High School Confidential (1958)

“If you flake around with the weed, you’ll end up using the harder stuff!”

Synopsis:
Tough Tony Baker (Russ Tamblyn) arrives at a new high school and immediately tries to edge in on the drug scene — much to the consternation of his concerned teacher (Jan Sterling).

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this “fast-moving, tongue-in-cheek” film about the 1950s “youth scene” is lots of fun and full of “hip teen lingo”. Though overly simplistic and moralistic, it’s far better — and more legitimately entertaining — than its infamous cautionary-tale counterpart, Reefer Madness (1936). Mamie Van Doren as Tamblyn’s sexpot aunt is especially notable: as Peary writes, “It’s worth the price of admission to watch [Van Doren] rolling around on Tamblyn’s bed as if she were a cat in heat…”

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Mamie Van Doren as Tamblyn’s aunt
  • Jan Sterling as Tamblyn’s concerned teacher
  • Tamblyn secretly shooting up into a ball rather than his arm when “testing out” some drugs

Must See?
Yes, as a cult movie. Discussed at length in Peary’s Cult Movies 2 (1983).

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One Response to “High School Confidential (1958)”

  1. Oddly enough, even though ‘HSC’ is, as you feel, a better film than its counterpart – ‘Reefer Madness’ – I would say that ‘RM’ is a must and ‘HSC’ is not. Unlike Peary, I don’t think ‘HSC’ is tongue-in-cheek. It’s hard detecting whether cast and crew were ‘in on the joke’. Unlike producer Zugsmith’s 1959 camp riot ‘Girls Town’ (also with Ms. Van Doren), ‘HSC’ seems to take itself much too seriously. Yes, the 50s lingo is there, but it feels like the result of earnest research. What seems earnest as well is the marked statement that smoking pot leads to using heroin. ‘HSC’ is interesting for the unusual collection of actors in supporting roles, and Jan Sterling proves once again her dependability regardless of material. (She worked for Zugsmith 3 years earlier in a personal camp favorite – ‘Female on the Beach’; unmentioned by Peary.) Zugsmith, director Arnold and writers Blees and Meltzer all have intriguing filmographies. I just wish that, in this combined effort, they hadn’t ‘starched the collar’. [BTW: A song entitled ‘High School Confidential’ is used in a memorable sequence in Egoyan’s ‘The Adjuster’.]

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