WOMEN IN PRISON MOVIES

REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS

reformschooldvd

It’s #throwbackthursday so I thought I’d review this classic film from 1986. Directed by Tom DeSimone, who co-wrote it with Jack Cummins and Daniel Arthur Wray, I’ve occasionally seen this film described as a “parody” of 70’s and 80’s Women In Prison films, but I think that may be giving the writers more credit than they deserve. This may look like a parody, but I’m not so sure this was intended, I think it was meant to be serious.

Linda Carol stars as Jenny, a girl who one night is tricked into joining her boyfriend when he robs someplace and gets into a shootout with a security card in which both he and the guard end up dead. Jenny is arrested and sentenced by a judge to spend the next three years in a Juvenile Detention Center for girls.

Now right here I feel that this an important distinction to make for the purposes of this film, as no actual ages are ever referenced. If Lisa is being held for three years, until she is no longer a juvenile, then that should make her 15 in this film (according to IMDB actress Linda Carole was born in 1970, making her 16 at the time of this film, which seems odd that she was allowed to do full nudity in it). That makes many of the events of this film seem more perverted than your typical Women In Prison film, because all the girls are supposed to be teenagers.

Jenny is taken to the center along with Lisa (Sherri Stoner), a shy runaway, and Nicky (Laurie Schwartz) a tough girl whose been in the center before. They’re all strip-searched (showing everything), take a shower, and then are sent to a large room where all the girls sleep on bunk-beds. And even though they’re given identical bland uniforms to wear, in the bedroom the girls all lounge around in lingerie. This is the site that greets them as they first walk in the door.

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Remember, these are supposed to be teenagers.

Jenny immediately runs afoul of Charlie (played by Wendy O. Williams, who was 37 at the time), a bad girl who bullies most of the rest of the girls, along with her gang of girls. Although most of the girls are scared Charlie, Jenny never backs down. Along with Lisa an Nicky her only other allies are Paula (Andrea Darnell) and Claudia (Denise Gordy), the only two Black girls in their part of the center. Pat Ast plays Edna, the woman who runs the center with an iron fist. She’s openly corrupt, showing favoritism to Charlie and her gang (it’s implied that there’s a lesbian relationship going on between them), while taking delight in punishing Jenny and Lisa and the other girls.

The rest of the film is a pretty typical storyline for a Women In Prison film (even though they’re girls, not women, and this isn’t technically a prison). Fights, attempted lesbian rape, guards brutally punishing the girls. And lots of and lots of gratuitous female nudity. Notable scenes include when Charlie and her gang hold Lisa down on the bathroom floor, strip off her clothes and a burn a zero (the sign of Charlie’s gang) onto her ass, and Jenny has a love scene where she has sex with a guy in the back of his truck in exchange for him helping her escape, but he double-crosses her and turns her in. And there’s a scene where Edna forces Jenny to strip and then sprays her with a high-pressure water hose. It all leads to a riot that breaks out after a main character dies which ends the film in an explosive finale.

Sybil Danning plays “the warden” of the center, who dresses like a Nazi dominatrix, but is mostly wasted in this role, which isn’t as significant as it should be. Charlotte McGinnis plays a counselor at the center, who is the only decent adult in this film who actually tries to help the girls and expose Edna’s deeds.

Linda Carol is excellent in the lead role, showing vulnerability and defiance when necessary, as is Sherri Stoner. And Wendy O. Williams (a punk rock singer who committed suicide when she was 48) is  delightfully evil.

Chacebook rating: FOUR STARS

available on Amazon

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