Streetwalkin' Joan Freeman

Streetwalkin' Joan Freeman
Streetwalkin' is a potentially polarizing film. Ostensibly an unflinchingly realistic portrait of the harsh lives of Times Square prostitutes, Streetwalkin' is also the kind of film that wouldn't be out of place in a Times Square grindhouse. Made in 1984 and starring Melissa Leo in her first major role as Cookie, a girl with nowhere to go who basically steps off the bus and onto the stroll simply by getting a little bit too friendly with the wrong guy, a pimp named Duke (Dale Midkiff). Produced through Roger Corman's Concorde Pictures, the film strikes a balance between being a sympathetic depiction of prostitution and the life of vice, and attending to the prurient interest of the drive-in crowd. One of the many things Corman and his ilk were great at was exploring social issues that the majors wouldn't touch and giving first-time filmmakers their first break. Streetwalkin' is the directorial debut of Joan Freeman, a former documentarian, and there's a realness that simply can't be achieved with a bigger budget and a standard Hollywood crew. Freeman assembled a terrific supporting cast (including Julie Newmar and Antonio Fargas), and the film ably depicts the familial nature of the subculture by primarily avoiding easy clichés, but make no mistake my thrill-seeking friends, this is an exploitation film through and through, and a very well-made one at that. Social drama gets chucked out the pimpmobile window in the final reels as Cookie and her gun-wielding girlfriends confront her wild-eyed, seemingly indestructible pimp in an explosive chase sequence. Stretches of dialogue are punctuated with vicious fight scenes and, of course, there's a healthy amount of nudity throughout. Included as a bonus feature is an enlightening commentary from Freeman and producer Robert Alden, which details the pros and cons of working under the Corman system and their hands-on research immersing themselves in the underworld. There are plenty of nuggets here for Corman nerds. (Shout! Factory)