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High School Confidential
High School Confidential
Actors: Russ Tamblyn, Jan Sterling, John Drew Barrymore, Diane Jergens, Mamie Van Doren
Director: Jack Arnold
Genres: Classics, Comedy, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2004     1hr 25min

Studio: Lions Gate Home Ent. Release Date: 06/15/2004 Rating: Nr


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Movie Details

Actors: Russ Tamblyn, Jan Sterling, John Drew Barrymore, Diane Jergens, Mamie Van Doren
Director: Jack Arnold
Creators: Harold J. Marzorati, Ben Lewis, Albert Zugsmith, Lewis Meltzer, Robert Blees
Genres: Classics, Comedy, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Classics, Comedy, Classics, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Republic Pictures
Format: DVD - Black and White
DVD Release Date: 06/15/2004
Original Release Date: 06/13/1958
Theatrical Release Date: 06/13/1958
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 25min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 9
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
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Movie Reviews

"You're draggin' your rear axle in waltz time"
Charlie | Philadelphia, PA USA | 03/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

I LOVE High School Confidential. I find it to be campy, yet very well made. I think the acting is good, the action scenes are exciting and I was genuinely surprised by the plot twist. And the dialog, dripping with 1950's hep-talk, is the most daddio!

Unfortunately this dvd is very bare bones, without even the theatrical trailer which was included on the laserdisc edition. But on the plus side it's in widescreen (as a previous reviewer noted, the box incorrectly indicates that it's full screen.)

