Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bad Girls Dormitory (Tim Kincaid, 1986)

When I first caught a glimpse of the giant wall fitted with barbed wire that surrounded the correctional facility at the centre of this deft love letter to female captivity, my initial reaction was: Damn, someone clearly doesn't want anyone living behind it to escape. However, after spending a few moments inside the inadequately run dormitory for wayward girls, I've come to the conclusion that the concrete and barbed wire wasn't there to keep the girls from breaking out, it was there to keep me from breaking in. Now, I've seen my fair share of films over the past couple of months that sport incarcerated ladies under duress, but none of them have featured as many potential life partners as Bad Girls Dormitory does, the overpriced root beer of women in prison flicks. One-by-one, I would fall deeply in love with their gruff exteriors, can-do spirit, and murderous gusto–and, not to mention, their feathered hair, parched lips, and the ease in which they were able to dance to the music of Man Parrish in an enclosed space. The only logical explanation I can come up with is that all the girls were from New York City. Sure, one of them was playing a fresh off the bus small town girl. But even then, I think she was from Staten Island. (I'm no authority on the subject, but her curly hairdo was definitely styled somewhere within the five boroughs.) While I worshiped the girls for their brash, big city attitudes, I was mildly horrified when it came time to unveil the uniform the girls at this unnamed dormitory (which seemed more like a prison, than an actual "dormitory") will be wearing for the duration of this awe-inspiring motion picture. Suddenly, the girls appear onscreen, and low and behold, their lower extremities sheathed in a pair of blue jeans and the upper part of their torso is adorned with a no-nonsense white t-shirt. In other words, the girls are being forced to dress like that asshole from that ketchup commercial that was inexplicably popular twenty years ago. (Oh, and, just for the record, I'm a big fan of that commercial.) Oh, and when I say, "a pair of blue jeans," I don't mean, "jean shorts." What I'm talking about are your run-of-the-mill blue jeans (the kind your mom wears when she's pulling weeds in the garden).

Did I let the fact that I was a tad underwhelmed by the ho-hum nature of the uniforms the girls had to wear in this movie undermine my enjoyment? What are you fucking kidding? If anything, it actually enhanced my enjoyment. You see, writer-director Tim Kincaid (Riot on 42nd Street) is an artist, and like any artist, he knows how to turn something that is bland and uninspiring into something that will uplift and arouse greatness in others. The blue jeans and the white t-shirts were like a blank canvas, and Mr. Kincaid's imagination was the paint. In a stroke of genius, he allowed each inmate to tinker with the structural makeup of their white t-shirt. Some simply rolled up the sleeves, while others just cut them off all together. I don't want to overstate this, but I think the decision to let the girls to endow their t-shirts with individual characteristics was one of the greatest in film history.

In the spirit of transparency, some of the t-shirts were already sleeveless (i.e. they were manufactured as such). But for the most part, the girls did add personal touches to their shirts. I guess when you first enter the dormitory you're given a choice between a t-shirt with sleeves or a t-shirt without sleeves; what you do with after it's been handed to you is entirely up to the person wearing it. One girl who wisely chose to go sleeveless was Paige (Natalie O'Connell), as her ample bosom would have suffocated underneath all that excess t-shirt fabric. Anyway, mere seconds after arriving at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, Paige finds her ample bosom in a degrading situation. Hoping to make some money as a model, Paige is suddenly topless in the office of a sleazy pornographer. Just as she was about to be violated by a naked man named Roland (Harve Soto), the operation is busted by some prudish vice cops. And Paige is, you guessed it, sent to a juvenile detention centre run by Miss Madison (Marita), a stylish Colombian woman.

Earlier that day, in another sketchy part of town, Marina (Teresa Farley) is left holding a bag of cocaine in a ramshackle room on the third floor of a condemned building. Is she shocked when her boyfriend Paco (Jeffrey Iorio) and a female drug dealer wearing a leopard print fingerless gloves bail on her when the cops arrive. Actually, I bet she wasn't surprised at all when the spiky-haired drug dealer (her vest was leopard print as well) took off when things started to get out of hand, but she was definitely hurt by Paco's actions. (Why, Paco? Why?) You could totally tell, as she stood there in her black, mesh tank-top, that she didn't expect to be left in the lurch like that.

