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DVD SAVANT

TEENAGE DOLL


Teenage Doll
Image Entertainment
1957 / B&W / 1:37 / 68 m
Starring June Kenny, Fay Spain, Sandy Smith, Colette Jackson, Barbara Wilson, Ziva Rodann, Dorothy Neumann, Richard H. Cutting, Richard Devon, John Brinkley, Jay Sayer, Barboura Morris, Ed Nelson, Bruno VeSota
Cinematography Floyd Crosby
Production Designer Robert Kinoshita
Film Editor Charles Gross
Original Music Walter Greene
Written by Charles B. Griffith
Produced by Roger Corman, Bernard Woolner, Lawrence Woolner
Directed by Roger Corman

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Almost immediately after Rebel Without a Cause and The Blackboard Jungle, the independent exploitation outfits who started in cheap monster movies branched out into juvenile delinquency epics. Roger Corman got into the sweepstakes with this cliché-ridden wannabe that tries to be shocking while adhering tightly to the production code. The result is a melodramatic and overwraught showcase for young talent, that dates none too well.

Synopsis:

Barbara Bonney (June Kenney) runs through the night, convinced she pushed Tarantula gang member Nan Baker to her death from a rooftop. While the Tarantulas conspire to fix Barbara's wagon, she runs to her con-man boyfriend Eddie Rand (John Brinkley), the leader of the rival Vandals gang. We see the tawdry home lives of various gang members. Those not already living on their own have parents who are alcoholics, adulterers or repressive fools. One gang girl drops in on her terrified 6-year old sister just long enough to make threats and throw the hungry girl a box of cereal. Events conclude in a gang fight, and Barbara has to decide whether to run away with her hood boyfriend or turn herself into the cops.

At first glance Teenage Doll looks like a knockoff of the then-hot stage musical West Side Story: Corman regular Chuck Griffith's script is full of Jets 'n Sharks - like phrases mixed in with painful euphemisms like, "I don't give a flying flip," and "I was weaned on a .38!" The general air of unreality is complete; it's low-budget Corman land. Except for a junkyard and a street scene or two most of the settings are freebies stolen on the Raleigh or Culver City Studios. Every other setup is a bare soundstage wall or an obvious soundstage exterior, poorly dressed. Floyd Crosby's lighting is professional but flat and Corman's direction is so basic it isn't even funny. Huge punch sound effects are cut into the tame, brief gangfight. About as sexy as things get is one closeup of a brastrap being hooked, and the dialog is peppered with provocative words, like 'naked'.

Genre fans are going to be familiar with frequent Corman actors Barboura Morris and Richard Devon and will be pleased to see such '50s JD faces as June Kenny, Fay Spain, and Ed Nelson. Most of the performances, though, are downright embarassing - The 'kids' talk like 14 year-olds on barbituates but look to be pushing 25. Each is given a fat speech or two to strut their stuff. As such, some scenes come off as amateur night at the improv. You can spot a young Ziva Rodann doing a nice job as a gang-ette named 'squirrel.' One young hood that menaces poor Barbara ruins several scenes with his overacting, as if auditioning for a one-act-play from hell. June Kenney looks distraught but keeps a perfect wave in her hair throughout, and Fay Spain barks out unconvincing threats and orders to her gang like a bad imitation of 'Anybody's' in West Side.  1

The picture lasts only 68 minutes and looks rushed and cheap; some of Corman's science fiction and horror pix of the period are lavish by comparison. The best juvenile delinquency pix Savant has seen are The Cool and the Crazy, a realistic tale with Scott Marlowe, and High School Confidential, a camp wonderment with Mamie Van Doren, Russ Tamblyn, Jerry Lee Lewis and some fall-down funny beat poetry. An Allied Artists production from those champions of quality, the Woolner brothers, Teenage Doll is not all that memorable unless you're a hardcore devotee of the teenpix subgenre.


Image Entertainment's DVD of Teenage Doll looks clean and snappy. Its film elements have probably been sitting untouched in careful storage for 44 years. The crisp photography is handsome but possibly cropped a bit. The well- designed but badly animated titles are tight in 1:37, but many scenes look like they should be cropped off to 1:75 or so. Corman was famous for sometimes shooting too quickly to carefully compose his shots, so who knows? The accompanying trailer ("Hellcats in tight pants!") is almost identically framed. The box artwork has a hideous head of Fay Spain pasted on someone elses' shoulders. The gang girls pictured on the box look like nobody in the movie. Are they Wade Williams' office girls? It would be nice if Corinth films had a bushel more '50s Allied Artists movies to dish out, like Attack of the Crab Monsters, but that's unlikely. In any event, with this DVD, Teenage Doll probably looks far better than it did as the bottom of a drive-in double bill!


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Teenage Doll rates:
Movie: Fair +
Video: Excellent
Sound: Good
Supplements: Trailer
Packaging: Snapper case
Reviewed: March 17, 2001


Footnote:

1. Savant learned to cut tv spots from an ace editor named Peter Wright, who spent his early '20s hanging out with some of the actors that made names in these teen pix yet found it difficult to go anywhere else. Peter's bawdy stories about that wild crowd were pretty entertaining. To them, someone like Gigi Perreau was a big star, getting roles in mainstream movies and working their way up. Check out the filmographies of Spain and Kenney and you'll see a pretty depressing spiral downward. Peter himself ended up with just one prominent bit part in Journey to the Center of the Earth, of all things, as a red-haired Scots 'lad' handing an award to James Mason near the beginning.Return


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