When I think of Russ Tamblyn, I don't think of West Side Story, I think of High School Confidential. (I also think of Dracula vs. Frankenstein, but that's another story.)"
Less-than-stunning transfer of perennial JD schlock favorite
Surfink | Racine, WI | 08/14/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"High School Confidential is one of the quintessential 1950s JD exploitation movies, produced by veteran sleazemeister Albert Zugsmith (Touch of Evil, Girls Town, Confessions of an Opium Eater, etc.), directed by Universal monster expert Jack Arnold (in between The Incredible Shrinking Man and Monster on the Campus), and featuring a handful of Zugsmith's usual `stock company' players among the typically eclectic cast that includes Russ Tamblyn (West Side Story, Satan's Sadists, Twin Peaks), Mamie Van Doren and then-hubby band leader Ray Anthony, John Drew Barrymore (John's son and Drew's dad), Jackie Coogan (Uncle Fester, Chaplin's The Kid), William Wellman Jr. and Charlie Chaplin Jr., Michael Landon (hot off of Teenage Werewolf), Lyle Talbot, Mel Welles, Mary Wickes, and custom hot rod designer Norman "Woo Woo" Grabowski. (It's a mystery how Zugsmith, whose entire career was basically a slow descent into the cinematic gutter, persuaded the usually staid MGM studios to underwrite his muckraking scandal pictures.) Jerry Lee Lewis belts the title tune from a flatbed truck over the opening credits, then we're introduced to archetypal smart-mouthed, arrogant punk Tony Baker (Tamblyn), already maneuvering to becoming "top stud" of the local gang, the Wheelers and Dealers, on his first day at high school. New in town, he's living with his inappropriately affectionate "aunt" Gwen (Mamie Van Doren), who's constantly bothering him for `attention'. Tony trades some great "hep-talk" with J.I. (Barrymore), leader of the W&D, then flashes a huge wad of bills and sparks a reefer in the principal's office. Next, Tony mouths off to prim, proper English teacher Arlene Williams (Jan Sterling), who falls for him, naturally, and Barrymore presents an amusing jive-talk rendition of Columbus's discovery of America to the class. (". . . just tool off the deep end and dig a little infinity.") Tony, looking to "graze on some grass", has plenty of cash but no connections, while J.I.'s girlfriend Joan (Diane Jergens) is jonesing for a few "sticks" but has no bread. Tony finally connects with Joan's dealer Jukie, and later a large baggie falls out of Tony's hubcap during a bust of an illegal hot rod race at the airport. At the local watering hole, run by Mr. August (Coogan), a "beatnik" poetess recites the absolutely priceless "the future is a king-size drag" monologue backed by Coogan's jazz combo ("I had an uncle with an Ivy League heart, he had life with a belt in the back, he had a button-down brain . . . drag!"). Tony eventually sets up a deal for a "can" of "H" with "the big man." The big man turns out to be anti-alcohol ("that stuff is murder on the system") but forces Tony (who's really Mike Wilson, undercover narcotics detective!) to shoot up as a "test" before finalizing their deal.Joan, Arlene, and Gwen are all menaced by the drug-dealing hoods, Tony's cover is blown, and Landon and Chaplin lead jocks and club patrons against the ringleaders in the action-packed finish. The plot is fairly routine stuff; the real reasons to watch this flick are Tamblyn's dead-on, irritating wise-ass performance as Tony and the preponderance of hilarious late-50s slang throughout. One of my favorite moments: Tony to henchman Petey, "He's a schmo!" They both nod in unison, "From Kokomo, yeah", as if everyone knows that this is the standard response! (White Zombie used some great samples of HSC's swingin' dialogue on La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Vol. 1.)
While I'm glad to finally have one of my favorite JD/exploitation flicks on DVD, I wish Artisan had made the effort to give us a nicer transfer. The good news is that contrary to what the DVD case explicitly states, the movie is presented in 2.35:1 letterboxed widescreen, though unfortunately with no anamorphic enhancement. The blacks and midtones actually look pretty solid, and damage consists of only some light speckling, but enlarged to fit a 55-inch 16x9 screen, the highlight areas show lots of visible grain and the detail is much softer than expected for DVD. It's still watchable, but looks better unenlarged or on a smaller set. It kind of defeats the purpose of buying a projection TV when DVD manufacturers like Artisan put out transfers like this one that actually look worse when enlarged to utilize the maximum screen area. The box says only "digitally mastered", leaving room for doubt as to whether it was actually remastered for DVD. Don't get me wrong, it still looks 500% better than the Republic/Artisan videotape, with superior tonal values and much improved sharpness and detail, so it's worth the investment for fans replacing their blurry VHS, but a bit disappointing otherwise. And it's unlikely that Artisan's ever going to give this film a better restoration if they didn't this time around, so this is probably as good as it's gonna get unless somebody like Image or Criterion puts out a special edition someday. There are no extras other than chapter stops, not even a trailer. I rate the movie five stars, the DVD gets three."
Mark Norvell | HOUSTON | 06/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Drugs infiltrate a small town high school and swaggering young "stud" Tony Baker (Russ Tamblyn) makes the scene as a new student unsubtly "grazing for grass". He encounters a sympathetic teacher (Jan Sterling), "pretty kitten" Joan Staples (Diane Jergens), her pusher boyfriend with a hillbilly accent (John Drew Barrymore) and assorted other "teens" including Michael Landon as well as the infamous "Mr.A" (Jackie Coogan). These characters swirl around a delirious plot involving "weed heads" and busting a narcotics ring. There's a drag race, beat slang, switchblades, a serious lecture on the danger of "marijuana addiction", racy dialogue and hilarity to spare. And speaking of busts, there's Mamie Van Doren as Tony's "guardian aunt" with more than a healthy yen for the skinny guy. She parades around in several sexy outfits and actually delivers a funny performance. She apparently wisely knew this was anything but serious material. When you've got Jerry Lee Lewis opening the film on the back of a truck singing "High School Hop" how can you go wrong? "High School Confidential" is a deliciously trashy JD exploitation flick that makes an OK transition to DVD. It's not the best print but it's in good shape and very watchable. I'm very happy to have it. Bare Bones and all. Good deal, man."
For those so inclined, a masterwork.
Doghouse King | Omaha, NE United States | 03/05/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"... let me tell you, this is the one. High School Confidential has it all, everything you're seeking in disreputable youth-gone-wild 50's entertainment. This is juvenile delinquent movie Ground Zero, covering all but one of the categories that make this brand of escapism what it is:
1. Cars/racing;
2. Gangs/crime rings/rumbles;
3. A high school setting;
4. Rock 'n' roll;
5. Parties (pool, beach, dance, etc.);
6. "Controlled substances;
7. Leather jackets, poodle skirts, et al;
8. Dysfunctional families;
9. Outmoded acting;
10. Ridiculous dialogue;
11. Over-the-top histrionics (see #9);
12. "Messages" many will find dated;
13. Mamie Van Doren.It lacks only a scene in a malt shop to fill out the Eisenhower-era roster. I am willing to overlook that due to the unbelievable cast. Mamie is just one of the draws, if you can believe it. See also: Russ Tamblyn; John Drew Barrymore; Jerry Lee Lewis (playing piano on a pickup truck!); Charles Chaplin, Jr.; William Wellman, Jr.; Michael Landon; and Jackie Coogan as the Drug Kingpin! Note I never said it was a *good* cast, merely an unbelievable one. And it's directed by Jack (Creature From the Black Lagoon) Arnold! Huzzah!!MST3K skewered their share of these kind of films; perhaps with this one, like Plan 9, they saw too great a challenge in improving upon it, and passed it by. (Although it would've been great fodder, and interesting to see what they could've come up with.)So... if you want to bask (or perhaps wallow) in all that is JD, pick this up. It will make you smile; it will also likely make you wince with discomfort. If you want a good movie, one that will make you think, get East of Eden.P.S. The tape is not that great, but what in the sockhop do you expect?"