Wednesday, September 24, 2008

An Eye For An Eye

Who would have ever believed SAVAGE STREETS would receive a remastered DVD release, a 2-disc special edition, no less, with three commentary tracks? BCI certainly deserves a lot of thanks for this project, which demonstrates class and care right down to the packaging, which includes various poster art and different stills on the box and on the slipcover.

Next to CHAINED HEAT, SAVAGE STREETS is probably the best of Linda Blair's '80s exploitation movies. It's a sick and brutal revenge drama starring the 25-year-old Oscar-nominated actress (THE EXORCIST, of course) as high school delinquent Brenda, leader of a nice girl gang called the Satins. Brenda smokes, curses and gets into fights with a bitchy cheerleader, but she's really a good kid inside, and dotes on her deaf-mute little sister Heather (future scream queen Linnea Quigley, a year older than Blair). The school's other gang is the Scars, a quartet of dope-dealing thugs led by Jake (Robert Dryer), who wears a razor blade as an earring. After the Scars rape Heather and leave her lying in a coma on the bathroom floor in retaliation for the Satins stealing their convertible, Brenda arms herself with a crossbow, and takes to the streets for revenge.

Although basically just another DEATH WISH clone--albeit a sleazier, rougher one--writer/director Danny Steinmann (FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING) aims higher, fleshing out the sisters' warm relationship, giving one of the Scars a guilt complex, and adding scenes between Brenda and her mother and Brenda and a sympathetic English teacher. What we're really interested in, though, is the sleaze factor, and it's pretty high. The crude yet quotable dialogue is frequently hilarious ("Go f#*k an iceberg!"), and the bloody, fiery climax is a crowd-pleaser.

Dryer is a repulsive, convincing psycho, and, although Blair is miscast as a street tough, she's an eye-boggling sight in her opening scene tube-top and handles the wiseass action scenes fine. John Vernon (who also appeared with Blair in CHAINED HEAT) has very little screen time (he worked just one day on the picture), but nearly steals the film as a foul-mouthed, pissed-off principal. Also with Sal Landi, Johnny Venocur, Debra Blee of THE BEACH GIRLS (Steinmann remains haunted by her refusal to pop her top), Lisa Freeman and Rebecca Perle (who played a sympathetic hooker in TIGHTROPE).

As I mentioned, BCI has included three different commentary tracks, but the first one I listened to involves the film's director. Steinmann, who was prominently absent from Code Red's recent THE UNSEEN 2-disc set, is something of a mysterious cult figure, based on his relatively small output (just four genre films, one of a pornographic nature) and the fact that he seemed to have disappeared for a long time. It turns out he has been living in Europe for more than a decade, and has only recently learned that a significant audience has built around his movies.

Michael Felsher, who moderates the commentary, gets a real kick out of Steinmann, who is candid and often funny. Surprisingly, he's watching SAVAGE STREETS for the first time, since (as with THE UNSEEN, from which he was fired during the editing process) he left the picture during post-production and was not involved in the scoring or even some reshoots. Considering he joined the production less than one day before shooting began (replacing the unmentioned Tom DeSimone, who was working from a screenplay by his CHATTERBOX writer Norman Yonemoto), it's a wonder Steinmann recalls anything about the film at all.

Thankfully, Felsher takes the opportunity to ask Steinmann about his other projects, which is nice, as it's unlikely Paramount will ever ask him to do a F13 PART V commentary. Although the director appears a bit preoccupied by the breasts on his female cast members, the track is informative and memorable. I haven't had the chance to hear the other two tracks yet, but it'll be difficult for them to live up to the first.

What's really funny is hearing Steinmann rip the "asshole" producer who took over the movie during shooting when the original financiers fell through, and then see said producer, John Strong, in an on-camera interview say how much he loves Steinmann and what good friends they are. BCI provides interview segments with Strong, Dryer, cast member Johnny Venocur, Quigley and Blair, which are okay. An original SAVAGE STREETS trailer, which is long and gives away a lot, is included, as well as a red-band trailer for FINAL EXAM, also coming from BCI.

1 comment:

Neil Sarver said...

I love this movie much more than it deserves. I actually just watched a crappy DVR version a month or two back, but I'm excited about the fact that I'll be able to watch the commentaries, and check out a good looking print while I do.