Idealistic and naive Dr. Jason arrives at a school for delinquent girls and immediately begins to try to make a difference in the lives of some of the inmates. Oblivious to the sadistic treatment of the girls by the matrons, it takes a rebellious girl named Loretta to open his eyes. Assisted by a female staff member, Jason finally gets proof of the abuse and threatens the head of the school with exposure unless he is given full reign to run things. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <email@example.com>
I have to preface this discussion by confessing a guilty pleasure: I love "women-in-prison" flicks. So Young, So Bad might be one of the first, and it might possibly be the best.
This is a good little film, and one of the first (1950) of the "women in prison" genre that had gotten quite a beating (no pun intended) from the critics at large as well as the audience. Anne Francis stars as the innocent. Rita Moreno (in her first film, I think) is the semi-hardened inmate who attempts to teach Anne the ropes.
There's some real tension in the film as the sweet Anne Francis tries to navigate an incredibly harsh prison system, protect the innocent (there's always at least one who has been mis-incarcerated), and reform the system. The girls are treated abominably by the system before help, in the form of modern sociology, arrives. Along the way, horribly demeaning punishments are meted out to the women. But it's all compensated for in the end.
I've noticed some obligatory ingredients present in "women in prison" films, which So Young, So Bad had a hand in creating: the mean female guard who beats the crap out of various inmates, both deserving and undeserving of punishment; the mean female inmate who controls everything ("You are mine, honey"); the "fire-hose turned on the inmates to control them" scene (a scene also used in "women as psychiatric patients" films as well); the incredibly sadistic warden who is killed/replaced/disgraced by the end of the movie (I recall that this one is replaced); the uprising that causes the outside world to come to the rescue of the inmates; and finally, the sorting out of those women who really need imprisonment (the rest of the cast outside of Anne Francis, Rita Moreno and the handful of second-bananas, plus the mean inmate, if she isn't shot dead or stabbed in the course of the film). So Young, So Bad is a genre-maker we all can enjoy.
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