12/26/06

522 Teenage Crime Wave

(1955, Drama-Teen/Crime, b&w)

You’re dirt, Terry. He’d never touch you.

Rating: *1/2

In a nutshell:

Murderous delinquents take a farm family hostage.

Summary:

I'm dirt, Jane.  He'd never touch me.A wealthy doughy man tries to pick up a girl named Terry in a bar. She invites him back to her apartment, and rather than wonder why she’s immediately agreed to take home an ugly stranger twice her age, he stuffs all his cash into his jacket and follows her out to the curb for a richly deserved mugging.

Terry’s boyfriend Mike and their friend Al take his wallet and severely beat him until the cops show up to make arrests. The boys get away, but Terry and Jane (Al’s innocent blind date) are arrested. Despite her protests, the authorities irrefutably state that Jane was somewhere in the immediate vicinity when it happened, so her parents disown her and the judge sends her up the river for a year. In prison, the girls strip for gratuitous showers and then have an obligatory scene where they wrestle in their underthings (apparently this prison eschews the traditional jumpsuits in favor of low-cut slips).

The next day a matron and a moralizing cop drive them out to another facility. They never make it, since the psychotic Mike takes this opportunity to run them into a ditch, kill the cop, and laboriously tie up the matron in full view of the road. For some reason they drag Jane along with them. A handy plot point on the radio lets them know about their pursuit, so they ditch the car (literally) in the country and walk to a nearby farmhouse.

A friendly old farm couple lives there and we learn that their ex-military son will be coming home to visit from college. Everyone sits around the living room at gunpoint, reading the bible aloud and staring dumbfounded at the phone while Terry’s sordid life story slowly comes out into the open. Mike and Terry send Al a letter, and wait for him to come pick them up.

Eventually the son comes home to provide a focus for Mike’s psychotic aggression, Terry’s sleazy pick-up attempts, and Jane’s innocent worry. (It is at this point that Jane utters the immortal, “You’re dirt, Terry. He’d never touch you.”) Police are thrown off the scent, Al is called and told to hurry, and a friendly neighbor is killed and thrown into the cellar. The above two paragraphs describe approximately nine tenths of the film.

Al shows up and gets shot at a police blockade. The police hear the shots of the neighbor getting killed and come to investigate. The farm dad gets shot in the shoulder while Mike and Terry pile into the car with Jane, the farm mom, and her son. They have a car chase through Los Angeles that dead-ends at Griffith Park Observatory. Terry makes a last stand and is gunned down while farm dad’s previous words of wisdom ring out in the background. Farm son chases Mike until he runs out of bullets, and then beats him savagely in the observatory. Everyone weeps over Terry while she delivers her final words of regret before she expires.

Introduction:

Doughy Man has the amazing ability to add extra holes to his belt.Mike and the ‘Bots are in the process of (shhhh!) escaping. Mike works on a jetpack while camouflage Tom and ninja Crow shush each other loudly. Gypsy can’t reach their contacts at the Swiss border. Mike replies that they don’t have any.

Host Segment One:

Dr. Forrester has invented Mace Mousse, for use on overaggressive perfume ladies at the mall. He demonstrates on TV’s Frank by liberally peppering him with the “Satan’s Jockstrap” fragrance. On the Satellite of Love, Mike’s jetpack quickly fizzles while they make lame excuses for their failed escape attempt. It turns out they were trying to fuel it with lox (smoked salmon paste) instead of LOx (liquid oxygen).

Host Segment Two:

Inspired by the ill-fated bar patron at the beginning of the film, Mike and the ‘Bots perform a musical salute to the golden age of The Doughy Guy. Quoth Crow, “Doughy guys of the world, we take our belts off to you!”

Host Segment Three:

Mike and the Bots start the first delicatessen in space—SOLi’s. Frank calls up to order a Joe Don Baker Baked Potato.

Host Segment Four:

Mike and the ‘Bots do a commercial for Mystos, a Mentos-ish candy that inspires non-threatening youthful rebellion. Quoth the theme song, “Old is stupid / Youth is better.”

Host Segment Five:

Mike and the ‘Bots read some letters. Down in Deep 13, TV’s Frank dresses in a cape and tights to declare himself “Doughy Man.” Quoth he, “Butter does my bidding!” Dr. Forrester wanders by and spritzes him with Satan’s Jockstrap. Frank shrieks and presses the button. The credits roll until Frank presses the button again while getting up. Dr. Forrester maces him again. This goes on for quite some time, macing Frank through a door, on a swinging rope, and just offscreen.

Stinger:

Jane stands up during an accusatory newscast and shrieks, “Turn it off!”

Thoughts:

TURN IT OFF!!!This is another one of those moralizing films made specifically to deliver the following warning: children left unattended will naturally gravitate towards a life of crime. Well, children left unattended will naturally gravitate towards whatever lifestyle happens to be handy, and I guess sometimes that might be a life of crime, though you’d think that the better educated among them might gravitate towards higher yield and lower risk criminal occupations, like embezzlement and fraud. Perhaps there just aren’t enough con men out there to set good examples for them…

Anyway, these films tend to show the inevitable end point of such criminal gravitation as either a manic killer that slaughters innocents with no reason or remorse (if you’re a boy) or a sleazy tart that can only speak in double-entendres and will sleep with anything bipedal (if you’re a girl). I can’t really say that such people don’t exist, but come on. What about survival instincts? If all delinquents had impulse control problems like these, they’d never live past the age of twelve.

After the lack of inventions in the last two episodes, I thought the invention exchanges were done. I guess I was wrong. This episode has only one invention, Mace Mousse (Satan’s Jockstrap is an great name for a flavor of mace), unless Mike’s lox-powered rocket pack counts as an invention. Gypsy may be right about all good escape plans needing contacts at the Swiss border. I really liked the Salute To Doughy Guys and the Mystos ad. The SOLi’s Deli sketch was funny, but I was hoping they’d try to convince Frank to bring them down to deliver his Joe Don Baker Baked Potato. Frank’s Doughy Man monologue was great, and the multiple false starts to the closing credits are every bit as hilarious as they were in Daddy-O.

The film segments can be a little tedious. After an uncomfortable beginning, the movie arrives at a farmhouse and stays there to twiddle its metaphorical thumbs for more than an hour. Partway through, Mike says, “Forty minutes of hard-driving living room action!” Every time the phone rings, everyone looks at it tensely for two or three minutes while Crow shouts, “It’s that thing again! What is it? What do we do?” The movie picks up and it really gets funny a few minutes before the end during the chase through Griffith Park Observatory. When psycho Mike finally runs out of ammunition, Tom shouts, “Society didn’t give me enough bullets!” I guess you could watch it for the hilarious telephonic indecision and the goofy chase at the end, but the rest of the film is just a long, painful slog through the movie’s endlessly repeated moral.