Film Review: Teen-Age Strangler (1964)

Also known as: Terror In the Night (re-release title)
Release Date: 1964
Directed by: Ben Parker
Written by: Clark Davis
Music by: Danny Dean
Cast: Bill Bloom, John Ensign, Jo Canterbury, John Humphreys

Ajay Film Company, American Diversified Services, Original Six, 61 Minutes

Review:

“And he didn’t steal no bike either! I did!” – Mikey Walton

Mystery Science Theater 3000 never ran short of juvenile delinquent movies from the ’50s and ’60s and this picture is just one more to add to the list.

While this is a terrible movie, it’s kind of interesting in that this one is a proto-slasher film. There isn’t any actual slashing but there is a serial killer that is targeting teens and strangling them to death. I guess you could also consider this an American giallo, although it’s devoid of a vibrant color palette and anything resembling actual style.

This only clocks in at 61 minutes but it is still a slog to get through. It lacks excitement is littered with bad acting, questionable directing decisions and it’s a “how to” on how not to light a film.

It has an interesting enough plot though, as it’s about a delinquent kid suspected of the murders, who is actually innocent, but has no alibis to deflect suspicion.

In the end, the killer isn’t even a juvenile delinquent so maybe by 1964, these films were making some social progress and didn’t blame everything on angst-y teens in car/biker culture.

Despite all its flaws, it does have one thing working for it and that’s the light rockabilly score by Danny Dean, who is probably most known for fronting the rockabilly band Danny Dean and The Homewreckers. While that band wasn’t massively successful, Dean was a pretty talented musician for his scene and his contribution in this film, at the very least, gives it a feeling of authenticity.

Sadly, the film itself doesn’t do much to capitalize off of the tunes and mostly cancels out Dean’s work, as everything else is so lackluster that it drowns out the positives.

Rating: 2.25/10
Pairs well with: other juvenile delinquent movies that made it on to MST3K.

Film Review: Girls Town (1959)

Also known as: The Innocent and the Damned (reissue title)
Release Date: October 5th, 1959
Directed by: Charles F. Haas
Written by: Robert Hardy Andrews, Robert Smith
Music by: Van Alexander, Paul Anka
Cast: Mamie Van Doren, Mel Tormé, Ray Anthony, Paul Anka, James Mitchum, The Platters

Albert Zugsmith Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 89 Minutes

Review:

“This is Chip’s father.” – Michael Clyde, “You killed my son!” – Mr. Gardener, “I’m sorry for you, Mr. Gardener, but you’re dialing the wrong number.” – Silver Morgan

This movie was the focal point of the first episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000‘s sixth season, the first full season to star Mike Nelson. It was also the last episode that I needed to cover for that season, as I had watched and reviewed the rest of the pictures from that lot. In fact, I have one episode left in season four and then a handful or so in season five.

So on this journey of reviewing every film featured on MST3K, I have come across a lot of ’50s delinquent movies. While this one is equal to the quality of the rest of the lot, which doesn’t say much, this may be the most star-studded of them, as it features rising star Mamie Van Doren, as well as musicians Mel Tormé, Paul Anka and The Platters. It also has James Mitchum in it but James’ career never rose to the heights that his father’s did.

Sadly, despite the musical flourish, Girls Town is a pretty boring movie.

The story follows Van Doren’s Silver Morgan, who is sent to a Catholic reform school, where she doesn’t quite fit in. Additionally, Silver has been accused of killing a rapist but the girl that actually did the killing was Silver’s sister. The sister is then blackmailed by a creep who is into “hands-off drag racing”. The same creep has plans of selling the sister off to some Tijuana slave traders.

Yes, that’s really the plot. I didn’t pull any of that out of my ass. It’s fucking insane, I know.

And well, the film itself is just a baffling mess that deals with heavy subjects like rape, sex slavery and swooning over Paul f’n Anka. That’s pretty hardcore shit for 1959!

Anyway, there’s nothing all that noteworthy about the film, other than its cast and how nuts the story is.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: other delinquent movies featured on MST3K.

Film Review: Teen-Age Crime Wave (1955)

Also known as: Jail Bait (alternative title), Teenage Crime Wave (alternate spelling)
Release Date: November, 1955
Directed by: Fred F. Sears
Written by: Ray Buffum, Harry Essex
Cast: Tommy Cook, Molly McCart

Sam Katzman Productions, Clover Productions, Columbia Pictures, 77 Minutes

Review:

“You’re dirt, Terry. He’d never touch you!” – Jane Koberly

As I’ve been working my way, sort of randomly, through all the films featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, it seems like everything I’ve got left are these teenage delinquent movies from the ’50s and ’60s. I guess I didn’t realize how many there were on MST3K or maybe they all blended together in my memory over the years.

