Old school solid plotline. A must for retro Zombie and Horror fans!
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"Look, what kind of creep joint is this?"
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 01/05/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I didn't give much thought last night to my choice of films as I picked out Teenage Zombies (1959) off the top of my ever-growing `to be watched' pile of DVDs. Imagine my apprehensiveness as the opening credits indicated this thing had produced, written, directed, and edited by none other than Jerry Warren (he also did the musical scoring)...if you're not familiar with this auteur of cinematic crud, know that he's responsible for some real doozies including The Incredible Petrified World (1957), Curse of the Stone Hand (1964), The Wild World of Batwoman (1966), and Frankenstein Island (1981), to name a few. When not spewing forth his own homegrown celluloid stink bombs (always on the most minimal of budgets), he could be found hacking the holy hell out of imported, low budget, foreign films (usually from Mexico), splicing in his own, ill-fitting footage as he saw fit, often creating a miasma of pain for those unlucky enough to be drawn in by his shlocky and lurid promotional advertising. Appearing in is `feature' is Don 'Banjo Man' Sullivan (The Giant Gila Monster), Warren alumni Katherine Victor (Mesa of Lost Women), Paul 'Dr.' Pepper (Rabbit Test), Brianne Murphy (Man Beast), Mitzie Albertson, Jay Hawk, Nan Green, Mike Concannon (Terror of the Bloodhunters), and Chuck 'I can see for' Niles (Face of the Screaming Werewolf), as Ivan, the mute, hunchback, zombfied lackey.
As the film begins we meet some teenagers (I guess back in the 1950s if you were in your mid 20s, you were still considered a teen) at a local hangout, including Reg (Sullivan), his girlfriend Julie (Albertson), and a nerdlinger named Morrie (Hawk), as they make plans for the day. Seems Reg's got his boat fixed up, and is planning on taking Julie and another couple, Skip (Pepper) and his girlfriend Pam (Murphy), water-skiing, while Morrie and his girlfriend Dotty (Green) are going horseback riding. Morrie splits and here comes Skip, with information about a little known island, which, apparently, is extremely easy to find, he heard about he thinks would be perfect for a picnic. We next see the foursome on a beach, and they decide to explore the island, finding a group of odd-looking men along with a dark haired woman. The two couples split, but find their boat has since disappeared. This brings about a lengthy walking along the shore sequence (one of many), as they look for Reg's boat, to no avail. Eventually the girls get caught, as do the boys, as the dark haired woman, named Dr. Myra (Victor) is some sort of spy (who only dresses in evening gowns...who says you can't combine fashion and evil?), working on a secret formula intended to turn the inhabitants of the United States into mindless zombie workers. When his friends don't show, Morrie contacts the local authorities, fearing something bad may have happened, but the Sheriff (Concannon), doesn't seem all that concerned, which I could understand because Morrie's a really annoying, little weasel type and I wouldn't put it past people to purposely avoid him. Anyway, there's some scenes with Ivan the hunchback lurching around, Reg and Skip escaping (leaving the girls behind), a man in a gorilla suit who goes ape on some of the characters (feel the wrath of Konga!), some guns, another sequence of people walking along the beach (with enough footage of feet to make you think you're watching a Doris Wishman feature), some spies, an extensive discussion about locks, yet another walking along the shore sequence, a shocking betrayal, a couple of ridiculous fight scenes, and so on...
Given the title of this feature, made prior to producer/director Warren's mining cinematic gold from south of the border, one will notice two glaring inconstancies while watching the film...there are no teenagers (the actors depicted as teens are obviously not within the age range), and there really aren't any zombies, at least of the teenage variety...there was a brief scene where we saw some men who were supposed to be zombies, but who could tell? Apparently Ivan the hunchback was supposed to be a zombie, but that seemed sort of overkill...I mean a zombie AND a hunchback? It was difficult to discern where the hunchback part left off and the zombie part began. By the way, stuffing a pillow up under an ill-fitting coat does not a hunchback make, in my book. At one point a couple of the girls were turned, but the effects didn't last. Essentially this thing ends up playing out like one of those old Bowery Boy comedy/mystery films, without any of the actual fun or kooky characters (they were more asinine here than kooky). The acting wasn't as bad as I would have expected, in most respects, as it was obvious the script, written by Warren under the pseudonym Jaques Lecotier, was the real drag. There are any number of scenes where characters go on and on about the most insignificant effluvia, for example when Reg and Skip manage to break free from their chicken wire cage by fiddling with the padlock...they try to free the girls, who are in a separate chicken wire cage, but are unable as the padlock securing their cage is much sturdier. Thus we get a lengthy piece about padlocks indicating perhaps Warren either received some monies for the production of this feature from The National Padlock Association, or was just insane (I'm opting for the latter). As I said, the acting wasn't that bad, given the extremely low budget nature of this feature, with the exception of Jay Hawk, an obvious drop out of the Jerry Lewis School of Comical Performing, who played the character of Morrie. In the annals of annoying characters, Morrie ranks in my top ten. If I could trade my left gonasticle to have the ability to actually enter a film for the sole purpose of throttling a character, I would have gladly done so to give this odious nerdlinger his just deserts. Apparently when Warren instructed him to act all anxious, as his friends went missing, Hawk misinterpreted this as meaning constipated. Take a good look at his character near the end, as when he doesn't have any lines, he can be seen making all kinds of idiotic facial expressions, and generally distracting from the focus of the scene. To top things off, his final line, which is the last line of the film, qualifies him for a beat down of monsterous proportions. Understandably, the locations for shooting were strictly chosen for availability, but what was the deal with the sheriff's office? The desk sergeant was stuck behind a wall, with only a small rectangle hole, surrounded by a picture frame, from which to interact with visitors...so very odd and uncomfortable looking. All in all, this is a generally tedious and muddled feature, with some unintentional wackiness, generally passable performances, an oddball plot, and an irreparably flawed script...and a guy in a cheap gorilla suit.
