Saturday, 28 April 2007

T-Bird Gang (1959)

I was hoping that T-Bird Gang, dating from 1959, would be a classic juvenile delinquent movie. In fact the protagonists are just a little too old to truly qualify as juvenile delinquents (although juvenile delinquency certainly does get a mention). It’s the story of a kid, a year or so out of high school, whose dad gets killed in a robbery. He vows revenge on the gang who were responsible, and is persuaded by the police to go undercover, posing as a young hood who wants to join the gang. The gang isn’t a teen gang though (much to my disappointment), it’s a criminal gang run by a smooth-talking and sinister character called Alex. The gang consists of an assortment of 1950s young hoodlum stereotypes. There’s also Marla, the obligatory blonde sex-bomb girlfriend of Alex. And there’s at least a hint of a homoerotic sub-text (quite likely an unconscious one) in the hero-worship of Alex’s right-hand man Ray for his leader. The best thing about this one is the fantastic jazz soundtrack – it’s very bebop-influenced, and was obviously intended to show how crazy modern music has contributed to the undermining of decent family values. But it’s a soundtrack that works superbly. John Brinkley makes a reasonably effective hero – he has the Jimmy Dean rebel aesthetic thing going, even though we find out he’s really a decent all-American kid. Ed Nelson is fun as Alex. It’s a fast-paced and highly entertaining movie with plenty of camp value, and even though it’s perhaps only marginally a juvenile delinquent flick it will appeal to fans of that sub-genre, and to fans of 50s paranoia movies in general. And it has great cars and great clothes! I loved it.

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