1/2/07

615 Kitten With a Whip

(1964, Teen Drama, b&w)

This is so creamy!

Rating: **1/2

In a nutshell:

Juvenile delinquent Ann-Margret torments a would-be politician.

Summary:

A disheveled Ann-Margret moves in for the kill.Hot young delinquent Jody (Vegas starlet Ann-Margret) runs through a train station in a nightgown. She sees a house with unclaimed newspapers piling up on the front lawn and breaks in. She goes to sleep in a little girl’s room, surrounded by stuffed animals.

Senate hopeful David Stratton (Dynasty’s John Forsythe) comes home from a long day of campaigning with his campaign manager (Richard Anderson of Six Million Dollar Man fame). After an expository chat about his political prospects and his relationship with his estranged wife and daughter, he goes to bed in a different room. He finds Jody in his house the next morning, and after some threats (at first he suspects her of being planted by his political opponents to discredit him) she tells him a sad tale about escaping the attempted abuse of her mom’s boyfriend. He buys her some clothes, gives her some money, and drops her at the bus stop.

He’s at the country club with his campaign manager when he sees her on TV. The announcer declares that she has recently escaped from Juvenile Hall, critically wounding a matron on the way out. He goes home to find her back at his house. She refuses to leave, as the police have cordoned off the neighborhood, and threatens to yell rape if he calls the cops. He spends the rest of the day warding off his campaign manager’s nosy wife and fielding calls from his own wife, who hopes for a reconciliation.

Jody’s delinquent friends arrive that evening, including a self-proclaimed high priest of hip (Ron), a brutish thug (Buck), and a prideless young lady (Midge). Jody shows Midge around the house while Ron and Buck make their pitch to David. In exchange for whatever cash David has on hand, they’ll abduct Jody across the Mexican border and sell her into prostitution. As much as he wants to get rid of Jody, David won’t agree to this, so everyone hangs out all night, foiling David in a number of half-baked escape attempts. Finally, Ron starts smooching with Midge, while Buck tries to get it on with Jody.

Jody rejects him, so he tries to rape her. When David defends her, Buck pulls out a straight razor. Ron breaks up the fight, receiving a slash to the arm for his trouble. He starts to bleed to death. They want to drive across the border for a doctor who won’t ask questions, but Midge has had enough of Buck’s insults and runs off during the fight, taking the car with her. They force David to drive them.

There’s a barbed wire fence across the backwoods road they need to take, and they make David run over it. A fencepost gets stuck under his car, so Buck gets out to move it. Jody steps on the gas, leaving the Buck tangled in the wire. They drop Ron at the doctor and David drops Jody at a flophouse. She steals his car keys and locks herself in her room, demanding tequila.

David goes out for tequila, and meets his campaign manager and his wife, along with an important newspaper reporter and his wife. He makes up a lame story about his car breaking down, and having to buy tequila as payment for the mechanic. He takes them into a nearby restaurant to avoid Ron, who’s been stitched up and pumped full of painkillers. It turns out to be a strip joint, for which he apologizes heartily. He excuses himself, claiming to see the mechanic. Ron tries to get Jody’s location out of him, but David calls the police, telling them that Ron was trying to sell him dope. Ron flees.

David takes the tequila to Jody. While he was gone she has made a determination to turn over a new leaf and get her life together. She accepts the booze and lets him go, but Ron and Buck have followed him. David tries to defend Jody, and gets severely beaten. Jody breaks the tequila bottle over Buck’s head and threatens Ron with the broken end. She tries to drive David to the hospital, but Ron and Buck commandeer a car and give chase. They all go over the side on a mountain road. Everyone is thrown clear while their cars burst into flames.

David wakes up in the hospital, days later. He discovers that Ron and Buck were killed in the accident. Jody survived just long enough to lie about being in the car with Ron and Buck instead of with David. David decides to reconcile with his wife.

Introduction:

The eagle has landed...Mike and Tom massage grease into Crow. They plan to shoot him down the Umbilicus at seven hundred miles per second per second to infiltrate Deep 13, where he will find a way to bring the Satellite of Love back down to earth.

