Sunday, June 08, 2008

THE GREATEST FILM EVER MADE: HIGH SCHOOL HELLCATS. That's right. And what critic would dare dispute it? You can keep your GONE WITH THE WINDs. Blechhh! You can have your CITIZEN KANEs. Even better than ARMAGEDDON is HIGH SCHOOL HELLCATS; direct from 1958 and the American International Pictures team of James Nicholson and Sam Arkoff. Cough cough. Put out that cigar, Sam. OK, and directed by Edward Bernds. That's right! The guy who directed a bunch of those classic Three Stooges shorts. In glorious black and white. And in new patented juvenile-delinquentvision! It's HIGH SCHOOL HELLCATS!!!! Our movie opens with a shot of three goils: Connie, Dolly and . . . another one. I don't know what the third girl's name is but it doesn't matter cause I'm sure she's a trollop. We see Connie (Jana Lund): the leader of the female gang of high school cutthroats named the Hellcats. We can tell all three goils are bad news because they're smoking under a NO-SMOKING sign. We can tell Connie is the baddest of them all because she puts her hands on her hips a lot. We can tell Dolly is ... well, have you ever seen THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE?!?!? Think of Rebecca DeMornay. Only homely. Dolly plays with knives. We can tell this because, to bring on the opening credits after Connie tells Dolly she "bugs" her, Dolly (the spectacularly surly Susanne Sidney) hurls a switchblade into the wall. Cue opening credits -- written on a blackboard, of course. Cue the snazzy rock & roll soundtrack (inexplicably composed by the great Ronald Stein who scored everything from DEMENTIA 13 to THE HAUNTED PALACE -- superb scores all) which the old folks think the young kids "dig" the most. You know the kind; I'm sure you can hear it in your head right now and you've never even seen the film. Our hapless protagonist is Joyce Martin: the new kid in town. Joyce is played by Yvonne Lime; a fine enough little actress who didn't have much more of a career, apparently, than this film, a lot of TV work and a small part in Katharine Hepburn/Burt Lancaster flick THE RAINMAKER. As a slut. But here, Joyce is decidedly NOT a slut. She's a good girl. We can tell this because she DOESN'T put her hands on her hips NOR does she play with switchblades. Despite how good she obviously is, her father (grouchy Don Shelton who was a trooper in the giant ant movie THEM!) treats her like the worst juvenile delinquent since Sal Mineo wrote "Nertz To You" on the gymnasium wall! Old Mr. Martin has EVEN MORE issues which we will come to presently. Mrs. Martin (Viola Harris -- who has been in not one but TWO episodes of Law & Order, Jack!) is the ultimate 50's mother who spends more time with her bridge games than her family. She might wanna keep a closer eye on things. But that's, again, later. On Joyce's first day of school, Connie and the Hellcats decide to give her the opportunity to join their.....um.....social club. Of course, there's a battery of initiation tests she must first pass. The first is the "Slacks Test". Joyce is informed that tomorrow they are all going to wear slacks to school; even though that's against the dress code. Little does our Joyce know that she will be the ONLY one wearing slacks; all the Hellcats will continue wearing dresses. This is a test to see is Joyce is a squealer. Joyce isn't. But she gets pissed off and runs out of the classroom down to the corner coffee shop. There she meets clean-cut college guy Mike Landers (played by the ubiquitous AIPer Brett Halsey). I must here take the opportunity to identify the main drug of choice among our high school delinquents. It's not booze or the Mary Jane; it's coffee. I never SAW teenagers drink so much COFFEE!!! Now, I'm pretty sure I went through my entire 6 1/2 years of high school without drinking a SINGLE CUP of coffee. But these kids are ALWAYS drinking it. It's the Devil's Bean!!!! After school. Before school. Hell, they're probably drinking it DURING school but those scenes were cut. Even when a distraught Joyce shows up at her understanding teacher Miss Trudy (Rhoda Williams) Davis' house in the middle of the night (something ELSE I can honestly say never happened when I was in high school), the two are drinking COFFEE again!!! But back to the coffee shop. Naturally it doesn't take long for Joyce and Mike to go all sweet on each other. Of course, when Joyce's father finds out she's met a boy he immediately assumes this college guy is Lenny Bruce and forbids her from seeing him. This leads to a lot of scenes where Mike has to park down the street so Joyce's dad won't see her getting into his car. And what exactly do the lovebirds DO when they hop into Mike's hotrod?!?!? Drink more coffee?!?!? Well, no. Thankfully, Mike is sensible enough to confine the coffee drinking to work hours. Instead, the pair usually go lounge on the beach in front of a back-projected ocean. And no, even though this IS an AIP picture, Frankie and Annette don't come along. The movie goes on with the Hellcats forcing Joyce to do various naughty things in order