Reform School Girls (1986) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Tuna's comments in white

Reform School Girls (1986) is, according to writer/director Tom DeSimone, a send-up of women in prison films.

While every cliche is present, and most of the performances are way over the top, that is also true of the genre it is purporting to lampoon. For me, it was more of a loving homage. Does this mean I didn't like it? I adored it.

It is something like watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show for the umteenth time. Every element you have come to expect from this genre is here:


There is a plethora of clear exposure, including full frontals.

Wendy O Williams and Linda Carol show their breasts and buns. Each of them shows a brief peek of pubes.

1) Shower scenes

2) Female Warden with a Nazi attitude (Sybil Danning)

3) Evil butch dyke matron (Pat Ast, see upper right of each image)

4) Towers

5) Barb wire

6) Skimpy uniforms

7) Solitary Confinement

8) Evil butch dyke prisoner (rock star Wendy O. Williams) with a "special arrangement" with the matron.

9) Escape attempts

10) Wrongfully accused prisoner

11) Riots

12) Food fights

13) Sex with a male employee who later double-crosses

14) A well-meaning but naive shrink

15) Cat fights

16) Fire hose scene

17) Did I mention shower scenes?

The basic plot follows a group of 6 "new fish" who don't mesh smoothly with the power structure. The strongest of the 6, Linda Carol, doesn't take shit, so immediately runs afoul of Williams.

The critics pretty much trash this film, with Maltin awarding 1 1/2 stars, and IMDB readers agreeing at 4.1/10, but then, isn't "trash" the entire point of this genre?

Scoop's comments:

Evil guards in the movies always use their absolute power to get women undressed.

Evil guards have to be versatile, and the work isn't easy. In Nazi movies they have to dye their hair blond, and say "Schnell, meine damen" in a realistic German accent. And you think it's easy to learn to wear a monocle? In South American corruption movies, they have to dye their hair dark again, grow a realistic moustache and practice saying "alright, ladies" in a realistic Chilean accent. This is because evil German movie guards speak German, but evil Chilean movie guards speak English with a Chilean accent. Nobody can explain this. Then, in the prison movies, they have to gain weight ala DeNiro and practice saying "ok, you dames" with one of those 1940's New York accents.

It's a tough life, being an evil guard. The travel wears you down, you age prematurely from the weight changes, and your hair falls out from the color changes.

But most of them think, looking back on it, that it was all worthwhile.

I wonder how you apply for the position of evil guard? Maybe in my next career as writer/actor, I can write some scenes where I interrogate Cameron Diaz and Nicole Kidman. With my luck, Diaz and Kidman would refuse the roles, and the director would cast Rosie O'Donnell and Nora Dunn.

This movie walks the line between being sensationalist crap and parodying same. Either one is OK with me, although the movie doesn't negotiate the balance very subtly, as Tuna indicates. The film is funny only in the sense that it is so bad that people laugh at it. I'm not sure if DeSimone decided it was a parody before or after he saw the reactions. Does it matter? Tell ya what, though, it certainly doesn't cheat the viewer. Plenty of exaggerated cliches, plenty of T&A. You get exactly what you expect.

DeSimone also made Chatterbox, the legendary exploitation movie about a talking vagina. If Shakes the Clown is the Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies, then surely Chatterbox is the Gone with the Wind of talking vagina films.

I love the idea of referring to Wendy O Williams as a "school girl". Although she stole the film with her usual over-the-top antics, she was 37 when she made this movie, and looked 55, having lived one hard life.

She and I were born in the same hospital, only a couple of months apart, and we lived maybe five miles from each other, but our lives took radically different paths. When I was a naive high school sophomore, she dropped out of R. L. Thomas High School in rural Webster, New York (across a narrow bay from my house in Irondequoit), and was hitchhiking around Europe when I was still trying to muster up the courage to ask a girl to dance with me for the first time.

By the time I was graduated from college, she had a full-fledged career in porn, stripping, and live sex shows. Within a few years she caught a break, and became the lead singer for the theatrical rock group, The Plasmatics. She later starred on stage in Rocky Horror Show.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic,1.85:1.

  • Great DVD. Plenty of extras, including a full-length commentary.

She committed suicide in 1998, some time after having left show business voluntarily. She left this note behind:

"The act of taking my own life is not something I am doing without a lot of thought. I don't believe that people should take their own lives without deep and thoughtful reflection over a considerable period of time. I do believe strongly, however, that the right to do so is one of the most fundamental rights that anyone in a free society should have. For me much of the world makes no sense, but my feelings about what I am doing ring loud and clear to an inner ear and a place where there is no self, only calm. Love always, Wendy."

The Critics Vote

  • Maltin 1.5/4.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 4.1
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C++++. It is in the C range because it has no cross-over appeal, but if you were to rate the C grade from 1 to 10, this film is a near perfect 10 for the genre.

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