by Anthony King
Happy Junesploitation, everyone! Revenge is such a great narrative device that can be beautiful and compelling in some directors' hands, and sleazy and compelling in others' hands. Either way, a revenge movie usually contains some sort of excitement and guarantees at least two-and-a-half stars from me on Letterboxd.
My Revenge! double feature tilts more towards the gross and sleazy side of things (fine, it's swimming in sleaze) with Michael Winner's original Death Wish, starring Charles Bronson from 1974, and Danny Steinmann's Savage Streets, starring Linda Blair from 1984. Fair warning, both films include inciting incidents that are brutal sexual assaults, and are obviously hard to watch. Bad guys, though, do get their comeuppance in each movie.
Savage Streets is as grimy as it gets. It's like Grease, but instead Danny and Sandy run off to spend a month huffing spray paint, Frenchy marries an abusive guy who cooks meth and loans her out to his friends, and Dean Wormer is a high school principal. Linda Blair plays Brenda, a high school student and leader of a girl gang that includes her deaf sister Heather. On the T-Birds side of things, we have wannabe-badboy and high schooler Vince, who is hooked up with The Scars (I assume these guys aren't high schoolers). One day at school, The Scars corner Heather, take her into the bathroom and attack her. After another girl is killed, Brenda discovers who's behind the attacks and exacts her revenge using bear traps and a crossbow.
Then you have your “heroes” with whom the audience needs to sympathize. Last year I went on a Bronson streak (a Bronsonaissance, if you will) and I have to say: he is so damn likable. His cool demeanor, his squinty eyes, his grandfatherly speech, and his mustache. Paul Kersey, at least in the first Death Wish, is a character you side with immediately. He's a loving husband and father who's just suffered a horrendous tragedy and wants to “clean up the streets.” Linda Blair's Brenda, on the other hand, goes through an interesting transformation in Savage Streets, which dictates the three-act structure. First we see her as the badass leader of the girl gang drinking peach brandy, smoking cigarettes, and wearing sunglasses at night. She then suffers tragedy and turns into a broken teenager from the '80s, driving around in her Mitsubishi Montero. After an overly-long, unnecessary shot of her sitting topless in the bathtub smoking a cigarette, she buys (steals?) a crossbow and bear traps, puts on a black jumpsuit (not the leather one from the cover art), and gets to killing.
Let's be honest, these are two B pictures. Actually, Savage Streets could be the C picture playing when only the weirdos are awake. But it's Junesploitation, and we want you going to be a little exploited and a little dirty every night!