Synopsis by Bruce Eder
Jail Bait was the place where Edward D. Wood Jr.'s career as a director entered the mainstream. Having exposed the world of transvestism in Glen or Glenda, he now turned to less ambitious fare in an effort at commercial success. Loosely patterned after the television series Dragnet, Jail Bait tells the story of Don Gregor (Clancey Malone), the spoiled, arrogant son of a successful plastic surgeon (Herbert Rawlinson), who is out for some kicks and excitement and hooks up with Vic Brady (Timothy Farrell), a career criminal. Opening with Don's arrest for illegal possession of a pistol, the film tracks his interaction with a pair of detectives (Lyle Talbot, Steve Reeves); his deceiving of his sister (Dolores Fuller) and his father; the robbery that goes wrong and leads him to murder an ex-cop; and his attempt to go straight, which gets him killed. That action, and Brady's attempt to force Dr. Gregor to alter his face, leads to a bizarre revenge that makes up the final 15 minutes of the movie. Little of this plot is unfolded skillfully -- Wood was already out of his depth in directing actors -- but having access to Howco's finances (meager as they were) and facilities gives Jail Bait a slightly smoother, less emaciated look than most of Wood's later movies. Coupled with the fact that he was trying to do a straight crime film, and the resulting restraint he showed in the writing, Jail Bait can just about "pass" as a normal, albeit very low-budget film, although, as with all of Wood's movies, there is still an unintended laugh every minute or so. And just to show how close to the edge Wood was working even at the outset of his career, in terms of using marginal talent, neophyte performers, and one-time successful actors, Bela Lugosi was not the first leading actor in a Wood movie to die during production -- that distinction went to Herbert Rawlinson, who played Dr. Gregor here. The former silent-era leading man reportedly died the night after he finished shooting his role in Jail Bait.
law, criminal, detective, doctor/nurse, investigator, killing, makeover, on-the-run, plastic-surgery, police, robbery, son