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.

Film Review: High School Big Shot (1959)

Also known as: The Young Sinners (UK)
Release Date: June 21st, 1959 (Fargo premiere)
Directed by: Joel Rapp
Written by: Joel Rapp
Music by: Gerald Fried
Cast: Tom Pittman, Virginia Aldridge, Howard Veit, Malcolm Atterbury

Sparta Productions, Filmgroup, 70 Minutes

Review:

“I am a thief, not a crook.” – Harry March

Mystery Science Theater 3000 used to feature a bunch of juvenile delinquent and beatnik movies from the late ’50s and early ’60s. This one probably takes the cake as being the worst though. Well, maybe not the worst but certainly the one that has the least impact.

It’s just not that interesting and frankly, we’ve seen these stories before and done much better in films that are still pretty terrible films.

Surprisingly, this was financed by Roger Corman, a master of schlock, but by comparison, this film makes Corman schlock look like ’70s Coppola.

Also, the film borrows heavily from Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing. In some ways, I guess this film is kind of noir but it lacks any sort of visual style to make it look like anything other than some film school reject’s guerrilla project.

The plot revolves around a teen with an alcoholic father. The teen gets used by the hot girl in school to help her cheat. He obliges but gets caught and destroys his academic future. After overhearing the plans for a drug deal at the docks, he decides to steal the one million dollars being held in a safe there. The idiot teen boasts to the hot girl but she obviously has backstabbing plans of her own.

Where noir has twists and turns and surprises, this is a predictable dud with a predictable ending and honestly, it mostly feels like the film is a total waste of time.

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: other awful beatnik and juvenile delinquent movies from the time.

Film Review: Iron Eagle (1986)

Release Date: January 17th, 1986
Directed by: Sidney J. Furie
Written by: Kevin Alyn Elders, Sidney J. Furie
Music by: Basil Poledouris
Cast: Louis Gossett Jr., Jason Gedrick, David Suchet, Larry B. Scott, Caroline Lagerfelt, Tim Thomerson, Shawnee Smith, Melora Hardin, Lance LeGault, Jerry Levine, Robbie Rist, Michael Bowen

Delphi Films, Falcon’s Flight, TriStar Pictures, 117 Minutes

Review:

“I wonder what a Cessna looks like splattered all over those rocks?” – Packer

This doesn’t survive on nostalgia points for me. Honestly, I didn’t even like this film as a kid. I mean, I enjoyed the last half hour, as that’s where the action comes in but everything leading up to that was really damn boring.

Seeing this now, and it has been at least thirty years, I was surprised that I wasn’t pulled into it a bit more as it features two teen actors from the time that I really liked: Larry B. Scott and Jerry Levine.

But the real problem with this movie is that it’s too damn long. I mean, this is nearly two full hours and only the last half hour is actually somewhat enjoyable. And to be honest, they could’ve lobbed 30 to 40 minutes off of this thing and no one would’ve noticed.

Additionally, even though the actual mission at the end is fairly fun, it’s full of flaws and errors that are distracting.

The main thing that sticks out is the editing. There are multiple moments in the movie where the video loop behind the pilots’ heads resets. So you’re looking at closeups of pilots in the cockpit talking and the background goes from a clouded sky to a quick jump of clear sky.

Plus, there are mistakes in how the action is edited that don’t make sense from a logistic and physics standpoint.

I think the thing that may irritate more than the shoddy editing is the models used for the planes, as every time one explodes, it is obviously a miniature and made of wood. Fighter jets don’t splinter like a balsa wood chair in a Chaplin movie. But I get it, it’s the ’80s, CGI didn’t exist like it does now and the film had a modest budget. But no one could call in a favor to one of the guys that worked on model making for the Star Wars or Star Trek films?

The acting is pretty bad too. And even though Louis Gossett Jr. has shown that he has chops, I think that it is this movie that actually wrecked his career. He went from An Officer and a Gentleman to this? But hey, at least it allowed him to have his own franchise, which he would then have to rely on over the course of three shitty sequels.

Seeing Iron Eagle now, I don’t hate it. It just would have been much better with a lot of stuff left on the cutting room floor and a bit more refinement in the film’s action packed climax.

I’m going to completely ignore the fact that the plot is stupid because this is the ’80s and it was escapism for kids, trying to capitalize off of the popularity of movies like Red Dawn. But in case you don’t know what the plot is, it’s about a decorated Colonel that helps a teenager steal an Air Force fighter plane to attack an enemy country in an effort to save the kid’s dad. Let that marinate for a minute.

So if I ever do watch this again, I’ll just skip to the finale and ignore the plot details.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: probably its subpar sequels and other ’80s and ’90s teens movies that throw kids into war or combat like Red Dawn, The Rescue and Toy Soldiers.