When Wendy O. Williams gives you an order, you had best hop to, and do it without the lip. Equal parts Tina Turner, Marianne Faithfull, and Lemmy Kilmister, the vocalist for The Plasmatics was one of those people we tend to describe as “not giving a fuck.” Brazen and uncommonly charismatic, she possessed the wit of David Johansen, and sort of sounded like him too. Then there’s that mug.
But this article isn’t about her music, its about her acting; which, while not as accomplished as say, Meryl Streep, was in its own way just as magnetic. In 1986, Williams was in Reform School Girls, a barely satirical B-Movie send-up of women’s prison flicks that I first got into when I was a 13 year-old pubescent, and had no business watching such things. The USA Network used to run a feature called Up All Night with Rhonda Shear, a show in which the comely Ms. Shear would dress like a hoodrat, and show frustratingly censored versions of movies that had a lot of sex in them. You see children, back in 1990, if you wanted to have fun with yourself, you couldn’t just find a bathroom stall, reach for your Android and lust, no no. There were logistics to consider, because you had to somehow be in the living room at 1:00 AM, TV on at a volume loud enough to hear, and complete the mission without waking anyone up. And all the while, basic cable prevented you from seeing the best parts. Life was tough man. (After I grew up, I saw the theatrical version, and life got better.)
I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve not truly made fun of this movie yet. And that’s because I agonized, (or more accurately, thought for a few minutes about), whether or not to even include this title in the series. It’s not a true “Avoidable”, because it’s a movie I’d recommend to anyone who felt like a good time. Its admittance however, is justified, because despite its curative powers for flowering young men, it remains a really shitty movie in every other possible way. The acting is laughable, the direction is non-existent, and whatever plot exists is only the lurid fantasy of infantile men who believe ladies fight naked. But as horrendous and inept as the movie can be in nearly every scene, whether you’re watching it with friends or your lonely self, you’ll have a million laughs.
Here’s the story: Jenny, (Linda Carol), is a juvenile delinquent who gets sent to a filthy school/prison where many of the inmates gaily prance about all day in their underwear. She finds out quickly that the all-female management delights in sadistic sexual games and blackmail, when she’s forced to endure group fire-hose showers and cavity searches. Warden Sutter, (Sybil Danning), runs the place with iron elbow gloves, seemingly without the oversight of any effective governing body, making the girls labor for hours on chain gangs, and feeding them gruel.
Charlie, (Williams), however, as well as her gang, have it pretty good, as Charlie is a feared shot-caller, with all of the other inmates paying homage. Jenny wars with Charlie over the protection of Lisa, (Sherri Stoner), an innocent kid who hides kittens in her dorm, and is ripe for corruption. Edna, (Pat Ast), is the Warden’s assistant, and her oversight of the girls consists of the above-mentioned abuse and head games. Charlie’s gang’s privileges come from Charlie’s nightly oral pleasuring of Edna, which happily takes place offscreen. After enough turmoil and debasement of the girls, Jenny at last convinces Charlie that they’re all in this together, the two lead a violent riot to take over the school, and Edna and Sutter finally are given proper brutish justice.
Like any movie in this series, its often not the threadbare story that makes it unbearable to sit through. In this case, the movie can even be called fun to sit through, not only for all the flesh on display, but its lively screenplay full of purple Edna dialogue like: “You’re just a shit stain on the panties of life!”, or “Keep your fingers above the sheets, we only change em’ once a week!”. Am I incredibly unsophisticated for thinking this stuff is funny? I am.
But it’s difficult to overcome my joy when I hear these lines, especially in the context of Pat Ast’s ostentatious performance. A large woman, she blusters like a pro wrestler, never being nice to anyone, even once. I don’t know if she was doing Hamlet in her spare time, but this is one she is likely both proud of and self-loathing about. I hope it’s still on her resume`.
Then there is Williams. Crowding 40 years old while portraying a teenager, she struts through the film never wearing no more than a half-shirt and panties while snarling all of her lines, including the title of this article. That particularly choice gem comes in the legendary scene where her gang has the virginal Lisa pinned down in the shower room. After the panties are ripped off, she grabs poor Lisa by the face and lets her know that men are never necessary. Gauche, and entirely lacking in nuance, this is almost Eisenhower-era Right Wing propaganda disguised as whacking material. And I haven’t even mentioned Sybil Danning’s jackbooted warden, outfitted in Eichmann’s dress blacks.
If you hear my defense of this movie, and decide that you never want to read anything I write ever again because I’m an unprincipled philistine, that is more than OK. I have no right to like this pile of dung because it’s ineptly made in almost every facet. But when you compare the ineptitude of a movie like this against a big shit studio project with major financial backing, you have to admit that there’s something charming in here. Well, you don’t have to, but it would be swell if you did.
If you don’t want to kill me, please return next week as we cover one of our founder’s all-time favorites…Howard The Duck!