85 - Savage Streets (1984) Blairvember 2017
Savage Streets is a dirty, disgusting, and vile piece of cinema; it’s exactly what you would want from a “Grindhouse” movie. 2007’s Grindhouse introduced mainstream audiences to the world of exploitation cinema from the perspective of two filmmakers who love the genre. Rodriguez made a tongue-in-cheek actioner with Planet Terror that felt very manufactured to most exploitation fans but was favored with mainstream audiences, Tarantino’s Death Proof is true throwback classic that is worthy of a Crown International logo at the start of the picture - and unsurprisingly, mainstream audiences didn’t appreciate it. Despite their efforts, none of those two films could even come close to the self-aware grindhouse styling of Savage Streets.
Savage Streets is a rare beast, a movie that was released a little wider than it should have because of the fact it starred a down-on-her-luck star wanting to reinvent herself. The inclusion of Linda Blair is what makes Savage Streets so special. As we know on this podcast, she would go on to become an exploitation film legend but Savage Streets is truly the movie that brought her down into the dumpster of our beloved genre.
Would Savage Streets be as good if it was just another exploitation film? One that starred a lesser-known actress? The truth is, the movie would have never been made. Blair had signed on to make a completely different film, the script was serious and the intention was to make her into an action star - like the female Stallone or Schwarzenegger; or at least the female Seagal. The film got shut down early into production from lack of funds - the financiers were getting cold feet - and producer John Strong was brought in and the rest is grindhouse history.
Strong took the script and literally ripped it apart at the seams - and for good reason. The movie was destined to fail, nobody was going to take this trash seriously. So instead of plodding along and making a movie people would just make fun of anyway, he decided to make it self-aware. What was once just another exploitation actioner was now destined to become an ironic take on the genre, complete with one-liners, over-the-top deaths, and a self-aware nature that was destined to be a hit with fans of the exploitation cinema.
The final product is something that could never be re-created, a literal perfect storm that produced one of the most memorable exploitation movies ever made and one that defined the term “grindhouse”. When I talk among friends about the exploitation films it’s an almost universally agreed point that Savage Streets is the movie you’d bring up if someone who is unfamiliar with the genre is asking for a recommendation. It’s both a starting point and a initiation; if you can’t make it past this movie, exploitation cinema is simply not for you.
It’s not a perfect film by any means but Savage Streets is the greatest example of exploitation cinema out there. It’s exactly what you would expect to see when watching one of those fake trailers from 2007’s Grindhouse and it’s something that simply could never be replicated.