In the crazy, mixed up world of Bad Girls Dormitory, there's no time to ask Paco why he bolted or explain to the cops that I'm a simple country girl from Staten Island, because, before you know it, Marina, Paige, and another girl, who we'll later come to know as Eula (Renata Cobbs), are listening to Dr. DeMarco (Dan Barclay) and the lovely Nurse Stevens (Rebecca Rothbaum) lay down the ground rules as they prepare to administer a full body search. Telling them to "lean over," the doctor begins his examination. I wonder if he found anything? I doubt it. In fact, I have a nagging suspicion that the whole ordeal was just an excuse for Dr. DeMarco, and, yes, Nurse Stevens, to get a sneak peak at the latest line of underage undercarriages to hit the dormitory, as both of them, as we'll soon find out, are unabashed when it comes to idolizing the vaginal plateaus of others.

Meanwhile, Miss Madison, who obviously does not share the orificial obsessions of her pussy-starved staff, is giving Ron (Rick Gianasi), a handsome social worker, a tour of her first-class correctional facility (well, in her mind, it's "first-class"). Informing her that he'll find his own way out after the tour is over, Ron starts poking his head around the place. The first place he pokes his head is the basement, but all he finds down there is Jen (Jane Donadio), a shy, virginal redhead smoking weed. However, he hits pay dirt with the next place he pokes his head when stumbles upon some young ladies showering. Lathering her taut body with enough soap to clean a small Guatemalan family, Tim Kincaid's camera is in love with LeeAnne Baker (a.k.a. the reputed pleasure droid from Mutant Hunt). Playing an inmate with short hair, LeeAnne's unnamed character is a pro when it comes to washing her perky frame in front of her bratty peers. Strangely enough, Ron's not interested in the svelte brunette from Necropolis, no, his lustful gaze is focused squarely on Lori (Carey Zuris), an equally slender woman with dirty blonde hair. Unlike the other so-called "grown ups" who work in this hellhole, Don's perverted leering is tinged with an air of sadness. Staring at one another for quite some time, Lori, who's too depressed to bother to wash herself with any zest whatsoever, eventually tires of his empathetic leering and curtly asks him, "Seen enough?"

Feminine chaos is best way to describe what transpires next, as we're ushered into the dorm's mess hall. A veritable cornucopia of charming tough chicks, the cafeteria is awash with cigarettes, soda pop, plastic utensils, chocolate bars, white t-shirts, big hair, and, of course, the sound of Man Parrish's expertly programmed sequencers and drum machines. Now, I should warn you, people who are unaccustomed to seeing this many attractive women gathered together in a small space might want to look away during this sequence. As for the rest of us, let's dig in.

The mess hall scene is probably the most important in the entire film, as it introduces us to all women we'll be spending next eighty or so minutes with. Having already been introduced to the so-called "fresh meat," this section of the film gives us an opportunity to meet the dormitory's more hardened residents. And you can't get any more hardened than Lisa (Jennifer Delora) and Rebel (Donna Eskra), two gals who take bullying to new and exciting places. Eyeballing Lori almost immediately, Lisa stakes her claim by telling her she has pretty eyes. However, she's distracted when she discovers that Barb (Frances Raines) is cutting Jen's meat. The "Red" of the Bad Girls Dormitory universe, the excessively blonde Valeska (Charmagne Eckert), the dormitory's most alluring "guest," tells Paige, Marina, and Eula that she's the girl to talk to if you need anything (whether it be a nail-laden baseball bat or a slightly used box of tampons), because she's got "connections."

Even more eyeballing takes place when we encounter Dottie (Kate McCamy), a shock-haired cauldron of bewitching unpleasantness who takes exception with the fact that Deke (Parri Shahmanesh), a butch lesbian, and her bubble-headed gal pal Lenka (Cathryn Bissell), are giving her the stink-eye. I'm guessing the reason behind their stink-laden stares might have had something to do with Dottie's plastic fork-themed attempt to flirt with McCoy (Bill Peterson), a guard/rapist who works at the dormitory. At any rate, employing an undercooked hot dog to help accentuate the overall impact of her hand gestures, Dottie tells them point blank, "Don't make me get up. If I do, I'll be twisting some tits." After she finished uttering that line, I couldn't help but notice that I was starting to develop strong feelings toward her. As this was happening, I began to think to myself: Try not to get too attached, you never know which of these girls is going to die horribly.

Luckily, we only see Dottie two more times after her verbal spat with Deke and Lenke, as the more I thought about her, the more I wanted to swoop in and rescue her from this banal existence. After lights out, we see Dottie, who I didn't recognize at first, screaming, "Shut up, you stupid fruitcake" to a disruptive individual in another bunk; her brash demeanour reminded me of Antonia Basilotta (a.k.a. Toni Basil), as I could totally picture the famed actress, singer, choreographer, and all around fabulous person telling someone to be quiet in this manner. Her final appearance takes place during visiting hours in the mess hall when she is briefly seen talking to her boyfriend. Well, "talking" is a bit of a stretch, as he says, "Hey, baby," to which Dottie responds, "You motherfuckin' scumbag!" I'm no expert when it comes to inner workings of the human brain, but I think Dottie even realized that "motherfuckin' scumbag" might have been way harsh. But then again, her assessment could have been right on the money. Hey, maybe he was a "motherfuckin' scumbag." Who knows.

Okay, with Dottie out of the picture, who am I supposed to obsess over now? I liked the transition Paige makes in the film, as she goes from being a naive bumpkin with large breasts to a savvy sex pot...with large breasts. The way she slumped in her chair, opened a couple of buttons on her button-fly jeans, and told Dr. DeMarco, "I'm a whore," in response to his question, "Why are you here"? was, I'll admit, pretty bad ass. Yet, I still found her to be too soft. No, I like my bad girls to be always hard.

How 'bout Rebel? Oooh, I loved her. She was complex, horny as fuck, scrappy (she picks a fight with Marina in the mess hall after mail call), and always full of surprises. Choosing a sleeveless top to express herself, Rebel is essentially Lisa's big haired sidekick (one who gets told to "shut her hole" on occasion), but she wasn't a mindless sycophant. Far from it. Her decision to help Gloria (Sherry Hoard), a girl who is trying to hide her pregnancy from Miss Madison and the guards, was very out of character. (You would think that Dr. DeMarco and Nurse Stevens would have noticed that Gloria was pregnant–you know, with them being on the cusp of the medical profession and all. But I doubt they took their jobs seriously. In fact, I bet the only reason they worked there was to capitalize on the abundance of cheap heroin and guilt-free poontang.)

While the unexpected kindness she displays was a nice touch, the Rebel I prefer is the one who's constantly craving sex and facilitating the murder of her friend's rivals. The best examples of the former come when she finishes appeasing the carnal desires Dr. DeMarco and Nurse Stevens with the mollifying moistness of the throbbing fissure festering between her legs. Sapped of their strength, Rebel takes advantage of their post-coital lethargy by ridiculing them. My personal favourite was the way she told the doctor he was the "worst lay" she's ever had while simultaneously flipping her hair with her hand (the best after sex hair flip I've seen all year). Actually, telling Nurse Stevens, "I don't want a bitch, I want a man," while she smoothed out the creases in her white pantyhose was pretty great as well.

In terms of facilitating murder? Hmm, I'd say the look on Rebel's face when Lisa dispatches one of her rivals in the basement with piano wire was the best example of this specific character trait. Oh, and if the nonchalant look on the Rebel's face while Lisa murdered her rival reminded you of the equally nonchalant mug the luminous Laurie-Ann Gill wears in the music videos for Nudimension's "Amour Programmé" and "Living On Video" by Trans-X, then we share the same brain.

