Untamed Youth (1957)

“Don’t you see, honey? After this harvest, I’ll be rich — and after next season, I’ll be wealthy!”

Synopsis:
Two aspiring singers (Mamie Van Doren and Lori Nelson) are arrested for vagrancy on their way to Hollywood, and sentenced by a judge (Lurene Tuttle) to work on a cotton farm owned by her greedy husband (John Russell), who hopes to exploit as many young “delinquents” as possible.

Genres:

Review:
All film fanatics should be familiar with Mamie Van Doren, known as one of Hollywood’s three busty-blonde “M’s” (along with Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield). However, Peary lists no less than eight of Van Doren’s titles in his GFTFF, which is far too many — and this Z-grade exploitation flick should definitely not be among them. Mamie shimmies as seductively as ever in her super-tight clothing, but she’s ultimately a bit player in a ridiculous tale about a villainous cotton farm owner who exploits young white delinquents (!) due to an apparent widespread lack of manpower (the racist implications in this aspect of the plot are beyond belief). Meanwhile, he’s actively deceiving his cougar-wife (Tuttle), whose passion for this caddish heel gives a terrible name to female judges, and lends the film its ultimate message: never trust hormonal middle-aged women in positions of power. According to IMDb, the film “was originally condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency” — perhaps due in part to a subplot involving a blonde delinquent nicknamed “Baby” (Yvonne Lime) — “but that only served to enhance the curiosity factor, resulting in it being a big moneymaker for the studio.”

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Surreal scenes of young white “delinquents” singing and dancing while “toiling” in cotton fields

Must See?
No, unless you’re a Van Doren completist.

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One Response to “Untamed Youth (1957)”

  1. A once-must, for its cult value.

    I’m a bit surprised by the tepid assessment given above. While this is certainly not a high-quality flick, it works more than well-enough as/for a Van Doren vehicle. (Mamie is probably in about 90% of this movie, so it’s odd seeing her referred to as a “bit player”.) MVD has certainly made worse movies – and it’s true that she is not as, well, commanding here as she is in something like the camp/cult-favorite ‘Girls Town’.

    But this is a different kind of picture – actually, its rock ‘n’ roll side-numbers notwithstanding, it’s more of a social drama than a silly low-grade delinquent tale. (And even though it’s B-level, it’s released through Warner Brothers, which heightens its pedigree somewhat.)

    It could actually have been a lot worse than it is. But the writing has a solid sense of economy and it’s been photographed well. It’s also not badly directed by Howard W. Koch. (Koch would continue directing into the mid-’70s – as he moved into tv – but he became a major force as a producer: ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, ‘The Odd Couple’, ‘A New Leaf’, ‘Airplane!’, etc.)

    Perhaps the film’s most interesting performance is given by Tuttle as the judge. It’s a tricky role (an older professional woman being led and deceived by an oily snake – and not realizing it) but it’s a larger role than usual for her. (Compare this with her more subservient role as a sheriff’s wife in ‘Psycho’, 3 years later.) My fave scene in this film might actually be the ‘confessional’ scene that Tuttle has with her son (played by Don Burnett).

    Also nifty: some of the choreography in the non-vocal R’N’R number midway – it gives the cotton-picking gang a real chance to let loose!

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