Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Teenage Doll (1957)

Roger Corman’s 1957 opus Teenage Doll is fairly typical of low-budget 50s juvenile delinquent movies. Barbara is a good girl involved with a bad boy, the leader of a teen gang called the Vandals. He’s also been playing footsie with a girl, Nan, from the Black Widows, but the Black Widows are the female counterparts of the Tarantulas, deadly rivals of the Vandals. The jealousy between Barbara and Nan has led to a confrontation, and as the movie opens Nan is lying dead on the pavement after falling off a roof. Did she fall or was she pushed?

Barbara is now on the run from the vengeful Black Widows. She can’t ask her father for help, because he’s a total square and can’t imagine that his daughter would dare to date an unsuitable young man. And Barbara is also on the run from the cops

Like most Corman productions it manages to look slicker than its low budget would suggest, and the pace doesn’t let up. The acting is pretty bad, but it’s bad in that wonderfully entertaining B-movie way, all very earnest. There’s a particularly bizarre scene where Barbara is being looked after by one of the Vandals, and he suddenly gets all Method Acting on her. He starts coming on like a bargain store James Dean. It’s the sort of weirdness that makes exploitation movies so much fun.

The movie comes complete with a wonderful intro informing us that the picture we are about to see isn’t pretty. If it was pretty, it wouldn’t be true! And apparently shocking events like the ones depicted in the film could be happening in your city. Within the limitations of what you could show in the 50s it manages to be reasonably sleazy, and there’s the expected hard-bitten dialogue and teenage cynicism.

It’s not quite as bizarrely entertaining as movies like The Violent Years or Girl Gang, but it’s still a good deal of fun. And the DVD from Image looks superb. A must for fans of juvenile delinquent movies.

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