In one of the film's more bizarre scenes, Rebel agrees to escort Gloria to the bathroom (she is suffering from morning sickness). However, instead of helping her, she winds up getting sidetracked when the opportunity to have sex with a male guard (Mark Umile) comes along. The back and forth between the two, as Rebel fucks and Gloria pukes, was memorable because it's set to the music of Man Parrish, the electro pioneer behind such classics as "Hip Hop Be Bop (Don't Stop)" and "Boogie Down (Bronx)." The result is a strangely musical scene, where Gloria's repetitious cry, "Rebel, I need you," and Rebel's reply, "Just a minute...I'm coming," come across as lyrics when paired with Man's beats and synthesizers.

If the scene with Rebel and Gloria was the most bizarre, the mess hall sequence set to "Hose Me Down" by Man Parish and Beth Rudetsky was definitely the most awesome. Determining that the girls need to blow off some steam after the recent rape-induced suicide of one of their own (permitting male guards to work at a girls dormitory was a questionable decision), Miss Madison chaperones what has to be the greatest mess hall dance party scene in the history of cinema. Since she allows their boyfriends to attend, the scene suddenly becomes veritable haze of headbands, tank-tops with Japanese writing on them, Jheri curl, faint facial hair, studded bracelets, Polo cologne, and fingerless gloves. The way their break dancing duds combined with the residual new wave and punk styles that were still prevalent at the time was quite the eyeopener (the gap between masculinity and femininity was virtually nonexistent). Anyway, not only do we get to see LeeAnne Baker dance, we also get a glimpse into how shoddily run the dormitory actually is (while Miss Madison is overseeing the dance party, drugs are being sold and guards are groping girls right under her nose).

Judging by her pushy nature, you knew she was doomed the moment she started boasting to the new fish about her talents when it came to acquiring smuggled goods (which, as everyone knows, is Lisa's racket). But you got to give up to the gorgeous Charmagne Eckert for being so delectable as Valeska, the slenderest slice of womanly excellence to ever stalk the grimy halls of a girls dormitory. Sporting a natural gift for self-promotion, and, not to mention, the most lickable thorax in the known universe, Valeska's downfall may have been rapid, but her knack for laughing at the misfortunes of others was downright adorable.

Since they probably didn't shoot enough material to qualify as a feature length film, someone decided to include three drawn-out fight scenes to pad things out. And since Jennifer Delora (Frankenhooker) is a black belt in judo, why not have her fight one of the female guards? Sure, the rivalry between Lisa and a guard named Harper (Rachel Hancock) isn't really explained (I guess they just don't like each other), but their brawl in the girls' sleeping quarters was still pretty great. However, midway through their rematch in the basement, I couldn't help but notice that I was starting feel a tad sluggish. It got so bad, that I almost fell into a coma when another extended fight scene breaks out between a male guard and Marina's boyfriend. The fact that this fight occurs immediately after Lisa and Harper's second dust-up had ended was just plain egregious. In spite of that, I'm happy to report that Tim Kincaid's first non-gay porn foray into the lube-free realm of exploitation cinema is a smashing success.

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  1. I love Tim Kincaid non-gay porn output! He deserves to be more well-known than he is.

  2. Dude, that commercial is so Canadian. My sister and I used to love Canadian commercials. Have I ever mentioned that I have a ketchup phobia?

    The LA Times had an article on the awesomeness of the CBC.

    Wow, you really like your girls-in-prison movies. :D

  3. @Bill Thomas: I love Tim Kincaid. His other non-gay porn flicks, Breeders, The Ocultist (2.1 rating on IMDb), Robot Holocaust, Mutant Hunt (thanks, Thomas Duke) and Necropolis (which he apparently produced), are all on my radar.

    @Karim Amir: Whenever I see someone wearing jeans with a white t-shirt, I think of 1989-90, and, of course, that ketchup commercial.

    Ketchup phobia, eh?!? I'm not sure. On a related note, I gave up ketchup a few years ago, and haven't looked back.

    The CBC is awesome? ;)

    What's the deal those morose-looking twats on the cover of this week's Entertainment Weekly?

    I think I might be suffering from girls-in-prison movie fatigue.

  4. Miss Madison has got that Bridgette Nielsen crossed with Sylvia Kristel thing goin' on.