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I enjoyed this vintage film because it shows 50s era kids as perceived by adults of the day. It opens with dialogue from an announcer explaining about the plight of todays teenagers, then the story begins showing kids in real life then as they deal with problems about going steady and socializing. Unlike most teen films of the 50s, they apparently used real police officers in the movie as they are credited for this during the film credits. I must, however, criticize the music the teens are playing at their party. It is definitely pre-rock n roll type music when, in reality, they would have been dancing to Elvis, Fats, and many other 1956 era artists. Of course, adults of the day were just learning about the teenage music of choice then.
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.
Delinquents, The (1957)
** (out of 4)
Tom Laughlin plays a good teenager who suffers heartbreak when he must break up with his girlfriend because her parents feels she's too young to go steady. The boy then gets mixed up with a group of delinquents, which could cost him his life. This here was director Altman's first feature length film and with that in mind the movie really isn't too bad. I've seen countless juvenile films from this era and a lot of them work because of their campy appeal but this film here doesn't have any of that. In fact, the thing plays pretty straight forward and Altman's direction is good enough to keep it out of the camp range. There are several problems with Altman's script including some stupid narration and the start and end of the film but the biggest problem is with the girlfriend character played by Rosemary Howard. For one thing, Howard gives a really bad performance and comes off quite annoying because of it. Another problem is that she's written as such a spoiled brat that it's hard for us to care about her problems with Laughlin. Laughlin turns in a pretty good performance as does Peter Miller as the leader of the gang. There's really nothing too groundbreaking here but the film remains mildly entertaining through its 72-minute running time.
Although United Artist released The Delinquents in 1957, it was filmed
in Kansas City in the summer of 1955. That helps explain the musical
choice of jazz over rock. When it was shot, the ground just been broken
on the juvenile delinquent sub-genre with The Wild Ones and The
Blackboard Jungle. A more timely release would likely have made it more
successful at the box office and more influential on other rebelling
teen films. Even with the late release, the film made a tidy profit for
Altman later said Tom Laughlin copped an attitude during the filming and was very difficult to work with.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
**SPOILERS** A bit heavy handed but still effective film about how the
plague of juvenile delinquency had become a major factor in turning
America's youth from respecting the law, as well as their parents, and
become future residents in hell holes like San Quentin and Attica state
We see a bunch of unruly youths lead by this smirking and full of himself wise guy Cholly, Peter Miller, start a ruckus at a local nightclub because he and his friends, being under age, are refused to be served beer. Looking for action Cholly and company go to the local drive-in planning to start trouble with those peacefully watching the movie. It just happens that young Scotty White, Tommy Laughlin, is also at the drive-in trying to forget what just happened to him.
Scotty was told by his girlfriend's parents The Wilsons, James Lantz & Lotus Carelli, to stay away from their 16 year-old daughter Janice, Rosemary Howard, for no other reason then him and Janice being in love with each other. A confused Scotty leaves, with Janice in tears, to catch a movie so he can get his head back together.
It's at the drive-in that Scotty runs into Cholly and his friends who after picking a fight with another group of teenagers come to Scotty's, who got blamed for what Cholly and his friend Eddy(Richard Bakalyan) did, rescue. At first Cholly took a shine for the friendly but very naive, to what Cholly was up to, Scotty. This had Cholly's #1 man Eddy get very jealous and resentful at Scotty for taking Cholly away from him.
Being invited with a very reluctant Janice, using the excuse she's going on a date with Cholly, to a party at the deserted Old Johnson House Scotty ends up getting drunk and together Janice leaves early. Unknow to both Scotty & Janice Cholly and his gang broke into the Johnson House to do their partying and that had the cops raid the place arresting everyone there, except Scotty & Janice.