Host Segment One:

The greased-up Crow flies down the Umbilicus and lands in Deep 13. Dr. Forrester finds him immediately, sending him fleeing back to the Satellite for safety. Mike cradles Crow like an infant to comfort him, while Dr. Forrester gives Frank a giant rat trap. Quoth he, “Put a Nutrageous in this and put it at the bottom of the Umbilicus.” Frank loves Nutrageous, and immediately catches himself in his own trap.

Host Segment Two:

To celebrate Richard Anderson’s role in the film, Mike fixes the ‘Bots so that they make bionic noises every time they move. It quickly gets old, and Mike tries to chase them down and turn them into Shields and Yarnell instead.

Host Segment Three:

Crow has one bionic noise left. While they’re trying to figure out what causes it, a kitten with a whip shows up in the Hexfield Viewscreen. He tries to introduce himself multiple times, but keeps breaking off to engage in quirky kittenish antics. Mike hangs up on him before he can hurl a hairball.

Host Segment Four:

The satellite has just passed over the equator, and, in anticipation of the ‘Bots’ usual cruelty, Mike hazes himself by dressing as Queen Elizabeth I. The ‘Bots see him and freak out. They weren’t planning to haze him, but they did bake him a cupcake.

Host Segment Five:

Mike and the ‘Bots break a piñata shaped like Dr. Forrester while Mike reads a letter. Down in Deep 13, Dr. Forrester turns TV’s Frank into a piñata and hoists him in the air. Frank asks if Dr. Forrester will hurt him. Dr. Forrester replies that he will not. Quoth he, “I’ve invited a gaggle of candy-starved five-year-olds with Louisville Sluggers.”

Stinger:

Ann-Margret in a bathrobe. “I’ll be a celebrity,” she shrieks.

Thoughts:

Our passive hero makes yet another ineffective attempt to escape.Since before The Wizard of Oz, “He woke up, and it was all a dream,” has been regarded as the most famous cop-out ending of all time. As a Deus Ex Machina, it’s only slightly preferable to the soap opera practice of sending lunatics with machine guns into season finales to facilitate cast changes. The ending of Kitten With a Whip isn’t much better. This is a shame, because up until the point when David wakes up in the hospital, it’s a competent, if unspectacular thriller.

Naturally, it’s not going to win any awards for characterization. Buck and Jody are the very models of fifties delinquent stereotypes in that, as a boy, Buck is a murderous psychotic, and, as a girl, Jody is a sex-crazed maniac. Ron and Midge are a little different. Midge has no self-esteem and Ron is a wannabe new-age guru (without the traditional long hair and tie-die), but there’s not much else to them. David is aggressively noncommittal about his situation; I can’t count the number of obvious opportunities he had to escape his captors. Everyone in the film behaved in just such a way as to increase the tension, whether it was entirely believable or not. This is especially true of the campaign manager’s wife, who seems to exist solely for the purpose of putting David’s secret in danger. It is to the film’s credit that it manages to get the tension so high, despite these problems.

But then it ends, with no effort, ingenuity, or consequences on David’s part. Just plain dumb luck that he managed to be the only survivor, and Jody had a change of heart just in time to clear his name before she died. Imagine an alternate ending to The Tortoise and the Hare, where the tortoise wins by default when the hare gets hit by a bus just shy of the finish line.

On a lighter note, look for Doodles Weaver playing himself in a very brief cameo.

The host segments mostly work. Mike is frightening in full female renaissance regalia, and he takes full advantage of this by vamping for the camera. The escape plot that occupies the first two host segments is well done. The bionic noises sketch and the piñata sketch work as well, but I didn’t quite get the Kitten With a Whip sketch. Obviously, it’s Kevin Murphy rolled in industrial carpet, but once we’ve gotten past the initial shock and amusement factors, the actual sketch doesn’t go anywhere.

The film segments work fairly well. Upon seeing the film’s title, Mike calls it, “The hottest episode of Garfield, ever.” When David gets home and tries to relax, Crow says, “Now to put on some pampers and watch Flower Drum Song.” When Jody finally gets to the Tijuana and swanky jazz starts to play, Mike uses his radio D.J. voice to say, “We’re going to slow it down. In fact, we’re going to grind it to a complete halt.” Compared to most of the films they’ve done, this one’s halfway decent, and the commentary works well enough. It’s worth viewing.