Movies From the Black Lagoon: Savage Streets

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Savage Streets - 1984,Rated R

Revenge flicks got a shot in the arm from this 80's melodrama that changed up the formula by pitting your typical gang of hoods against a female, high school senior. The hoods don't stand a devil of a chance when their adversary turns out to be Linda ("The Exorcist") Blair.
The film sets up its story in short order. We meet Brenda (Blair) as she's enjoying a night on Hollywood Boulevard with her girlfriends. Though they dress like street walkers (way too much make-up and enough hair spray to raise the Titanic) they're actually just there to window shop. The point of the evening is to entertain Heather, Brenda's little sister, who also acts as the group's mascot. They're over protective of Heather, a deaf mute, but this was before political correctness.
The evening goes well until Heather is almost run over by a gang of hoods, who call themselves the "Scars" and like to rock leather vests and more eye make-up than a "Kiss" cover band. They apologize to Heather but have a hard time comprehending that they did anything wrong. Instead they see this as an opportunity to pick up a gaggle of high school girls. The Scars are rebuffed, go figure, and they return to their business.
Turns out their business is providing drugs to local dealers. Actually, we only see them deal with one pusher who owes them money, so maybe they're in over their heads. While the Scars make their rounds Brenda, and company, opt to teach them a lesson by hot-wiring their car and going for a joyride. After they have their fun they fill the vehicle with the contents of a rancid garbage can and leave it parked on a dark street. The Scars retaliate by assaulting Heather. It's a brutal sequence that is surprisingly well executed and raises the level of the film briefly before it degenerates into a "Death Wish" clone.
When the Scars toss one of Brenda's gal pals off a bridge, she goes ballistic. First she stops off at home to sit in a hot bath while the camera lingers on her buxom figure. Then she's all business as she pours herself into a skintight leather jumpsuit and makes for the warehouse that the Scars call home. It's one heck of a finale that delivers on the violent retribution that has been promised. This is accomplished by employing bear traps, turpentine, and a cross bow in ways that are severely prohibited on their respective warning labels. All this and you also get some great one liners from Blair that punctuate each killing, a genre staple normally attributed to Arnold Schwarzenegger. But Linda did it first.
This film took its time getting to DVD, but it was worth the wait. It arrives in a two disc special edition that includes plenty of extras, which include a lengthy interview with Ms. Blair. She's the reason to catch this one. Blair's had a wonderful career that started with what is arguably the greatest horror film of all time. During the late 70's she conquered prime-time television with two films about social issues (alcoholism and teen crime) before cruising into the 80's with a slew of popcorn films. She proved she was just as comfortable in trash like "Chained Heat' and "Roller Boogie." This is one of her better genre pictures, and it also features two other B-Movie stalwarts. John Vernon has a great time here as the beleaguered principal at Blair's high school. It's a step down from Vernon's work as Dean Wormer in "Animal House" but he still ekes out a few laughs when he confronts the Scars on school property. Linnea Quigley is also on hand as Heather and does well as the demure character. She would later land her best role as 'Trash', a sexually obsessed punk rock diva, in 1985's "Return of the Living Dead."
'Savage Streets" is definitely a keeper. Now if they would only give "Chained Heat" a similar treatment.
Bets Line: " You're exciting, it's like you're always going to blow up or something."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@pennswoods.net.