This one is surprisingly not godawful. Okay, I mean, it is bad but it is a better film than the other MST3K teenie bopper thug movies.

The characters in this flick are fairly likable. By “likable” I mean, not annoying.

The movie’s title is a bit misleading though, as the story primarily sees our teenage delinquents holed up in a house with a family they take hostage while on the run from the fuzz. One of the teen girls is innocent and just got caught up in the shenanigans. But this is ’50s cinema so you know that the main baddie will face some sort of justice.

Overall, the film does a decent job of creating tension but this still pales in comparison to the majority of the major studio crime pictures of the time.

It lacks good acting, good direction and the cinematography is amateurish with bad lighting. But it’s not a total shitshow.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: other teen crime movies that were shown on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Film Review: The Beatniks (1960)

Also known as: Sideburns and Sympathy (working title)
Release Date: 1960
Directed by: Paul Frees
Written by: Paul Frees, Arthur Julian
Music by: Eddie Brandt, Paul Frees
Cast: Tony Travis, Joyce Terry

Glenville Productions, 78 Minutes

Review:

“Whyyyy, you young hoodlums, I’ll call the police!” – The Hotel Manager, “You say one word to anyone and I’m gonna moon you.” – Bob ‘Moon’ Mooney, “You’re gonna what?” – The Hotel Manager, “Moon you!” – Bob ‘Moon’ Mooney

Paul Frees was most famous for being a prolific voice actor. Still, I guess he got the directing bug after also being a screenwriter on the side. He wrote and directed this film as a warning against the Beat counterculture. It was done in a similar vein to Reefer Madness, which tried to scare people away from marijuana in 1936.

Frees luckily didn’t quit his day job, which was good, as this film was tremendously terrible. In fact, it was put on blast by Mystery Science Theater 3000 during season four. And if you are going to watch this, watch that version.

The story is pretty basic, it just follows around some shitty beatnik characters doing shitty beatnik things. However, this really ups the ante and goes way over the top in trying to demonize beatniks as a whole by painting them all out to be degenerate criminals.

But I guess old folks and the decent people of yesteryear didn’t have time for delinquency.

As one would expect, this is a poorly made film, top to bottom. But things that play like propaganda pieces tend to suck.

It’s mostly dull but it is still interesting, just seeing it as a product of its time.

Rating: 2.25/10
Pairs well with: other delinquent youth movies shown on MST3K.

Film Review: The Creeping Terror (1964)

Also known as: The Crawling Monster (working title)
Release Date: 1964
Directed by: Vic Savage (as A. J. Nelson)
Written by: Robert Silliphant
Music by: Frederick Kopp
Cast: Vic Savage, Shannon O’Neil, William Thourlby, John Caresio, Larry Burrell (narrator)

Metropolitan International Pictures, Crown International Pictures, 77 Minutes

Review:

“That afternoon, in Mungreeve Park, a group of neighbors got together for a hoot-e-nanny.” – Narrator

Mystery Science Theater 3000 has shown a lot of schlock-y monster movies in its 200-plus episode run. I have to say, though, this one might be the absolute worst of the lot.

This movie features a monster that is basically a giant rubber slug that looks like it’s got giant noodles dangling off of it. It’s terrible, uninspiring and is just a ripoff of The Blob without the imagination or any real attempt at trying to create actual dread in the audience.

The biggest sequence in the film is just cuts back and forth of teens go-go dancing and the creature crawling extremely slow through the dirt and shrubs. Eventually it gets to the dance to chow down on teens but the fact that it can even catch a person is an amazing feat, truly.

I guess the monsters, as there are actually two, are some organic space probes sent to Earth to eat and digest humans for analysis. So somehow destroying some super computer at the end somehow halts a potential invasion. This movie was a mess and mostly just a confusing bore that felt like it was written by a couple of burnouts after smoking all the pot in town over the course of a 24 hour Roger Corman movie bender.

Unlike Corman, however, this film had no charm and it’s monster looked like a shredded semi tire from the highway, tied to puppet strings that some drunkard was shaking above the shot. At least Corman gave us hokey monsters we could love.

This is literal cinematic poop. But it’s still a watchable film if seen with the aid of Mike Nelson and The ‘Bots.

Rating: 1.5/10
Pairs well with: other monster schlock of the ’50s and ’60s, especially the monster movies shown on MST3K.

