Monday, June 13, 2011

HIGH SCHOOL HELLCATS

Escaping from the vaults of MGM, comes another vintage American-International Pictures teensploitation classic, 1958's HIGH SCHOOL HELLCATS, directed by Three Stooges ringmaster-turned-B-movie maestro, Edward Bernds (THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES, QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE).

Innocent good girl Joyce (pretty Yvonne Fedderson, billed here as Yvonne Lime, I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF) starts attending a new high school, and is soon recruited for membership in the Hellcats, a girl gang/club headed by bad girl Connie (sex kitten Jana Lund, FRANKENSTEIN 1970), and her surly, knife-wielding lieutenant, Dolly (Susanne Sydney, GIRL'S TOWN). Eager to be accepted by her peers and unhappy with the distracted parenting at home, Joyce joins the gang, and is soon wearing slacks, drinking, dancing and dating jocks. But when things start to spiral out of control, can the efforts of a caring teacher, her concerned parents or the love of a good boy (Brett Halsey, RETURN OF THE FLY) save Joyce from going down with the rest of the Hellcats?

At a brisk 69 minutes, HIGH SCHOOL HELLCATS is an entertainingly earnest and amusingly outrageous "juvenile deliquent" exposé, filled with gorgeous young women, subtle lesbian innuendo, unintentionally camp performances (or are they unintentional?) and an utterly enjoyable jazz-rock score by Ronald Stein. Maybe this was shocking in 1958, but the Hellcats' depraved delinquency is charmingly wholesome by today's cynical, sordid standards, and that makes the whole thing that much more fun to watch. The late 50's suburban milieu is appealing, the naivete of the script is hilarious, and the third act detour into melodrama and violence keeps you on your toes. It's a drive-in classic.

Previously released long, long ago on VHS by MGM as part of their now-defunct "Midnite Movies" line, HIGH SCHOOL HELLCATS comes to digital disc as part of the studio's "Limited Edition Collection" of MOD discs. Presented in 1.37:1 "full frame" format, the transfer is surprisingly good, with solid contrast, good detail and no serious print damage. The film is littered with white specs and other minor evidence of time-related wear, but is quite decent overall. There are no extra features.

Fans of 50s teen melodramas and juvenile delinquent exploitation flicks will probably love HIGH SCHOOL HELLCATS. Although pretty tame by today's standards, the movie is charming in its arch performances, dated dialogue and camp innuendos. And... well, the assorted starlets are all smokin' hot in their tight sweaters and bobby socks. Recommended.

BUYHigh School Hellcats