Scorpion Releasing // 1984 // 93 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // March 29th, 2013
Where the only rule is...an eye for an eye!
If Nietzsche built a pinball game, it would probably look something like Savage Streets. This Reaganactionary vigilante romp is a sleaze classic, thanks in no small part to its leading lady, the lovely Linda Blair, but even beyond the charms of the one-time Regan MacNeil and Sarah T., there's plenty of trashy goodness to be had here.
We open with a scene of Blair's girl-gang parading around the streets of L.A. Most of the "girls" are done up like newly-single middle-agers prowling Vegas; I was genuinely stunned to later learn they were high schoolers. Along for this walk of shame is Heather (Linnea Quigley, Silent Night, Deadly Night), a deaf-mute, and the sister of Brenda (that's Blair!), the nominal leader of the ladies.
Also out on this night -- though driving, not walking -- is a quartet of freakshow boys led by psychotic, razor-blade-earring-wearing Jake (Robert Dryer, Kiss Daddy Goodbye). These boys are looking for trouble (or something), and they find it when they almost run over deaf-mute Heather! Well, this gives them trouble, all right, when the girl-gang later punks them by trashing their car.
All this gang prankstering is enjoyable enough, but let's not forget that the film is called Savage Streets, not Juvie "Gotcha" Games Streets, and the payback for the car trashing is a fortuitous doozy: the boys show up at the high school that Heather and Brenda attend (along with gang-boy Vince, who's played by Johnny Venocur, who grew up to be Scott Baio's best friend). They happen to find Heather all by herself in an empty gym, while Brenda is duking it out with a rival (and several naked, over-age co-eds) in a nearby locker room. There's also a conveniently empty bathroom nearby, where they drag poor Heather for some assaulting. In the universe of rape revenge movies, these guys are second only to the cretins from I Spit on Your Grave in the dumb-luck department.
And, like the idiot rapists from ISoYG, these guys are also headed for a bad end -- but not before they commit yet another atrocity!
Savage Streets is quintessential '80s exploitation trash, enjoyable in a grisly and shameful way; but even for a film of this ilk (and really, Savage Streets is more an "ilk classic" than a "genre classic"), the gratuitousness is disturbingly high.
The faux gritty sensibility -- as exemplified by its power/street pop score -- flags high, but the film, for all its silly swatches of violence and nudity, is also an awfully disjointed affair. Subplots float freely like gaseous balloons, occasionally touching down and then drifting off; characters drop in and out, sometimes for no apparent reason and without introduction or closure; the homoerotic subtext in the guys' interactions is almost startling, but it barely plays out; and virtually every female character gets a topless scene, even if those scenes occasionally feel shoe-horned in. Even as a rape-and-revenge feature, there's a lot of extraneousness, to the point that by the time the revenge part kicks in, you might have to think back to exactly what started the whole mess in the first place.
Blair, who went from teenage Oscar nominee in the '70s to B-movie goddess in the '80s, overall does well here, though it's hard to buy her as a high school student. Quigley endures a dreadful rape scene with aplomb, Dryer makes for a wonderfully creepy bad guy, and Venocur brings a surprising amount of charm as a gang-banger in training.
A few years ago, BCI Eclipse put out what might have been considered a definitive edition of Savage Streets -- good tech, awesome supplemental package. Unfortunately, BCI went under not long after, so that disc is out of print. Evidently, Scorpion bought up some of the BCI titles, because they're re-releasing discs that had been part of the BCI library. Scorpion's release includes all the supplements of the previous disc, plus some new interviews, PLUS a new transfer.
The new transfer looks pretty solid; no 30-year-old exploitation film is ever going to look stupendous, but this certainly looks cleaned up, with minimal nicks and flaws. The Dolby mono soundtrack is clean and clear, pretty much all you could ask.
The supplements start with three commentaries ported from the BCI disc: one with director Danny Steinmann; one with producer John Strong and actors Johnny Venocur and Robert Dryer; and the third with cinematographer Stephen Posey, along with Dryer and actor Sal Landi. Listen to these in their entirety, and you get a fascinating -- and, occasionally, "Rashomon"-like -- portrait of a troubled B-movie production. This disc also features "Vintage Interviews" (that is, ports from the earlier disc) with Strong, Venocur, and Dryer. Also, since this is a Katarina Leigh Waters Scorpion disc, you have the option of watching the film in "Kat Scratch Cinema," which means intros and bits of trivia from Waters.
A second disc contains a whole passle of interviews, some old, some newer, and ones from Dryer and actor Scott Mayer were recorded at Monsterpalooza in 2012. The rest are with Strong, Landi, Venocur, Blair, and Quigley. This is an all-around strong presentation, and the new "definitive" edition.
It's been a while since I've seen a Scorpion disc. This rendering of
Savage Streets is a great reminder as to why they are one of the better
purveyors of low-budget, oft-forgot sleaze and horror.
Review content copyright © 2013 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Scorpion Releasing
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1984
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Kat Skratch Cinema