, and if you’ve seen others, you’ve seen this one – they all get rehashed in slightly different combos. But it’s a lot like ice cream – sure, it’s all ice cream but you like the pistachio or you don’t, you want sprinkles or you prefer chocolate. The art of enjoying cult movies is finding out all the differences – even if slight – until you know exactly what you like and then still being curious about that new addition. So, lets see what kind of flavors this one has to offer!
The movie opens with a young man, Vince, leaving his family home, neatly dressed, with his father angrily reminding him to get home early because it’s a school day tomorrow – “Goddammit!”. After reassuring his father, the young man dives into the bushes and changes into one hell of a bad ass outfit. That is, if you find lots of leather and studs to be bad ass – but hey, times change!
Soon his street punk friends arrive by car and begin making an awful ruckus for him to hurry up. In fact, they make so much noise that it’s at least mildly suspicious that the father doesn’t notice and comes back out to check what on earth is going on. After all, it’s happening literally feet away from his doorstep moments after his son leaves the house! But we’ll conveniently skip that or else the “Movie Universe” bubble will pop in the very first scene.
After Vince has jumped into the convertible, they drive off towards Hollywood Boulevard. The stomping grounds of “Jake and the Scars”. Do you have goosebumps yet?
It’s over at Hollywood Boulevard that we meet our heroine (not the drug) and her friends going about a night of living wild – which is apparently walking down the pavement past stores after closing hours. Why? I don’t know. I presume they were on their way to a club but that’s never made entirely clear.
Anywho, the group consists of six girls – the most important of them ringleader Brenda (Blair) and her innocent, deaf younger sister, Linda (Linnea Quigley). The rest of the group consists of a black girl, a white girl and two Latina sisters, of which one is with child and about to get married, ensuring the movie has its rainbow cast covered. This little gang is named The Satins, but a more accurate name would be “The Nobras”. Why? Because no bras. Just all the wiggle-wiggle. Oh, and they strike like a venomous Cobra if you step on them. That too.
As the girls are having a good time on their own, they get spotted by “The Scars” who decide to aggressively pursue them in hopes of scoring a cheap date – or more. But in their juvenile enthusiasm they nearly run Brenda’s baby sister Linda over when crossing the street. Needless to say, that doesn’t go over well and when the girls later see the gang hustling drugs, they’ve had enough and decide to pull a prank on them.
After stealing Jake’s car, the girls race off with the Scars in hot pursuit by foot – the gang finds their car, abandoned filled with trash. For gang leader Jake, who looks suspiciously like the Moai statues of Easter Island, this means war. And war is what they’ll get.
The next day the Scars visit junior member Vince at his local high school, whish Brenda and the other girls also attend – and notice her little sister Linda walking unattended to the quiet gymnasium. They send in gang member Red to set her up, with success, and poor Linda is subjected to gang rape.
Meanwhile, however, Brenda is having an unrelated confrontation with a classmate regarding boyfriend troubles. While the girls are busy with hysterical nude wrestling, Linda is getting severely assaulted by each member of the Scars. Jake tops it off with a kick in the head.
Once Brenda and her friends have settled their score in the showers they go out to find Linda. Drama ensues when they find her naked in a coma in the gymnasium.
Then things take a final twist for the worse. Though Brenda has suspicions that the Scars are responsible for Linda’s defiling, she isn’t certain until after a club altercation between the Scars and one of their members leads to the unimaginable. Stone cold, slow motion murder of one of the girls in her ring. She had so much to live for…
This is when Brenda takes matters into her own hands. With skills equaling those of an experienced Army Ranger, she picks up a number of weapons and has boundless ability to track down, ambush and kill the enemy. It’s amazing what a hot bath and a tight leather suit can do to a girl!
With her little crossbow, knife, bear traps and the most dangerous weapon known to man – the infamous cans of flammable paint – she goes in hard.
From there on, the movie is all about payback, and Brenda knows how to serve the bill. Rangers, I mean Brenda, lead the way!
Take a brick. Bring a marker. Draw a smiley face on the brick. Now you have Robert Dryer (Jake), who looks just like that and doesn’t act much better, either. Which is too bad because he could’ve gone all out in this role as the main antagonist.
