Tag Archives: juvenile delinquents

Teen-Age Crime Wave (1955)

“This is a shower room. It’s to clean you up on the outside even if it doesn’t get to the dirt on the inside.”

Yes, juvenile delinquents are back at it, and this time the film is set in the crime-ridden Antelope Valley. It’s traditional family values vs juvenile delinquency in Teen-Age Crime Wave, a definite addition to the Trash Cinema section, and of course, family values win the day in this corn-fest of a film.

A teenage siren named Terry Marsh (Molly McCart) hangs out in a bar until she catches the attention of a middle-aged chubby patron. He thinks he’s hit the jackpot as he steers the obviously underage girl out of the door, but it’s a set up. A few feet from the door, he’s mugged by Terry’s two male accomplices who are waiting in a car outside. The robbery goes wrong, and while Mike Denton (Tommy Cook) and Al (Jimmy Ogg) escape, Terry and another girl, Jane Koberly (Sue England) are arrested. While Terry has a previous record, Jane maintains her innocence, claiming that she knew nothing of the planned robbery and that she was simply out on a blind date.

In the slammer, tensions between Terry and Jane lead to a minor girl fight which is broken up by the warden. Then comes the court case and the sentencing. Nice, middle-class Mr and Mrs Koberly (Guy Kingsford and Helen Brown) are the kind of people who worry about what the neighbours think, and they reel from the shock that they’ve raised a juvenile delinquent. There are a few introspective ‘where did we go wrong’ moments, but Jane is sent to a juvenile facility along with the very-hardened Terry.

On the way to the lock-up (the girls are transported in a police car with a female matron for company), Mike conducts a bold crime by running the police car off the road. He shoots the policeman and grabs the two girls. Jane’s pleas to be allowed to stay with the matron fall on deaf ears, and so the trio of teens-gone-bad are on the run….

Taking refuge in a remote house in the Antelope Valley, Mike and Terry seize an elderly couple hostage at gunpoint and get their cooperation by threatening to blow out the old lady’s brains. With Jane boo-hooing and asking to go home, it’s not too long before it’s Mike and Terry vs the elderly Mr and Mrs Grant and Jane.

To top off the situation, it’s the night before Thanksgiving, and the Grants’ son “college boy” and bona-fide war hero, Ben Grant (Frank Griffen) is heading home for the holidays. This adds another person to the hostage pot, but it also adds another dynamic to the drama. Terry fancies Ben and tries to pull a little femme fatale number, and then Mike, who’s becoming more and more psycho every minute, becomes violently jealous….

There are a few poignant undercurrents here: Mike and Terry eye Ben and Jane–a couple on the other side of the divide, and there are shreds of ‘if only’ here–especially on the part of Terry. A crack opens into Terry’s past and this reveals a few moments of regret. But she reverts to her old, hardened personality–a self she’s much more comfortable with and she decides she wants to seduce Ben, but as Jane points out that she doesn’t stand a chance with Ben as Terry is  “dirt.” Terry’s response:

“I’ll show you how dirt operates on a respectable guy.” 

But the only tactics Terry has up her sleeve are those rather well-worn and transparent tricks she played in the bar with the chump earlier, and Ben, of course, is repulsed by Terry. Her rejection adds to that large chip on her shoulder. Terry’s attempts to seduce Ben show her desire to reveal the ugly side of people that lurks inside the seemingly-respectable shell. Seducing Ben would ‘prove’ a number of things: that she’s desirable to the sort of man she can no longer have, and also it would prove her pet theory that everyone is rotten–a college boy who’s a war hero would prove both points.

A lot of the film’s fun comes from the performances of the two desperate delinquents. Mike crows when he sees the headlines, and he goes berserk at the round-the-clock monotone bible reading from Mr Grant. Mr. Grant must think that Mike will get religion by osmosis. Mike even tries to spice things up with a little sex fest and then accuses Mr Grant of being a peeper. Unfortunately the film is hemmed in by its time and by its predictably heavy moral message, but it is a diversion all the same.

From director Fred F Sears.

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Blue Murder at St Trinian’s (1957)

 “This is a girls’ school. Men ain’t safe here.”

blue-murderBlue Murder at St Trinian’s is the second film in the extremely popular St Trinian’s series. St Trinian’s is an all-girls school that is the bane of the local police force, the dread of the townspeople, and the thorn in the side of everyone at the Ministry of Education. The St Trinian’s films echo the theme of the original cartoons created by Ronald Searle, and chronicle the madness and mayhem of the totally out-of-control girls’ school. While the prim and proper students of elite boarding schools learn such valuable social skills as deportment and dancing, the girls of St Trinian’s learn how to make explosives and bootleg gin. If you are interested in the St. Trinian’s films, and haven’t seen any yet, then I recommend beginning with The Belles of St Trinian’s and watching the films in the order they were made:

