(director: Alan Moyle; screenwriters: story by Leanne Unger and Alan Moyle/Jacob Brackman; cinematographer: James A. Contner; editor: Tom Priestley; music: Blue Weaver; cast: Tim Curry (Johnny LaGuardia), Trini Alvarado (Pamela Pearl), Robin Johnson (Nicky Marotta), Peter Coffield (David Pearl), Herbert Berghof (Dr. Huber), David Margulies (Dr. Zymansky), Anna Maria Hoarsford (Rosie Washington)); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Robert Stigwood/Jacob Brackman; Kino Lorber; 1980)
“Forgettable and unpleasant punk-rock teen rebellion film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Canadian filmmaker Alan Moyle (“Say Nothing”/”Weirdsville”) directs this forgettable and unpleasant punk-rock teen rebellion film. The screen is inundated with a soundtrack of mostly putrid songs like “Pissin’ in the River.” Jacob Brackman’s smelly garbage-laden script is based on the weak story about discontented youth by Moyle and Leanne Unger. A strong performance by Robin Johnson as a street hustler stands out in this run of the mill teen exploitation film.
Filmed at a time Times Square in NYC was a sore-eye in the city as home to prostitutes, sex shops and shady low-life characters before turned over to Disney World for a squeaky clean make-over.
The volatile 16-year-old Nicky Marotta (Robin Johnson), an aspiring punk rocker musician, lives in the street on her own, wears a Brando cap, a button-bedecked jacket, while carrying a ‘boomer’ box and electric guitar. When she smashes up a car’s headlights for no reason and gets arrested, she’s taken to the New York Neurological Hospital for a psychological exam. The loud-mouth becomes the roommate of a rich fragile teenager from the opposite side of the tracks, Pamela Pearl (Trini Alvarado), also taking the same mental tests. Her smarmy politician father, David Pearl (Peter Coffield), just appointed the commissioner in charge of the Times Square renaissance project, is worried there might be something wrong with his quiet and sensitive daughter who shows no passion for living.
The girls become friends: as the brash Nicky admires Pamela’s poetry and the shy Pamela admires Nicky’s boldness in not taking any guff from the authority figures.
Nicky is released from the hospital but later returns for an appointment with her social worker, Rosie Washington (Anna Maria Horsford), but really comes back to get Pamela to run away with her, as they steal an ambulance and hide out in an abandoned warehouse in the seedy Chelsea Piers.
When David claims his daughter was kidnapped by Nicky there’s a city search. The girls get some money to survive by washing car windows in the street, doing petty theft, hustling three card monte games and other ruses. Meanwhile the cheesy silver-tongued overnight radio DJ, Johnny LaGuardia (Tim Curry), on WJAD, broadcasting from Times Square, realizes one of the runaways is the politician’s unhappy daughter who calls the station regularly as “Zombie Girl” and writes him depressing poetry letters. When Johnny learns the girls go underground to sing punk songs together and take the name The Sleez Sisters, he promotes their efforts and hopes to draw more listeners and to undermine the gentrification program.
The girls rebel further by stupidly throwing TVs off the city rooftops. It seems the filmmaker was running out of things to say and started padding the scenes with unnecessary ones like this one. It all leads to a messy conclusion: Pamela now thinks she has an identity and goes back to her forgiving daddy, while Nicky feels lost and has a nervous breakdown calling out to Pam for help. Later Nicky fails at a drowning suicide attempt.
In the end, the girls go their separate ways as friends for life. The contrived story was as believable as a junky’s pipe dream.
Moyle has commented that there were crucial lesbian scenes between the girls cut by the producers, thinking those scenes would cut into their box-office.
REVIEWED ON 11/20/2020 GRADE: C