“Reform School Girls” is a parody of women-in-prison movies that delivers what it promises–lots of girls in reform school. It’s a good thing the “girls” are twenty-something starlets playing teenagers, because they’re very clean reform school girls. Otherwise, the shower scenes would be creepy. Aside from soapy breasts, big 80’s hair, and chick-fights every twenty minutes, the only reason to watch RSG is for the de facto star; Wendy O. Williams of The Plasmatics. How Wendy got sentenced to a girl’s reform school at the ripe age of 36 years old isn’t addressed in the script… Her Plasmatics were always controversial, and were one of the first groups to combine metal with punk rock. In concert, Wendy O. routinely blew up cars, smashed guitars, and cut TV’s in half with a chainsaw–and she did it all while wearing only a mohawk, knee-high boots, a leather thong, and electrical tape over her nipples.
A groundbreaking, Grammy nominated performer, Wendy O. was known as “The Queen of Shock Rock.” Her bloodline started with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and passed through Alice Cooper and KISS. Gene Simmons himself produced one of her solo albums, and several members of KISS played on it. Wendy O. was a very big deal when this movie was made. A former live sex show performer, the late Ms.Williams has a sleazy appeal, and one gets the feeling that she didn’t wash her face with the same soap she used on the rest of her body. Her lines are delivered in the same ravaged voice that was perfect for punk rock. She sounds like a chainsaw would, if a chainsaw could grit its teeth, barking lines like: “We’ll see about that!” She plays the leader of the only gang in the reform school, terrorizing the other inmates and branding “her” girls with a red-hot coat hanger. She convincingly menaces the heroine, and the fragile girl that the heroine is always unsuccessful at protecting in these films.
In real life, Wendy O. was a sensitive person. She was a strict macrobiotic vegetarian and an animal rehabilitator. She took her own life twelve years after “Reform School Girls” was made; after her career, like her chainsaw, sputtered and fell silent. Her stage persona makes a smooth transition onto the screen and, as is the rule with B-movies, the slumming rock star sings the title song, which consists of the movie title repeated over and over. Fortunately, it’s the kind of number that Wendy O. excelled at: dumb, loud, and rocking-ly repetitive. It doesn’t so much get stuck in your head, as firmly lodged. The soundtrack is actually worth having. It’s an eclectic collection that also contains songs by metal-maidens Girlschool, and R&B legend Etta James. Etta’s “So Young, So Bad, So What,” is as good as anything she recorded, but the highlight is Wendy O’s “It’s My Life,” a song that KISS had left off their most recent record. Of all the songs she recorded, it’s the best suited to her stage persona, and picks up where The Animals’ similarly titled song leaves off. “It’s my life, and I’ll do what I wanna, do what I wanna, do what I like, it’s my life, and I’ll do what I wanna, do what I wanna, do what I wanna do.”
Apparently, what Wendy really wanted to do, and did in this film, were her own stunts! She felt her fans expected it of her. Williams came up with the idea for the movie’s climax, which comes when she kicks the windshield out of a speeding school bus and jumps clear just before it smashes into a guard tower and incinerates the heavy, played by Pat Ast. Ast is the worst actor in the entire film, which takes some doing. Had Divine or Kathy Bates been cast in her role, the film would have been an instant classic. As it is, it’s mainly a chance to see an influential rock & roller reach the height of a career that never fulfilled its potential.
On the recently re-released DVD’s commentary, one learns that Tom DeSimone, the writer/director of “Reform School Girls”, also directed “Chatterbox”, a film about a talking vagina that starred Rip Taylor and Professor Irwin Corey, and “Heavy Equipment”, the first gay, 3-D, porno. It’s safe to say that “Reform School Girls” represents his best work.