Appellate Judge Tom Becker once had a riot in a bad girls dorm...that's all he's saying.
You want SCUM? You came to the right place.
Thanks to a number of factors—a growing interest in bad movies (thanks largely to the Medved books), widespread use of cheaper video formats to make films, product made Direct-to-Home-Video—the '80s were boom years for bad movies.
But as "Boom" is often followed by "Bust," the bad movies of the '80s were so plentiful, that their badness became routine. Worse, they were often self-consciously bad—cue the fart sounds and puke effects.
So it's kind of a pleasure—albeit, a backhanded one—to find a couple of authentically bad '80s films like the ones served up on Maria's B-Movie Mayhem: Riot on 42nd St./Bad Girls Dormitory. Taken at face value, these are no more than cheap-o exploitation pics, the low-brow silliness that a decade and change before, people were actually paying to see at 42nd St. trash theaters.
But there's a kind of misplaced ambition here, a sincerity, maybe, that makes these films seem like misguided pop artifacts; they have an enduringly bad appeal in the way that early Ed Wood films have an enduringly bad appeal.
Director Tim Kincaid isn't exactly a prominent name in exploitation; but Kincaid made—and still makes—films under another name that's quite recognizable in the gay erotica community: Joe Gage, whose pre-AIDS works like Kansas City Trucking Co. and Heatstroke are considered classics of the genre. Gage films showcased "manly men," beefy, working-class types, usually sporting impressive 'staches…kinda like this guy:
No, that's not a Joe Gage pornstar, that's Glenn Barnes (John Patrick Hayden, The Social Network), the hero of Riot on 42nd St.. Glenn's just done a three-year stretch in the pen and is returning home. "Home," in this case, is actually the family business, a giant, dilapidated theater on 42nd St. run by his aged father.
The real action on 42nd St. is next door to the Barnes' place at The Love Connection, a sleazy drugs and stripper joint owned by the evil Farrell (Michael Speero). Despite his wormy appearance, Farrell is the head cheese on the Deuce; his very name inspires fear, evidently due to his slow-witted but loony musclebound enforcer, Remy (Carl Fury).
For some reason, the sight of the returning Glenn gives Mr. Farrell agita; apparently, he fears that with Glenn back, the Barneses will become competitive with The Love Connection; but a flashback shows us a bunch of stoners sitting glassy-eyed in the Barnes' theater watching a western, a drug dealer cruising the aisles looking to make a sale. Glenn tries to eject the reluctant dealer, resulting in the dealer's death from falling to the floor; thus, Glenn's trip to the pen.
So why is Farrell afraid? Does he think Glenn will score an early print of Mac and Me that will lure the junkies and stoners from Love Connection to watch the heartwarming story of a wheelchair-bound child and a Big Mac? Farrell's taking no chances, so he immediately orders his strippers to become prostitutes, a decision that does not sit well with the topless yet chaste artistes. For good measure, he also orders Remy to take out Barnes, but since the big guy is apparently unable to successfully shoot people at point-blank range, this scheme doesn't work out.
As it turns out, Farrell is prescient: Glenn and a couple of other guys give the theater a make-over and turn it into a club called The Garage. In what seems like a matter of days, the place is ready to go.
Only The Garage isn't anything like The Love Connection. It isn't anything like a dingy, 42nd St. club. It's like the Epcot Center. It has a full-size music venue with a rock band; a full-size performance space, with a comedian; a lounge, with a blues singer; a full-size erotic dancer (not topless) pavilion; a second pavilion for erotic dancers who are topless; and an illegal gambling room frequented by people in suits and evening wear. Why Farrell feels the place is taking his business is yet another mystery. It would be like the owner of a crack den worrying that a newly opened Mohegan Sun was going to siphon off business. The Garage is packed with customers who seem to have bussed in from New Jersey; maybe they swung by this new club on the way back to Port Authority after catching a matinee.
Nonetheless, Farrell is peeved about the new adult Disneyworld and orders up a slaughter. Since, for all his planning, Glenn neglected to hire a security guard, the slaughter goes off without a hitch. But now, there's hell to pay, and that will lead to—yes—a Riot on 42nd St.!
What a loopy film. It seems as though Kincaid/Gage had clear idea of what he wanted, but he executed it in some kind of neon-techno fever dream. Time, space, and logic fly out the window at regular intervals. The machine-gunning of a bunch of middle-aged tourists at The Garage brings out a lone police inspector (played by Jeff Fahey), but when a dozen or so guys tussle, it brings out "the riot squad" (represented here by four guys in a Chevy Impala). The feared kingpin of 42nd St. seems to have an army of three. A narrator pops in and out for no apparent reason to offer up no apparent information. The whole thing ends with an impromptu snow storm, even though everyone's been running around in t-shirts throughout the film. Continuity is headache inducing—in one scene, a character leaves a room and runs up some stairs; in the next scene, she's back in the room.
