Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Reform School Girls (Tom DeSimone, 1986)

I might make some enemies here, but I am going to jump out and say it: Reform School Girls is the best WIP film of all time. Scoff if you must, but WIP is the most stringently formulaic genre of film*, and Tom DeSimone, while not including all the formulaic elements, never strays. Here is what we have:
  • A good girl, Jenny (Linda Carrol), who is imprisoned because of her neer-do-well boyfriend's crime.
  • A HBIC, Charlie (Wendy O. Williams), who takes an immediate disliking to the good girl.
  • A sadistic head matron, Edna (Pat Ast), who favors the HBIC.
  • An evil warden, Sutter (Sybil Danning), who is covering up her institution's less-than-legal procedures. Also is always in fascist-styled attire.
  • A doctor who has taken up the cause of the good girl, and falls afoul of the warden.
  • Rival gangs.
  • Shower room fights.
  • Negligible clothing.
  • Man from outside who sells out the good girl for a piece of ass.
  • The big break out scene.
  • HBIC joins the good girl in bringing down the warden.
It may miss on some of the more violent elements, but there is nothing you could say does not belong in a WIP classic. I'd tell you the story, but really, this one is so true to the formula that the list above is the story. That, I contend, is what makes this the crown jewel of WIP cinema.

Now, in truth, Reform School Girls is often called a parody of the genre. There is some truth to that. It has some humorous elements. Pat Ast and Wendy O. Williams are so over-the-top that even at their most serious they inspire laughter. Pat Ast is like a rhinoceros in drag, barreling through scenes and behaving like Divine. Wendy O. Williams' Charlie is malevolent in a near-cartoonish fashion. The acting, in general, recalls your typical Russ Meyer film. The tag-line "So young. So bad. So what?" screams parody. DeSimone is also an odd writer/director for the film. His previous work includes such titles as Bi-Coastal, Bi Bi Love, Gay Guide to Hawaii, and Heavy Truckin'. I think we can tell where his normal interests lay (of course, John Waters might say that exploitation and gay-porn are typically of the same basic style**). The women typically wear garish lingerie throughout (the best kind), and there is a high-camp element to the proceedings that hints at parody.

If you are a WIP newbie, and want a good safe starting point that covers all the bases, Reform School Girls is your film. It is most everything a WIP should be, but without the gross-out pandering of its progenitors.

The new girls cause trouble in the dorm.

Pat Ast as Edna, the Head Matron.

"Time to put on your ‘fuck you’ boots and start kicking!"

* In discussing Death Proof as a slasher film, Quentin Tarantino says the only genre more formulaic than the Slasher is the WIP.
** I do not know where to attribute Waters' remark, but he did say in a television show (I Love the '70s perhaps) that Angel (Alaina Capri) in Russ Meyers' Good Morning... and Good Bye! displays many gay porn qualities. Particularly when she goes to the construction site, honks her horn, and waits for her stud to come running.


Thomas Pluck said...

Ah, this is one of my '80s favorites. So tawdry and funny. It manages the perfect balance, and has great music too. Unless I'm confusing it with Return of the Living Dead's awesome soundtrack. That was the other spankity spank movie on HBO during that time.

You got branding, kitten stomping, Wendy O riding a schoolbus like a bronco, toting a shotgun... and the crazy nurse yelling "TOTAL CONTROL!!!" as she goes totally nuts. What's not to love?

Darius Whiteplume said...

I completely forgot the kitteh stomping. I don't remember it being too graphic though.

I love that Wendy O was probably about 37 when she made this, but no one questions why she is in a home for juvenile offenders :-D

Both this and RotLD had great music, in a B-Movie metal sort of way ;-)

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