High School Confidential! (1958) Poster

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Notes on some misused talent in campy teen-exploitation flick
bmacv25 August 2002
There's not much to be said about High School Confidential, a teen exploitation movie from the end of the fabulous ‘fifties, except that it's hard to think that it wasn't just as laughable upon release as it is today. But some comments on its cast members may be in order:

• Russ Tamblyn was a child star, then primarily a dancer. This `dramatic' role fell to him between his memorable assignments in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and West Side Story. He's not at all bad here (in an badly written and implausible role), but was never able to establish himself as a serious actor, though he continued to work, showing up notably decades later in Twin Peaks.

• John Drew Barrymore had just taken up his middle name to distance himself from his legendary father; in earlier roles (The Big Night, While the City Sleeps), he was billed as John Barrymore, Jr. Here he brings off an eerily precise impersonation of Elvis Presley, speaking both in hillbilly accent and in basso-profundo register. (Alas, he does not sing.) It's clear he inherited the family talent, which he was to squander, because he also inherited the predisposition to chemical experimentation.

• Jan Sterling seemed destined for a bigger career than she ended up with. The high points of her filmography – Billy's Wilder's The Big Carnival/Ace In The Hole being the most impressive of them – were behind her, and she was taking secondary roles to the likes of latter-day Joan Crawford ( in Female on The Beach). Here, as a schoolteacher, she not only does a riff on Eve Arden's Our Miss Brooks character, she even looks like Arden.

• The late ‘fifties were the blazing noon of Mamie Van Doren's fling at playing third-string sexpot (after Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield). All Dagmars and platinum hair, she was rarely called upon to display what might have been a comic talent, visible here in fits and starts. Her role as a married nymphomaniac whose attempts at fulfilment – absent her husband – seemed doomed to disappointment is practically a clone of the part she played in The Beat Generation, a slightly more interesting vehicle that covers much of the same ground as High School Confidential.

High School Confidential remains notable from a view of drug trafficking and the process of addiction that had advanced not a whit since Reefer Madness in the ‘thirties. And of course its view of teen-aged life in the second Eisenhower administration bears not the slightest resemblance to any reality – then or now. That said, it's fun to watch.
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It's the most, man!
DBPVI9 August 2001
Perhaps the coolest movie ever made! It's worth watching for the lingo alone, you sound me? And it's a movie with a lesson... "You flake around with the weed and you're gonna end up using hard stuff!" Yes, it's just that cheesey.

Hot-shot Tony Baker (Russ Tamblyn) is the new kid at Santo Bello High School and he makes everyone aware of his arrival. He muscles his way into the Wheelers & Dealers, run by J.I. Colridge (John Drew Barrymoore - Drew's dad) and not only tries to push him out of the picture, but also goes after his girl, Joan Staples (Diane Jergens).

Tony lets it be known that he's looking to "graze on some grass", but not just a few "sticks", he wants five pounds! Not only that but he also wants to score some coke, H, goofballs and caps. He is soon humbled when he finds he has to score 100 sticks from J.I. at the big race. While haggling for the weed Tony learns that J.I. is pushing for the mysterious Mr. A. (Jackie Coogan). Tony wants to meet Mr. A. so he can score a kilo of heroin. Eventually, a meeting is set up between Tony and Mr. A.

School teacher Miss Williams (Jan Sterling) takes a liking to Tony and sets out to save him from himself. Tony takes a liking to his teacher, but with different intentions.

The comedy (unintentionally) abounds in this 50s flick. Check out Barrymoore's hep-cat slang rendition of Columbus' voyage to America or the Beat Poetess' poetry reading or Michael Landon as a dorky student Tony mocks, or the slinky, Mamie VanDoren as Tony's drunken, slutty aunt or the cop explaining the difference between a real cigarette and marijuana.

I could go on for days about this movie, but instead, I'm going to stop writing and pop the tape in my VCR and watch it for the five billionth time. I suggest you do the same.
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Entertaining silliness
cricket-149 April 1999
This movie is deliciously dated.

The dialogue is outrageous - especially the scene in the classroom when one of the male students talks about Christopher Columbus going to that "deep pool" of the Alantic Ocean with his "non-stop studs" - which now, out of context, sounds more like a line from a gay porno flick instead of a 1950s b-movie (!).

Like many teen romps of the late 50s, the sound track is way cool, with Jerry Lee Lewis doing the opening theme song.

Lots of fun. Mamie Van Doren as always, is a treat. The cast includes a lot of people who were in a bunch of 50s flicks together - Jackie Coogan, Russ Tamblyn, Jan "Female on the Beach" Sterling, etc.

If you like this film, you'll also like Mamie in "Girls Town".
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shepardjessica-111 October 2004
This decent late 50's teen-exploitation flick is one of the better ones, although the hot Mamie Van Doren is in it all too briefly. Jackie Coogan adds a weird twist, and Russ Tamblyn is appropriately youthful (a few years before WEST SIDE STORY). Michael Landon has a small part (around the time he started BONANZA).

A 6 out of 10. Best performance = Mamie Van Doren). This film needed more rock 'n rock songs, beside the GREAT opening number by Jerry Lee Lewis on the back of a truck. Jan Sterling is subdued as the "good" teacher and John Drew Barrymore is rather strange. Great B/W cinematography helps this slide along. Check it out!
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Great fun
Random66617 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
It's funny, implausible, dated, unrealistic.... and wonderful. Great fun and full of interesting characters. You can never go wrong with Zugsmith. I watched this because of the Zugsmith connection and also to see if Russ Tamblyn could pull off a tough guy role (not any more convincing than Riff in West Side Story, but still an enjoyable performance, as was Riff). Jan Sterling is always a delight. And Mamie Van Doren... enjoyed seeing her paw Tamblyn and thrust her chest out in every scene. Jerry Lee Lewis singing in the opening scene was a bonus (and we hear the song again near the end). The final scene of Tamblyn, Van Doren, etc., riding in the car was the perfect ending to another bizarre Zugsmith production.
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Overaged Teeners Gone Rock 'n Roll Wild
stephenwillyamz-11 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This film starts out with Jerry Lee Lewis and his combo, on the back of a flatbed truck, singing and playing the title song while slowly rolling by the local high school (which looks nothing like a high school). Why are they playing there? Who knows? This scene was shot around the time IL' Jerry Lee married his 14-year-old cousin and was banned from American Bandstand. "Dick Clark done me wrong!" (Also, Allen 'Mr. Rock 'n Roll' Freed was busted for payola during this period; Buddy Holly, Ritchie Vallens & Duh Big Bopper were almost ready to take that fateful flight out of Iowa.) The song 'High School Confidential' suffered from poor airplay and drifted into obscurity—but hey, we got Fabian, Frankie Avalon and the other Italian-American rockers out of the shake-up.

A new kid (who happens to be 24-years-old) Russ 'Westside Story' Tamblyn cruses by the musical flatbed, without looking up and starts his first day at Nameless High. He almost gets into a rumble with Drew Barrymore's dad, the President of the 'Wheelers & Dealers' who's also a small potatoes reefer dealer (one joint for a buck)—Jackie 'Uncle Fester' Coogan is Mister Big. Goody Two-Shoes Michael 'I Was A Teenaged Werewolf' Landon ties to get Russ to stop acting like a juvenile delinquent and join the football team. No dice…

There's a pointless and outlandish 'Wheelers & Dealers' sponsored drag race, whose route seems to consist of pointless loops around a few movie studio sound stages. For reasons unknown 26-year-old John Drew Barrymore's (he died last year) hopped-up 21-year-old girlfriend, Joan is riding with and hanging all over Russ during the big race. This bizarre romantic betrayal doesn't seem to bother any of the drag city racing fans or the Wheelers & Dealers. A big plastic bag of marijuana, hidden behind Russ's wobbling hubcap, falls out just as the fuzz arrive ending the race. Bummer!

Oh, platinum blonde Mamie 'Untamed Youth' Van Doren plays Russ's sex-starved/nymphomaniac aunt—she's an absolutely useless character that has nothing to do with the plot. She was big-busted in her day and a well known cinematic sexpot, but today she's viewed as small bleached-blonde potatoes compared to the saline-implant hoochy mamas of the 21st century.

Anyway, Russ is actually an undercover nark who eventually busts the maryjane/horse dope syndicate preying on those poor, innocent & overaged Eisenhower Era high school students. Those addicted teeners are constantly skipping their homework, preferring to hang out at a strangely serene beatnik nightclub while listening to bleak beat poetry and "grazing in the grass." Uncle Fester plays a honky-tonk piano during these poetry sessions.

Homeroom teacher, Jan Sterling (who also died last year) convinces John Drew Barrymore's marijuana addicted blonde girlfriend Joan, played by Diane Jergens, to break her reefer in half and drop it on the floor. Maybe now Joan can finally graduate from Nameless High and go on the city college.
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Hey Cats, Dig This Blast From The Past
Lechuguilla16 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
A real cool cat (played by Russ Tamblyn) transfers to a new high school, where he wants to "rumble", and "make the scene" as the "top stud" of the "wheelers and dealers". He's "got four big ones and he's lookin' for junk". It's a blast from the past, where hot rods aren't the only thing that's smokin'; where high school teachers are from squaresville; and where the "kittens" include a very three-dimensional Mamie Van Doren. Can ya' dig?

Our cool cat tells the old biddy who works in the principal's office: "You know, if you were twenty years younger, even then I'd hate to be stuck with you on a date". Far out, man. You can call him "daddy-o", cause like, he's hip. He's "got the gold", and he wants "to score like the Yanks".

The dialogue's a hoot. But I didn't dig the cinematography ... too much light. Needs more dark interiors and smoke ... could have used some bongo drums and guys wearing "shades".

But it does have poetry. Cool! In one of the better sequences, as Jackie Coogan hits the keys, Phillipa Fallon recites a hip poem that in part goes like this: "I had a canary who couldn't sing. I had a cat that let me share my pad with her. I bought a dog that killed the cat that ate the canary. What is truth? ... We cough blood on this earth. Now there's a race for space. We can cough blood on the moon soon. Tomorrow is dragsville, cats. Tomorrow is a king-size drag". Spoken in the proper rhythm, it's out of sight!

Like, the jive is all in code, see? You have to get a fix on the lingo to gain entry into the rebellious in-crowd. The Eisenhower-era straitjacket is too tight. Needs some breathing space.

There's a nifty plot twist near the end, if you haven't been plastered already with spoilers, which are like king-size drags.

Casting and acting are groovy, especially Russ Tamblyn.

As a razzle-dazzle retro to 1950s teenage hipsville, "High School Confidential" is the cinematic bull's-eye. What a king-size hoot.
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Among the best B-movies of the 1950s
rboylern30 March 2006
For what it is, a B-movie of the first order, I loved this clunker about marijuana and high school students. Acting skills required for the roles are minimal, nor do any of the teenagers even look like they're under 25 years old. Russ Tamblyn, for all his trying .... well, he should have remained a dancer. Jan Sterling gives an OK performance as the teacher, but it's far below her standards. Mamie Van Doren of the bleach-blond hair and prodigious balcony provides some completely unintended comic relief in the role of the somewhat whorish aunt. The ghastly script only adds to the triumph of this cliché riddled classic. The fight scenes are so fake as to be seen from a mile away. All the young women look like they have some kind of cone-shaped things in their brassieres, according to the fashion of the times. A "must see" for all B-movie lovers.
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Like, High School Confidential!, is really groovy, man!
tavm2 May 2008
Having first read about this '50s juvenile delinquent movie in the book "Cult Movies 2", when I saw a DVD displayed in my local library, I knew I had to check High School Confidential! out. With Russ Tamblyn as a troubled kid going to a new school, Diane Jergens as his potential girlfriend, and John Drew Barrymore as his rival/potential partner in a drug ring, the fireworks that happens is slowly but surely coming but not in the way you think! Mamie Van Doren is a hoot as Tamblyn's "aunt" who puts the moves on him and anyone who's not her husband who's conveniently out of town during most of the picture. There's also former child star, and later Uncle Fester, Jackie Coogan and a star of Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole, Jan Sterling, here. And then there's "The Killer", Jerry Lee Lewis, singing the title song on a flatbed truck to get things off to a rousing start. With a young Michael Landon and lots of dated slang that still provide some amusement today along with some car chases and some fights, High School Confidential! might be the most "trippin" movie from the '50s I've seen yet!
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Enjoyable B Movie
Caz196420 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
High School Confidential is a very entertaining B Movie from the late fifties.I grew up watching films of this era so i wasn't surprised by the slang used in it,although i will admit a lot of what the character Tony says doesn't make much sense. In the seventies these teen films had become very dated where as now days they seem more authentic and interesting.If i wanted to watch a film about the 1950,s i would much rather see a film that was made then rather than view one which has been made today about this era,as they would never get it completely right.And whether this story is plausible or not the actors,cars,clothes, hairstyles are the real deal and the paranoia towards Marajuana is told from a 1950s point of view. The 1960s point of view was very different,so was the 70s and 80,s etc.I think most of the acting was very good especially from Russ Tamblyn whose character Tony Baker was invented by his real on screen character Mike Wilson so the character Tony Baker would be overblown and unbelievable because his not real.We are not supposed to take his made up character seriously,well i didn't anyway. The only real problem i had with High School Confidential is that his aunt Gwen is not his aunt Gwen as you find out later in the film,so who is she really?is she in on the confidentiality?its never explained.Any way other than that i found this to be a really fun film and the opening credits with Jerry Lee Lewis singing are great.
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Russ The Narc
bkoganbing28 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The only thing that High School Confidential has to offer is Jerry Lee Lewis singing and playing the piano in that unique style of his. But Jerry Lee had the good sense to confine himself to singing and not attempt any dialog.

High School Confidential is the story of new kid Russ Tamblyn in the high school. He starts heading for the dope smoking crowd and why wouldn't he since Tamblyn's an undercover cop. He gradually works his way up the food chain of druggies until he can find the adult pushers who are corrupting the morals of those Eisenhower era youth. Wait till you see who the head of the gang is. Here's a hint, he's in a profession that isn't exactly unknown for its use of marijuana.

Jan Sterling plays the role of interested and concerned teacher and she's clearly getting rid of some last picture commitments on an MGM contract. As is Russ Tamblyn who was finding it more difficult to get work from MGM since they cut back on musicals.

John Drew Barrymore is positively embarrassing in his role as a high school kid, he clearly looks way too old. But you got to love Mamie Van Doren as Tamblyn's 'aunt' who tries to seduce him since she's not getting any because her husband has flown the coop.

This one should have been released as satire since that's what the producers unintentionally got.
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Let's All Go to the Drive-in
dougdoepke23 September 2008
Mamie Van Doren as somebody's aunt could put a whole new slant on "visiting the relatives". Here her twin gunboats are aimed at no one in particular, and I expect she was added at the last minute to further hype this exploitation exercise. But then this was cutting edge material for 1958 teens-- sassing the teacher, hotrod chickie runs, and maybe a pull on a joint if you could find one. Yeah, this is reefer-madness for the pre-Vietnam Pepsi generation. Never mind that the movie is one-third Blackboard Jungle, one-third Rebel Without a Cause, and the rest sheer Hollywood hokum.

Producer Zugsmith may not have known Leonardo Da Vinci from Leonardo Da Caprio, but he knew how to crowd teens into drive-ins. Then too, lead actor Tamblyn may look more like a cheer-leader than a hoody delinquent, but at least he's not bored with the part. Fast-buck artists like Zugsmith knew how to market these exploitation quickies as timely warnings to parents and teens. But kids weren't fooled. They knew they could see forbidden topics like teens kissing on a bed under the uplifting guise of civic betterment. No, this drive-in special may never have made it into uptown movie houses, but as an artifact of its time, it's more fun than any 10 of that year's dreary A-productions.
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Fifty Years On, It Becomes A Camp Classic
crossbow01066 April 2008
You have to love watching a film like this now, its like opening a time capsule. Russ Tamblyn plays Tony Baker, a hood just transferred to this particular high school. The film is almost a cautionary tale about illegal drug use, but it also includes a drag race and a little bit about sexual attraction. Watching it now is also fun because of the people in it: Mr. Tamblyn, Michael Landon, Charlie Chaplin, JR (yes, the tramp's son!), Jackie Coogan (interesting that Chaplin's son and "The Kid" are in the same film), Jerry Lee Lewis (performing the title song) and the attractive Jan Sterling, who plays Miss Williams. Most of the dialogue is slang for those times, which is a lot of fun now. The film is less than 90 minutes long and it rolls along pretty well. Its just great to watch now. Really, enjoy it, its fun.
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The movie with the best opening credits and the birth of rap
hawparks24 May 2005
Believe or not but in this movie I just love to see over and over again the opening credits. And I am sure that everybody that sees this movie, will agree with me. Another outstanding thing is that if you think that rap music was invented and started in the 90's, you must check out this lady from the 50's. Now, the rest of the movie is a very serious drama. A drama that made me laugh throughout the movie like if it was a comedy. Could this be a funny drama? I don't know but if you give it a chance you'll know what I mean. And about the DVD, I was disappointed to read that it was in "full screen", but when I saw it I couldn't be more happy to see that it was a mistake and it was in widescreen as it should (too bad it was mono). And too bad that in those days the credits at the end were so short. It would've been great to see Jerry do the whole "high school confidential" again, or maybe "great balls of fire". I gave it a 10 for the credits, 8 for the rap song and 0 for the rest, My total is 6.
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Campy 50's flick. Oh my, juvenile delinquents and weed!
michaelRokeefe23 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Funny looking back at it now. This is a classic juvenile delinquency melodrama with many familiar faces. Tony Baker(Russ Tamblyn)moves to California from Chicago and he hits the high school hard and heavy to make himself known. He is living with his sex-crazed Aunt Gwen(Mamie Van Doren). Not just wanting to be a stud, but THE stud. He immediately gets into the drug scene and strives to be the top dog dealer. There in the middle of the havoc he has induced, no one knows that he's a narc. Jerry Lee Lewis opens and closes the flick riding on a flatbed truck singing "High School Confidential". Cutie Diane Jergens plays Tony's love interest. Other familiar faces you may recognize: Jan Sterling, Jackie Coogan, Lyle Talbot, Michael Landon, band leader Ray Anthony and John Drew Barrymore, who would become the estranged father of actress Drew Barrymore.
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A searing expose on teenage drug use! Just kidding
preppy-328 March 2008
Silly exploitation movie. It's about tough kid Tony (Russ Tamblyn) going to live with his nymphomaniac aunt (Mamie Van Doren) and attending a new school. He meets the head kid J.I. (John Drew Barrymore), gets involved with his girlfriend Joan (Diane Jergens) and gets involved with selling drugs. But Tony may not be who he seems to be.

At times funny but mostly boring teen flick. This throws reality out the window right at the beginning with Jerry Lee Lewis on the back of a truck (with a band no less) "singing" a tune and all the "high school" kids (they're easily all in their 20s) start dancing! The 50s slang is way out of date and makes most of the "teenagers" sound like a bunch of idiots. The story is predictable and the attempt to sell this as a serious drug movie are just laughable. And seriously--Russ Tamblyn as a tough kid?????? He's terrible but he's totally miscast and the dialogue does him no favors. Barrymore adopts a hysterically stupid Southern accent and Van Doren shows off her "assets" by wearing VERY tight shirts! Sterling and Jergens try to act but nobody could make this work. I suppose this might be fun for some people but I was mostly bored. Might be worth catching to see some of the actors so young and Michael Landon in a small role but the dull story, bad acting and real jaw-dropping vamping by Van Doren make this a chore to sit through. I give it a 4.
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"With Me Baby, It's All Business"
Gargantuan-Media5 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Gear up for a swanky romp through the seedy underbelly of campy exploitation in this classic nugget featuring the World's Oldest Troubled Teens.

A fiery Jerry Lee Lewis opens the movie rolling through the bucolic 1950's streets belting out the title song in opening credits.

The chase and race scenes in this movie are actually really excellent for a B movie. This almost makes for the ham handed "twists" (that were probably mid-shoot re-writes) of Tony secretly being Mike Wilson "Undercover Man".

It appears to me that the writers wanted to squeak by the Hays Code after they created a unforgiving anti-hero in Tony. This wounded anti-hero role, before the High School Caesar is revealed as an FBI MAN, would be picked up on by generations of actors including Brando and James Dean minus the G-Man or redeeming values angle.

Mamie is awesome as usual. She plays a perky and moody sexpot on the prowl competing for Tony/Mike's attention with his teacher, the straight laced Jan Sterling. Be sure to dig the way out hipster/beatnik action in the jazz nightclub featuring Mr. Big and catch a young Michael Landon wandering through scene after scene visibly wondering exactly what he's doing in the film at all.

If you like this flick, you'll really dig Highschool Ceasar!
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Juvenile delinquents in the burbs. Great fun
Handlinghandel29 March 2008
"The Blackboard Jungle" had covered somewhat similar territory in a far more respectable way. Not too much about this movie could be called respectable. It does have a fine director in jack Arnold. He gave us, among others, the classic "The Incredible Shrinking Man." It's by no means a bad movie, despite its exploitative nature.

Boyish Russ Tamblyn is an unlikely jive-talking bad guy. John Drew Barrymore, on the other hand, is typecast as the snarling hotshot of this high school before Tamblyn had arrived. Diane Jergens is very good as a troubled student.

Mamie Van Doren is there for the sex appeal. Her character doesn't make much sense, to me anyway, but her name and picture on posters doubtless sold tickets. And Jan Sterling plays a teacher. She is, as always, very good.

The movie is about drugs. I have never been drawn to drugs, though most of my friends were or still are users of pot. To me "High School Confidential" seems at times like a riff on "Reefer Madness": Yes, all drugs can have their downside. However, smoking pot does not automatically, as is suggested here, lead directly to heroin use.

The movie has great Jerry Lee Lewis music. I also like Bill Haley and the Comets' famous contribution ("Rock Around the Clock") to "The Blackboard Jungle.

Had I seen this when I was a teenager, a decade or so after it came out, I wouldn't have understood it. Thankfully, I knew nothing about drugs while in high school. But I'm sure that even in 1958 some schools were overrun with them.

As a force for social change, the movie is questionable. But as an occasionally campybut solid entertainment, it's a gas, man.
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It's all about the weed
delibebek21 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
"High School Confidential" is a tale with a moral, but it doesn't wait until the end to start preaching. The topic of interest is made clear early on, and the effects are as logical as those that were outlined in "Reefer Madness" in the 1930s. But while the older movie seemed designed to inspire drug use, and somehow got remodeled to look like an attempt to sober the youth, "High School Confidential" was designed to show the dangers of dope - hocking the family's prized possessions and engaging in drag races. None of these things could happen to young people who hadn't been smoking marijuana. Teenagers are just too practical when not under the influence.

Somehow, the movie tries to get over on the young people by showing what a great feel they have for the current lingo. When Tony first arrives at his new high school, even his English teacher is teaching them about slang, explaining what some of the terms mean, as if this is how slang spreads, through the great American education system. When she steps from the room, one of the students, in his early 30s by the look of him, demonstrates the eloquence of the latest hip chatter by reciting the story of Columbus asking Isabella for financing to prove the world is round. After all, when the English teacher teaches about slang, perhaps the history teacher spreads contemporary misconceptions about history as well. In addition, there is a nice demonstration of the difference between a "normal cigarette" and a hand- rolled joint. That's education in action.

In a broader perspective, this story picks up where "On the Road" left off, continuing the story of post-war American youth into the next generation. While Kerouac's crew were among those wild ones slipping under the radar of social consciousness not yet ingrained to the need stronger values to protect their cultural ideals, the HSC crew were just indignantly rebellious in their music, their language, and especially in what they smoked.

This movie is no "Blackboard Jungle" just another movie trying to use the new trend of white- sung rock and roll to trample the seeds of iniquity before society has a chance to water them. Looking at the 60s, this movie may have fostered more drug use than it intended to hinder. They make it look fun, after all.
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Great performances from Russ Tamblyn and John Drew Barrymore
XweAponX14 September 2009
Also appearances by Micheal Landon, Charles Chaplin, Jr. and Jackie Cooper.

This film begins up with Jerry Lee Lewis and band pounding away in a High School parking lot as Tamblyn drives up in the coolest car ever seen in any of these Teenage Exploitation films.

Just like 1955's "Blackboard Jungle", this film depended on exploiting the music and slang of the 50's - Which it did in not so much an over-the-top fashion as films like the '50's rock and roll films like Alan Freed's "Rock Around the Clock", "Don't Rock Around the Clock", or even the anti-marijuana film "Reefer Madness".

Like "Reefer Madness", this film tries to discourage teenagers from smoking marijuana, chiefly by trying to prove that smoking marijuana leads directly to using hard drugs, which may, or may not be true- It's an angle law enforcers used to use back in the 30's that "Pot smoking always leads to using hard drugs" - An angle that we now believe as incorrect, in relation to the present day psychiatric belief that such cravings are inherited.

However, the depictions of hard drug users, and use! - in this film are as close to reality as I have ever seen, especially in a film made in the 50's.

Tamblyn as JD almost does not work, his performance just slides under the door into believability- However, the reason for this reveals itself as the film develops.

The female lead Diane Jergens as "Joan Staples" - When Tamblyn's character calls her "Kitten" she looks rather Kittenish. Also, Mamie Van Doren as Tamblyn's aunt "Gwen Dulaine" is a standout. '50s actress Jan Sterling is Tamblyn's home-room teacher and is a good solid character role for her.

One highlight of this film is by John Drew Barrymore, who as "J. I.", the ringleader of the "Wheeler-Dealers", gives us a comedic version of Columbus asking Queen Isabella for money - This delivered as a stand-up comedy routine "in front of the High School class" - And he delivers this using all 50's type slang.

Overall, the slang use in this film is the best and most realistic of all the 50's rock and roll movies and Jack Arnold, "Creature from the Black Lagoon" and other Sci Fi flicks from the 50's as well as uncredited re-shoots in "This Island Earth" takes a step away from the science fiction genre to direct this classic Teenage Rock and roll/Film-Noire film.
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Just Awful
ribarproductions27 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I just finished watching "High School Confidential" on TCM, and it's even worse than I remembered it was when I first watched it 50 years ago at a Drive-In theater. I knew how misguided the plot was even back in 1958. Being a 16 year old teenager at the time, it bugged me, because the movie in no way represented my generation. Like the guys I hung around with, we all felt that it was just an older adult's impression of what they thought it was like, to be a teenager at the time! Talking' jive, Beatnik poetry, grown adults playing the part of teenagers, using expressions like, "Crazy man", "I dig it the most", and "weed-head!" Hot Rods and Roadsters were popular at the time, but no teenager trying to be cool, would be caught dead driving a Chrysler Imperial Convertable as his car of choice. Even worse, the film promotes the false impression that smoking a joint is highly addictive and causes one to become totally drug-crazed, ala "Refer Madness." And that those who do smoke a joint, automatically move right on up to heroin afterward. I think movies like this one, did little in trying to persuade teenagers in the 1950s to be good, because they failed to keep it real. It was so over the top in every way, that it ended up being a comedic parody of itself.
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Incredibly entertaining...and understandably a cult classic.
MartinHafer13 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is an amazing 1950s movie because it is both highly entertaining and really cheesy fun--making it a sure cult classic. Unlike some anti-drug teenager cult films like REEFER MADNESS, this one actually has decent production values and performances--though I'll also admit there is more than enough cheese to please the "bad film fans" out there.

Russ Tamblyn plays the lead. He enters a new high school like a typhoon--walking in like he owns the place and full of hep-cat 50s lingo. At the time, audiences must have been really shocked by his thuggish ways, though today his antics just look pretty silly and way, way over the top. Later in the film, however, you discover that his "new thug on the block" routine is just an act, as he's really working with the cops to get to the bottom of a drug ring selling to rich kids at a local high school.

The film's pluses are it's hip lingo and beatnik ways. It's hip style is highly reminiscent of films such as BUCKET OF BLOOD and it is really fun to watch the "wild and untamed youth running wild" (they are about the tamest "untamed youth" I've seen since WILD ONE). Also, the plot isn't bad--making this like a hipster version of Film Noir. One of the negatives were the occasionally over the top performances--especially Mamie Van Doren as she plays a cat in heat who is desperate for action. She was perhaps the horniest lady on celluloid in the 1950s! Again, though, this was cheesy but also rather fun to watch as she acted like a sex addict going through withdrawal. However, the biggest problem with the film by far is that most of the "teenagers" in this film were actually too old even to play college students! Of the main cast, the youngest was Michael Landon who was 22 and yet they have them all playing high schoolers! It's laughable but again because it's all so funny and entertaining, I think it really adds to the film's kooky charm.

So the final verdict is that this is a highly watchable and pretty well made camp classic. Is it art? Of course not--but that's what makes it all work somehow.
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High School Confidential On Subject Matter ***
edwagreen19 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Since Russ Tamblyn is really an undercover police officer sent to a high school to break up the drug trade, who is Mamie Van Doren, the woman who plays the boozy aunt that he lives with?

