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ALLEY CAT (1984)

First thing's first! This review originally appeared on my Letterboxd, which I recently birthed (after ~14 months of labor). I don't know how often I'll use said Letterboxd, but maybe I'll fall in like with it? I have no idea what I'm doing over there, but feel free to follow if you wish!

Second thing's second! No, Alley Cat is not a horror movie. But you know that on occasion around these parts I dip my toes wherever I please! And I was well pleased to dip my toes into this one. 

Pictured: Billie, about to unleash some of her patented "Hiii-YA!"

I hate to add to the divisiveness plaguing us today, but let's be real--there are only two types of people in the world. There are those who will come down with a case of the vapours after perusing ALLEY CAT's imdb plot keywords, and there are those who will not. I myself am decidedly in the former camp, having to take to my fainting couch after laying my eyes on the litany of keyword gems, such as:
"stomp on groin"
"can of beer"
"rolling down a hill"
"karate"
"briefs"
"playing valleyball" [sic]
"chain used as a weapon"

and, perhaps the most intriguing/enticing of all:

"woman infected with syphilis."

We know that our cool heroine, Billie (Karin Mani), is A) cool and B) our heroine the moment she drives into frame and we see that she has a personalized license plate reading, as you might guess, BILLIE. She lives with her grandparents and is of indeterminate age: she has that car and license plate, but she also dresses like an oversized kindergartner. She has a sort of bootleg Kate Jackson of television's CHARLIE'S ANGELS look and vibe, but we know little about her beyond the fact that she's training to be a KARATE EXPERT. In a word, Billie is perfect.

She stops some thugs from jacking her tires one evening, kicking off a cycle of oneupmanship revenge-ening between her and local gang leader "Scarface" Krug. You stopped my thugs from jacking your tires? I'll stab your grandmother! You stabbed my grandmother? I'll stop your thugs from raping a girl in the park! You stopped my thugs from raping a girl in the park? I'll keep her from testifying! And so on and so on turns the wheel of life.

Yes, Billie stops a rapist in the park. In fact, she does this almost every night as the local park is FULL of rapists. Come nightfall, Billie--unafraid--dons a matching track suit (sometimes velour, sometimes satin), heads to the park, uses the power of karate to thwart the ne'er-do-wells, and reminds them that attacking women in parks is "not nice." It seems every local man is a rapist, a criminal, or a corrupt official, so Billie has a lot of work to do.

Pictured: Billie showing you what happens when you're not nice

In case you haven't figured it out by now, ALLEY CAT is pure early 80s exploitation, fueled by nudity, violence, vigilantism, and karate chops. It features every hallmark of the subgenre both large and small; Metal garbage cans get knocked over during fights, men wear shirts with the sleeves ripped off, predatory prison lesbians lurk in showers, foulmouthed jailhouse background prostitutes loudly protest their innocence, and it all ends on a freeze frame. Characters with names like "Thug Tough 1," "Hooker," "Store Owner," and "Thug Tough 2" populate the Los Angeles streets and utter dialogue of the "Just drive, asshole!" and "Joke's on you, I have the Clap!"

Pictured: angel in a tracksuit

Despite its seedy elements, as a whole ALLEY CAT is rather tame. There's copious nudity, sure, but sex is all but absent. Rape is a daily occurrence in the film, but more often than not it's implied rather than shown, and it's never explicit. The film never tries to rise above its station, and that's a good thing...it moves along at a steady clip, cycling between fight scenes, "sexy" scenes, and dialogue scenes that largely involve Billie swearing vengeance on someone or other. As Billie, Karin Mani is winsome perhaps in spite of herself. She delicately floats through her karate moments, at least until the camera angle changes, her stunt double takes over, and she lets out a hearty "Hiii-YA!" in ADR. She scowls her way through most of the proceedings, but who can blame her when she's confronted with rapists and THUG TOUGHs at every turn? Billie is the "no justice, no peace" gal we need, and she does it all in a matching track suit. Pass me the smelling salts!

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