The acting is all-around dreadful, though Frances Raines (The Mutilator), as Farrell's drunken floozy girlfriend, is pretty funny. Farrell's girl isn't a trooper like Glenn's girl—literally; Glenn's girl is the lovely Michelle (Kate Collins, All My Children), a policewoman turns a blind eye to the illegal goings on and mutters endearments like a zombie.
Then, there's this hard-bitten (but colorful) older woman, Mabel (Pearl Blank), who comes out after the slaughter to deliver a very theatrical monologue on the history of 42nd St. and the Ziegfelds, as though Kincaid found some unused pages from Steven Sondheim's Follies and tossed them in to kill time between shootings.
Add in some shots of the pre-Disney Deuce—including roller bladers who look like they've been skating continuously since the '70s, like a disco Flying Dutchman—dreadful hair and clothing, absurd dialogue, and a frighteningly era-appropriate score, and you've got a must-see trash classic.
The second feature, Bad Girls Dormitory, is no less stupefying.
Kincaid's entry in the enduring Women in Prison genre gives us the New York Female Juvenile Reformatory New York City detention center for young women. The girls are in there for a whole range of offenses, including manslaughter, drug dealing, and of course, conspiracy to commit oral copulation.
The film opens with a suicidal inmate perching on a fire escape, staff members trying to talk her down. She goes down, all right—but her ankles are tied to the fire escape, so when she falls, she crashes face-first into a wall. It's pretty horrifying, but in a Wile E. Coyote/defective Acme Product way.
From there, we get the usual WiP suspects, though with a few sordid twists.
The warden, Miss Madison (Marita) is an icy blond with a hard-to-place accent who spends most of her time trying to maintain order and mangling the English language—"We are trying to find the causes that lead them to anti-shosal acts," she explains to a visiting social worker.
The girls run the gamut from sensitive to psychotic, but good girl or bad, they all like to run around topless. It's certainly a nice diversion, particularly when you get to those moments when you stop and ask yourself: What the hell is this all about?
The staff seems to be on call 24/7; I'm guessing they also live in this place, which was obviously filmed in a variety of slapped-together locations. The staff doctor spends most of his time shooting himself up with Demerol and having sex with the girls—sometimes consensual, sometimes not so much. The staff nurse also takes drugs and has occasional sex with inmates, and one of the guards, Harper—a nod to Caged, perhaps?—likes to engage in ultimate fighting games with deranged inmate Lisa (Jennifer Delora, Frankenhooker).
We get plenty of confusing flashbacks that tell us about the characters and how they ended up in stir. My favorite: A guy gives his girlfriend a gun, and then they have sex; then, he announces that he's passing her around to his buddies. She expresses her disapproval by putting a slug into his chest. Women!
Despite the absence of any exploitative lesbian sex scenes, there are enough exploitative scenes of virtually every other kind to make this a bit skeevier than, say, the average Corman WiP film. There's a riot, of course, and a massacre, terrible dialogue and performances, a techno score, and a guy who looks he styled Jamie Kennedy for Kickin' It Old Skool.
Bad Girls Dormitory is a mess of a movie, but it's so aggressively sordid and ridiculous that, along with Riot on 42nd St., it's kind of a must see.
Riot on 42nd St. sports a reasonable-looking full frame transfer, and Bad Girls Dormitory, a reasonable-looking widescreen one. Both feature acceptable Dolby Mono tracks.
These being Code Red Maria movies, we get intros and outros by former wrestler Maria Kanelis, as well as Maria' music video. The only supplement is the standard Code Red trailer vault. Both these films were released a few years back by Media Blasters; those releases contained some supplements that were not ported over to this release. The good news is that this double feature costs less than the individual copies of the other discs.
Wow, bad movies that are actually worthy of being called "bad movies." It's a little thrilling, actually.
Maria's B-Movie Mayhem: Riot on 42nd St./Bad Girls Dormitory offers up a pair of films that "bad movies"-philes should put at the top of their "must have" lists. They really don't make 'em like this anymore. More's the pity.
Bad, but still not guilty.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice, Bad Girls Dormitory
Perp Profile, Bad Girls Dormitory
Studio: Code Red
Distinguishing Marks, Bad Girls Dormitory
Scales of Justice, Riot On 42nd St.
Perp Profile, Riot On 42nd St.
Studio: Code Red
Distinguishing Marks, Riot On 42nd St.
• Music Video
Review content copyright © 2011 Tom Becker; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.