Aside from Dryer and the rest of “Brenda’s crew” most other actors are semi-reasonable throughout the movie.
Performances are generally quite dramatic, as we are used to from these types of movies, but not shockingly bad. It does become slightly confusing when Linda, played by Linnea Quigley, doesn’t let out a single squeal while she’s being dragged off by a gang of thugs set on raping her. Deaf people aren’t normally mute, and though most people who are mute may not have the ability to speak words, they still have functioning vocal cords. But, again, these are details.
When this movie was reviewed by TV Guide they said the following – “This is Blair’s best performance since THE EXORCIST (1973), but that’s not saying much.”
And that is the cold, hard truth. Though Blair’s performance isn’t terrible, it’s certainly not convincing. You don’t ‘feel it’, so to speak. It lacks passion, and she seems to just sort of roll through the scenes as instructed – but it didn’t feel like she was adding anything of her own to the character. Then again, is that something we can expect from these kinds of movies? Probably not – but it would’ve been nice to see her go hard. Lets face it, she certainly did in The Exorcist.
What is noticeable, though, is that Linda Blair looks puffy and unhealthy all throughout the flick – rumor has it that she was struggling with drug addiction during the filming of the movie. There’s just such an unhealthy hue about her that you have to notice. Especially given that she was quite young at the time. If true this is, of course, terribly sad, but also adds some kind of bizarre realism to the movie. We’re used to seeing healthy, in their prime actors, but in reality young people living in areas and under conditions such those as shown in the movie probably would be struggling with addiction. Regardless, it’s good to see that Linda Blair is still with us today and seemingly without complications.
Sound(track) & Special FX
Now here’s something in which the movie stands out, positively, compared to most others. An actual great soundtrack! Including ’80s rock star John Farnham! It’s rare for a movie, let alone a cheap ’80s vigilante flick, to have a soundtrack better than the film itself – but such is the case with Savage Streets.
You might presume Farnham did only a single track, as is usually the case with movie soundtracks where they have one song by a proper artist, but in this case Farnham made as many as four songs for the movie! Another two great songs come from Michael Bradley and synth band Real Life, who deserve more than an honorable mention.
I’d say the soundtrack of the movie is so good that a lot about the film itself is compensated for by the music! From the energetic “Justice for One” to the more emotional ballad “Innocent Hearts”, they all do a lot for the overall feel of the movie.
Special FX throughout the movie are not overly present except for the final battles. They are adequate but not spectacular, a few casual impalements by arrow, a bear trap or two, but I can’t tell you much more than that. I did find the usual ‘man ablaze’ stunt scene to be underwhelming. It wasn’t hard to tell, even through the flames, this was a stuntman wrapped in thick patches under very choreographed and controlled circumstances.
The movie has a nice dark feeling to it. Of course it helps that most of it plays at night, but they certainly found all the proper back alleys and locations to set the scene. From the quiet gymnasium and bathroom stalls where Linda is violated to the large storage rooms where Brenda sets an ambush – they all match seamlessly into the brooding atmosphere.
As I mentioned earlier in the review, the clothing is kind of funny – not in the sense that’s not in style – it’s totally in style for the ’80s – but today you just can’t help but chuckle. All the clothes are too big, sloppy, partially ripped or made from leather and studs.
And then there’s Brenda’s revenge outfit – which is something entirely upon itself – like an island almost. With two sizeable hills protruding from a uh… Screw it, let me put it like this. For Brenda to have any more cleavage showing, the split in her costume would have to run from her boobs, down her groin and up her back again. Which it pretty much already does. I’m not complaining though.
6,5/10 – To a lot of people Savage Streets is an absolute cult icon – personally I’m not really feeling it. Though this isn’t a bad cult movie – it really isn’t – I have one thing that often conflicts with the views of others regarding cult. For me to truly enjoy and remember a cult movie it’s either really good – in its own special way – or so terribly awful that I’ve burst out in laughter to a point where I’m beginning to show signs of oxygen deprivation.
For one thing, the movie never really made me laugh. The acting was just good enough not to be unintentionally hilarious, there’s no amusing dress or special effects errors, the story and movie take itself fairly seriously and I didn’t spot any intentionally humorous dialogue.
