Girls Town/The Innocent and the Damned (1959)

“There’s no such thing as a bad girl — not really bad. But sometimes when a group of you get together, you act just like the lemming: reckless and suicidal for no reason!”

Girls Town Poster

Synopsis:
After being falsely implicated in the death of a classmate she was dating, 16-year-old Silver (Mamie Van Doren) is sent to a boarding school — Girls Town — run by sanctimonious nuns. When Silver finds out her younger sister (Elinor Donahue) is in trouble, she enlists the help of teen heartthrob Jimmy Parlow (Paul Anka).

Genres:

Review:
This infamously bad exploitation flick by producer Albert Zugsmith is a veritable showcase of 1950s cliches: horny teens make out, cat fights erupt between territorial girls, and foolhardy punks play “chicken” in their cars. 27-year-old Van Doren — who nearly busts the seams of her tight clothing — fared much better playing someone closer to her age in Sex Kittens Go to College (1960); here, she’s stuck mouthing rebellious jargon as though reading from a 1950s dictionary of slang. Strategic appearances by musical favorites Mel Torme and Paul Anka are worthless — weak-chinned Torme is utterly miscast as a tough guy, and Anka (whose singing is lame) is insipid. Only recommended for diehard Mamie Van Doren devotees, or fans of truly bad juvenile delinquent flicks.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • An abundance of campy ’50s slang: “Can I use your Alexander Graham?”

Must See?
Yes, simply for its status as a cult favorite. Peary lists it in the back of his book as a Camp Classic, and it was lampooned by MST3K in 1994.

Categories

Links:

One Response to “Girls Town/The Innocent and the Damned (1959)”

  1. Very much a must as a camp classic! (aka ‘The Innocent and the Damned’? Really? Sounds like a Visconti double-feature!)

    This post comes after revisiting the MST3K version (which has been on YouTube since 2007, so it just might stay there). I did see ‘Girls Town’ long before MST3K got its hands on it – in Tokyo, when it was on video; I remember gleefully coming across it in my local video shop. But, at the moment, ‘GT’ remains kind of hard to get hold of. (Where is the Criterion DVD???!)

    Seeing again what MST3K has done with it, it’s almost impossible imagining wanting to watch ‘GT’ again ‘straight’. Here’s the thing about MST3K: for its idea to work really well, there has to be the ‘perfect marriage’ of film and MST3K crew. To my thinking, that perfect combo occurs if – and only if – the film being roasted is bad *but* somehow still weirdly watchable on its own. ‘GT’ is that kind of movie. (‘Kitten With a Whip’ is another; which was another shining serving from MST3K.) It’s the kind you can watch with friends while creating your own MST3K version in your own living room. But…what Mike and the robots do with it pretty much makes their version rather definitive. Almost every one of their pop culture and film reference retorts are spot-on. (They start off flying right from the start, when Crow is reading the uninspiring cast list in the opening credits: “You know, there hasn’t been a cast like this since ‘Judgment at Nuremberg’!”)

    That said, while watching this time, I did look beyond as well, through to what is actually there in the film itself. It’s still rather unintentionally funny. (It helps a *lot* if you were raised Catholic and spent a lot of your formative years around nuns.) I love how the entire cast has been successfully directed to go for total conviction. Did that ever pay off! And, for the record, Mamie slays me in this one!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.