Edna is EVIL According to the “Reform School Girls!” Reviewed!


After being apprehended for robbery, underage Jenny is sentenced to 3 years at Pridemore reform school where she immediately clashes with an iron fisted dorm administrator named Edna and her intimate inmate enforcer Charlie Chambliss. With a few friends on the inside, Jenny’s group becomes the target of Edna’s biased infraction system and Charlie sets her domineering sights on breaking the girls’ wills into submissive followers. The school is controlled by an equally sadistic, evangelically abusive Warden Sutter and Jenny’s multiple attempts at reforming the reform school with the assistance of a sympathetic psychologist staff member, and even her attempt to escape, have failed with torturous consequences. As Edna tightens her grip, Jenny and the girls seethe more violently as the weeks pass up to an inevitable uprising, snapping the young girls’ spirits when enough is enough.

Wet, wild, and womanizing, Tom DeSimone’s 1986 satirically women in prison film, “Reform School Girls,” is a cavity invasive good time all around! DeSimone, who also penned the script, has a revolutionary background as a male gay porn filmmaker, but made the crossover into cult genre films after his successful runs with “Chatterbox” featuring exploitation starlet Candice Rialson and “Hell Night,” starring “Exorcist’s” Linda Blair. Yet, “Reform School Girls” is hardly separation from the director’s once moonlit experiences other than the cast is almost entirely made up of beautiful, naked women showering together and when they’re not fully nude and wet, they might as well be wearing nothing while cladded in skimpy outfits and lingerie as a few characters copulate insinuatingly instead of explicitly. The only thing DeSimone was probably uncomfortable with was his last two WIP features, “Concrete Jungle” and “Prison Girls,” as they struggled to find an appreciative audience and thus “Reform School Girls” was constructed to be a mockery of the whole WIP market, exploding it violently, and sensationally, with the genre tropes that, ironically, skyrockets this film’s cult success.

The incarcerated characters offer a wide variety of individualities that are ultimately filled by big personalities themselves. Sometimes, those personalities come with a little head scratching questions. Such is the case with lead actress Linda Carol who isn’t the headliner of the “Reform School Girls,” but she’s certainly one of the main leaders, Jenny, of an imprisoned pack. Born in 1970, Carol had to be no more than 14 to 16 years of age at filming and was cleared for a number of nude scenes, especially around other nude women, but Carol had fire in her performance; in fact, the cast from specified roles to the undesignated titled roles were all highly stimulating in their presence and demeanor. When first entering dorm 14, teased hair and underwear was the unofficial name of the scene that spoke about the genre of the decade in a matter of a few minutes. This is where we meet Charlie Chambliss, a buff, scantily-cladded, totalitarian gang leader of dormitory 14, played fluorescently by rocker Wendy O. Williams. The then mid-30-year-old Williams was a bit of a duck out of water in a role that was for a teenage girl, but the front woman of The Plasmatics was awfully charismatic, brash, and a real illustrated performer who exaggerated dramatics to the next welcoming level in her knee high platform boots. While Williams had sexy hot-to-trot flair, Pat Ast leisurewear offered nothing more than a dull white coat over matron garb, but Ast punctures through anything matriarchal and goes full blown maniacal as dorm keeper Edna. Ast goes over the top and beyond with a love to hate – scratch that – kill character. If you think the evil that embodies Charlie and Edna ends there, you’re wrong! “The Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf’s” Sybil Danning’s apex of evil, Warden Sutter, struts around the school like a German commandant with a soapbox of vile and wretched women in a perverted Biblical sense and mastermind behind the abusive culture at Pridemore. The cast concludes with Charlotte McGinnis, Sheri Stoner, Denise Gordy, Laurie Schwartz, Tiffany Helm (“Friday the 13th: A New Beginning”), Darcy DeMoss (“Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives”), and Winnifred Freedman.

Shooting from the hip on first viewing impressions, “Reform School Girls” is nothing like we’ve ever seen before. Sure, we’ve all see women in prison films, from “Big Bird Cage” to even making an argument on Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black,” and we’ve also see cheeky 1980’s comedy that if made today would be grossly lambasted with politically incorrect protestors. Yet, DeSimone’s satire take undercuts the stern nature of the WIP genre with great flamboyancy toward institutional exploitation and the ugly invasive issue of sodomy and rape that the themes can be easily pushed aside without so much of an inkling of consideration. Explosions, gunfire, skimpily dressed women, shower sequences, bitter tongue and cheek, and anything and everything that was omitted from grindhouse market place in this film constructs a smoke and mirrors effect that pivots sharply before getting ankle deep into the issues, no matter the severity just as long as Pat Ast crunches her face into a luffa shape and appoints a barely clothed inmate to a mandatory cavity search and the viewers would be just as captivated.

Umbrella Entertainment and Lakeshore Entertainment release the International Cinevision and New World Pictures production of “Reform School Girls” on a PAL 4 region DVD, presented in a widescreen, 1.77:1 aspect ratio; a slightly cropped version of the original film format. Whatever is cropped out is too trivial and the image picture supplies a palatable presentation with bold hues and bare, but naturally colored, skin tones, despite some fake tanning. One noticeable fleeting moment of an 35mm stock cigarette burn in the upper left corner of a scene, but in-and-out in a blink of an eye. The stereo 2.0 Dolby Audio mono track has balance that singles out the robust dialogue against a leveled down ambient and score recording. The range is good amongst all the reform girl chatter in the dorm rooms. A handful of shower and bathroom scenes have some muffled echoed moments, but the discord in these moments is still extremely low. Surprisingly, there isn’t one single bonus material on this disc, not even a static menu as the film goes right into play feature mode. “Reform School Girls” makes light of wretchedness, revels in the fun of unsavory fraternizing, and is unapologetic of a carnal and wicked tone on and off the screen, harboring one hell of a women in prison cinematic guilty pleasure.

Umbrella’s DVD is available for purchase at Amazon.com!

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