During a future ice age, dying humanity occupies its remaining time by playing a board game called "Quintet." For one small group, this obsession is not enough; they play the game with living pieces ... and only the winner survives.
Robert Altman's jazz-scored film explores themes of love, crime, race, and politics in 1930s Kansas City. When Blondie O'Hara's husband, a petty thief, is captured by Seldom Seen and held ... See full summary »
Jennifer Jason Leigh,
Scotty White (age 19) must stop 'going steady' with Janice Wilson (age 16) when Janice's parents intervene. Frustrated, idle and without Janice's restraining influence, Scotty encounters Cholly and his band of disorganized, fun-loving delinquents. Soon he has Janice (who seems considerably the more mature of the two) mixed up in their doings, which begin to seem less and less like harmless fun... Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
This is one story. Who's to blame? The answers are not easy, nor are they pleasant. We are all responsible, and it's our responsibility not to look the other way. Violence and immorality like this must be controlled, channeled. Citizens everywhere must work against delinquency, just as they work against cancer, cerebral palsy, or any other crippling disease. For delinquency is a disease. But the remedies are available: patience, compassion, understanding, and respect for parental ...
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Despite the budget, the movie shows genuine flair, and it's not surprising that Altman went on to Hollywood following this energetic little indie. The KC locations manage to turn a budget disadvantage into an atmospheric advantage by creating a middle-America flavor well beyond Hollywood's usual sound-stage scope. Sure, the movie is dated. Nonetheless, many touchstones of teen culture are present drive-in's, underage drinking, "good girls" and "bad girls". Too bad Altman didn't work in some Elvis or, at least, R&R.
Whether luck or acumen, Altman gets a strong cast with Bakalyan, Miller, and Laughlin. Bakalyan is a true teen superstar from that era and maybe it's best actor. Catch him in "The Cool and the Crazy" (1958), to appreciate a versatile sensitive side. Miller too impresses as the sneering and thoroughly dislikable gang leader. Apparently, he was too good at business to stay in the movies. And, of course, there's "Billy Jack" Laughlin practicing his limited form of pacifism that would later become a stock-in-trade. Unfortunately, there's also poor Rosemary Howard who struggles emotively as the good girl, but does look the part.
There is one scene like nothing I've seen from that era. Good guy Laughlin is taken to a tract home by the gang, where he's forced to drink an unlimited amount of hard liquor. One agonizing drink after another, you expect him to refuse. But he doesn't, going submissively along, and I'm getting sick just watching. It's almost excruciating to sit through, and is a much more effective warning against delinquent behavior than all the official ones. Altman also shows his way with crowd scenes in both the opening ruckus in the bar and in the teen party. Such byplay scenes, of course, were to become his trademark.
On the downside, the narrative is pretty choppy. I don't know if it comes from the script or the editing, but the story unfolds awkwardly at times, showing less than a polished hand. And, of course, there's that heavy-handed epilog and prolog that sounds like the voice of Big Brother warning the plebs. I guess that was the price for putting all the fun stuff before the public. And what about parents dragging all those 25-year olds down courthouse steps at movie's end!
Anyway, it's probably worth pointing out to younger viewers that despite what's on screen, the 50's generation was arguably the most conformist of any since WWII. They weren't called the "Silent Generation" for no reason. Good jobs were plentiful; at the same time, most youth simply wanted "to marry and settle down". Their biggest worry was whether they were too young to marry, and, of course, sex outside marriage was forbidden, which is what motivates Janice's dad in the movie. Real youth rebellion was still a decade away, and only strange cats like Jack Kerouac were on the road. All in all, the movie itself remains an interesting slice of that teen era.
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