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Reform School Girls (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Reform School Girls (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: March 29th, 2022.
    Director: Tom DeSimone
    Cast: Linda Carol, Sybil Danning, Wendy O. Williams, Pat Ast, Sherri Stoner
    Year: 1986
    Purchase From Amazon

    Reform School Girls – Movie Review:

    Tom DeSimone's 1986 film, Reform School Girls, takes place in and around the Pridemore Juvenile Facility, a detention facility that winds up being the new home of pretty, young Jenny Williams (Linda Carol), a new recruit sent to the slammer for the first time when she helps her loser boyfriend on an unsuccessful robbery. Pridemore is run by Warden Sutter (Sybil Danning), a ridiculously rigid woman who does everything in her power and then some to keep her inmates in line. Her right-hand woman is Edna (Pat Ast). She's a bit of a sadist but if you're nice to her in the ways she wants, she's nice in return. Cross her and you're in trouble.

    Jenny quickly learns the ins and outs of prison life. She befriends Lisa (Sherri Stoner), another new addition to the prison's population, who isn't adjusting to life behind bars very well at all. Soon enough, these two run into and cross Charlie Chambliss (the late Plasmatics frontwoman Wendy O. Williams!), which proves to be a bad move. Charlie is, in many ways, the one who is really running the show here and when they don't abide by her sapphic rules, she turns her small army of lingerie clad ladies against them! Eventually, this being a woman-in-prison film after all, Jenny and her friends decide it's time to launch an escape plan, but of course, that won't be easy at all.

    So young… So bad…. So What?

    Reform School Girls is a lot of good, trashy fun. It plays as more of a send up of women-in-prison movies than a more serious entry but Simone makes sure that it gives the audience what it wants. There's lots of nudity here and plenty of sleazy action too. The weaker girls are put through the ringer by the rougher and tougher ones, and if it doesn't do much to break any new ground, it does what it does quite well. This is fast paced, trashy and plenty entertaining.

    Director Simone is known in other circles as Lancer Brooks, a prolific director of gay porn but he also worked on Chatterbox, Hell Night and Angel III before then segueing into a TV career where he directed some episodes of Freddy's Nightmares and Swamp Thing. He directs the film well, ensuring that it's never dull and that our interest is held from start to finish. He also gets some pretty good work out of his cast. Sybil Danning is underused to a noticeable degree, meaning she was probably paid more than the others, but what the movie lacks in Sybil it makes up for with crazy Pat Ast (who popped up in Andy Warhol's Heat) and, of course, the inimitable Wendy O. Williams. If Williams has trouble passing for a teenager in this one, it never matters, because she chews the scenery with so much passion that you kind of forgot about the fact that she was pushing forty when this movie was made.

    Reform School Girls – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Reform School Girls to Region Free Blu-ray famed at 1.85.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Presented “newly scanned & restored in 2K from its 35mm interpositive” and taking up 28Gbs of space on a 50GB disc, it looks pretty strong here. There’s a bit of noticeable print damage here and there but it’s only small white specks and the like, nothing more serious than that. A few minor compression artifacts pop up here and there but overall, the image is nice and clean while still looking very much like film. Colors look really good here and detail is pretty strong for the vast majority of the movie. There’s strong texture and depth to the image as well, this looks strong.

    The only audio option for Reform School Girls is a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo tracks in English. Optional English subtitles are provided. Audio quality is also quite good. Dialogue stays clean and clear and the levels are balanced well. There’s some appreciable depth to the score and some of the sound effects, the shootout at the film’s finish being a good example.

    Ported over from a previous DVD release is an archival commentary track with writer/director Tom DeSimone and a moderator. They go over the appeal of 'Women In Prison' movies, borrowing heavily from the fifties for the opening title sequence, writing the film on spec and trying to find a distributor after the fact, working with New World to make the movie for under a million dollars, the importance of having Wendy O. Williams (and where her wardrobe came from) in the film and how she came to be involved, the key locations that were secured for the film, whether or not the audience originally understood that the movie was a parody and not meant to be taken too seriously, how Andy Warhol alum Pat Ast wound up in the movie and what she was like to work with (occasionally quite difficult!), who wrote certain portions of the more memorable dialogue in the movie, some of the influences that worked their way into the movie, making Prison Girls In 3-D years before in 1972, shooting the infamous 'kitty stomp' sequence and when Wendy O. Williams did her own stunts without any real protection.

