1984, Danny Steinmann
I know what you’re saying, “But the kids have really vicious horror movies these days. A lot more horrible than in our time”. I say “yes and no”. The level of violence depicted in cinema is possibly more excessive than in, say, my youth. But it’s all CGI blood and violence and it looks so video-gamey and sterile that ‘nu-horror’ movies have marginally less impact than a Roadrunner cartoon. I’m not saying gore effects didn’t look hokey back in the BC (before CGI), but at least they looked dirty. And when movies were supposed to be nasty, they felt nasty, like something you weren’t supposed to be watching, and might give you tetanus if you touched the screen.
Such a dirty, nasty movie is Savage Streets. Made back in they 1980s and featuring the music of Australian singer and scourge, John Farnham, this movie still holds up as a genuine nasty to this day. And not just because of its soundtrack. Savage Streets tells the story of Brenda, played by Linda Blair (notorious for her starring role in The Exorcist and her drug abuse throughout the following decade). Brenda is the alpha of girl gang, the Satins, as well as the protector of her deaf younger sister, Heather, who happens to be played by B-movie legend, Linnea Quigley. Brenda and the Satins end up running afoul of the all male, drug-dealing punk gang, the Scars, and then things get bad for all involved.
I originally owned the Australian VHS tape of Savage Streets, featuring the tagline “They raped her sister and killed her best friend” and, well, that pretty much explains what the Scars do in this film, amongst other atrocities. So when I say that things get bad for all involved you can understand how. Being that this movie is of the rape/revenge genre, you can obviously tell how it plays out. Now back on the old heavily censored 1980s VHS tape, from a time when Australian censors felt fit to take to movies with a hatchet, this movie still felt like quite the nasty pastie. Re-watching Savage Streets on the uncensored, extra-features heavy DVD release from Arrow it is exceptionally nasty.
My main gripe, and it is not just with Savage Streets, but with most rape/revenge films, is that the revenge feels too pissweak in comparison to the hardship dealt by the villains. It feels like far more camera time is spent on Linnea Quigley’s highly unpleasant rape scene than Brenda’s dispatching of the villains and that is almost always the case with these movies. I’d really like to see the villains get a satisfying comeuppance after having to sit through two acts of them running amok. But maybe that’s just me. Still, Savage Streets remains a much grimier film than the kinds of things the Saw generation are watching, maybe in part due to its budget and because it comes from the 1980s, when life was cheap. This movie really sweats sleaze out of all its pores. The director, Danny Steinmann, went on to direct Friday the 13th Part: V in 1985 and according to imdb.com hasn’t directed a movie since. Also, as I was writing this, I got the old VHS tape out to scan the cover and realised in the blurb they call Linda Blair’s character Francine. While Francine is the the name of one of the characters in Savage Streets, it is certainly not the name of the protagonist. For some reason that makes me like the video cover even more.