Sunday, 4 January 2015

Girl in Trouble (1963)

Girl in Trouble is one of three films included in Something Weird Video’s Teen Turmoil DVD triple-feature. Girl in Trouble is fairly typical of the American sexploitation movie of its era (although it’s better made than most). It presents us with a story that is a stern warning of the dangers faced by young women who are foolish enough to head for the bright lights of the big city. They will find only sin and depravity. Like most movies in this genre the movie gleefully exploits the very dangers it warns us about.

Judy Collins (Tammy Clarke) is a small town girl who dreams of an exciting life in the big city. She’s been dating a nice small town boy who wants to marry her but she wants some excitement first. So she packs her suitcase and sets off for New Orleans. Not having much money she decides to hitchhike, a decision that turns out to be disastrous. Her attempts to defend herself turn out to be more drastic than she’d intended and now she’s convinced she’s a wanted woman and her only option is to run. She runs to New Orleans.

She finds employment difficult to obtain but then her luck seems to change when she lands a job as a model for a lingerie store. Things go well until she is given a “special” assignment - a wealthy male client wants a private showing of the store’s latest lingerie, in his hotel room. Judy Collins is a nice girl but she’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer and she agrees to accept the assignment. On the other hand she’s not entirely stupid and she does have a feeling that this might be an awkward situation, to say the least. Especially taking into consideration the fact that some of the store’s lingerie is very revealing indeed. When it comes time to model a very flimsy and very see-through nightie she does start to get rather worried, but apparently not worried enough to keep her bra on (a precaution I would have strongly advised her to take). 

Eventually the inevitable happens. And after that of course there’s only way a girl can go - down. She becomes a strip-tease artiste. Then something even worse happens and she realises that all is lost.

The first thing that will strike the viewer of this movie, especially one with some experience of this genre, is that it’s quite professionally made. It doesn’t have the slapdash quality so common in these types of films. As far as the technical side is concerned director Brandon Chase seems quite comfortable. His shot compositions are mostly conventional but they’re  competent and on occasions he even tries something slightly imaginative and manages to do so quite successfully. He’s prepared to move the camera and there are even a couple of professionally executed tracking shots.

The director of photography was Leo J. Hebert and this appears to be his one and only film credit. This is rather surprising since he seems to be quite competent. Scenes are generally lit in a perfectly professional way, the camera is always in focus even when it’s moving. These are not assumptions that can be made of every American sexploitation movie of this era. Girl in Trouble looks like a low-budget film, but it still looks like a proper feature film.

The acting is usually the big problem in ultra-low budget movies such as this. Tammy Clarke is the star and she’s in just about every scene. This movie marked both the beginning and the end of her film career. To be fair the script (by Anthony Naylor and Brandon Chase) doesn’t give her much to work with. One assumes that she got the part because she was willing to take her clothes off and it has to be admitted that she’s very attractive (both with and without clothing). And given that Judy Collins is supposed to be incredibly naïve and inexperienced and to be nervous and awkward in the situations she finds herself in then it has to be said that Tammy Clarke conveys these qualities quite effectively.

Charles Murphy is effectively creepy in a minor role as a leering hotel clerk. The other supporting players are surprisingly fairly competent.

Tammy Clarke provides the voiceover narration, just in case the viewer misses the lessons of the film.

This was 1963 when producers of films like this were still treading cautiously where nudity was concerned. Topless scenes were considered to be safe. Anything more daring could be risky. This movie opts for safety so we see bare breasts but nothing more. We do certain see plenty of Tammy Clarke’s breasts and we see a great deal of her in some delightful early 1960s-style sexy lingerie, these scenes being actually more sexy than the much more explicit scenes in many later movies. It does help that Tammy Clarke is very pretty and has  a remarkably good body. She also sports some truly wondrous 60s hair styles. I suspect that much of the budget of this movie went on hair spray.

This is an odd sexploitation movie, not quite a nudie-cutie but not quite a roughie. It just doesn’t have the edge of nastiness that characterises the roughie sub-genre. It also doesn’t have the craziness and the delightful silliness that characterised so many of the non-roughie sexploitation movies of the early 60s.

The transfer is quite reasonable. The picture is quite grainy but that’s not uncommon with this type of movie many of which were shot on 16mm. Contrast is quite good and print damage is minimal. Given the nature of the source material and the fact that most exploitation movies of this vintage are lucky to survive at all it can be said that the presentation here is more than acceptable. It’s letterboxed but at least it’s in its correct aspect ratio. The three movies in this triple-feature are presented on a single DVD and there are the kinds of extras you expect from Something Weird.

Girl in Trouble gives the impression that the people responsible for it thought they were making a real movie. Unfortunately they didn’t have the budget or the script to do so although they did have the technical skills. The result is a movie that doesn’t quite make it but it’s still oddly appealing and oddly entertaining, partly because it’s surprisingly good-natured in a slightly goofy way. If you’re a fan of the genre it’s worth a look.

No comments: