Monday, August 02, 2010

“Don't hit me in the mouth again, you'll break my dental plate.”

Teensploitation. No, it’s not about working long hours for low pay on a golf range for the summer. It’s a film subgenre that tells scandalous stories about teens, starring teens in movies geared toward teens and inexplicable musical numbers. In Fifties terms I suppose that translates to being a bit like Blaxploitation only with white kids, less violence and less nudity. Anyway, I am not at all thrilled to review 1957’s Untamed Youth.


So we’ve got two sisters hitching toward LA that stop to skinny dip in a pond and get picked up by a local cop for indecency and vagrancy. They get taken before a judge who sentences them to 30 days either in prison or a community service-like work program. They opt for the labor and get taken to a cotton farm where they and other untamed youths (DUN DUN DUN!) begin to work off their sentences for long hours and low pay (no golf courses in sight though). Guess what? It’s bad there and the teens are forced to work under all sorts of unfair and unsanitary conditions. Can our lovely ladies survive long enough to get to LA?

Penny Lowe: The lovely Mamie Van Doren is the elder of our hero sisters. She wants to get to LA to be a singer and performer. And she sings a lot during the movie and is the more impulsive of the two. There’s not a whole lot to the character, though she provides a bit of the comic relief here and there, but the real important thing here is that she looks good doing it.

Because I like you, audience.

Jane Lowe: Lori Nelson plays the younger Lowe sisters who is arguably the actual main character. She plays guitar, gets a love interest and has a bunch of scenes that are important to the progression of the plot. She also looks good, just not as…impressive.

Russ Tropp: John Russell (who made a bunch of Westerns) plays our Villain, and what a colossal douchebag Tropp is. Tropp worked out a deal with the judge (with his, er, little combine harvester, if you know what I mean) that gets him dirt cheap labor for his farm and he makes a giant profit off of it. It’s not a very ambitious scheme compared to a lot of the stuff that passes through Castle RMWC’s walls. Still, Tropp’s a big fish in a small pond, and is a total asshole about it.

Bob Steele: Don Burnett plays the square-jawed hero. He’s recently home from the military and happens to be the judge’s son. The judge uses her connections to get him a job with Tropp and Bob quickly realizes two things: The teens are suffering much more than their petty crimes warrant, and Jane is hot. For what it’s worth, he’s the badass of the film because he isn’t afraid to call people out on bullshit and is a friend of JUSTICE.

Jack Landis: Glenn Dixon plays one of Tropp’s main henchmen, though he’s a drunkard and a really ineffective foreman.

Judge Cecelia Steele: Lurene Tuttle plays the government employee who’s been seduced by Tropp. She’s instrumental in his big scheme but is really just being manipulated.

Lillibet: Jeanne Carmen plays one of the teens that’s been there for a while. She was working as a “housekeeper” for Tropp (if you know what I mean), but was booted back into the fields after she let someone else do the vacuuming (if you…okay fine. Of course you know what I mean).

Baby: Yvonne Lime plays a character who gets ill a couple of times in the field and then dies (because Pathos, that’s why). Honestly though, until she died the character was just there and little more than an extra.

Bong: Eddie Cochran (yes, the “ain’t no cure for the summertime blues” guy) in one of his only two acting roles. It’s not much of a part and he sings a song. Cochran didn’t get a chance to do more onscreen stuff because he died in a car crash in 1960 only three years later. Bummer.

Pinky the Cook: Wally Brown is really on in the movie for one scene, as a loquacious cook who jovially banters with the teens during a late night party. He just comes out of nowhere and starts laying out a Christmas Ham of a performance for the movie and then he’s gone, and would’ve been my pick for badass of the film, but then I realized that he’s working for Tropp and knows that he’s serving the kids slop made from dogfood and also recommends Penny go up and “personally audition” for Mr. Tropp, who also owns a local TV station. This guy’s actually rather creepy when you think about it…

Directed by Howard W. Koch (who went on to become the producer of films like Dragonslayer and the two Airplane! movies, so…good career change) The visuals are. They just are. It’s difficult to make farming exciting and this movie is not exciting. Though Mamie Van Doren’s outfits often are, in a 50’s girl-next-door sort of way. Yowza!

Story by Stephen Longstreet and John C. Higgins. The script is quite mediocre. Dialogue isn’t great, the plot moves rather predictably and the whole thing is a kind of paint-by-numbers affair. Dull & Boring by modern standards.

Original music and songs written by Les Baxter with most songs performed by Mamie Van Doren and one by Eddie Cochran. The songs are somewhat subpar 50’s pop songs, but they’re inoffensive enough, though with names like “Cottonpicker” and “Oobala Baby” you really can’t expect much.

Untamed Youth has very few bright spots, but it does have some high points (if you know what I--shit, sorry). It’s a low budget musical drama and nothing more. It’s not really memorable, certainly not good, and there’s no sea monsters or werewolves or space invaders to really justify watching it for crazy guilty pleasure fun.

No comments: