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Director Herschel Gordon Lewis is, of course, most famous for his
"gore" movies like "Blood Feast", "2000 Maniacs", and "The Wizard of
Gore". While I find these films pretty overrated, his stuff outside the
"gore" genre like "Year of the Yahoo" or "She Devils on Wheels" is
often downright unwatchable. So I was pleasantly surprised by this
entertaining JD (juvenile delinquent) movie Lewis made very early in
his career. Uber-voluptuous man-eater Virginia LeCompte plays perhaps
the most unconvincing "seventeen year old" in the history of cinema.
She convinces her parents to let her go out with nice guy "Tony", but
then borrows his car to rendezvous with her real boyfriend, an older,
corrupt police detective at the home of a beatnik paint/sex offender
called "the Beard" who her cop beau is shaking down. The heroine gets
herself in trouble after agreeing to pose nude for "the Beard", so for
some reason her would-be boyfriend/sap "Tony", "Marie", a girl who is
in love with him, and all their friends rush to the rescue of this
obnoxious, ridiculously overaged "juvenile" before her "virginity"
(yeah, right) is jeopardized.
The plot is ridiculous, but in a very entertaining way. Like a lot of 50's JD and beatnik movies this contains a lot of laughably ripe dialgue ("You're transmittin', but I'm not receivin'--you dig, daddy-o?"). There's also some entertaining rock songs by a live band including the theme song "The Prime Time" and "Teenage Tiger" ("She's a teenage tiger/Got the devil inside her"). There's a gratuitous flashback catfight scene between the heroine and another ridiculously mature-looking "teenage" girl (they hilariously roll around on the ground in poodle skirts clawing at each other's faces). Lewis does a good (i.e. competent) job directing this film, which very much anticipates thematically the later, more famous exploitation film "Scum of the Earth" he did with David Friedman and "Color Me Blood Red", one of his later gore films about another deranged--but much more murderous--painter.
Karen Black has an early don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it part here. I don't know if I buy the story that she had nude scenes that were cut out. JD films of this era typically had a lot of exploitation elements, but they never had nudity, and this movie was made a year or two before Lewis and Friedman had gotten involved in any "nudie-cutie"-type stuff. Besides if you want to see Karen Black naked--or for that matter Karen Black in actual ROLE--you'd be much better advised to watch one of her later movies. This is not great, but it's pretty entertaining
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Prime Time" is a crappy exploitation film. Not surprisingly, it
was made by Hershell Gordon Lewis--a guy known for making crappy and
super-low budget films. However, at one point in the film, someone (and
I assume it wasn't Lewis) added a lot of nudes swimming and cavorting
about and it's obvious that these were sloppily inter-cut into the
scene. For example, the wild teens are swimming at night--but when you
see some nudes jump into the water, it appears to be daytime or dusk!
This is highly reminiscent of Ed Wood's "Plan 9 From Outer Space" when
Bela Lugosi and his double are chasing a lady--and it goes from day to
night again and again in a super-sloppy job of editing. None of this is
terribly sexy, as the print is pretty crappy and, frankly, most of the
naked ladies aren't very desirable. If you are looking for porn, you
could do a whole lot better!
The plot involves a terribly obnoxious and very unlikable 17 year-old who is anxious to become a mega-slut. She runs around with older men, poses nude for a local pedophile and seems eager to destroy herself. And, for kicks, one of the guys she parties with is a cop! I guess he took an oath to protect and to serve...again and again and again. Not surprisingly, by the end of the movie the girl has been taught a lesson about life in the fast lane--and nearly dies in the process. I am sure the film makers said this was all in the spirit of public service--to warn folks about the dangers of unbridled teen passion and all that crap. Of course, the viewers saw this as a chance to see some nudity--which could often be slipped into these dismal films because it is all 'educational'! In addition to all this 'education', you also have a cat-fight where two girls fight and rip each other's clothes off. But, as they only get down to the underwear, I assume it was part of the original film. The same goes with the from the back shots of her tussling with the pedophile painter--all in order to 'educate' the public! How civic-minded of them.
If you took out the gratuitous nudity, I might give the film a 3 or possibly 4. However, the choppy way these were used really made the film look craptastic. As a result, a 2 seems reasonable. The acting is often bad, the script occasionally interesting but often a bit dumb and the whole thing has an aura of cheapness about it.
By the way, I have no idea how old the girl in the film really was. The film said Jean was 17 but she frankly looked to be at least 25. IMDb had no information on this one way or the other--but Jo Ann LeCompte (Jean) sure didn't appear even close to 17. Also, while you have to look close to see her, Karen Black is in this film. Look closely for her distinctive face and eyes--she's in the left foreground in a scene where the guy is telling a supposed joke about cooling off. She also later in the film is The Beard's shapely model.
I nominate this film for worst rock 'n roll band in a film. They appear at the 55 minute mark and seem like the most disinterested singing group in history. They are bad enough to rival Arch Hall, Junior's band in "Eegah" and the the Del-Aires in "The Horror of Party Beach".
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