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  Untamed Youth Summertime BluesBuy this film here.
Year: 1957
Director: Howard W. Koch
Stars: Mamie Van Doren, Lori Nelson, John Russell, Don Burnett, Glenn Dixon, Lurene Tuttle, Yvonne Lime, Jeanne Carmen, Robert Foulk, Wayne Taylor, Jered Barclay, Keith Richards, Valerie Reynolds, Lucita, Eddie Cochran, Wally Brown
Genre: Musical, Drama, Thriller
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Sisters Penny (Mamie Van Doren) and Jane (Lori Nelson) Lowe are travelling to Los Angeles where they have a job as entertainers, singing in what they hope will be a great opportunity for them. Unfortunately they don't have much in the way of funds at the moment, so are reduced to hitchhiking across the country, which explains why on this blazing hot day they are skinny dipping in a pond they've found to cool off. Just their bad luck that a policeman happens along and takes a dim view of their activities, telling them that they are arrested for vagrancy in spite of their protestations, and he allows them to dress whereupon he carts them off to see the local judge, Cecilia Steele (Lurene Tuttle) who has a particular punishment lined up...

Mamie Van Doren was the blonde bombshell you'd get for your movie in the nineteen-fifties if Jayne Mansfield wasn't available, and if you certainly couldn't afford Marilyn Monroe, thus she became a Queen of the Bs and quickly established a cult status for herself. She was one of those curious types that showbiz brings up, a mixture of the conservative, old time work ethic entertainer and sexually provocative glamour girl, maybe not much of a singer but giving her performances one hundred and ten percent every time, though it was debatable whether her fans were really paying attention when she was packed into the tightest sweaters imaginable and shimmying like there was no tomorrow.

In Untamed Youth, she even played an entertainer, albeit one not as famous as Mamie was, which gave her all the excuse she needed to break out the musical numbers in extravagantly choreographed rock 'n' roll which in truth she never quite fitted into, in spite of having the enviable position of being the first Hollywood actress to perform such songs in that style with her appearance in this film. But she didn't get it all her own way, as this was almost an ensemble piece, meaning Mamie was edged out of the spotlight for a fair few stretches of the running time as the villain concocts a method of cheap labour for his cotton farm. He was Russ Tropp, played by second division he-man John Russell, and about the most masculine thing in the entire movie.

Well, you needed to counterbalance the feminine power of Mamie somehow, but anyway, Tropp is busy romancing Judge Steele to get his steady stream of prisoners working their sentence and paid a pittance in the process, plus as if that wasn't bad enough, they are fed dog food! It's outrageous exploitation, which suited the production, one of director Howard W Koch's lower budget genre movies he made a profit with before turning to the producing side full time, even putting on the Academy Awards for a few years later. But the question remains, can Penny overthrow this sorry state of affairs? The answer to that is no, she can't, she gets chased up onto a tin roof by Tropp's Dobermans and is therefore useless in that regard, leaving the heroics catered for by Judge Steele's son Bob (Don Burnett).

He's just out of the Navy so we know he's on the level, and like the crusader for justice he is soon puts pressure on Tropp and his dubious practices, especially after one worker dies (!), leading to the final confrontation and happy ending. Before that, it was melodrama time as we were treated to catfights, wild jiving and gyrating, Tropp's concealing his grim expression from the ageing Judge Steele whenever he has to get up close and personal with her, and a certain Mr Eddie Cochran as the interestingly-named Bong providing support. Just eighteen at the time, three years before his untimely death, he offers up a song of his own about not making a cottonpicker out of him, which isn't one of his classics but it was fun to watch him perform, and he looked to be enjoying himself as an amused expression never seemed far from his features. Koch missed a trick by not having Cochran do more, even a duet with Mamie would have been something, but with such breathless tone and no lack of events, Untamed Youth was undeniably diverting. Music by Les Baxter.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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