Reform School Girls

Browsing on YouTube for eighties films I chanced upon this and chose it because it had the name Wendy O. Williams attached to it. She was of course the vocalist for the Plasmatics, a band I got into a while back.

The story is about a teenager busted for a crime she unwillingly took part in (a shootout between her boyfriend and a security guard), and she is sent off to reform school. The school turns out to be run by a mean and unhinged ward head, and a nazi-like reform school warden. The school is populated by bad girls, mostly wearing designer lingerie and sporting very 80’s hairstyles.

Wendy plays a bully who is also best buds with the ward head, Edna. Together they terrorise the new girl and her fellow new inmates. The story follows pretty much any other story of this type: the girls rebel against the oppressive regime, fight the bully, a kind-hearted doctor at the school tries to expose the goings-on at the school but fails. But after the suicide of one of the girls, all of the girls go berzerb and trash the place then march on the warden. Edna totally flips and goes on a shotgun rampage then dies after climbing up a tower (while blasting away with the shotgun), which caught fire after Wendy drove a bus into the tower, causing an explosion and fire, and she fell to a flaming/screaming death.

Williams, the warden, ward head “Edna”.

It all sounds rather fun, but for the most part it just played out like a bad 80’s action flick, but with scantily-clad females and of course a nude shower scene or two. Reading about it on the Interwebs I see that the director actually intended this film to be a spoof of two of his own earlier “women-in-prison” films which he was not pleased with. It didn’t really feel like a spoof, it mostly played out quite straight except for Edna who was playing her part way over the top.

Still, it was kind of fun to watch, mostly because of Edna and Wendy. I suspect Wendy was pretty much playing her on-stage self, when she yelled angrily in one scene you could hear the angry singer of the Plasmatics.

Some trivia from IMDB:
Wendy O. Williams refused to wear any outfits that weren’t her own for the film. She also refused to take off her boots and even wears her boots in the shower scenes.

Wendy O. Williams would come to work and do 200 sit-ups before coming onto the set.

Director ‘Tom DeSimone’ has stated that actress Pat Ast could be a headache on set as he would have to feed her lines, and in one scene in particular she refused to walk because the ground was too soft.

This documentary about Wendy, while not well made, was interesting.

Date watched: November 30th
Score: 5/10
Film count 2018: 79

Krull

The opening shot of the huge evil mountain spaceship making a slow pass across the screen on it’s way to conquering the planet of Krull seemed quite promising, it was quite impressive. But, as it would turn out it was also the best thing about the whole film.

This adventure fantasy film was made in 1983, the same year Return of the Jedi came out. It was also the most expensive film of the year with a budget of 47 big ones, compared to 42 big ones for Jedi. It was a flop though, and it is not hard to see why.

The main problem was the story which was very dull, even the action sequences were tedious and lacking. Some things happened on screen without explanation, and scenes which would have required actors to act surprised, shocked, or otherwise were just met with looks of boredom or not knowing what is going on. One such scene is where we are introduced to the comedy relief, a magician who suddenly appears by flying into the scene as a fireball, landing into a pond. The two main characters who were taking a rest next to the pond just looked on as if they were waiting for a bus, not even any dialogue such as “What the flippin’ heck was that?!”, or “Bajeezas!”.

The acting was adequate and included fine actors such as a young Liam Neeson and equally young Robbie Coltrane. All of the cast were British in fact, except for the hero dude who was an American, of course. The lead female (one of only two women in the film) was British but the producers decided her voice should be completely dubbed over with an American voice…sheesh! Robbie Coltrane’s voice was also dubbed, but by a fellow Brit actor for some reason.

“Time to save the day!”. “Careful dear, you might cut yourself!”.

It would appear that most of that 47 million went towards the elaborate sets and the filming locations (Italy mostly). The set in the photo below in particular was quite impressive, but was only used for a very brief part of the film.

Made on the 007 sound stage at Pinewood studios.

The interior sets too were pretty fancy. Twenty-three sets were made in all.

The director was Peter Yates who also directed Bullitt.

This is now considered a cult classic, but I really can’t see why. I wouldn’t say this is a disaster, but it should have been a whole lot better.

Date watched: November 30th
Score: 4/10
Film count 2018: 78

Better Off Dead

I thought this 1980’s teen comedy might be fun to watch, but it wasn’t at all.

John Cusack plays a teenager (John was 19 at the time) who loses his girlfriend to the high school ski team captain, and he attempts to get her back. Along the way he meets a French exchange student and by the end of the film he is no longer interested in his ex but in the French girl instead, of course.

Also in the story is David Ogden Stiers (he died this year), Curtis Armstrong (Booger from Revenge of the Nerds), and a cast of mostly unknown but at least decent actors.

Roy Stalin (ski captain), Charles De Mar (Booger), ex-girlfriend, and Lane Myer (Cusack).
Davod Ogden Stiers and Kim Darby (she played the girl in the original True Grit film).

The jokes were mostly very silly, very much only jokes that teens in the eighties would enjoy…today’s teens would probably not even watch this film. The actors though did the best they could, and towards the end of the film the French girl fixed up John’s Chevy Camaro which was a real nice car, so that kept my attention while it was on screen.

French girl, John, Camaro.

Also of interest was when I realised that Curtis Armstrong did the voice of Scooter on Terrible Thunderlizards, and old fave cartoon series, he sounded exactly as he did in the cartoon, especially in this scene. Savage Steve Holland who directed this film also created, directed, and voiced the character Doc (Doc is the character on the left, Jason Priestley’s “Squat” character on the right) in Terrible Thunderlizards. And I just learned that Jason Priestley also voiced a character on that show.

So as a film it was not much at all, but I imagine for many it is a piece of eighties teen comedy nostalgia. I did enjoy researching this one though, there is a lot going on in the background of this film, this site has some juicy facts.