There are a few DVD releases of this film, but the one I have is the Retro Media version, featuring a kind of cool looking giant eyeball on the DVD cover art. The fullscreen (1.33:1) picture on this version looks decent and is watchable, but it does suffer from lines and various other forms of print damage. The quality of the audio, on the other hand, is very strong, dropping off slightly around the middle. As far as extras, Retro Media includes interviews with both Katherine Victor (6:40), who played Dr. Myra, and Chuck Niles (6:42), who played Ivan, the hunchback, along with a trailer that seems to indicate the film might have been called Teenage Torture at one point. Also, as is the case with a number of Retro Media releases, there's a opening bit with Fred Olin Ray, one that features some nekkidness, and isn't really appropriate for kids.
Passable DVD package for bad-movie masochists only
Surfink | Racine, WI | 10/03/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Those who hail Ed Wood as the worst director of all time apparently have never endured any Jerry Warren flicks. Teenage Zombies is probably Warren's best (read least worst), most watchable movie, and probably the safest point of entry for the uninitiated (if you can't hack TZ, you'll really hate his even less accomplished works). That said, it's still probably rough going for all but seriously masochistic bad-movie fanatics. Four malt-shop kids led by whitebread would-be teen idol Don Sullivan (Giant Gila Monster, Monster of Piedras Blancas) go picnicking on a mysterious island and run afoul of crazed Dr. Myra (Katherine Victor: Mesa of Lost Women, Cape Canaveral Monsters, Wild World of Batwoman) and her brutish henchman Ivan (Chuck Niles), who are using `poison gas' on a shabby-looking gorilla (and prisoners provided by the local sheriff) to create mindless `zombies,' all in the service of nefarious foreign agents. The teens are captured and threatened with zombie-hood by Dr. Myra. Reg and Skip escape, leaving Julie and Pam locked in Myra's cage (!!!) while they go "look for help." Incredibly, there are a couple of genuine `plot twists' before the action-packed (for Warren) denouement. Although the story moves at a slightly faster clip than Warren's usual funereal pace, and the camera actually moves once in a while, there are plenty of Jerry's signature badly-framed static master shots of characters droning on and on for what seems like hours, uninterrupted by reaction shots, close-ups, or editing of any kind. And the lack of budget is all up there on the screen: Dr. Myra's impoverished lab set gives Ed Wood and Dick Cunha a run for their money; the raft that Reg and Skip build to escape the island is pathetically, hysterically, un-seaworthy; Ivan the `zombie' henchman, perhaps menacing in 1959, today just looks like your average wino; they occasionally attempt to hide the fact that most of the exteriors were shot without sync sound by having the actors face away from the camera, or by obscuring their mouths in other exotic and hilarious ways (just like in Beast of Yucca Flats); and the already meager 73-minute running time is padded with lots of footage of the teens walking around the island and cruising around in a boat. (My wife refers to these as "dancing" movies; see The Creeping Terror or Teenage Gang Debs.) Fans of poverty-stricken 1950s cheapies will probably have fun with the amateurish acting, ludicrous dialogue, awkward pacing, and overall tacky aura. Normal People who like Good Movies beware! (But if you think this is bad, try watching Warren's Creature from the Walking Dead or especially Attack of the Mayan Mummy sometime.)
