Genre: Crime Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min.
Release Date: October 5th, 1984 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Danny Steinmann Actors: Linda Blair, John Vernon, Robert Dryer, Johnny Venocur, Sal Landi, Scott Mayer, Debra Blee, Lisa Freeman, Marcia Karr, Luisa Leschin, Linnea Quigley, Ina Romeo
s if to reinforce the notion that bad kids can corrupt even the most wholesome student, teenaged Vince (Johnny Venocur, in the guilty-by-association role) promises his father that he’ll obey his curfew – only to ditch his respectable clothing at the end of the driveway and hop into a car with three miscreants, wearing bandanas, black leather jackets, gothic makeup, chains dangling from their belts, and even a razor blade fashioned into an earring. This smoking, drinking, drug-dealing (and drug-taking) foursome, known as “The Scars,” and led by Jake (Robert Dryer), is matched by a girl gang, led by Brenda (Linda Blair) – though they’re much less criminalistic. Whereas the men assault buyers and sexually molest random girls, the women are content with cursing, flipping through Playgirl magazines, and stealing convertibles.
When Brenda’s group absconds with Jake’s ride, he’s infuriated – to the point that he wants bloody revenge. The next day in school, the Scars spy Heather (Linnea Quigley), Brenda’s deaf and mute sister, heading toward the gymnasium. As the other students hit the showers, Jake’s goons sneak up to Heather, cornering her on the basketball court. After they drag her into the bathroom and gang rape her (mirroring a sequence in “Death Wish” and “I Spit On Your Grave”), Heather decides to take the law into her own hands – by hunting down and exacting brutal retribution on the perpetrators.
“Savage Streets” doesn’t attempt to hide its exploitation intentions. Within the first few minutes, a woman’s top is pulled down and her breasts fondled; a girls’ locker room scene features full frontal nudity; and two girls face off in the showers in a wet t-shirt catfight. Even in the confines of the school, rebellion runs rampant – Principal Underwood (John Vernon) can’t control the students, who smoke in front of him and even spit on his shoes. And none of the other teachers have much luck with order or discipline. These are indeed some savage streets – and they steadily become more and more violent.
Brief bits of comedy supplement the viciousness, as well as asides for discussions on poetry and the reproductive system – which devolve into a mockery of education and additional brawls in the middle of the classroom, culminating in more exposed bosoms. Other subplots involve jealous spats between Brenda and bully Cindy (Rebecca Perle) over air-headed jock Wes (Brian Mann), along with Francine’s (Lisa Freeman) upcoming wedding, though these are overshadowed by Jake’s plans to continue harassing Brenda’s friends – actions that quickly transform into murder. Although realism isn’t one of “Savage Streets'” strong points, it would have made more sense if these various instigators were at least college age.
Fortunately, there are some amusing moments when Brenda’s revenge schemes finally begin (though even these initiate with a senseless nude scene in a tub). Thanks to some obvious foreshadowing at the start (namely when the girl gang passes by a shop window featuring a hunting bow and a bear trap), her rampage utilizes slasher film tactics, justifiable taunting, and a touch of bloodletting – though it’s rarely severe and some of it takes place offscreen. The climax boasts vigilantism fantasy and the slow-stalking killer chasing after the lone girl, which ultimately belongs in a different movie, yet Blair still manages to become a cinematic heroine (a formidable woman in the midst of a misogynistic jumble).
– Mike Massie