The Belles of St Trinian’s (1954)
Blue Murder at St Trinian’s (1957)
The Pure Hell of St Trinian’s (1960)
The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery (1966)

Blue Murder at St Trinian’s begins with Miss Fritton (Alastair Sim) in prison. Meanwhile, the school’s resident fixer–Flash Harry (George Cole) is in control. Flash Harry has a number of business interests with the school–illegal gin, bookmaker for the 200 plus pupils, and now he also runs the St Trinian’s marriage bureau. Compiling albums of sexy photos featuring shapely 6th form St Trinian’s girls, Flash Harry then treks the globe to meet wealthy clients and arrange meetings. These arranged marriages work well for the girls as the unsuspecting foreigners have no clue about St Trinian’s stinky reputation, and so wealthy European males imagine that they are marrying the cream of delicate British womanhood while in reality, the wealthy families of Europe are slowly being seeded with delinquents.

Flash Harry’s latest customer is a wealthy Arab prince. The prince, while poring over photos of the long-legged lovelies, cannot decide which flower of British maidenhood to select as his bride, so he convinces Flash to agree to bring the girls over so that he can see them in the flesh. But how to pay for the trip? Flash Harry has a brainstorm. There’s a UNESCO essay competition that will send the winning school on a goodwill tour of Europe with stops at Paris, Florence and Rome. It would be a perfect opportunity to get The Ministry of Education to finance the trip, but there’s just one drawback, there’s no way that St Trinian’s will ever win that competition fair and square. They’ll have to resort to other means….

Meanwhile, St Trinian’s is without a headmistress. It seems that Miss Fritton is inexplicably detained at a ‘resort,’ and so the Ministry of Education employs a Dame Maud Hackshaw–otherwise–known as ‘Kill ’em or Cure ’em Hackshaw’–to replace Miss Fritton. But battleaxe Dame Maud (Judith Furse), who runs a Borstal-type institution has to sail from Australia (no one in England is daft enough to take the job). In the meantime, a state of siege has taken place at St Trinian’s with troops surrounding the school to maintain some sort of order. The troops are supposed to hold the fort until the headmistress arrives, but “the fiends in human form” test even the British Army’s mettle.

Dame Maud may be a dragon, but even years of experience with the delinquents of Australia find her woefully unprepared for the Girls of St Trinian’s. Luckily, or unluckily depending on your perspective, one of the girl’s fathers, Joe Mangan (played by Lionel Jefferies), a notorious jewel thief, hides out in St Trinian’s, and he finds himself enlisted as the new headmistress. Soon Mangan is on his way to Europe in drag while Dame Hackshaw is suitably…errr…retired.

One thing about St Trinian’s films: you only ever see fourth form and sixth form St Trinian’s girls. The fourth form mirror the original image created by Searle, messy, disheveled beasties who use violence to achieve their ends–whereas the sixth form are leggy, shapely beauties who use their sexuality to get their way. But where is the fifth form–the in-between stage of transformation when the fourth begin to morph into the sixth? The fifth is glaringly absent. Wisely, the films absent the fifth form and leave that transformation to the imagination.

Many of the familiar characters from The Belles of St Trinian’s appear in this film–Ruby Gates (Joyce Grenfell) is still engaged to Sgt. Sammy, Miss Fritton (Alastair Sim) sadly makes only a very brief appearance, and Flash Harry (George Cole) is still the shiftless, much-loved spectre who haunts the school grounds. This film, however, also showcases Terry-Thomas as the fortune-hunting, slightly seedy, bankrupt Dreadnought bus company owner, Romney. Romney is somewhat daunted by the prospect of driving the girls across Europe, but since he’s faced Rommel and the “Japs in Burma,” Romney accepts the job. Terry-Thomas, who was stricken later with Parkinson’s disease, is such a marvelous comedian, and this role is perfect for him. Romney sniffs that Ruby may be an heiress, and the scenes of Romney’s crafty romancing of poor Ruby Gates are priceless. The indomitable St Trinian’s school trip across Europe is hilarious, and their antics including hijacking a Mozart festival, the hospitalization of several dozen French schoolgirls, and the tour-de-force is the “liquid massacre” that takes place in Rome. I think the St Trinian’s Girls could give British football fans a run for their money.

From director Frank Launder, Blue Murder at St Trinian’s is written Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat.

Jolly Hockeysticks!!

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Filed under British, Comedy, St Trinian's

Poor White Trash (2000)

 “You’re hotter than doughnut grease.”