to join; shoplifting among them. All the juvies then decide to have a house party; and Joyce lies to her parents and goes. Oh, but before she leaves the house, Joyce mistakenly comes into the living room wearing just her slip. Dad spazzes out at the sight; obviously harbouring some deep, dark desires triggered by the sight of his daughter in her underwear. In fact, his volcanic urges are apparently so little in control that Dad slaps Joyce right across the face. When Ma asks him why he hit her, Dad replies: "I don't know". But we, do, right kids! Luckily this is just an AIP film or this coulda been a WHOLE 'nother kinda movie! OK, back to the illicit partying juveniles. During one of those hellraising rounds of "sardines" that hardened criminals get up to, the gang turns out the lights and "fools around" in the dark trying to guess who is who. During this blackout, we hear a thud. Somebody has taken a header down the basement stairs; juvenile delinquents should be more careful to close interior doors when horsing around in the dark, you know. Well, there's Connie at the foot of the stairs. And wait'll you hear this. She's dead as a mackerel. A heavily mascaraed mackerel! Being the loyal friends they are, the gang all agrees to leave her lying at the bottom of the stairs, grab all their cocktail glasses and hightail it outta there. You see, the house belongs to a family who is out of town and they broke in. Everyone is sworn to secrecy. But Dolly swears someone PUSHED Connie down those stairs -- and SHE'S gonna find out who did it or else! It's also probably time to tell you that, in that wholesome 50's way, Connie and Dolly are heavily coded as lesbians. I mean, what ELSE could they be?!?!? Being delinquents and all. Now, you may not believe it but it is actually NOTICED that Connie has gone missing. Who'd miss HER, you ask. Well, some palaver about her mother is mentioned by the conscientious cop on the case Police Lt. Manners (Robert Anderson -- no, you've never seen him act in anything so don't worry about it). He goes to the school, questions nice Miss Trudy the teacher and has her send in all the Hellcats one by one. When it comes to Joyce's turn, she lets slip that Dolly is probably Connie's best friend. So the lieutenant sends for Dolly next -- who acts about as guilty as you CAN act, used the PAST TENSE when referring to Connie and suddenly freaks out about how "she didn't do nuttin' and she doesn't know nuttin'!!!" Dolly even crouches behind a chair like a caged animal! Well, hell girl, I'M convinced. Joyce's conscience is bothering her because of the secret she's keeping. No, I mean about Connie taking a header. Joyce pays that late night call to her nice teacher Miss Trudy (you know, when the coffee's dragged out once again) but can't tell her why she's there and abruptly leaves. The next day, Dolly tells her the Hellcats are having another meeting in that abandoned movie theatre they like to call pad. Right before that meeting takes place, two girls (one of them apparently Jane Wiedlen from the Go-Go's) show at at nice teacher Trudy's house to warn that something's wrong in Hellcatland "Say, aren't you one of the Go-Go's?" asks Miss Trudy. "We got the beat" replies the girl. Later that night, Mike drives Joyce to the theater and waits outside. . . WAY TO GO, MIKE!!! . . . as Joyce goes into the darkened theater. There she finds Dolly -- and no one else. You saw that coming, huh??? What? Have we got a bunch of LOST viewers here?!?!?!? Anyway, nutty Dolly has decided that Joyce ain't trustworthy. You see, it was Dolly who actually pushed Connie down the stairs. "Hell hath no fury like a Sappho scorned". Or something. Anyway, Dolly wanted to be in charge of the Hellcats and Connie was standing in her way yada yada yada. Anywho, the crazed Dolly has decided it's time to silence Joyce forever and pulls a knife. . . HIGH SCHOOL HELLCATS is the greatest movie ever made. Seriously. The gincheeist! There's A LOT more in the movie than I've related here. It's filthy with riches, I'm tellin' ya! I only went over SOME of the details because I didn't want this here post to be longer than one of Cheekies' LOST recaps. But suffice it to say that you OWE it to yourself to see HIGH SCHOOL HELLCATS as soon as possible. Otherwise you're a lousy American! So far it's ridiculously not available on DVD but it was out a few years ago on VHS as one of MGM's Midnite Movies collections. When oh WHEN is Leo going to put this out on DVD?!?!?! The world needs it now! Vacation all I ever wanted! Vacation have to get away....

4 comments:

Cheekies said...

Yeah another couple sentences and you could have broken it up in two parts. Funny thing is I have actually seen this movie!

Cerpts said...

Oh dear! You DO shock me!

But no, I have no sympathy whatsoever for my readers so I would NEVER break it up into two parts. You just gotta slog, bruthah!

dollycr@ne12 said...

dolly crane is pure evil she should have a day named in her honor

dollycr@ne12 said...
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