Seeing his big chance to stick it to Scotty, for taking Cholly away from him, Eddy has Scotty framed in being a snitch in him calling, which Scotty didn't, the cops on the drunken and obnoxious party goers. A mad and fired up Cholly now plans to get even with Scotty in not only abusing his girlfriend Janice but getting the clean-cut and milk drinking young man smashed on hard liquor. Cholly then plans to have the dead drunk Scotty dumped in woods where, with some luck, he'll be killed and eaten by the coyotes wolves and bears who live there!
Things don't exactly work out as well as Cholly planned with him, at the insistence of Eddy, getting involved in a gas station holdup where the attendant Kenny, Joe Adelman, is left for dead with his head smashed in and Scotty, drunk as a skunk, staggering away from the crime scene. Cholly trying to keep Scotty from talking to the cops, which in fact he had no plans of doing, goes a step farther in kidnapping, a both federal and in some states like California capital crime, Janice! Scotty had by now come to his senses, after sobering up, and in a white hot fury took off to Cholly's place, after almost chocking Eddy to death, to save Janice from being gang raped by Cholly and his friends.
Early work of director Robert Altman and actor Tommy, or later Tom, Laughlin which is a bit too mild, with the teenagers in it so obedient to their parents, in it's trying to show its audience the dangers of juvenile delinquency. Still "The Delinquents" despite it's meager budget and unknown cast is right up there with other much more expensive and critically acclaimed troubled youth films of the same period like "Blackboad Jungle" and "Rebal Withou a Cause". The film shows what can happen when young people aren't taught to respect their parents and eventually the law by them, and their growing up problems, being either ignored or just never acted upon.
A frustrated young man, separated from his younger girlfriend, gets
involved in a juvenile gang.
Robert Altman wrote, produced, and directed this film in his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri during the summer of 1956 on a $63,000 budget raised by local theater owner Elmer Rhoden. He was hoping to cash in on the juvenile craze that American International Pictures made popular with films such as "Hot Rod Girl" (1956) and " Shake, Rattle & Rock!" (1956). Indeed, the film is very much in the AIP style and could pass for one of their productions.
As summed up by Altman, "I wrote the thing in five days, cast it, picked the locations, drove the generator truck, got the people together, took no money, and we just did it, that's all." Shooting was a bit of a pain, with Altman in constant disagreement with star Tom Laughlin (a Milwaukee native who went on to be known for the "Billy Jack" film series).
Cameraman Charles Paddock, on Altman's advice, imitated the lighting of "The Asphalt Jungle" (1950). This is probably why the film looks more professional than it actually was. Despite anything it might lack, the photography is smart and sharp.
United Artists bought the film for $150,000, earning it a quick profit before even hitting theaters. Altman maintained for years (at least up to 2001) that he did not care for the film, but Alfred Hitchcock of all people did and got Altman hired on for "Alfred Hitchcock Presents". Success! Rhoden produced one more film in Kansas City -- AIP's "The Cool and the Crazy" (1958) -- and was even featured in Time magazine as one of the "new wave" of producers. He then produced a delinquency film in Hollywood featuring the debut of composer John Williams, AIP's "Daddy-O" (1958), but his mini-mogul reign was short-lived.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A group of teenagers in the Kansas City of 1957 are the subject of this
film that has a feeling of a morality tale written and directed by
Robert Altman. We are given a glimpse of a group of young people doing
things that for the times, when the action takes place, was an affront
to the ordinary folks trying to lead decent lives, only to have to face
a crowd of restless youths getting into all kinds of trouble.
The gang led by Cholly were an aimless bunch of teens whose lives, if they continued the way they acted, when we meet them, they probably ended in some type of juvenile facility. Cholly was a vicious young man who saw an opportunity to take care of a naive Scotty because he represented a good person and he wanted to make him suffer for the way he was perceived.
When Scotty is told by Janice's parents to stop seeing her, he goes into a terrible ordeal. Having gone alone to the drive-in, he has the unfortunate experience of parking next to Cholly and his friends who have all intentions of getting into trouble. Upon hearing of Scotty's problems, Cholly offers to go to get Janice as though he had a date with her, and then bring her to meet Scotty. That was the start of some serious problems between the two young men. It comes to a bad confrontation, but in the meantime, it will ultimately bring Scotty and Janice together.