The film is most interesting since it deals with familiar themes- rampant use of drugs in our schools and parents,who either deny that the problem exists, or continuously say, "Not my child!"

Tamblyn is terrific as the masquerading delinquent. His utter disrespect for authority is fantastically depicted here.

Jan Sterling, a terrific actress, is terribly miscast here as the teacher who tries to help Tamblyn. With her facial looks, she looks like she wants to be part of the action in a desire to be loved.

Jackie Coogan, Mr. A., is in fine form here as the head drug dealer.
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Every generation has their hip language, and most of it is laughably ridiculous.
mark.waltz1 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Fortunately, I never fell prey to taking on the trendy lingo of my late baby boomer generation, but for the fun of it, it's nice to go back and laugh while listening to how the hip generation becomes the broken hip generation and goes from being on the old guy's lawn to being the old guy who yells at the newest hip generation to get off their lawn. This expose of drug rackets surrounding urban high schools has the famous scene utilized in "It Came From Hollywood" where old squares try to explain to urban high school teachers just what to look out for to determine if a student is smoking pot, shooting heroine or sniffing any sort of nose inserting stimulant. Listening in is sexy teacher Jan Sterling who seems to believe that there's no such thing as a totally bad boy or girl, but for these students (some of whom seem rather long in the tooth to be high school students), they are absurdly rebellious. When newcomer Russ Tamblyn arrives at the school, he's instantly demanding control of the hip crowd, and finds himself in over his head when he tries to infiltrate a heroine ring to expose its supposed respectful leaders. John Drew Barrymore and Mamie Van Doren are among the other students, and Van Doren is over the top (both in her acting and in her cleavage) as the loose living and obviously much older than she's supposed to be sex kitten who drunkenly dumps a much older date simply because she can't stand anybody who can't hold their liquor.

The future Uncle Fester and former child star (Jackie Coogan) is the so-called respectable townsman who allows Tamblyn to start selling heroine for him, unaware that Tamblyn is really working for the police. This of course is exposed, and results in one of the most hysterical showdowns between Coogan, Tamblyn, the local law and students in a malt shop whom you all of a sudden expect to break out in a song from "Grease". Jerry Lee Lewis provides a few live musical numbers, while Diane Jergens (never heard of her!) gets "special billing" as the alleged female lead. This is a delight to the ear for its campy dialog and should be shown to every generation just to show them how ridiculous their lingo actually sounds in polite conversation. Sterling is sincere in her performance and still quite stunning to look at, while Tamblyn is obviously practicing for his upcoming role as Riff in "West Side Story". For a major studio like MGM to release this (I can't imagine this playing anywhere outside a drive-in) shows how society in the late 1950's was changing. Certainly, Louis B. Mayer never would have allowed his respectable studio to release such teenage garbage like this, especially filmed on the same street sets where the Andy Hardy series and "Meet Me in St. Louis" were once shot. As far as juvenile delinquent films go, this is probably the highest of the rung, although no classic like "Rebel Without a Cause" which took great pains in documenting the emotional struggles of teenagers in its day.
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Unintentionally hilarious anti-drug melodrama.
BlackJack_B2 January 2014
High School Confidential! is one of those films that was meant to be a straight drama but ends up being an unintentional laugh riot when you see grown actors trying to act hip while delivering dialog that stereotypes the scene of a 1950's High School.

Russ Tamblyn plays an undercover cop who attempts to clean out a high school of pot smokers and heroin. Mamie Van Doren (wearing bullet bras under her outfits) plays his "aunt" in her typical vampish style. John Drew Barrymore plays a Southern accented drug dealer who is the main target of the bust and Jackie "Uncle Fester" Coogan plays the drug boss.

What makes HSC so funny is the dialog. Grown adults uttering dated "hip" dialog and the constant amount of sexist come-ons to the females made me laugh. Pushing the propaganda of marijuana as evil and sinister seems really outdated since more people than ever before are toking. Regardless, it's worth viewing to laugh at the script. It's worth waiting out the boring scenes just for that next piece of emoting that Dante from Devil May Cry stole from them.

I do wish I lived my teen years in the 1950's. Seemed like a fun time to go to school. Maybe Jerry Lee Lewis would show up in a flat bed truck to perform to students.
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