Reform School Girls Review (Umbrella Entertainment DVD)
Was washing with Baby Powder a thing back in the 80s?
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There is a dark, dirty spot in my filthy, black heart for the sleazy genre known as Women in Prison films, or in today’s case, Reform School. I’m a red-blooded male who isn’t afraid to admit he enjoys looking at the female form. Sure, you can call me a perv, but I can’t be the only one since these trashy classics are always a hit in the cult circle. The basic premise of this genre is putting a bunch of beautiful women into a confined space, and showing them naked and horny for each other. Vintage sleaze at its finest, and admittedly, misogynistic as well. These type of movies wouldn’t fly now, but we aren’t talking now, we are talking the ’80s, specifically the magical year of 1986. The year of Reform School Girls!
Reform School Girls is directed by Tom DeSimone, who has had previous forays in the genre with Prison Girls (1972) and The Concrete Jungle (1982). Neither of those efforts impressed DeSimone enough, so he decided to make Reform School Girls a parody, or so it’s said. This is merely hearsay and honestly not entirely true once you check out the film. Save for a few intentionally funny scenes, mostly involving Pat Ast’s delightfully cruel Edna, the movie plays it straight as an arrow. Well, straight might be a stretch when talking this genre.
The premise for Reform School Girls has us following the ‘spiralling out of control’ path of Jenny, played by the pleasing Linda Carol. (Side Note: the rumour of Linda Carol only being 16 during filming is false, which is a good thing as she does full frontal nudity and our gallery wouldn’t be the same without those screencaps.) Jenny gets involved with the wrong kind of people and ends up landing in reform school. She is joined by a group of other misbehavers and castaways, some played by Friday the 13th alums (Tiffany Helm and Darcy DeMoss). Jenny soon learns that this school won’t be easy, as it’s ruled by a bible-thumping warden (the criminally underused Sybil Danning) and her crazy sidekick Edna (Pat Ast). Edna has a choice few girls to help her keep track of the bad ones, one of them being played by Wendy O. Williams, who is a 36-year-old playing a teenager. Yep, it’s one of those kind of films. It doesn’t take long for Jenny to form a close-knit group of girls who are hoping to stand up against this tyranny and unjust treatment. One of their hopes lies with the staff doctor, Dr. Norton (Charlotte McGinnis), who is hoping to bring to light the cruel ways of the school.
As you can see, the plot for Reform School Girls is a bit more serious than the typical “get a bunch of girls together and have them get naked and make out.” Sure, we have our obligatory shower scenes, for which I am always grateful. We have the skimpy clothes and wild ’80s neon/punk/big breasted/underwear wearing ladies to gawk at, but there is a bit more to the film than just that. The movie does, however, tend to drag during the middle half, in between shower scenes, cat squashing and female catfights. Sybil Danning’s character Warden Sutter isn’t used enough, and Edna doesn’t go as crazy as she could; well, at least until the end. You see, even though the middle half of Reform School Girls is slow, the ending makes up for it with a batshit insane conclusion. We have a massive brawl, Edna brandishing a shotgun and screaming “Complete Control” and laughing maniacally. There is a runaway bus with Wendy O. Williams on top of it with no one driving, explosions, and an honest to goodness happy ending. It’s hard to describe how joyfully fun the latter half of the movie ends up being.
Reform School Girls has seen a DVD release previously from Arrow Video back in 2016, but the one I’m checking out today is from Umbrella Entertainment, which has just been released on DVD. It contains no extra features, but it does offer a rather solid video transfer and audio that is loud and clear of any hiss or distortion. I was quite surprised by how nice the transfer was on the DVD (something you don’t say too often nowadays). I can’t say if it’s the same as Arrow’s release, but if I was a betting man, I would say yes. Shame about no extra features, though.
Reform School Girls takes a lot of what I like from Women in Prison films and doubles down on the ’80s insanity. It might be a bit more serious and slower than what we thought we were getting, but the seriousness/slowness does lead to an epic finale. If I go down my checklist I can see the flick has hit all the proper boxes: gorgeous babes, shower scenes, catfights, crazy warden/sidekick, so much ’80s you’ll vomit, and finally even more shower scenes. Yep, this is one easy recommend!