High School Confidential, A tough kid comes to a new high school and begins muscling his way into the drug scene. As he moves his way up the ladder, a schoolteacher tries to reform him, his aunt tries to seduce him, and the “weedheads” are eager to use his newly found enterprise, but he has his own agenda. After an altercation involving fast cars, hidden drugs, and police, he’s accepted by the drug kingpin and is off into the big leagues. A typical morality play of the era, filled with a naive view of drugs, nihilistic beat poetry, and some incredible ’50s slang.
Incredibly entertaining…and understandably a cult classic.
High School Confidential, This is an amazing 1950s movie because it is both highly entertaining and really cheesy fun–making it a sure cult classic. Unlike some anti-drug teenager cult films like REEFER MADNESS, this one actually has decent production values and performances–though I’ll also admit there is more than enough cheese to please the “bad film fans” out there.
Russ Tamblyn plays the lead. He enters a new high school like a typhoon–walking in like he owns the place and full of hep-cat 50s lingo. At the time, audiences must have been really shocked by his thuggish ways, though today his antics just look pretty silly and way, way over the top. Later in the film, however, you discover that his “new thug on the block” routine is just an act, as he’s really working with the cops to get to the bottom of a drug ring selling to rich kids at a local high school.
The film’s pluses are it’s hip lingo and beatnik ways. It’s hip style is highly reminiscent of films such as BUCKET OF BLOOD and it is really fun to watch the “wild and untamed youth running wild” (they are about the tamest “untamed youth” I’ve seen since WILD ONE). Also, the plot isn’t bad–making this like a hipster version of Film Noir. One of the negatives were the occasionally over the top performances–especially Mamie Van Doren as she plays a cat in heat who is desperate for action. She was perhaps the horniest lady on celluloid in the 1950s! Again, though, this was cheesy but also rather fun to watch as she acted like a sex addict going through withdrawal. However, the biggest problem with the film by far is that most of the “teenagers” in this film were actually too old even to play college students! Of the main cast, the youngest was Michael Landon who was 22 and yet they have them all playing high schoolers! It’s laughable but again because it’s all so funny and entertaining, I think it really adds to the film’s kooky charm.
So the final verdict is that this is a highly watchable and pretty well made camp classic. Is it art? Of course not–but that’s what makes it all work somehow.