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Sure, I like those movies from the 50's showing teenagers and hot rods
and soda shops with jukeboxes and kids dancing and all that. This movie
has those things. Unfortunately the story itself is not as interesting
as a lot of the peripheral stuff.
First, and this happens in a lot of these old movies, the 'teenager' hasn't seen his teen years in a lo-o-n-g time. The "kid" who plays the lead was already 26 or 27 when this movie came out. He may have crash-dieted his way down to teenager-skinny but there's no hiding that the face and voice just aren't in high-schooler territory. For that matter the other 'kid' - the antagonist - also seems to have left his teen years behind too.
I would like very much to get my hands on a hot-rod the likes of which the main character stole to race in, while allegedly taking it for a test drive. Something like $600 for a built up 50's hot rod? I'll take five. Put 'em on my VISA card, thanks.
The 'kid's' father seemed very hard to please. The kid wants to get a job and earn the money to buy his own car and that idea is met with complete rejection by ol' pops. How many people wish their kids were willing to work and earn the things they want to have? What I thought was the most blatantly funny part happens when the main character and his arch enemy 'the other kid' go up against each other at a drag strip. For one thing, the other kid is swerving all over the track at our 'hero', a move guaranteed to get you disqualified if not arrested at any drag strip anyplace. But the real laugh comes in with the fact that it takes these two speed demons in hot rods approximately 50 seconds to run the quarter mile. I could do that myself without a car! Even back then, a car could do a 1/4 mile in 16 or 17 seconds, and that hasn't been lightning fast for many years now. A 50 second quarter mile works out to about 18 miles per hour, an hilariously long time. You'd think they were driving to Cleveland, the race goes on so long.
Well it's an interesting period piece. Must have been lots of fun making these movies and making a living off them back in the 50's. However they aren't much to brag on. If you can see this one for free, go for it, but it you're thinking of buying it, do your best to buy it cheap.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Johnny Simpson" (Chuck Courtney) is an 18 year-old teenager who dreams of one day having his own automobile like many of the other high school students his age. Unfortunately, his father doesn't quite see things his way and as a result Johnny's emotional development is somewhat stunted. Then one afternoon a teenage girl named "Betty Palmer" (Melinda Byron) offers to let him drive her home from the local diner in her brother's car. However, after being passed by someone in a hot rod he decides to speed up and--as luck would have it--gets a ticket by the police for driving too fast on a city street. Needless to say, his father isn't too happy when the police bring Johnny home. But things get even worse for Johnny when the local bully named "Maurie Weston" (Robert Fuller) uses this event to provoke him into a game of "chicken" to prove his manhood. Although Johnny doesn't have a car he accepts the challenge and this is when things begin to really spin out-of-control for him. Now rather than reveal any more I will just say that this was a rather standard "hot rod movie" from a rather unique time in American cinema which had just begun to recognize a new and emerging market for films catering to a teenage audience. Yet, in spite of the novelty, this particular film didn't necessarily stand out and I have rated it accordingly. Average.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sitting at home, night after night, watching dad listen to the stock
news, Aunt Martha asking me why I'm not finishing my pie, and a lot of
conversations about nothing. That would make me brood, too. I have to
feel bad for the character that Chuck Courtney plays, a misunderstood
mature looking teenager who loves cars and much to his father's dismay
takes a summer job at a garage rather than helping pops down at his
boring old real estate office. Courtney takes a car out on a test drive
from a used car salesman and ends up in a race that gets him arrested.
At least, this opens up communication between father and son, and the sympathetic aunt begins to see the light as well. But totally clichéd dialog between the generations makes this unbelievable in the family aspect, especially when the father (Tyler McVey) claims that he recalls what it was like to be young and a scene between dad and Courtney's boss at the garage. That scene, actually, is quite touching in spite of its unbelievability, is is especially well acted by the spirited garage owner (Paul Bryar). Helene Heigh seems too good to be true as the Mrs. Hardy like aunt, adding to the fantasy world of adult/teen relationships that this is obviously trying to encourage.
A young Robert Fuller ("Emergency!") plays Cochran's rival, out to steal his thunder and his girl (Melinda Byron). When a fight scene erupts between Cochran and McVey after an apparent reconciliation, it seems to come out of nowhere. The original musical score by Walter Greene seems like it was written for another film, and while quite beautiful, is out of place with its classic themes not in touch with the teen-aged rebellion of this film. After all, this is pretty much teen exploitation, not "A Summer Place". A mixed bag for sure, but one with some good ideas that never seem to gel.
This is one of those post Rebel Without A Cause rip-offs, when not much happens and ends on a happy note. The big draw in this is an early look at Courtney and Fuller, who would go on to much better things, particularly in the case of Fuller, who's very effect here as the egotistical bully. Why they cast Melinda Byron in the lead female role is a mystery, as she is neither pretty nor sexy.....and not a very good actress either. It's fun to see all those old cars and trucks, but other than seeing that, and the two staring actors, there's no real reason to watch it. It's been mentioned that the actors looked much older than high school kids, but I disagree. At my school, some of the guys and gals looked like they were twenty-five or older, and a few even looked like they were pushing thirty. One six foot-two football player (and a freshman, at that) even won the beard growing contest his senior year.
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