• Streetwalkin'

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: 8/2/2011
    Director: Joan Freeman
    Cast: Melissa Leo, Dale Midkiff, Julie Newmar
    Year: 1985
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    The Movie:

    The back of the box says, "blah, blah, blah... meets a charming but sadistic pimp named Duke (Dale Midkiff, Pet Sematary)... blah, blah, blah..." Dale Midkiff playing a sadistic pimp in 80s era Times Square? SOLD!

    After being kicked out by their drunken mother, Cookie (Melissa Leo) and her younger brother Tim (Randall Batinkoff) are alone on the mean streets of New York City with nowhere to go when they meet Duke, who Cookie immediately falls for. He feeds them and gives them a place to stay and carries on with Cookie as though he loves her. Soon enough we find that Duke is a top pimp in the area and Cookie is working the streets, looking a lot more grown up than the crying, terrified child we first met at the Port Authority. Tim is in school, but spends the rest of his day hanging out with the nicest and most motherly bunch of hookers you could ever wish to meet. Duke and Cookie carry on as if they're in love, but you can tell it's more sincere on her end. There is conflict and danger though, as you'd expect, and after a spat that turns physical with another of his girls, Heather, Duke pretty much leaves her for dead in their apartment. Cookie comes home and finds her, initially unaware that Duke was the one that had beaten her. She brings her to the hospital and after realizing the obvious, looks to change pimps and starts working for Jason (Leon Robinson). Still naive, she asks Jason to talk to Duke thinking he can smooth things over so that he won't hold her leaving against her, but Jason and his thugs have other plans for Duke and cuff him and drag him off in a car with Cookie screaming in their dust.

    There is a great bunch of supporting character hookers in this film, most notably Queen Bee, played by Julie Newmar. Certainly past her glory days as Catwoman, Queen Bee looks like a large, red transvestite and plays the older gal of the group with great wisdom on life in general, but is still a favorite for the paying customers. After work, she and Cookie and Tim hang out and she really looks after them with genuine concern. Also part of the gang, are Star (Khandi Alexander), Phoebe (Annie Golden), and a competing pimp named Finesse (Antonio Fargas). This film shows the seedy side of 80s Times Square but also portrays a lighter, more fun side of the world of prostitution. There's truth to both sides, I'm sure.

    Melissa Leo (who looks a lot like 80s pop teen star Tiffany) is very convincing as a kid forced to grow up too soon, both sexy and innocent, fitting the part despite actually being twenty-five years old. That being the case though, nudity is a go, which will make the male viewing audience happy. Dale Midkiff is the real star of the show with his cool, Elvis-like aura and his completely over the top outbursts and temper. The action sequences are surprisingly well choreographed but fun enough to laugh at. Regardless of the storyline, this film really doesn't cross the line into the sleaziness one might expect (and hope for) and although it has an R rating it's a fairly light R probably only for nudity and language. Streetwalkin' could have been a lot trashier and even though it wasn't, that's okay. It was still a lot of fun and Midkiff's overacting should have won it some sort of award.

    Probably the coolest thing about Streetwalkin' is the locale. Any film that takes place in 70s or 80s Times Square is worth a watch in my book as theatre marquees from that era are a fascination of mine... look for the theatre advertising The Warriors. This film drips with authenticity from the Italian ice signs to the RUN DMC concert flyers plastered on the subway signs.


    Shout Factory’s release of Streetwalkin’ is presented in 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen and overall it looks quite good despite some minor wear and tear. Grain is there but not to the point of hurting the presentation and the garish 80s colors look great.

    The only audio option is an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 track that, in spite of a few pops here and there, sounds pretty good. The score is pretty strong here and dialogue always easy to follow. No subs or dubs are offered.

    The only extra on this disc is an audio commentary with director/writer Joan Freeman (Wait… a woman wrote/directed this? That could be why it doesn’t get as smutty as it could have, or should have!) and producer/writer Robert Alden. In all seriousness though, the pair have a good memory and share some interesting stories about shooting on the streets of eighties era New York City, not the least of which involves the difficulties of mass crowd control. They discuss the performances, shooting in and out of sequence, which scenes required effects work, research that they did while writing the script and more – it’s pretty interesting stuff. The reversible cover art mentions a trailer is included but it’s nowhere to be found on the DVD.

    The Final Word:

    Streetwalkin' is a real product of its time and even though it’s dated, the movie is a fun blast from the past for those into the dirty old NYC vibe. The action scenes are great and the dialogue is as campy and predictable as you'd expect and want. The story, although a bit clichéd, still has some unexpected turns to keep it interesting. It's neat how this was a first movie for a lot of the actors in this film, Dale Midkiff included, yet the acting is still pretty respectable. Anyone into low budget 80s action flicks will enjoy this one.