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Anchor Bay presents
Reform School Girls (1986)

"It's time you put on your f*** you boots and start kicking."
- Sutter (Sybil Danning)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: April 03, 2001

Stars: Linda Carol, Wendy O. Williams, Pat Ast, Sybil Danning
Other Stars: Charlotte McGinnis, Sherri Stoner, Denise Gordy, Laurie Schwartz, Tiffany Helm, Darcy DeMoss, Andrea Darnell, Robin Watkins, Winifred Freedman, Jim Staskel, Fred D. Scott
Director: Tom DeSimone

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: R for (Nudity, coarse language, violence, kitty stomping)
Run Time: 01h:34m:15s
Release Date: March 13, 2001
UPC: 013131132694
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- BB+B+ C+

DVD Review

The streets of America, where teenagers run rampant in this era of crime and violence. For young offenders the law has severe punishment, but a more lenient approach than the cold cells of prison are the reform schools, where wayward youth can be rehabilitated into contributing members of society, learning the errors of their ways, and good Christian values. One film dares to reveal the shocking truth behind these institutes of justice. One film will show what, until now, has been unknown to the masses, and expose the system. One film—but not this one. For although this sounds like a film that will expose the story of our nation's rehabilitation centers, Reform School Girls makes a mockery of the prison system, instead exploiting the plight of these young girls who have run afoul of the law.

These are troubled youth. First is Jenny Williams (Linda Carol), abused as a child, and sentenced to three years as an accomplice to armed robbery. Then there's the runaway, Lisa Stewart (Sherri Stoner), confined in an ice chest by her foster mother; she fears the confines of her imprisonment with only her stuffed rabbit as company. Together, they will spend the next few years as guests of Pridemore Juvenile Facility, and they are now Reform School Girls. They will leave their outside life behind, checking in all their worldly possessions in exchange for the monotone greys of their new uniforms. Of course, they run a clean ship at Pridemore, and wouldn't admit anyone without a prolonged community shower. Next they will meet the warden's assistant, Edna (Pat Ast), who will make sure they follow the rules of the facility, before being introduced to their new home in the reform school dorms. However, there are more rules to learn as the girls meet the other inmates, including the leader of a lesbian gang (played by punk rocker Wendy O. Williams, notorious for wearing nothing but a pair of one inch strips of black electrician's tape and a thong on stage). To assist their rehabilitation is the new counsellor, Dr. Norton (Charlotte McGinnis), along with the warden, Sutter (Sybil Danning), whose nightly Bible readings will lead the girls to salvation.

I'm sure most of you reading this report will be upset to learn about the amount of gratuitous nudity in the film, with two shower sequences within the first half hour. There are also several altercations between the inmates and the dominating supervisor, Edna (looking a lot like Divine), and the inference that some sort of deviant sexual behavior is going on between an official and members of the reform school population. It is also shocking to note that the uniforms kindly provided by the state go frequently unused; instead, inmates are free to wander around in skimpy underwear or punk rock clothing—the worst offender being one Charlie Chambliss (Williams), the rough ringleader, who wears nothing but a leather brassiere, G-string and thigh high boots most of the time. Certainly the prolific profanity used throughout would preclude this film from being used as an educational tool for young children. Instead, the producers have chosen to exploit the reputation of our correctional facilities and their overseers, with hose downs, riots and unspeakable deeds with rubber hoses—and then there's the kitty.

Reform School Girls is notable as Plasmatics singer Wendy O. Williams' only leading role on film, though I'm certain she also was a standout in Pucker Up and Bark Like a Dog (1990). Writer/director Tom DeSimone's previous endeavors as an adult film director (Heavy Equipment—the first gay porno in 3-D), prison films (Prison Girls—also in 3-D) and a story about a talking vagina (Chatterbox) demonstrate his versatility in classic subject matter. Sybil Danning (Chained Heat) provides a ground-breaking performance as the warden (perhaps the first time her clothes remained on throughout a whole picture), and Pat Ast (Andy Warhol's Heat) is stellar as the psychopathic Edna, delivering such tasteful lines as "(You're) just a sh** stain on the panties of life." If you're looking for The Shawshank Redemption, you won't find it here. If this film were a parody of prison films, Reform School Girls would get high marks, perhaps even be top of the class.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Another very decent transfer from Anchor Bay. The print is clean, with very few defects. There is a fair degree of grain, but it is translated well. A few minor compression issues here and there but nothing outstanding. Colors are a bit flat at times, but look source related. The presentation is a little soft, but natural looking. Fleshtones are well-rendered. I doubt this has looked better.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The two-channel mono track is adequate, if not overly impressive. Some of the soundtrack material is distorted in the source. Not surprisingly, the low end is a bit thin.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by writer/director Tom DeSimone and humorist Martin Lewis
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Stills gallery
Extras Review: There are two theatrical trailers for the film, presented in anamorphic widescreen, plus a decent stills gallery of behind-the-scenes shots.

Writer and director Tom DeSimone gets a brief biography and also lends a commentary track with humorist Martin Lewis (who also contributed to Anchor Bay's Ilsa DVDs), where amongst other technical details, it is pointed out that Pat Ast never gets naked in the picture (thankfully), and that New World missed a fine opportunity with a run for the Oscars®, as they were more concerned that the cast weren't naked enough. It is also noted that the late Wendy O. Williams, despite playing a teenager, was actually 37 when she shot the film, and had to shoot her final scene after the picture had wrapped due to insurance concerns.

A warning that the animated menus feature select sequences from the film, including one shower scene, which I know you will want to avoid.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Those expecting a factual documentary on the inner workings of our reform system will be disappointed by a film which exploits young girls with frequent shower scenes, cat fights, continuous profanity and excessive violence, set to a raucous punk rock soundtrack. One would think that with director Tom DeSimone's previous work behind bars with Prison Girls and The Concrete Jungle, that he could have taken the subject a bit more seriously. Instead, it appears as if he is almost poking fun at prison girl movies with Reform School Girls.


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