    New to this release is a commentary track with Queer Film Historian Elizabeth Purchell of Ask Any Buddy. She starts off by discussing her appreciation of the film and how it stands out among DeSimone's filmography, the quality of the female cast, how it draws from classic exploitation films and the use of humor in the picture. She approaches the development of the film from a queer perspective, eschewing the scene specific approach, to instead talk about DeSimone's work in the gay porn industry, some of the people that DeSimone collaborated with and some of the stand out films from his gay pictures, Linda Carol's career and relationship with mobster Dennis Lepore, the depictions of lesbianism in the movie, the endurance of the 'Women In Prison' genre, how the film was received by audiences when initially released, where Tom DeSimone's career went after Reform School Girls was made (including thoughts on his next picture, Angel III) and why Sybial Danning's death sequence happens the way that it does in the movie.

    So Young, So Bad, So What is an extended four-part making-of documentary featuring brand new interviews with its cast and crew that runs for fifty-four minutes. In this piece we hear from hosts (and fans) director/screenwriter Michael Varrati and filmmaker/cult leader Peaches Christ, Tom DeSimone, actors Darcy DeMoss, Tiffany Helm, Winifred Freeman, Lorrie Marlowe, Kat Guerra, Laura Lee Kasten and cinematographer Howard Wexler. They cover what appeals to straight and queer people about the movie, the evoluation of 'Women In Prison' movies, the film's punk rock attitude, how DeSimone got into both non-xxx and both gay and straight adult filmmaking and details on his background, what went into the writing of the movie and getting the project moving, getting Pat Ast and Wendy O. Williams for the movie, having to change a part so that Sybil Danning would work for it, how the different actors interviewed landed their roles, what it was like on set, how Linda Carol got the lead, who did what behind the scenes, how Wexler came to shoot work in film and shoot this movie, why certain locations were chosen and how they all feel about the movie these many years later.

    Pat Ast Superstar is an interview with theatrical producer Alan Eichler that runs for just under eight minutes. He talks about what it was like to know Ast, how she could be very sweet but also very vicious, meeting and then starting to work with Tom Eyen and how that led to his working on the play "Women Behind Bars" and subsequently with Ast, who hadn't done any stage acting before being cast in the play. He then talks about how Ast got in with the Warhol crowd and how she made a career out of playing 'freaky' characters, thoughts on her work in Reform School Girls and thoughts on her passing.

    Ode to Wendy is an interview with author and critic Breanna Whipple on the life and career of actress Wendy O. Williams. Here, over the span of seven minutes, she talks about why Reform School Girls is one of her favorite movies because of Williams' presence in the film, The Plastmastics' "destructive" tendencies on stage, the divide that existed between punks and metalheads and how bands like Motorhead and The Plasmastics unified them, Williams' aggressive femininity, and ultimately her work on Reform School Girls.

    Up next is video footage from the play "Women Behind Bars" which Pat Ast acted in. There's seventy-two minutes of footage here, taken from a black and white tape source that has clearly seen better days. Even if the presentation quality is pretty rough, it's still interesting to see it included here and it's a pretty cool artifact from an important part of Ast's career that does tie into the feature attraction in interesting ways.

    Finishing up the extras on the disc are two original trailers for the feature, menus and chapter selection options.

    As far as the packaging for this release goes, Vinegar Syndrome provides some reversible cover sleeve artwork and, for the first five thousand copies purchased directly from Vinegar Syndrome’s website, a limited edition embossed slipcover designed by Earl Kessler Jr., the slipcover king!

    Reform School Girls - The Final Word:

    Reform School Girls finally gets the special edition Blu-ray release it has so long deserved! The presentation is quite strong and the disc is loaded with extras. The movie itself holds up really well, a ridiculously entertaining send up of classic ‘Women In Prison’ films with some stand out set pieces and really memorable performances.


    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Reform School Girls Blu-ray screen caps!

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