Chainsaw Cheerleader Reviews: Reform School Girls (1986)
Directed by: Tom DeSimone
Written by: Tom DeSimone, Jack Cummins
Cast: Wendy O. Williams, Linda Carol, Pat Ast, Sybil Danning
Genre: exploitation, WIP (women in prison)
Truck Driver: Let’s play carnival.
Jenny: What’s That?
Truck Driver: Sit on my face, and I’ll guess your weight.
During the late 1960’s censorship laws began to lose control over artists and more locations willing to show questionable films became more abundant. It is during this time that exploitation films were allowed to fully develop into what they are now famous for. Quickly subgenres of these films followed. One such subgenre is known as women in prison (WIP). WIP films pushed aside any moral lesson often learned from pervious prison films and focused purely on male fantasy. While filled with graphic scenes of sex and violence, the WIP film often contains taboos centered around lesbian sex, voyeurism, sadism, humiliation, nudity, and sexual assault. Reform School Girls is one such film.
WIP films have certain plot elements that are included in each movie. Often these films have the same types of characters who are placed in situations that reoccur in films of the same genre. These plot elements include: a generally good girl who fell in with the wrong crowd being sent to a corrupt prison or reform school that is run by an evil warden, humiliating group strip searches, being sprayed with a firehouse while being nude, lesbian sex scenes between the prisoners and/or guards, female prisoners performing hard labor while being humiliated, sadistic punishments handed down by guards, girl on girl fights that often take place in the shower while they are nude, an escape occurs, a violent revolt takes place, and then the bad guys of the film are often killed in a gruesome manner. Reform School Girls does indeed follow these plot elements but never fully commits to how harsh a WIP can be. The main character, Jenny and those she arrived with to the reform school are subjected to a majority of these elements. The most sadistic this film becomes is when one girl is held naked against the floor of a bathroom by three other girls who brand her rear end with a heated coat hanger. Not to diminish the horror of that situation but the rest of the film is very lite compared to that scene.
Reform School Girls’ plot begins with an innocent juvenile named Jenny (Linda Carol). After being present during a robbery and murder that is performed by her boyfriend, Jenny is sentenced to the Pridemore Juvenile Facility until the age of twenty-one. Jenny enters the reform school with a group of girls that she soon becomes friends with. Their friendship is formed mainly as a means of protection. Upon entering the reform school, Jenny and her friends are shown whose boss by being humiliated by Edna (Pat Ast), who is the headmaster of the ward. The head of the reform school is run by a naziesque warden named Sutter (Sybil Danning). It is these two women who will show Jenny and her friends the meaning of control but they are not the only obstacles that Jenny will face. Charlie Chambliss (Wendy 0. Williams) is the leader of a gang of girls who has an oddly close relationship with Edna. Charlie has declared herself leader of the school and tries to put Jenny in her place as she refuses to take any of her harsh punishments.
Reform School Girls was marketed as a satire of WIP films. After having watched the movie it is very difficult to tell whether this is true or not. One may assume that the marketing team for this film had no idea what to do with it and tried to pass it off as satire. The reason for this is that at times Reform School Girls is funny. With certain actors, their acting is so over the top regardless of how serious the scene may be. Pat Ast and Wendy O. Williams are cartoonish in their behavior. For the majority of the movie, the women that have been sentenced to the reform school wear tiny tight uniforms or walk about in lingerie. The lingerie and big hair can only be compared to a Motley Crew video. The look of these women or of them in certain scenes is so campy it could be seen as parody. While being laughable in some areas, Reform School Girls is not as violent as normal WIP films but it does follow the standard plot elements of every one of these films. The major reason why it is difficult to tell if this movie is a parody or not is because the actors play their roles very seriously. The actors act as if this was a drama and not a joke.
The only reason why I decided to watch Reform School Girls is because the punk-rock lead singer of The Plasmatics, Wendy O. Williams had a starring role. Williams was known for her outrageous stage performances and outfits (often wearing nothing more than black electrical tap covering her nipples). Williams may better be known for being the first female singer to be arrested for simulating masturbation on stage. While performing this act with a sledge hammer, she was arrested and then punched in the face by a male police officer. I have always enjoyed The Plasmatics and Wendy O. Williams’ ten pack of cigarettes a day sounding voice. So, watching Reform School Girls was only natural.
Williams plays Charlie Chambliss, a juvenile offender sentenced to the reform school for an unknown reason. The role fits Williams’ personality very well. The role is over the top and extreme. Williams’ personality is nothing less. At 37 years old, Williams may have been the oldest juvenile offender ever. Despite her age, Williams could have safely been called a butterface at any stage in her life. I am sure even if she had been a teenager during the shooting of this film her face would have clearly made her look older regardless. The roughness of her face is well known amongst her fans and I am sure Williams knew herself but could have cared less. In spite of that, Williams knew she had a killer body and loved to flaunt it on stage. This clearly has translated onto film.
I cannot say that I have watched a lot of WIP films but I have a general understanding of them. Knowing how extreme any sexual fetish can get, I believe that Reform School Girls is a great movie for anyone who is new to the genre. Reform School Girls covers all of the points of a classic WIP movie but it does so lightly. It does not go straight for the extreme but eases the new viewer in slowly so that he or she will know what is waiting for them with their next WIP film.
Reform School Girls receives a 5 out of 10