“You’re just a shit-stain on the panties of life.”
Now these are the kinds of ’80s movies I truly miss; over the top exploitation films that would go direct to video today. The “caged women in heat” concept, played for the younger generation and set to bad-girl metal bands, was ripe for the plucking in the hairy days of ’86. Wendy O. Williams, the sexy metal queen of the Plasmatics, would team up with the unlikely addition of Sherri Stoner– who would go on to voice Slappy Squirrel in “Animaniacs” and be the live model for Disney princess Belle, and Ariel the mermaid. With the fearsome Andy Warhol fag-hag Pat Ast playing Edna the cruel prison matron, Reform School Girls is a deliciously over the top prison drama, a ’50s exploitation film filthied up for the trenchcoat and hand-lotion crowd, and a ’80s girl-metal soundtrack for the teens.
The story begins when bad girl Jenny gets caught helping her boyfriend rob a store, and gets thrown into reform school (Never mind that all these girls look like they’re in their early 30s, and Wendy O is pushing 40). There she hooks up with fellow fresh meat Nicky and takes the fragile Lisa (Sherri Stoner) under her wing. Immediately they get drubbed down by the towering matron Edna, who could be the love child of John Waters regulars Divine and Edith Massey, with a dose of Hatchet Face from Cry-Baby thrown in. Every line of hers is over the top campy drama, and she informs her prisoners that she believes in “complete control.” She’s the underling of the severe Warden Sutter, played by ’70s hot heroine Sybil Danning- probably best known for her cameo as the “Werewolf Women of the SS” in Grindhouse– who dons Nazi-esque gear and struts around looking serious.
The school nurse is the lone bleeding heart who cries out against the torture and abuse the girls undergo, and she is stymied at every turn by the sadistic leaders of the “school,” which is run more like a prison camp. The girls make license plates and dig the fields, but we never see a teacher or a class. There are however, lots of shower scenes. Within the first 15 minutes the new girls need to be hosed down and sprayed for lice, and whenever we need a break from their hard life of hanging around the dorms in lingerie and bondage gear, they take a shower. It’s sweaty work, and their boobies need constant washing, rinsing, and re-soaping.
Director Tom De Simone knows what viewers of a movie called Reform School Girls are looking for; not only was his directing background in porn, but he was the screenwriting genius behind Chatterbox, a movie about a woman with a talking vagina. Not only does it talk, it sings. And more embarrassingly, I know about this movie because my Dad bought it on laserdisc. I sadly never got to watch this masterpiece, but from what I can see, Reform School Girls is actually much better. Which isn’t saying much.
Fragile Lisa has a stuffed toy bunny that she keeps in memory of her dead brother, but Edna keeps tormenting this obviously disturbed child out of pure sadism. First she burns the bunny, then she puts her in solitary, and finally sets her gang of bull dykes loose on her. Led by Wendy O., they’re straight out of campville, dressed in lingerie and S&M gear as they serve iced tea to Edna, while the rest of the girls slave in the hot sun on the farm. Out in the wild the girls find trouble; Jenny sleeps with the guy who drives the work truck, hoping that he’ll sneak her out, but of course he just uses her for a quick hop in the sack, and turns her in. They also find a kitten wandering in the field, and sneak it back to the dorm. Leading one of the sassy black chicks to say, “the last thing this dorm needs is another pussy!”
The film does have a sense of humor about itself, and its audience; the first time the new girls bed down in the dorm and Edna turns out the lights, she bellows “Keep your fingers above the sheets. We only change them once a week!” to tease the prurient viewers hoping to see the gals pleasure themselves. The sheets stay clean- this won’t be running after 1 AM on Skinemax. If only it took itself a little less seriously, or had the subversive genius of a John Waters behind the helm, it would be more than a nostalgic hard rock and hard nipples trip.
Edna and Sutter keep spiraling into further sadism, and when the kitten is discovered, the fat matron chases it down and stomps on it. Wendy and her girl gang force poor Lisa into their initiation, and brand her ass with a hot coat hanger- fittingly a circular “O” as in Wendy’s middle initial. This drives the poor girl over the edge, and when she tries to escape, the evil Edna chases her up the guard tower, where she tumbles to her death. This is the final straw for Jenny, who leads the girls in destroying their dorm. Warden Sutter seals her own doom by throwing Wendy in solitary for joining in the mayhem, and the girls decide to march on the prison reform board who is visiting, to tell the truth about the vile goings-on. This leads to a fiery and violent climax, with the girls attacking the guards with garden tools- ho’s wielding hoes- and a delightful ending with Evil Edna hollering “COMPLETE CONTROL!” from the burning guard tower as she fires about 80 shots from a shotgun.
If you like trash, this is an ’80s classic. Back then we loved it; heavy metal music (we still used the ‘heavy’ prefix then) and lots of boobies, with the cast strutting around in lingerie the whole time? If HBO had a pause button, this would have been burned on the TV screen of many a teen boy, and I’d be one of them. It’s a veritable spankfest if you don’t double over laughing at the bushy ’80s hairstyles (above and below!) The incomparable Pat Ast would reprise her role in the Motley Crue “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” video, and Wendy O would go on to sing with Lemmy and go on stage wearing only whipped cream. The soundtrack by Wendy O. Williams, Girlschool, and the Screamin’ Sirens is quite good, and the generic synth that plays when someone is sneaking around is hilarious.
The best quote of the film by far is when Edna sells out Wendy: “You’re nothin’ but a dumb-ass kid from Cleveland, a shit stain on the panties o’ life.” To which Wendy replies, “You should know, you lick ’em every night!” It’s good trash if not great trash, and MOJO+ is playing it in HD. So give it a watch instead of Skinemax, you pervert.
R.I.P. Wendy, shock rocker extraordinaire
Beers Required to Enjoy: 2
Could it be remade today? It would be horrible and PG-13
Quotability Rating: medium
Cheese Factor: sharp cheddar on a tuna melt
High Points: Sherri Stoner getting her ass branded
Low Point: Sybil Danning not getting a bigger role
Gratuitous Boobies: A-plenty!