The movie does feature the babe in amazing outfit and follows all the guidelines of the typical ’80s vigilante flick. But it didn’t show anything unique, not in good ways and not in bad ways. It took the middle road. That’s not bad per se, but it’s questionable whether or not you’ll really remember this movie or if it’ll really get you your “Cult High”. If you’re a hardened cult watcher, I’m sure you know what I mean by that. It’s that special sweet spot, you never know if you’ll get it or how you get it, you have to work for it – but it’s something no other kind of movie genre can get you. Sadly, Savage Streets did not give me my high. And believe me, I worked for it. I still can’t sit with my legs crossed.
6,5/10 – Another rare match in ratings! The reason is that Savage Street is actually a semi-decent movie, it’s just a movie on a budget that could definitely do better in certain aspects but isn’t that bad altogether.
The thing is that Savage Streets scores ‘average’ in just about every category – meaning that it’s pretty difficult to give it a low rating even when purely seen as a movie. It’s average but it’s ‘adequately average’, if that makes sense. You can tell that a proper production crew and reasonable actors worked on this and used their budget and skills to their best ability. It’s hard not to commend them for it. And so I do.
But does Savage Street exemplify anything for other movies? Probably not. It’s essentially a C-student, it gets there but nothing about it will blow your mind. It may not be an exciting thing to say, but I couldn’t really put it any other way.
So, what does that ultimately mean for Savage Streets? As described in the earlier category, the soundtrack saves a lot of this movie. And, as said above, the combination of most factors being at least ‘decent’ with an additional great soundtrack really add to its overall worth.
That’s why I do believe that Savage Streets is a great starting point for beginning cult-watchers. You don’t have to understand all the ins and outs of cult like the veterans do to watch and enjoy this flick. The movie, in that sense, is a little more mainstream than most others. Whether or not that’s a positive or a negative thing is up to you to decide.
How to Watch & After Thoughts
First of all you need something leather, preferably with studs, and jeans. Tight fitting jeans. The kind of jeans that cut off the blood flow to your legs when you don’t stand up straight as a board. Shirts with rips and holes in it are a great accessory. Be sure they’re too wide and droop over your shoulder. Have no fear to let parts of you wiggle, they didn’t either.
Secondly, you need to eat something good. And since the movie plays in LA and one of the catalysts of Brenda’s revenge is the fate of her Latina friend Francine, why not go with fantastic Latin cuisine? There’s always something for everybody! A tasty enchilada, some tacos or fajitas – can you really go wrong? And you can find them just about anywhere in the City of Angels!
And for drinks, if it’s alcoholic go for the typical ’80s club drinks such as the Hurricane (rum, passion fruit, lemon juice etc.), the B52 (Kahlua, Bailey’s, Grand Marnier) or the good ol’ Long Island Iced Tea – I can almost guarantee you that’s what Brenda and her crew drank at the clubs!
If you’re going for non-alcoholic, go for 7 Up or Sprite or, if you can get your hands on some, the legendary Crystal Pepsi! Those were the drinks of choice back in the day and if you wanted to be a cool kid, you better spray a tiny fountain of that tasty drink with the sweet scent before making that typical crackle-pop sound as you open the can. Remember to use a straw through the little hole of the lid! That’s how all the hip people do it.
But before you do all of this, be sure to listen to some rocking ’80s music! Blast John Farnham’s ‘You’re the Voice’ on full volume! Who doesn’t like Motley Crue, Twisted Sister or that smooth Bon Jovi? That should get you in the right mindset for sure! And your neighbors or parents properly upset with you. But isn’t that part of the art?
Speaking of John Farnham, the song “Justice for One” wasn’t publicly released but only distributed as part of promo material. Apparently, that was a marketing decision – screw those guys. But there’s good news, too! These demos are in circulation, but they are rare! If you happen to stumble upon one of these LPs with Linda Blair on the cover and “Demo” stamped on it for a good prize, be sure to buy it! They are highly sought after today because of Farnham’s huge popularity boost after the mega-hit “You’re the Voice”, which came years after the movie.