Terrific set features nicely paired troubled-youth indies
Surfink | Racine, WI | 11/23/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Not really "JD" flicks in the typical sense (the leads are a few years out of their teens and there is only a modicum of the usual dragging, gang fighting, drug dealing, and groovy hep-talk of archetypal JD efforts such as High School Confidential or Teenage Doll), Lost Lonely and Vicious and Jacktown are of interest more as examples of regionally-produced, low-budget 1950s/60s indies, and quite entertaining on their own terms. Jacktown, (shot in Michigan) the more serious and moralistic of the two (the credits are heavy with thanks to law enforcement agencies), opens with the birth of Frankie Stossel, accompanied by Dragnet-style narration: "What you are about to see is based on fact, only the names have been changed . . ." Flash-forward: Frankie is 22, with no job, hanging out at a bowling alley, participating in petty crimes, or lounging in his parents' back yard listening to "that awful rock and roll" and reading scandal magazines. After being busted with an underage car hop in his back seat ("All right, young lady, I think you better put your slacks on"), he's sentenced to Jacktown, "the world's largest prison," (site of a huge prison riot in 1952, shown in newsreel footage) where he's mercilessly harassed by the other cons because "morals charges is against their religion." In an odd reversal on the old prison movie cliche, inmates scold a black prisoner singing the `Jacktown Blues': "OK, OK, we got your message!" Frankie's skin is saved by the understanding Judge Wapner-look warden, but he's soon involved with the warden's virginal daughter Margaret (Patty McCormack from The Bad Seed, the only `name' actor in the movie). The warden tries to separate them, but Frankie slips away from his guard while on an outside detail, steals a car (accidentally kidnapping a 4-year-old), and shows up on Margaret's doorstep. Will Frankie keep running, or can Margaret convince him to return to Jacktown to face the music? The movie gets off to a fairly gritty, realistic start, but veers a bit toward soap opera melodramatics once Margaret shows up. The general atmosphere is of a 1950s "docudrama"; some of the actors seem to be nonprofessionals, and the tone at times recalls a Coronet Instructional film. A diverting and painless 62 minutes.
While the advertising art for Lost Lonely and Vicious promises a more lurid, salacious film, it's essentially a Hollywood psychodrama (shot in Tuscaloosa, Alabama) concerning up-and-coming movie actor and neurotic jerk Johnnie Dennis (a loose parody of James Dean) who's "obsessed with death" and has a habit of reckless driving. Johnnie's crew of wannabee actors Walt, Pinkie, and Darlene, cranky ballet dancer Buddy, and silent hulk Pig, hang around a seedy drug store (where the patrons dance to an ocarina-playing geezer), complain about their casting directors and agents, and leer at the female clientele. An Edwoodian ambiance is established immediately by obvious stock footage of Tinseltown landmarks, the poverty-stricken drug store set (which looks more like Tuscaloosa than Schwab's), amateurish acting, and loopy narration ("In this town of make-believe, the truth behind the scenes is also filled with drama . . ."). Johnnie, who has just gotten a starring role in a picture after years playing bits, is trying to end an affair with his knockout dramatic coach Tanya (Lilyan Chauvin), who swears she's only interested in his career, and who owns a Bizarro-look self-portrait Johnnie painted portraying himself as a corpse with a skeleton hand ("he brings death into his paintings"). Try to follow Johnnie's convoluted logic as he argues with Tanya about not attending the premiere of his movie. Between acting jobs he gets his kicks chicken-running with Walt and lurking about at the public library, where he reads a book about death and the mind ("a dark continent of motive and desire"). After nearly running down pretty drug store clerk Helen (Barbara Wilson), he stalks her at the library, `kidnaps' her and takes her on a joy ride that ends up in a pond, takes her home and meets her dad, and delivers a strange monologue about trees (the leaves make "a funny little laughing sound" in the wind). Unfortunately, where Johnnie should be brooding, sullen, or intense, he more often comes off as maudlin, whimsical, or just plain wacko. Rather than offer any explanation for Johnnie's bizarre behavior, the script serves up comical pseudo-existentialist psychobabble instead; Tanya: "I don't understand you, Johnnie." Johnnie: "Who does?"; Johnnie says he was "lost" in the library for two days ("it's a big place") because he "had to look up something." Finally, after a climactic brawl with Walt behind the drug store, Johnnie tosses the ghoulish self-portrait in his car and roars off into the night, while flashbacks dissolve across the painting. Will Johnnie's morbid "death wish" spell his doom? Or will he be saved by Helen's love? Definitely a twisted curio item with enough cheesy atmosphere, bizarre plotting, wooden acting, and goofy dialogue to satisfy undemanding fans of low-budget `50s schlock.
