Finally had a chance to revisit Allan Moyle’s 1980 teen rock movie Times Square last night, the first time I have seen it since its original theatrical release. The story of two teenaged girls (from wildly different classes and backgrounds) who bust out of a neurological hospital and survive on the streets of New York, forming their own punk duo The Sleaze Sisters with the aid of renegade DJ Johnny LaGuardia (Tim Curry), it’s an entertaining but unexceptional film for the most part. There’s a good new wave/punk soundtrack featuring the likes of Roxy Music, Lou Reed, The Ramones, Talking Heads and more, and Trini Alvarado and Robin Johnson are fine in the lead roles of Pammy and Nicky respectively. But the real interest in the film lies is in its setting - filmed entirely on location, Times Square captures the seedy landscape of 42nd St in all its lurid glory, just as it was on the cusp of it’s big clean-up and transition from a grotty urban jungle wallowing in danger and character to a bland Disneyland-esque family attraction (in fact, one of the subplots of the film revolves around the political campaign to ‘beautify’ Times Square).
Some of the movies spotted on the cinema marquees in Times Square include Al Adamson’s Nurse Sherri, Cry Rape, House of Psychotic Women (which the two female leads briefly lampoon),The Dark and perennial grindhouse fave Snuff. Also features a brief appearance by legendary 1970s/80s porn starlet Sharon Mitchell (who also popped-up in William Lustig’s 1981 sleazy cult 42nd St fave Maniac).
While Times Square has garnered something of a cult following over the years, at the time of its release in was unmercifully savaged by most critics, none more so than David Denby in New York Magazine, who spat out: "This evil, lying little fantasy has been photographed in ugly color, and a mess of mediocre rock music has been draped across it like mozzarella on lasagne. If the producer, Robert Stigwood, sells soundtrack albums with this movie, he should set up a fund for every girl mugged, raped or battered in Times Square".
Hunt down the double vinyl soundtrack LP on the RSO label and look for the out-of-print Anchor Bay DVD, which features an audio commentary by director Moyle (Pump Up the Volume, Empire Records) and co-star Johnson.