Something you may not know about John Cusack is that he was a kickboxer. From Wikipedia: He trained in kickboxing under former world kickboxing champion Benny Urquidez for over two decades. He began training under Urquidez in preparation for his role in Say Anything… and holds the rank of a level six black belt in Urquidez’s Ukidokan Kickboxing system.

I will continue with eighties films though, I have Krull lined up next.

Date watched: November 25th
Score: 3/10
Film count 2018: 77

One Down, Two To Go

This is the other Jim Brown film I mentioned I had lined up to watch in a previous blog post. As it turns out, this is actually another Fred Williamson film, he both starred and directed this quite terrible film.

It starts out well though with a karate tournament that actually turned out to be real. From IMDB:
The fights that take place during the fictitious martial arts tournament that open the film, were in fact actually real and not staged. Fred Williamson had organized it so that the fights would look authentic and the winner of each fight got paid five hundred dollars and with the loser getting one hundred dollars.

The story was about a rigged karate tournament, with Jim and Fred trying to find out where $400,000 in missing prize money went. Their buddy was a karate coach who got ripped off, then shot by the fight’s promoter’s thugs.

Unfortunately everything after that opening scene it was tedious watching. Some scenes were unnecessarily long, especially those involving Fred and Jim such as one scene where they get out of a car and walk somewhere all with no dialogue and some funky (but not very good) music playing. Another scene had Jim Brown very slowly walking up stairs with his gun, ready to shoot anything that moves, but all we saw was him creeping up the stairs, get to the top, open a door and move inside, slowly. There was then a cut to another scene, which then cut back to Jim, but the mood was lost by then.

The story was muddled and confusing at times, but it didn’t really matter, all we needed to know was when Jim and Fred were going to shoot someone or something, which they did with gay abandon. Unfortunately, they spent more time just walking about.

The main characters were carrying around big Magnums, similar to Dirty Harry’s, and despite all the shooting they did they did not reload once, that is the main thing I will temporarily remember about this film, and that it was quite bad.

It of course ended with a comical scene involving Jim, Fred, and Richard Roundtree in hospital beds after the final gun battle. Their boss tells them there is a telex for them from Japan asking for their “assistance”. They start complaining about it, and the film ends with a free-frame of a cigar-chomping mutt that was sitting nearby.

Fred though did have a good reason for making this film. From IMDB:
One of the major reasons Writer/Director Fred Williamson decided to make the film besides the down time between projects was because he wanted to give Jim Brown, Jim Kelly and Richard Roundtree work. He stated that besides doing a sequel to Three The Hard Way, that Brown, Kelly and Roundtree were not given the work they should’ve been getting in Hollywood at the time and deserved better.

So good on you Freddo!

But, this is just not worth watching at all.

However, I am continuing my blaxploitation film-fest with another film called “The Black Six” which has the taglines: “See the 6 biggest, baddest and best waste 150 motorcycle dudes!” and “Six Times Tougher Than ‘Shaft’! Six Times Rougher Than ‘Superfly’!”. Sounds promising!

Date watched: October 19th
Score: 1/10
So-bad-it’s-good score: 1/10
Film count 2018: 66

Made In Britain

Straight after watching Meantime I just had to watch this, a 1982 television play starring Tim Roth in his first role.

Like Meantime it has no real story, it just follows Tim Roth’s 16 year-old skinhead character “Trevor” as he is charged in court on various charges and is sent to a youth detention centre. A youth worker can see that he is intelligent and tries to get him to go straight, but Trevor seems basically resigned to a life of hate and self-destruction.

Tim is absolutely brilliant in this, and the contrast between his characters in this and Meantime show what an excellent and underrated actor he is. The very last scene where you see a crazed look on his face after being beaten by a cop was powerful stuff, and it summed up the character and his future well.

This is part of a series of four films written by David Leland about the British educational system, so I will try to watch the others if I can find them.

Seeing both Tim Roth and Gary Oldman together in a film (Meantime) reminded me of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, another excellent film that I must watch again, probably next actually.

Date watched: August 25th
Score: 10/10
Film count 2018: 56

Distant Voices, Still Lives

This is a fantastic 1988 British drama film set in 1940’s and 1950’s Liverpool.

The story follows a working class family headed by an angry and abusive father (played by the excellent Pete Postlethwaite), his wife, and three children.

The film is split into two parts, with the first part called “Distant Voices” and the second “Still Lives”. Each part jumps around in the past, present, and future, and does it quite well, although some may find it confusing.

A central part of the story, apart from being about a family that has to deal with a difficult father, is singing. Most of the cast are singing at some point, or are all singing together at home, or together down at the pub with their friends. This is pre-rock ‘n’ roll, so the songs are old-timey. The film’s timeline ended probably just on the cusp of the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, and I was actually expecting to hear Bill Haley or Fats Domino at the end. Some of the actors and actresses were very good singers.

Everything about this is superbness, and I find it hard to criticise it in any way. Some may find this to be a bit depressing, especially the scenes involving the father who is mostly in a bad mood, and what his suffering wife has to go through. But, I found it to be beautiful and unforgettable.

Date watched: August 19th
Score: 10/10
Film count 2018: 53

The Empire Strikes Back

In preparation for Solo, James and I watched half of this this last night, and the other half today after we got back from Solo.

I have reviewed this a few times before, so I won’t go into it much. What I will say though is that there are several references in Solo to this film, nothing major but I like how the Star Wars films do that, it makes you feel like a real geeky fan when you can pick things up that Muggles won’t.

I am undecided whether I like this or Episode 4 better, so for now I will just call it a draw.

Date watched: July 16th
Score: 9.5/10
Film count 2018: 44