Surprisingly, the source prints for both features, save for some light speckling, occasional visible grain, and a few seconds of light lining, look great, exhibiting overall excellent brightness, contrast, tonal scale, sharpness, and shadow/highlight detail. The extras are very solid, with a terrific dud-free trailer collection (Cool and the Crazy, Cry Baby Killer, Jacktown, Lost Lonely and Vicious, Eighteen and Anxious, Joy Ride, Teenage Wolfpack) and three fun shorts, Crisis in Morality, Hell Is a Place Called Hollywood, and Little Miss Delinquent, which all tie in somehow with the features. `Crisis' purports to demonstrate the links between every social vice and lack of religious (Christian) faith; a little dry at first but fairly entertaining. `Hell', which would make a great lead-in to Ed Wood's Sinister Urge, presents the story of a Midwestern beauty contest winner who lands a movie part, stays in Hollywood hoping to become an actress, and eventually falls into bondage and smut picture modeling in order to make ends meet. Little Miss Delinquent is a generic but superior `bad girl/clueless parents' short produced by the Film Board of Canada in cooperation with Warrendale, "a remedial center for adolescent girls." It's got better acting and production values than your typical industrial film, though whether you find it amusing or merely unsettling probably depends on whether you have any teenage daughters. Also included is another fine Something Weird `Trash-O-Rama' audiovisual gallery of miscellaneous exploitation art and radio spots (featuring a nice repro of the way-bizarre one-sheet for The Lonely Sex, among many others). For my money, one of the best, most consistent SW DVD packages (though the extras still have the crummy logos on them); fans of 1950s youth-oriented cheapies can't go wrong."
Fun but Disappointing
Jonathan Schaper | London, Ontario Canada | 08/20/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I was disappointed by the two main features on this DVD, both of which I give 3 stars individually, while the extras as a whole get 5 stars, especially thanks to the amazing "Morality in Crisis".The problem with these films is that they are way too sympathetic to juvenile delinquents and avoid becoming too over-the-top. The fun with old j.d. films is when they really exaggerate the problems with youths and show them to be almost a different species from adults instead of young confused teens reacting to equally clueless adults. However, these films give a relatively balanced portrayal of both the teens and the adults. This is a good thing for those trying to be educated, but a bad thing for fans of old exploitation movies looking to be entertained. Furthermore, the adults in both films are just too level-headed to be funny. There is also very little action, except for some actual mild prison riot footage near the beginning of Jacktown. Both films are very talky. They are still interesting films and are naive to a degree. And "Lost, Lonely and Vicious" has a lead character clearly based upon James Dean. But the DVD is mostly worthwhile because of the value of getting two films plus the extras on one disc.In contrast to the main features, "Morality in Crisis", made by the Bible Institute of LA, is an alarmist load of fun full of misinformation about what the Bible says about private morality. The best part of this short involves an very overweight police Sgt. who can barely speak because he's so nervous in front of the camera showing off samples of the police department's stash of drugs, and there's a scene in which the short's host unintentionally gives j.d.s tips on how to make homemade weapons.Another short, "Little Miss Delinquent", which I believe was filmed in Toronto, is also level-headed and balanced, but still manages to be of great interest thanks to the absolutely amazing performance by the lead female. Unfortunately, there are no credits given and I have no idea if she continued with an acting career, but I'd be interested to find out.There are also some great trailers for films which appear to be much more entertaining j.d. films than the main features.If you already own the better j.d. films available, such as Ed Wood's "Violent Years", this makes a nice addition, but there are better films available."
