High School Confidential (1958)

Genres - Crime, Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Detective Film  |   Run Time - 85 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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The 1950s focused considerable attention on "the youth problem" (i.e., middle-class kids, bored with their lives, who turned to various forms of "delinquency," including drug use). High School Confidential was one of many teen exploitation pics of the period that supposedly dealt "seriously" with the issue, but really existed just to make a quick return on a low investment. Seen today, many of these films are tremendously entertaining -- the kind of film one laughs at rather than with. Confidential is definitely in this category, a pretty bad movie that is so deliciously dated that it's fun. The dialogue is classic '50s teen lingo as filtered through a Hollywood screenwriter's sensibility -- "I'm looking to graze on grass" and "Why don't we cut out, go to your pad, and live it up?" And John Drew Barrymore's totally hep retelling of the Christopher Columbus story has to be heard to be believed. Under the circumstances, the cast acquits itself rather admirably. Russ Tamblyn brings real commitment to his role and delivers the ludicrous dialogue as if it made sense, and Mamie van Doren is a perfect hoot as his sex-obsessed aunt. The "cool" soundtrack, including contributions by Jerry Lee Lewis, is a definite plus. Tamblyn would have much better luck with West Side Story a few years later.