After her Oscar-nominated turn as split-pea-soup-spewing Regan in The Exorcist, Linda Blair was catapulted into a career playing runaways, alkies, rape victims, and inmates, and she never looked back.
If she did, her drop earrings would have swung uncomfortably.
The girl was fearless in her fierce, bristling determination to elevate a lot of those films from the grindhouse, even if that proved to be its own sort of tawdry temple of appreciation.
Linda’s ’70s TV movies, like Born Innocent and Sarah T — Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic, were jaw-droppingly dark depictions that were far in tone from Bedknobs and Broomsticks — especially since in the former film she was horrifyingly raped via a broom handle!
And in the ’80s, Linda really went graphic, toughing it up as the kick-ass sister of a deaf girl who’s raped in the smarmy Savage Streets (1983), and taking shit but giving it back as the abused and handled but ultimately triumphant “new fish” in the relentless women-in-prison melodrama Chained Heat (1984).
In that one, prison virgin Linda gets tossed into the clink even though she only accidentally killed someone, finding herself hardened by the experience of being human chattel for everyone’s pass-along abuse.
Warden John Vernon molests her (“Don’t call me warden, call me Fellini!” he exults whenever he films his episodes), fellow inmate Sybil Danning demands same-sex action (obviously more for the straight male audience than for herself), and black glamazon Tamara Dobson exclaims, “Don’t turn your back on me, you chalk-faced whore!”
And through it all, Linda was tough and cute and appealing and never looked embarrassed.
And why should she?
She is one of my B-movie icons — the Meryl Streep of exploitation, the grande dame of debasement — and I am proud of her.
And she can roller-skate, too!
P.S.: Thanks to Kenyon Phillips of the band Roma! for turning me on to Linda.