12/6/06

112 Untamed Youth

(1957, Teen Drama/Musical, b&w)

Come on, boys, and carry my bananas!

Rating: *

In a nutshell:

A shady rancher runs a prison farm for unjustly accused teens.

Summary:

The fifties seems to have a fetish for incarcerated women.Untamed Youth begins with an unidentified spastic youth being chased down in a large gray field by two cop cars. He is captured when the opening credits finish, and we wait anxiously for the next scene to explain what just happened and why. We wait in vain, since as far as I know, he never appears in the film again.

What we do get is a wet and mostly unclad Mamie van Doren, skinny-dipping in an irrigation pond with an equally blond and only slightly less shapely actress who plays her sister. Apparently this is illegal; a corrupt authority figure arrests them so that another corrupt authority figure (a judge that looks like a grandma) sentences them to pick cotton on a farm.

As you would expect, it’s all a scam. The grandma judge and the evil plantation owner are secretly married in spite of the fact that he’s, oh, twenty years younger than she is, and bullys the female convicts into sleeping with him. There are the payoffs to the cops and the feeding the kids dog food and the long hours slaving in the hot sun. There’s also the fact that the kids get charged more than their wages for their room and board, so they can never leave.

The girls occasionally take off their clothes and wrestle while the boys peep. The dog food works, I guess, since the kids’ coats are all bright and glossy. They’re always perfectly styled and manicured, even after a long grueling day in the field. Afterwards they get together and dance and sing the night away, while Mamie shakes her top and bottom to bland 50’s music.

Enter Bob, who’s Grandma Judge’s son and recently home from the navy. He gets a job driving a harvester on the plantation, which seems to be a highly prestigious job. He falls in love with Mamie’s sister. The evil plantation owner makes a clumsy pass at Mamie and then sets the dogs on her. Later, one of the other kids turns out be pregnant and dies from a miscarriage in the fields. Bob blows the whistle to his mom, who reveals her secret marriage and cries a lot.

In an almost completely non-sequitur development, a random Mexican guy shows up promising several thousand migrant workers in exchange for forged work permits. Bob and an unconvincingly Hispanic girl overhear the illicit conversation, and then accidentally knock over every pile of scrap metal they can find. The evil plantation owner catches them and is about to send them to the border to be “disposed of” when Mamie arrives with the whole gang of kids, wielding various crop-picking paraphernalia in a threatening manner. Grandma judge has a change of heart and arrives to deputize all the kids and bring the evil plantation owner to justice.

In the end, the evil plantation owner is arrested. Bob marries Mamie’s sister and takes over the plantation, while Mamie goes on television to sing like Harry Belafonte.

Introduction:

Okay, why was Gypsy eating cotton, and how did her stomach spontaneously generate another Tom Servo?Joel takes Servo apart and finds a really long magnetic tapeworm.

Host Segment One:

Joel invents the never-light pipe, which squirts water so that it can never be lit. The Mads invent tongue puppets, which are essentially finger puppets for your tongue.

Host Segment Two:

Joel and the Bots recite a tribute to Greg Brady, based on the girl in the movie that kind of looks like him.

Host Segment Three:

Crow has a flashback about that time when Joel and Tom rigged Gypsy’s brain to Cambot’s output so that they could see what she was thinking about. All she ever thinks about is Richard Basehart.

Host Segment Four:

Gypsy spits up bales of cotton, salt-water taffy, paper towels, and another Tom Servo. The original Tom Servo takes advantage of this situation to tease her mercilessly.

Host Segment Five:

Joel and the ‘Bots have “Goofy guy practice” where they imitate one of the less likeable characters in the film by putting on stupid hats and glasses and dancing like spazes.

Thoughts:

The 'wiggle and jiggle' portion of Mamie's rocking.I think this is the first episode where we get to see more than one Tom Servo. It won’t be the last.

I dunno, maybe I just didn’t get this episode. The inventions seemed lame. The Greg Brady bit was boring. The Richard Basehart gag was needlessly complicated. Okay, I’ll admit it, I laughed when Gypsy couldn’t stop vomiting cotton, but I cringed at the goofy guy dance.

It hurt to watch this movie. Looking at the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide, Kevin Murphy reviewed this movie and he seemed to like it just fine. Chris Cornell from The Satellite News liked it too. Maybe it’s just me. Mamie van Doren’s hot and all, and I’m as fascinated by her nubile young body as the next guy, but the rest of the film just seems so gray, depressing and utterly joyless. Imagine a Coleman Francis film with boobs and a followable plot, and you’ll get what I mean. Or, for the literarily inclined, imagine a Steinbeck novel without the engrossing characters. All the singing, dancing, and jiggling seem incongruous against the darkness of the rest of the film. Not even the tacked-on happy ending saves it for me.

A lot of this movie is just plain weird. What’s with the swank jazz at all times? What’s with the beatnik, and the goofy guy, and the masculine giant girl, and the strangely verbose cook? And while we’re on the subject of the cook, why does he have pie for his dishwashers and dog food for everyone else? If he’s so benevolent in the first place, doesn’t he know he’s feeding them dog food?

In spite of my reservations about the host segments and the movie itself, there is some very funny riffing in this film, mainly centering around the frequent musical numbers. Wannabe Elvis kid’s song “Ain’t gonna make a cotton picker outta me” is retitled “Ain’t gonna make a singer outta me,” and Crow accurately observes “Lots of rhythm and no acting.” Of course, Joel and the ‘Bots have no end of fun with the song “Jiggle and Wiggle and Rock,” as well as Mamie’s odd exclamation “Come on boys, and carry my bananas!” during the final Calypso number.

I don’t think I’ll watch this one again. You can, if you want to.