Friday, November 02, 2012
WINTER OF DISCONTENT: Savage Streets
‘Savage Streets’ is a film so sleazy you could almost be forgiven for thinking that, instead of adding it to the rental list, it had accosted you in some trash-strewn back alley. It’d be wearing a raincoat and puffing on a foul-smelling cheroot. It would have some teeth missing and sport a lot of stubble. Its fingernails would be dirty.
“Hey, buddy,” it’d say, “you wanna see sumthin’ fucked up and nasty?”
As a devotee of the Winter of Discontent season on The Agitation of the Mind, you’d nod and aver that, yes actually, you would.
“Rape/revenge exploitationer,” it’d say, by way of introduction. “Low budget, shot on the streets.”
“Hmmm,” you’d reply, non-committal. “Sounds like it’s been done before.”
“Yeah, but it’s usually some guy who’s out to avenge his wife or girlfriend, amiright? With me, it’s this hot chick in a leather catsuit tracking down the scum who raped her sister. And wait till ya get this! The sister’s a mute – can’t scream for help when they’re putting it to her. How fucked up is that?”
You’d respond that a scenario of that description was pretty fucked up indeed. You might also cast a glance about you to determine available exit routes.
“And then these fucktard scumbags,” it’d continue, snickering a little in a manner that puts you in mind of Muttley by way of Cthulu, “chase down the hot chick’s best friend and toss her off a bridge. Right before she’s due to get married. That’s some nasty shit, right?”
Again, you’d voice agreement that said shit was most certainly of the genus nasty.
“So the hot chick gets herself a crossbow and some bear-traps and it’s fuckin’ payback time. Know what I mean? Eh?” It would cough and expectorate into the gutter at this point, then turn its attention back to you, grinning dementedly. “Hey buddy, here’s the best part. The hot chick, yeah? The one in the leather catsuit? She’s played by Linda Blair. Y’know, the chick from ‘The Exorcist’. But she’s all grown up in this one. You know what I mean, buddy?”
You’d indicate that you did indeed comprehend the insinuation. You are, after all, both men of the world. The movie would open its raincoat – you’d raise an eyebrow that it was a VHS – and give you a flash of some lurid cover art …
… and you’d be sold. Linda Blair … exploitation flick … crossbow … bear-traps. You’d hail a cab and take it home with you and hope the neighbours didn’t notice. You’d hook up the old video player again and slide it in. You’d draw the blinds and crack open a beer. An hour and a half later you’d find yourself with mixed feelings, the only unambiguous one being that you’re in dire need of a shower.
‘Savage Streets’ ticks a fuckload of exploitation boxes – rival gangs, drugs, rape, murder, switchblades, crossbows, fast cars, nudity, rock ‘n’ roll – and there’s barely a frame of it that doesn’t ooze seediness. But for every genuinely nasty scene, there’s an unintentionally hilarious one. And for every five minutes of tense cat ‘n’ mouse or vicious revenge, there’s half an hour of tedium.
Let’s break down our raincoated friend’s selling point by way of example: this is a movie where the rape of her sister and the murder of her best friend motivate teenage girl gang leader Brenda (Blair) to embark on an orgy of violence. It clocks in at 93 minutes. The rape (crassly intercut with a shower room bitch fight between Brenda and her cheerleader rival) happens about half an hour into the film. The best friend’s murder occurs just shy of the hour mark. Brenda’s vengeful rampage lasts approximately 15 minutes. Using the formula a + b / c = x, where a is the time it takes to establish Brenda’s primary motivation for revenge, b is the time it takes to establish Brenda’s tertiary motivation for revenge and c is the duration of actual catharsis, you can discover the value of x (the ratio of fast-forwarding to running time).
For those viewers disinclined to approach ‘Savage Streets’ as a maths problem, it also serves as a time capsule from an age where fashion descended into a cocaine-fuelled absence of self-consciousness and the ozone layer was irreversibly punctured by the combined output of every teenager in the western world blasting industrial quantities of hairspray over their follicles. As reprehensible a movie as it is, arguably the most disturbing facet of ‘Savage Streets’ is its parade of mullets. I kid you not. Every freakin’ character sports the kind of bouffant ’do that makes Jon Bon Jovi circa ‘Slippery When Wet’ look like a shaven-headed thug.
And speaking of time capsule, ‘Savage Streets’ also gives us Linda Blair at twenty-five playing seventeen and looking all of twelve in the scenes where she’s meant to be at her angriest and most predatory. There’s something uncomfortable about watching an actress who looks so young strutting so much cleavage. And speaking of cleavage, Linnea Quigley – who I recall as being pneumatic in such erudite fare as ‘Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-a-Rama’ and ‘Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers’ – seems positively flat-chested here.
There are entire screeds to be written on ‘Savage Streets’ – why it’s so scuzzy, why it has such longueurs, the precise nature of that interminable scene in the English Literature class, why John Vernon agreed to appear (my guess is gambling debts, although there’s always the possibility that he did it to win a dare) – but this isn’t the time. There’s a grubby VHS in a raincoat smoking on your sofa, getting ash everywhere and eyeing up your DVD of ‘Thriller – A Cruel Picture’. It knows you’ve got more beer in the fridge and it has designs on making itself at home. Spark its next stoogie, give it a can of something cheap and nasty, and kick it the hell out. Send it to chez Agitation; that sick li’l puppy’ll get a thousand words out of it.