Wednesday, December 29, 2010

WIP Wednesday: "The Concrete Jungle" (Tom DeSimone, 1982)

I'll admit it. Originally I liked exploitation movies for the same reason most people do. There are some naked chicks, maybe some simulated sex, murder and mayhem. You know Pam Grier is going to take her clothes off. Russ Meyer, even when his films have no nudity (yes, there are some) is going to provide a lot of jiggle. Roger Corman will give you crappy monsters assaulting bimbos. As I have matured (slightly, despite my years) I can see they offer more—at times. One of those times is The Concrete Jungle.

Reform School Girls (1986) was not Tom DeSimone's first WIP film. He also did Prison Girls 3-D (1972) prior to The Concrete Jungle. He also directed a lot of gay porn, so exploitation is his element. This film, despite being chocked full of the necessary exploitation and WIP elements, has a lot going for it. There are certainly shower-room fights, the rapey Guido prison guard, improvised knife fights, and the occasional skimpy outfit. There is the sleazy warden and the HBIC who are on cahoots to keep order and make some drug money on the side. The good girl who went to prison because of her skeevy boyfriend... The difference is in the amount of gratuitous sex and violence. Another modification, at least in my viewing experience, is that the "wise black mama" is portrayed as a Muslim, which is part-and-parcel for prison films where men are the inmates. The big draw is some remarkably good performances by several of the actresses.

One of the great things about exploitation is how directors and producers will effectively use actors and actresses who have passed their prime, as far as mainstream media is concerned. Jill St. John (Diamonds are Forever) plays Warden Fletcher who has teamed with HBIC "Cat" (television veteran, Barbara Luna) to maintain control in the prison through intimidation and drug addiction. Both actresses do an excellent job, and the over-the-top style typical of these films is kept to a minimum. Bad girl "Icy" (June Barret) plays an excellently twitchy junkie enforcer, and has some great scenes. Good girl Elizabeth, aka "Cherry", also gives a good performance as the wrongly accused prisoner who decides she has had enough. Eventually Elizabeth knocks Cat off her pedestal and the warden tries getting her to be the HBIC. Elizabeth wants nothing to do with this plan and with the help of a government oversight agent takes Warden Fletcher out of power.

This is a remarkably good WIP film that deviates from the norm just enough to be acceptable for most viewers. There is a lack of the sleazy lingerie typical of these films. They even go so far as to have Elizabeth sport some rather unflattering sweats through most of it. The girl/girl love is kept to a minimum; there is really just one example to set the tone. The rest is implied. This one is well worth watching, if you can find it. I have an R0 PAL DVD from the UK, but have been unable to find it in the US for standard DVD players. I am sure there is a torrent, but I try avoiding those as much as possible.

They always start with the glove.

A shower is better than a delousing spray.

Jill St. John

Elizabeth, Cat, and the previous HBIC.

"You belong to me, Cherry!"

Man, these prison birthings are so tedious.

"Mazel Tov!"


Obligatory rapey Guido guard.

No one to beat me up anymore.



Lisa said...

Oh, I always thought people watch Exploitation for the exquisite dialogues and the drawn from life storyline. (;

Well, the birth looks more real than it ever does in most big budget Hollywood films.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I have never seen an exploitation film before (unless DOA counts).

Darius Whiteplume said...

@Lisa - There are some gems, but you really have to dig for them. I am learning that the Italians are particularly good at making these films with no substance. Fortunately, DeSimone (an American) does not kid himself about what his films are, but tries to add a little something worthwhile. I am always shocked at how big babies are in movies. I guess it is hard to get a "fresh from the oven" baby. :-)

@The Envoy - Is DOA the "Dead or Alive" with Jaime Pressly and Devon Aoki? That's a hard one to call, but I'd say it has some exploitative elements. Not nearly as much as the game though. :-)

dr.morbius said...

You mean you're watching WIP for their egalitarian casting choices? Next, you'll be telling me that you read Playboy for the articles and go to strip shows for the music! Hah!

By the way, have you seen/written about the Female Convict Scorpion movies?

Darius Whiteplume said...

I have not seen Female Convict Scorpion yet. It is in the queue. I should bump it up a bit.

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