Film Review: The Wraith (1986)

Also known as: Turbocop (Mexico), Interceptor (Germany)
Release Date: October, 1986 (Tokyo International Fantastic Film Festival)
Directed by: Mike Marvin
Written by: Mike Marvin
Music by: Michael Hoenig, J. Peter Robinson
Cast: Charlies Sheen, Nick Cassavetes, Sherilyn Fenn, Randy Quaid, Clint Howard, Griffin O’Neal

New Century Entertainment Corporation, Alliance Entertainment, Turbo Productions, 93 Minutes

Review:

“You listen to me, you son-of-a-bitch! There’s a kid out there usin’ his car to kill people, not that it’s such a big deal since it seems to be your gang he’s got it in for… so, if you guys try to take the law into your own hands, and that killer turns up dead, I’m gonna see you all sniffin’ cyanide in the Arizona gas chamber.” – Sheriff Loomis

This is one of those movies that used to come on late at night on cable, usually with an introduction by Joe Bob Briggs via TNT’s MonsterVision. I always got glued to the set whenever it was on though, as there is just something so surreal and bizarre about it.

The plot is basically the same as The Crow, except the dead guy looking for revenge isn’t an invincible goth dude with a pet bird. Instead, he’s Charlie Sheen and he has the ability to turn into a ghost car. But then, that’s kind of confusing because he ends up giving the car to his little brother at the end, as he goes off into the sunset on his motorcycle with Audrey from Twin Peaks.

Anyway, Tucson is overrun by a gang of race car thugs. They bully people into racing them, cheat to win and then take their car. Charlie Sheen in his previous, less dreamy form, was murdered by the gang because he was having sex with Audrey from Twin Peaks, who the gang leader is obsessed over.

Sheen comes back, turns into a ghost car a.k.a. a Dodge M4S Interceptor and kills the gang members, one at a time, in races that end with them usually being blown to bits. Although, their bodies remain intact with their eyes looking like they’ve been burnt out. I guess Ghost Car Charlie sucks their souls out through their eyes or something. Honestly, it’s not really clear.

The film also stars Nick Cassavetes, son of John, as the gang leader, Clint Howard, as a a guy that looks like a ginger Beavis with glasses, and Randy Quaid, as the no nonsense sheriff that ain’t got time for all this supernatural shit. But the sheriff doesn’t really care about solving the case, as the ghost car is killing off the scumbags of Tucson.

I can’t particularly call this a good film and really, it’ll resonate with a certain type of movie fan. Mostly, fans of ’80s schlock with a sci-fi and supernatural bent. Really, this is a common late night cable movie of the late ’80s and ’90s, so if that’s your thing, you should enjoy this.

There’s not much plot to muck up the insanity and surrealness, which in these type of movies is a real plus. We don’t need all this wacky shit explained, just serve it to us in mass amounts and let us feast.

I can’t say that this is a movie that helped anyone’s career but I certainly don’t think that it hurt anyone’s either. It’s a hearty helping of ham with a dopey but fun script, executed as well as it could be with ’80s special effects and a tight budget.

Plus, it’s got a lot of solid car action.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: The Crow, which may have somewhat ripped this story off.

Film Review: Kitten With a Whip (1964)

Release Date: November 4th, 1964 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Douglas Heyes
Written by: Douglas Heyes, Whit Masterson
Music by: William Loose, Henry Mancini, Carl W. Stalling
Cast: Ann-Margret, John Forsythe, Ann Doran

Universal Pictures, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Why, David, I thought I’d never find you in ladies’ underwear.” – Saleslady

Kitten With a Whip was a movie made to bank off of the popularity of rising star Ann-Margret. However, it’s a pretty terrible film that feels like it was rushed out to strike while the iron was hot. Luckily for Ann-Margret, her career had some staying power, she wasn’t a flash in the pan and she’d go on to be in much better films.

As bad as this was though, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it got riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Plus, it fits nicely with a lot of the other B-movie teen and beatnik flicks that they played a lot.

The story is about a politician (John Forsythe), whose wife is out of town. One night he comes home to discover Ann-Margret’s Jody hiding out. Jody gives some sob story and convinces the sad sap to help her out.

Soon after, juvenile delinquents show up and make his life a living hell, as his nice house becomes a beatnik party bunker. The politician is afraid of scandal, so he puts up with it. Also, at one point, Jody tells him that she’ll accuse him of rape if he gets the cops. Eventually, the beatnik punks get violent and the politician and Jody flee to Mexico with the delinquents on their tail.

Honestly, the plot is a bit nuts but it does tap into some film-noir tropes while clearly trying to be more like the youth movies of the day.

This isn’t particularly well made, despite having good stars and being made by Universal.

Ultimately, this did showcase Ann-Marget’s dramatic side where her previous films were musicals. So in some way, I’m sure this helped her career more than it hurt it.

This is pretty forgettable though.

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: other Ann-Margret movies or other beatnik films featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000.