#1517 Reform School Girls (1986)

A 1986 take on the women prison exploitation movies popular in the 70s, Reform School Girls aims to poke fun of the genre by playing with clichés and turning all the knobs all the way to 11. But it does so only partially.

All the prisoners are of course (adult) models tippy-toeing around the reform school dorm just waiting for an excuse to go to have a shower with the other girls, and Edna, the head of the ward pictured in that awesome poster is set to make everybody’s life miserable.

Women prisoner exploitations were already quite far fetched, super heavy on clichés and caricatures for characters, so the humor here falls very short. As in, not funny at all. But in its poor genre Reform School Girls is actually well above average, even if not successful as a satire.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 61%

#1499 Chattahoochee (1989)

Chattahoochee is based on the life of Chris Calhoun, a Korean war veteran who in 1955 suffered a violent mental breakdown resulting him to be incarcerated in a high security mental health prison in Chattahoochee State Hospital, Florida.

From thereon his problems get worse as the patients of the asylum are subjected to various sorts of abuse. The systematic cruelty was eventually exposed by The Tampa Tribune, aided by the letters that Calhoun wrote while committed.

Chattahoochee features a wonderful story coupled with the strong performance by the wonderful Gary Oldman, but is ultimately held back by a poor screenplay that often fails to portray cause and consequence of various events; we see the violent breakdown, suicide attempt and eventual recovery but never quite understand the catalysts behind them.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 67%

#1468 The Concrete Jungle (1982)

I definitely was not looking forward to seeing The Concrete Jungle after suffering through various similar prison exploitation movies.

Luckily The Concrete Jungle manages to surpass most of similar women’s prison exploitation movies by staying low in exploitation and putting more emphasis on the script. Make no mistake about it still, the movie prison world is very much there; the prisoners are well groomed, look like models, sleep in their pyjamas in a dorm and get into cat fights.

But, there is an actual plot and the movie manages to generate empathy towards the main character thrown in the slammer for protecting her drug trafficking boyfriend. Tracey E. Bregman performs well in her role as Liz and overall the movie looks much more fresh than its release year would suggest, and the 70s style movie poster does not represent the look and feel of the movie at all.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 62%

#1407 Halloween 2020: Death House aka Zombie Death House (1988)

John Saxon directs and stars in Death House, a zombie horror game taking place in one of these special movie prisons. And as always, the authorities that run the penitentiary are up to no good, this time around using the convicts on a death row as guinea pigs for experimental drugs.

After one of the experiments goes south, turning the prisoner a bubbling pile of flesh, the jail goes to lockdown and everyone inside still not zombified try make it out one way or another.

Death House is almost as plain 80s action thriller horror as they come, but in a good way; the movie delivers what it promises in a positively entertaining package.

80s-o-meter: 93%

Total: 80%

#1364 Chained Heat (1983)

Apparently one of the definite women in prison movies of the 80s due to featuring Linda Blair, Chained Heat wasn’t the movie that’d finally convert me to a fan of the genre.

What I liked about it was just how over the top (and all over the place in general) the movie is. This is the weirdest prison I’ve ever seen with seemingly no boundaries: every prisoner is free to roam wherever they want and are often invited to the warden’s private luxury room of sexy-time with jacuzzi and cameras.

Other than that, it’s pretty standard ride. The women are much too sexy and well groomed to be prisoners, all the guards are sadists and the movie culminates with your typical vengeful prison riot.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 25%

#1353 Vendetta (1986)

Similarly to the World Gone Wild I just reviewed, Vendetta takes an uninteresting genre as its base, but actually tries to have a fresh approach. In Vendetta’s case this genre is the women’s prison exploitations that usually exist to serve people with a fetish for catfights, rapes and plenty of nude scenes.

And the approach manages make it more interesting. Vendetta is no work of art – it’s trashy in its theme and execution – but I did find myself actually caring for the characters, which is much more than I can say from any other prison exploitation film I’ve seen. Looks wise the movie is also solid, late 80s style that makes it easy to watch despite the overall early 90s late night cable soft porn vibe.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 55%

#1275 Hellhole (1985)

A mid 80s take on the woman penitentiary movies, Hellhole maintains the gratuitous full frontal nudity aspect of the genre and is a complete miss as a horror movie.

But it does manage to find a somewhat interesting own tone, making it if not great, still one of the more tolerable exploitation movies out there.

80s-o-meter: 83%

Total: 38%

#898 Tango & Cash (1989)

In the beginning sequence lieutenant Ray Tango rides his Cadillac Allanté ahead of a fleeing 10-wheeler, does a bootlegger’s turn, steps out of his car and forces the 18 ton truck to a full stop with his .38, effectively launching the two henchmen through the windshield. The sequence may be loaned from Jackie Chan’s Police Story, but it still very effectively sets the tone for the following 100 minutes of class A action.

As you may have already gathered, Tango & Cash takes place deep in the alternative world of Hollywood action movies where no restrictions of the normal world apply what it comes to laws of the physics, chases, police stations and even the prisons. There is a good tradeoff to all this thought, as Tango & Cash offers a very entertaining 80s buddy cop movie with a high rate of escapism.

I don’t know how Stallone and Russell fared outside the sets – probably bad due to Stallone’s reputation at the time – but on screen their oil mixed in with water kind of chemistry works a treat, often bursting out in an entertaining way. The always stunning Teri Hatcher provides the visual treat as well as gives the movie its dame in distress motif towards the end.

Speaking of which, the movie is maybe mostly known for its lengthy end part where Tango & Cash ride their armoured custom truck to the enemy base, wreaking all sort of havoc – and this is where the movie unfortunately took a wrong turn that I never really cared for.

80s-o-meter: 94%

Total: 85%

#838 Bad Boys (1983)

There are a lot of pitfalls present when making a film about juvenile delinquents, and the movies more often than not turn into melodramatic sap rich in gringeworthiness. Bad Boys as a name certainly had an alarming clang to it, but to my surprise the movie not only offered depth rarely seen in its peers, but realism in a way that’s neither romancing nor fetishistically violent.

Young Sean Penn no doubt deserves a nod as he once again showcases his uncanny skill to create three dimensional characters in situations where a path of the lowest common denominator was available. Luckily the script also gives him a lot to work with, avoiding most obvious clichés of the genre throughout the movie – mostly.

While the ending is not bad, it seems to me that it’s by far the most mediocre part of the movie, effectively robbing Bad Boys away from being a complete triumph.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 91%

#729 Lock Up (1989)

A rare late 80s Stallone movie that failed to break even in the box office, Lock Up is pretty much your typical mistreated prisoner vs evil wardner and his henchmen sort of film.

The movie constantly defies the laws of credibility with its cartoon-like archetypes, sadistic guards and the highly implausible, only-in-a-movie type of ending. It does get better after you accept the fact that the movie takes place in the parallel universum of Hollywood, after which you might find Lock Up a fairly entertaining movie with some memorable scenes like the montage of restoring the Mustang buried in the prison garage and the gruesome sewer showdown towards the end.

If prison movies like this are your thing, An Innocent Man – also released in 1989 – offers all that Lock Up is trying to achieve in a much more believable and entertaining package.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 72%