High School Confidential!

High School Confidential (1958) movie poster

(1958) dir. Jack Arnold
viewed: 07/19/08

I’m not sure how this film shot up in my queue.  There are a couple of possibilities.  As a teenage drug exploitation film from the 1950’s, there is always that exploitation angle.  Or perhaps, via my current non-cinematic appreciation of early rock-n-roll music, I might have discovered that like the much more fun and entertaining, The Girl Can’t Help It (1956), that it featured rock-n-roll performances, in this case only one, by Jerry Lee Lewis, “Rockin’ at the High School Hop”, which could have appealed.  Or even by the fact that it was also directed by Jack Arnold, he of It Came from Outer Space (1953), The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), and Tarantula (1955), of many, many others, could have been why or perhaps the lynchpin.

The film does feature a plethora of hipster lingo (or Hollywood’s nodding attempt at emulating hipster lingo of the time), pot smoking, a beatnik-style jazzy poetry recital, car racing, and needle marks.  How racy was this at the time?  The production values are pretty high so I don’t know how low down the exploitation ladder this goes.

The film stars Russ Tamblyn as the transfer kid (who is really an undercover cop trying to bust the drug ring — thus the “Confidential!”).  And it also features Mamie Van Doren and Jackin Coogan (The Addams Family‘s Uncle Fester for those who do not know) as the drug kingpin and jazz pianist.

It’s entertaining enough.  Quite so.  And oddly enough, an interesting comparative film with Fresh (1994), the Hood genre film made 40 years later, focusing on drugs and kids and culture and language (though dramatically differently).  I certainly hadn’t planned to watch them as a double feature.  It just worked out that way.

It’s a cultural keepsake.  Probably a great midnight movie.  The vernacular is definitely its best characteristic.

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