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Month: January 2009

Student Teachers, The (1973)

Student Teachers, The (1973)

“When I see that kind of perversion in this here high school, you can bet your sweet ass I’m stoppin’ it!”

Student Teachers Poster

Synopsis:
Two sexy young student teachers (Susan Damante and Brooke Mills) cause a stir by offering their high school students radical pedagogical options; meanwhile, a rapist terrorizes their campus, and an African-American senior (Brenda Sutton) plans to swindle a drug dealer (Bob Harris) in order to earn money for her struggling alternative school.

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Review:
The disjointed, sensationalist script of this New World Pictures exploitation flick is — true to its genre — merely an excuse to flaunt its sexy young female stars and exploit an array of “hot” topics (including drug dealers, rape, and the dysfunctional mandates of public schooling). The lead protagonists are given no backstory whatsoever, and — needless to say — are entirely unconvincing as student teachers; meanwhile, the subplot about a “secret” rapist (his identity is actually fairly obvious) is handled with a disappointing lack of taste, especially given director Jonathan Kaplan’s later, more serious foray into the topic (perhaps he was trying to atone for this earlier mess!). A quick scan of user comments on IMDb reveals that most folks who’ve stumbled upon The Student Teachers (it’s hard to find) enjoy it as an irreverent time capsule, but I was simply bored and offended. Watch for Chuck Norris as a karate instructor.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Not much of anything.

Must See?
No; though it’s listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book, it’s not must-see viewing for all film fanatics.

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Maisie (1939)

Maisie (1939)

“I’ll talk ya deaf, dumb, and blind, and sometimes I’ll make ya so mad you’ll want to kill me — but I’ll never lie to ya, Slim, or cheat ya.”

Maisie Poster

Synopsis:
An out-of-work actress (Ann Sothern) finagles a job as a maid on a ranch run by a gunshy cowpoke named Slim (Robert Young). Soon she finds herself falling in love with Slim, and running interference in a rocky marriage between the gentle ranch owner (Ian Hunter) and his cheating wife (Ruth Hussey).

Genres:

Review:
Brassy blonde Ann Sothern earned her greatest fame playing the title character in this MGM B-level “comedy adventure” and its nine sequels (including Congo Maisie, Maisie Goes to Reno, and Undercover Maisie, to name just a few). The 75-minute faux-western storyline — involving a dysfunctional wealthy couple, a suspected murder, a reticent romance, a courtroom revelation, buffalo, and more — is clumsy and far-fetched, but ultimately beside the point: the primary reason to watch, naturally, is Sothern’s sassy performance as Maisie; she’s an appealing enough spitfire that we almost don’t mind watching her maneuver through such a drivelly plot. With that said, Maisie will primarily be of interest either to fans of Sothern, or to die-hard film fanatics curious to see what once passed as popular entertainment; otherwise, it can’t rightly be called must-see viewing.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Ann Sothern as Maisie
    Maisie Sothern

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a cursory look if you stumble upon it on TCM.

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D.O.A. (1950)

D.O.A. (1950)

“I don’t think you fully understand, Bigelow — you’ve been murdered!”

DOA Poster

Synopsis:
An accountant (Edmond O’Brien) slowly dying from “luminous poisoning” tries to determine who his killers are, and why they’ve murdered him.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this “first-rate melodrama” by DP-turned-director Rudolph Mate features an “unusual, intriguing premise”, one which allows its protagonist — Edmond O’Brien in his most iconic role as Frank Bigelow — to become “one of the first movie heroes to have no fear of being killed”. While “the story gets a bit confusing” (and thus tends to drag during its second third), the film as a whole remains compelling, and, amazingly enough, never feels “too morbid to sit through” despite knowing that Bigelow is done for from the beginning. Indeed, the flashback-heavy script features a surprising amount of levity, particularly during the early San Francisco hotel sequences, as Bigelow ogles every reasonably attractive female in the joint (and Dimitri Tiomkin’s energetic score adds silly sound-effect punctuations). Meanwhile, the supporting cast’s B-level performances nearly all border playfully on camp: watch Pamela Britton (as Bigelow’s clingy secretary girlfriend) run an emotional gamut from flirtatious to pissy to maudlin to rapturously romantic, or toothy Neville Brand in his screen debut as a psycho thug with shifty eyes.

Some have complained that cinematographer Ernest Laszlo fails to establish noir-ish contrasts in lighting, but this ultimately adds to the film’s effectiveness: Bigelow’s nightmarish situation — taking place in real-life San Francisco and Los Angeles locales — is very much embedded within day-to-day reality; the scary point here is that anyone (you, me) is at risk for murder simply by being alive. And it should be noted that while Bigelow may be essentially an “innocent nice guy”, he does act like a bit of an immature lout, given that he can’t wait to get away from his fiancee, and considers sleeping with an attractive woman he’s just met at a bar; to this end, it could be argued (along the lines of 1950s morality) that he “deserves” his fate. Indeed, the story is framed as an unwitting character arc, with Bigelow forced to recognize — too late — the folly of his ways.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Edmond O’Brien as Bigelow
    DOA O\'Brien
  • An effectively nightmarish script
    DOA Nightmare
  • Excellent use of San Francisco and Los Angeles locales
    DOA Locales
  • Neville Brand (in his screen debut) as a psychotic hood
    DOA Neville Brand

Must See?
Yes, as a classic of pulp noir.

Categories

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