I spent about an hour today untangling the lines on a kite. Don’t ask.
Don’t drop the soap, Fish
Young Jenny gets caught up in an armed robbery and sentenced to three years at the Pridemore Juvenile Facility. There, she falls under the watchful and sadistic eye of dorm matron Edna and her pet prisoner, the wildcat Charlie. Can Jenny make it to the end of her bit in one piece? Will Edna get what’s coming to her? How long will it be before the first full-frontal shower scene?
Have you ever seen a proper Women In Prison movie? Chained Heat, Bad Girls Dormitory, Bare Behind Bars… any of these ring a bell? Released in 1986, Reform School Girls is writer/director Tom DeSimone taking the piss out of the genre he helped to define (with The Concrete Jungle in 1982). Part homage and part parody – but mostly parody – it hits all the expected story beats but with the absurdity and excess cranked right up to eleven. It’s a lot of fun, but you’ll probably only get the joke if you already know what to expect. DeSimone, who first made a name for himself shooting gay porn movies in the seventies (it’s amazing what you can learn from the IMDb), really understands the campiness inherent in WiP flicks. The humour in this doesn’t come from jokes or visual gags as such, but from the ridiculousness of the concept itself and the fact that everyone onscreen just goes completely overboard at every opportunity.
Amongst the cast, Linda Carol is surprisingly affecting as Jenny, the young girl in over her head on her first offence. The plot, such as it is, revolves completely around her; she’s the only one in fact with any sort of character development or motivation. Psycho teen Charlie is played by Wendy O. Williams, famous at the time as lead singer of The Plasmatics. The fact that she looked every day of her 36 years at the time of filming would normally be an annoyance, but here it’s just one more punchline. B-movie legend (and WiP veteran) Sybil Danning is Warden Sutter, the sociopathic chief of Pridemore. You know where her intentions lie as soon as you see her in the SS-esque black uniform with the mile-wide shoulder pads and matching riding crop. Sutter is aided and abetted by the grotesque matron Edna, played by Pat Ast as a kitten-stomping, fire-hose-wielding, frizzy-haired nightmare. If you’re a connoisseur of the genre, you will already know how the movie is going to end for her.
Technically, the flick is as you would expect. There obviously wasn’t much of a budget but every penny is on the screen, with most of it probably being spent on lingerie. The sets and locations are all suitably dingy and grimy, though it is possible that’s just how they were found. The soundtrack is great though, full of that mid-80s punk and metal that was around LA and New York right before the cock rock of Bon Jovi and Guns N Roses came on the scene. Wendy Williams herself lends her dulcet tones to a handful of songs, including the title track and the closing credits number (written by Gene Simmons and Ace Frehley).
The film has an 18 rating here in the UK, but there’s not as much on-screen violence as you would expect from a WiP and only one (fairly tame) sex scene. There is plenty of nudity though, don’t worry about that. The first group shower scene is after only five minutes in fact.