Retromedia's total DVD package is pretty decent even though the 35mm source element is mildly flawed. The feature looks very good to excellent overall, with generally acceptable brightness, contrast, sharpness, and grayscale (although the shadow detail fills in a bit at times). There is the typical light speckling and blemishing, as well as some moderate lining that mars the first 10 minutes or so of the movie and recurs a handful of times throughout. In sum, far from pristine, yet quite watchable (besides, it's Jerry Warren; the scratches kind of add to the cheesy ambience). The included Teenage Zombies trailer looks fine, as good or better than the feature itself, with excellent tonal values and sharpness, and minimal speckling/blemishing. There are also brief (approx. 7 mins each) but fairly interesting recent interviews with Chuck Niles (who remembers Warren as "a nice guy" who liked to laugh a lot but wasn't particularly concerned with "details") and Katherine Victor, who seems to believe that her association with Jerry Warren movies essentially torpedoed her career. Interestingly, both recall being genuinely amazed (at the time) at how easily they got their parts in Teenage Zombies. My only real gripe with this DVD is the forced inclusion (unless you go through the chapter stops menu) at the beginning of the feature of an idiotic Drive-In Theatre featurette, hosted by Fred Olen Ray, and containing partial nudity. Nothing hardcore, but tacky and out of place in a G-rated 1950s schlock program like this. Fred, baby, leave that stuff on your Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers DVDs where it belongs."
What's That Smell?
Robert I. Hedges | 06/25/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This movie defines the word "malodorous." I award it three stars wholly on the basis of a mathematical average system: if you want to see a genuinely spooky, scary, or entertaining movie, this film would get one star (less would be preferable); if you want a horrible camp classic from the genius responsible for such cinematic mayhem as "The Wild World of Batwoman" and "Frankenstein Island", this is an oft-overlooked five star rarity. Jerry Warren, my personal touchstone as the worst director in history, is paired up again with star Katherine 'Batwoman' Victor this time in a story of alleged international intrigue. It all involves Victor, a mad scientist, making some mind control capsules on an island which despite being clearly visible from shore, is unknown to everyone but the bad guys. Teenage heroes inadvertently foil the caper and defeat evil in a manner which is comical, yet difficult to comprehend. (When is it a good idea to break INTO jail?) Please also enjoy the ongoing verbal jousting concerning the relative merits of horseback riding versus water skiing! What does this have to do with the plot? Who knows! How prominent is this debate in the film? Very!The print of the film itself is in fairly awful condition, with many scratches, occasional sound dropouts (not that that really detracts), and many splices. It also has three little transfer marks that dwell perpetually near the top of the frame, yet move around and flicker annoyingly. If the plot weren't silly enough, the acting and dialogue take this one over the top. The film is very short, and while not as entertaining as some Warren classics, this is an excellent opportunity to see a very bad movie at a very low price."
So BAD it's GOOD...
Mike Mitchell | Houston, TX USA | 01/07/2002
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I'm old enough to remember what drive-in theaters were like, and this is EXACTLY the sort of schlock I would want playing if I had a date in the back seat of my dad's Buick. This would bore her into making out with me. It's so bad, I might have even made it to second base.The acting is actually better than it appears. I wonder if there was an actual script, or just scenes for the teens to improvise. There weren't too many flubbed lines or pauses. But the sets and the direction! Ed Wood at least tried to be inventive! I love how they were all sneaking around The Ranch House of Evil!What's funny is that there are actually more people in this than you'd think: six kids, a soda jerk, two Army guys, the evil doctor, the two goons, two cops, and one zombie named "Ivan." Boy, was he terrible. Fifteen people were on screen! Not counting the guy doing double duty in the ape costume.This movie is a hoot! Bad acting, bad directing, and zero suspense. What more could you want in a bad movie?-----------I also have the DVD version. The transfer is uneven and it appears to be missing a few seconds from where the doctor is forced into the gas chamber. I'm a bit disappointed that they didn't run this through Adobe Premiere before encoding it so they could have cleaned it up slightly. And what was with those three glowing dots at the top-center of the screen?"
My favorite guilty pleasure...
R. Gawlitta | Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA | 12/12/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't know where to begin. This film has everything that I like about BAD films...bad dialogue, really bad acting. It's obviously a cheaply made film. I own the VHS (which is out of print) and now I have the DVD which is of somewhat lesser quality, but the film's substance is so tacky that, no matter what version you get, it'll entertain. My DVD version is from Beverly Wilshire Filmworks/Telefilms Int'l, via Saturn Productions (Dolby Digital!). (...) It's a worthy film for many reasons. Though there's no cast listing, I'm assuming it's Katherine Victor, as the evil scientist who lures the kids to their potential doom, who has to be one of my favorite characters ever. She resembles Anjelica Huston as Morticia Addams, except Anjelica was only 8 yrs old, and the TV series wouldn't be around for 7 more years. Though it's a b&w film, this woman wears fancy evening gowns at all times of the day and speaks in a manner that suggests "acting", a real riot and one of my favorite characters of all time. This woman will be responsible for taking over the world for some idiot organization that will cover the world with some powder that will make everyone mindless idiots (like the writers...) The teenagers are all typical 50's fun-seekers, and save the day. The police station looks like a drive-thru window, and my favorite moment is at the very end, when the kids drive off, victorious, throwing their arms in the air for no apparent reason than to suggest good clean fun. Like I said, I don't know why I like this film so much. It's so bad, and I'm so very much amused. Perhaps it's bacause no matter how bad things may seem in the world or in your life, this film was made to make you realize that things CAN be worse."