The film is a bit heavy handed by Mr. Altman. The picture has a look as though made for television, a medium in which the director worked for quite a while before turning to making films exclusively. The style he used in the film shows a different aspect of his genius, although viewing this movie one could not foresee the great things he would get involved later on. Watch it as a curiosity.
Very seriously dated Prolog and Epilog Eisenhower era nonsense aside,
there is some interesting and slick stuff in the middle of this JD
(Juvenile Delinquent) Movie. The JD scare of the Fifties turned out to
be mostly hype and a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of
Progressive Evolution unleashed in the post War Younger Generation by
Atomic Radiation (just kidding), but it did manifest itself
It seems the folks who fought and won the War wanted nothing more than to settle down and hatch some young-ins and enjoy the spoils. But they were not prepared for their Kids to spend their newly found pocket money on, God forbid, Monkey Music and Passion Pits (Drive-Ins). They even wanted to "go steady". So there was quite a hoopla about what and who to blame for all this "independent thought and rebellious attitudes". Kids these days.
So there was a lot of Social commentary about Rock n' Roll, Comic Books, and Communists brainwashing these innocents (no one mentioned TV, that was the flickering glue that kept good Folks home with its radiating hypnogogia).
The celebrated Maverick, Robert Altman's first Film, is better than most of its ilk. There are some touches that are remarkable. Some bloodletting and a vicious fist fight in the Kitchen and a forced liquor overdose in the Living Room (contrasting Suburban Sanctuaries). The Movie is more accomplished than other low-budget Teensploitations and is quite compelling at times and is definitely worth a view for its time-stamped allure and for the Rookie Writer/Director.
The opening voice-over warns "The Delinquents" will be a story of
"teenage violence and immorality" in Kansas City, Missouri. Then, we
meet hunky dark-eyed Tom Laughlin (as Scotty White). He and
sweet-as-honey girlfriend Rosemary Howard (as Janice Wilson) - playing
mid-teens - are ordered to stop seeing each other because they are too
young. Upset, Mr. Laughlin goes out to a drive-in alone, and falls in
with perpetually rebellious Peter Miller (as Cholly) and his sneaky
sidekick Richard Bakalyan (as Eddy). They turn out to be part of what
you could call the WRONG crowd. But, they act well. A closing narration
pounds home the moralistic point.
Not a great film, but one obviously full of potential, which was in at least two cases, fully realized.
****** The Delinquents (3/1/57) Robert Altman ~ Tom Laughlin, Peter Miller, Richard Bakalyan, Rosemary Howard
Familiar story of nice guy Scotty (Tom Laughlin) and his sweet girlfriend Janice (Rosemary Howard) being taken in by a gang of hoods led by Bill (Peter Miller). This is the type of movie which shows bad behaviour as being smoking, drinking and starting fights. I know I was in trouble when it starts off with a narrator telling the audience that this is a cautionary tale of where their kids might end up! I saw this only because it was Robert Altman's first film--he wrote, produced and directed it. It was made on a VERY low budget and it shows. It's horribly edited with inappropriate music cues (there's some thundering music when Scotty just comes out of a cab!). Also the script has lapses--especially when Bill inexplicably wants to help Scotty. Why? There's no rhyme or reason. For some reason Bill acts like he's sexually attracted to Scotty! All the actors were unknowns when this was made. The only one that went on to become famous was Laughlin when 15 years later he did "Billy Jack". As it is his acting here is actually pretty good. He's obviously WAY too old for his role but he's handsome and muscular and has a lengthy shirtless scene. Howard as his girlfriend is just awful. Whiny and obnoxious. This was her only film--it's easy to see why. Miller wasn't bad as the head of the gang and everyone else was OK. This is really of interest only as Altman's first film. Other than that it's just a run of the mill "bad boys" film that was done countless times in the 1950s.
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