Latest episode of Showtime’s ambitious “Rebel Highway,” a series of vidpix in thestyle of ’50s American International exploitation pix, was helmed by John McNaughton, director of the acclaimed “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” and scripted by writer-director Sam Fuller and wife Christa Lang. Plot is a kitchen-sink assemblage of ’50s topics, but is fundamentally a genre piece, complete with obligatory shower scene, lesbian encounter and catfights. Rather clunky, it is not the series’ finest 82 minutes.
This “Girls in Prison” bears no official relationship other than its licensed title to 1956 AIP original, written by Lou Rusoff and directed by Edward L. Cahn.
Aggie (Missy Crider) winds up in the Big House as the result of a frame: A record exec was murdered and a tape of her original song stolen from his desk.
In prison, she meets jailbirdettes including Carol (Ione Skye) and Melba (Bahni Turpin), both guilty of murders relating to the ’50s Red scare. It seems as though someone on the outside wants Aggie killed; Carol and Melba try to protect her as they track down the culprit.
There’s a lot of plot packed into the 82-minute running time, much of the expository stuff fairly immaterial. It’s Aggie’s story, and all the anti-Communist stuff (SAG prexy Ronald Reagan gets a couple of mentions) leads pretty much nowhere.
The record-biz plot is OK, though the selection of authentic 1958 hit “Endless Sleep” as Aggie’s song is probably a mistake. It’s too late for the film’s chronology, couldn’t have existed much earlier, and the backstory of why Aggie wrote it makes little sense.
McNaughton takes it rather straight, with actors slightly overplaying. Fuller and Lang’s script could have used a few jokes, or at least a knowing wink.
Of note in addition to three leads are Nicolette Scorsese as a prisoner who befriends Aggie, Anne Heche, Nestor Serrano, Jon Polito and Raymond O’Connor as sleazy music types, and Miguel Sandoval as a private eye hired to track down the real killer.
Tech credits are fine, and overall look is quite polished.