Like so many young actors after the ravages of puberty or the pitfalls of adulthood had rendered them into celebrity non grata, Linda Blair’s post-Exorcist acting career dove headfirst into low-budget exploitation like Roller Boogie (1979) and Night Patrol (1984, which partners her with Pat Paulsen and The Gong Show’s Unknown Comic). However, unlike such never-was cases as Richard Grieco or Christopher Atkins, Blair’s fallow period was actually kinda fun, and she took to the grimier material with a remarkable good cheer motivated either by financial appreciation or genuine let’s-put-on-a-show spunkiness. The best of her B-pictures, 1984’s Savage Streets and Chained Heat (1983), get a rare screening at the New Beverly Cinema’s Grindhouse Film Festival tonight, which has been keeping creeps and weirdos off the streets with prints of rare horror and sexploitation movies for the better part of the last five years.
Savage Streets (which also received a recent double-disc treatment from Code Red) has Ms. B copping the Runaways’ fashion sense and attitude as the leader of the all-girl Satins, a good-girl gang who run afoul of the Scars, a psychotic male gang who rape and butcher Linda’s deaf-mute sister (psychotronic saint Linnea Quigley) over a perceived slight. Blair’s all-grown-up (and decidedly va-va-voomish) frame is central to the imagery of the film’s second half; decked out in spandex tights and toting a crossbow, she invests herself whole-heartedly into her role as avenging street angel, and if you don’t entirely believe her, she’s at least awfully nice to look at. TV habitués will note the presence of Johnny Venocur, a.k.a. Johnny V, whose deep-rooted bromance with Scott Baio is one of the most curious aspects of the latter’s reality series.
The second half of the bill, Chained Heat, is a sleazehound’s wet dream come true; an absolutely venal slice of women-in-prison dreck, the cast includes Stella Stevens, Henry Silva, Tamara Dobson (Cleopatra Jones!) and Sybil Danning as rival gang leaders, and even Edy Williams, for crissakes. Linda handles her used-and-abused role with aplomb (having gained some insight from her infamous TV-movie Born Innocent), but the pic is stolen handily by the great John Vernon (the once and future Dean Wormser) as the oleaginous warden, who videotapes his hot tub orgies with weak-willed cons. Vernon is also in Savage Streets, and gets the pic’s best line: “Go fuck an iceberg.” Spectacular.
As with all previous Grindhouse Film Festival screenings, the two features will be accompanied by a brace of vintage trashmovie trailers, as well as a raffle for all manner of illicit swag (in true 42nd Street tradition, the grand prize is always a 40-oz of malt liquor). Presenters Eric Caidin (of Hollywood Book and Poster) and Brian Quinn have also intimated that special guests may be in attendance – will it be Linda, de-mothballed tights and crossbow in hand? One can dream.
By Paul Gaita
Tuesday September 30
Presenters Eric Caidin (of Hollywood Book and Poster) and Brian Quinn (in conjunction with Grindhouse Releasing)
The Grindhouse Film Festival
NEW BEVERLY CINEMA
7165 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036
SAVAGE STREETS (1984)
Directed by Danny Steinmann
Starring Linda Blair, John Vernon, Robert Dryer, Sal Landi, Johnny Venocur, Scott Mayer, Debra Blee and Linnea Quigley
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CHAINED HEAT (1983)
Directed by Paul Nicholas
Starring Linda Blair, John Vernon, Sybil Danning, Tamara Dobson, Stella Stevens, Henry Silva, Edy Williams and Jennifer Ashley