See what the love of a good woman can do in J.D. exploitatio
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 07/30/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The wonderful folks at Something Weird deal exclusively with exploitation films with each DVD focusing on a particular genre and this time around we are dealing with juvenile delinquent exploitation films. First up is "Lost Lonely & Vicious," which manages to be a pretty boring movie. This 1958 film is supposedly a "Confidential Exposé! of Boys and Girls Clawing Their Way to Success in Hollywood!" Johnnie Dennis (Ken Clayton) wants to be a movie star (think James Dean meets Dorian Grey), but instead of heading for stardom it seems Johnnie is going to crash and burn. That is because Johnnie is preoccupied with death (as in live fast, die early, and leave a good looking corpse), spurns the fame that beckons, and he is involved with an older-woman dramatic instructor named Tanya (Lilyan Chauvin). Then Johnnie meets Helen Preacher (Barbara Wilson) and it looks like she might reform him before he seduces her. Then comes the night everything comes to a head when Johnnie is involved in a brutal fight with Walt (Richard Gilden) and races off in his car to meet his destiny. Of course this all makes the movie sound way better than it really is, because you get to the end and are shaking your head over how this one ends. This is the only film ever directed by Frank Myers, which is a warning sign to be sure (2.5 stars).
Fortunately there is another feature, and it is not so much that "Jacktown" is a good movie but that with it combination of preaching and warning it is a lot more interesting. This 1962 film stars Richard Meade as Frankie Stossel, an unemployed 21-year-old ne'r do well who is caught with a 15-year-old girl in the back seat of his convertible. He did not know she was under-aged and his friends try to threaten the girl's family, but Frankie is sent to Jacktown, which is the nickname for the Southern Michigan State Prison in Jackson, Michigan, which was the site of an infamous riot in 1952. How bad was the riot? "Chapels were burned...food was destroyed." Do not laugh, because once the convicts were without food they turned on each other (and not before hand, apparently), but in the end after four days the convicts agreed to eat steak and ice cream, and the riot was over. The other convicts do not like rapists so Frankie is in for a bad time until the Warden (Douglas Rutherford) gives him a job working in the warden's garden. There Frankie meets the warden's daughter, Margaret, played by Miss Patty "The Bad Seed" McCormack ("the youngest actress every to be nominated for an Academy Award" the trailer reminds us). The messages in this film written, directed and produced by William Martin are clear: statutory rape is a crime that will get you sent to prison and in Detroit cops can show up in 58 seconds after getting a call and will shoot unarmed criminals in the back. But the film also suggests that the love of a good woman (and "good" has a specific meaning in this context) can accomplish a lot (3.5 stars).
As always, the extras on a Something Weird DVD help make up for how bad exploitation films usually end up being. In addition to the two films of the double-feature there are trailers for a bunch of other JD exploitation films: "The Cool and the Crazy," "Cry Body Killers," "Eighteen and Anxious," "Joy Ride," and "Teenage Wolfpack." It is amazing how watching trailers can always seduce you into wanting to check out films that dollars to donuts are worst than these two. Then there are a trio of above average shorts: "Crisis in Morality," featuring Al Sanders, Vice President of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, Inc., attacks degradation of every level, showing that nothing has changed in the last fifty years (although usually Gibbon's "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" is not used as a reference point these days). This is an earnest short, with some unintentional laughs (sin "impregnates" every aspect of society). "Hell is a Place Called Hollywood" tells how thousands of girls leave home each year to go to Hollywood. A few succeed, but this short explains what happens to the rest of them as we watch Sheila Anderson go swimming in the nude, pose nude for calendar pictures (you get the idea). You have to wonder if the actress here has a clue about the attendant irony of doing this short film and whether pornographers are really that polite. "Little Miss Delinquent" has the best performance on the DVD by the unnamed actress who plays Nora, a young girl who looks old enough to date some guy in his twenties and is sent to a remedial center for adolescent girls. Just when you think things are going to go predictably wrong this one becomes a giant lecture. Also included is another exciting Trash-O-Rama audiovisual gallery combining exploitation newspaper ads with exploitation radio spots (4.5 stars on the extras)."