The premise of the very funny comedy film Poor White Trash is that poor people have to resort to crime in order to maintain that American dream of sending their children to college. It’s a “Robin Hood kind of thing” with the have-nots taking from a corrupt society that includes the embezzling manager of a retirement home and a nasty fast food restaurant.

poor-white-trashCollege bound Michael Bronco (Tony Denman) and his nefarious chum Lenny Lake (Jacob Tierney) are caught stealing a six-pack of Near Beer from the local mini-mart, and as a result, Michael’s college plans seem destined for the toilet. An inept Public Defender bungles the case, and the lads realize they need a lawyer to get them out of the mess they’ve created. Lenny’s brilliant plan is to get his Uncle Ron (William Devane)–who owns the Land O’Law to represent them ‘pro-bono’ (Lenny says this is Spanish for ‘half-price’). Uncle Ron, “the best lawyer in town since he got out of jail” isn’t cheap, and so Michael and Lenny burglarize a neighbour’s trailer as a quick way to get cash. Soon the lads embark on a crime spree, and Michael’s mum, Linda (a deliciously cast Sean Young) forms an inept gang with Michael, Lenny, and Brian Ross (Jason London)–the son of the local sheriff (and Linda’s one-night stand).

Linda Bronco just wants to be a “normal mother,” but that’s not in the cards for this latter-day Ma Barker. In fact, there’s nothing normal in the entire film. Everyone lives in a trailer–even Uncle Ron–the legal eagle–who has made a formidable beer can sculpture garden to enhance his trailer’s attractiveness. And Uncle Ron has a pool–not quite the traditional idea of a pool–but a pool, nonetheless.

It’s the perfectly drawn characters in this film that make it so hilarious. Michael’s desire to be a psychologist runs as a standing joke, and Lenny treats his friend’s ideals with respect while noting “psychology causes people to have mental problems.” Michael’s dad is a pro-wrestler hoping for the cash to get a false eye–this is the one roadblock in scheduling a grudge match with an opponent. William Devane as sleazy lawyer Ron Lake plays the role to perfection–the clothes, the swagger, the jewelry–and don’t forget his t-shirt slogans–all add up to the lawyer who practices law with the intent of getting away with what he can. Ron Lake’s nymphette wife–the manipulative and grasping Sandy (Jaime Pressly) is the perfect complement to Ron.

But my favourite character of all the great characters in this film has to be Lenny Lake. His one-liners, antics, and faulty logic–along with the looks he casts–simply make this film one of my all-time favourite comedies. Poor White Trash is crude at times, has no socially redeeming values, and no moral message, but the film doesn’t compromise on laughs. The script is deceptively clever and moves along rapidly from the first hilarious scene at the mini-mart right up to the finale. From director Michael Addis.

Favourite lines:
“It ain’t your job to execute shoplifters.”

“I am not robbing some place with my mother.”

“For your information, my life is in the toilet.”

“You’re grounded–with the exception of your trial.”

“If you use the word angst in prison, you’ll have a five car pile up on your Hershey highway.”

“Sometimes the best way to deal with depression is to drink.”

“Disrespect me, and I’ll break it off and beat you with it.”

“Anyone fucks with us, they’ll be eating hot rifle grease.”

“Mikie, I’m a bad mother. Go to college, get good grades and write to me in jail.”

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Filed under Comedy, Cult Classics

Devil’s Sleep (1949)

“There’s a drive on against juvenile delinquency.”

Vandalism. Arson. Burglary. Hot Rod Racers. Yes, it “looks like the whole new generation has suddenly gone berserk.” There’s a crime wave afoot in The Devil’s Sleep. Judge Rosalind Ballentine (Lita Grey Chaplin) is determined to discover just who is giving the town’s teens “Bennies”, “Goofies”, and “Phenos” and then urging the teens to commit crimes. The Judge enlists the help of clean-cut Detective Sergeant Dave Kerrigan (William Thomason) to find the criminal mastermind behind the corruption of the city’s youth.

Kerrigan makes a few casual inquiries–beginning with his girlfriend’s teenage brother Bob (Jim Tyde). Soon, word of Kerrigan’s questions comes to the attention of Umberto Scalli (Timothy Farrell), the shady owner of a local gym.

There are some cheap laughs here. The Devil’s Sleep is a 1949 film, and it’s certainly not PC when it comes to portraying overweight people. The funniest scenes occur in the gym when a Rubenesque woman by the name of Tessie T. Tesse (obviously a play on the name Ten Ton Tessie) shows up to enroll. She’s measured, but the tape runs out before her hips do. “When I take off my girdle, I can’t even see the scale,” admits Tessie ruefully. The gym staff makes several comments about the “fat society dames” exercising at the gym. They’re described as “blimps” and “trained elephants”, and the gym workers pop the women pills to help “burn the lard off the girlies without the exercise.”

The Devil’s Sleep isn’t exciting (in spite of the cover warnings of ‘depravity’ and ‘adults only’). Some of the acting is flat, and Bob may be wearing a wig. For those of us who love cheesy camp film, then The Devil’s Sleep from director W. Merle Connell (Test Tube Babies) has some merit. My Alpha DVD black and white print is flawed. There are vertical lines through the print, and the audio track skips words at several points.

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