Secret Key Motion Pictures // 1966 // 68 Minutes // Not Rated
Secret Key Motion Pictures // 1970 // 93 Minutes // Rated X
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // September 4th, 2009
She's woman enough. Are you man enough?
A plump young girl writhes in bed with a fat, hairy guy with moles all over his body, vaguely Spanish guitar music mingling with their vaguely Spanish accented moans. They finish writhing and eye each other contemptuously.
"Am I the seventh or the eighth today?" sneers mole man.
"You are the sixty-ninth!" spits the spitfire.
After her juan hits the road, el prostituta chats with her cat about the squalid journey of her life so far. In her small fishing village in Puerto Rico, she was a shapely peasant girl named Angelique (Arlene Farber, billed here as "Arlene Tiger"). One day, her bicycle gets run over by the limo of Count Orestes Medici (Vassili Lambrinos). Impressed with her formidable profile, the count offers her a job as a maid at his estate. This means Angelique will no longer have to live with her crazy aunt and fend off the perverse advances of every toothless fisherman in her village. Instead, she'll be living with the crazy count and fending off the perverse advances of everyone in his world. "Fending off" isn't exactly Angelique's game plan; dive right in and take one, two, or more for the team is more like it. Everybody wants to corrupt this cutie, no one more so than the count's playboy son (Andre Landzaat), who serves her an LSD-laced cocktail during a free-lovin' party on a yacht. How much depravity will it take before this innocent girl becomes a Female Animal?
Meanwhile, in Anytown, USA, high school hottie Arlene (Farber again) is just wild for good boy Tony (Howard LeMay), but rough guy Duke (Frederick Riccio) thinks he should be the guy warming her form. What Arlene wants is to get married so she can get out of her house and away from her zombie-like mother and haranguing father. Then the school gets a new "health and hygiene teacher" in the person of understated yet buxom Miss Petersen (she's from Sweden), and it looks like this is going to be a lot different from "dress warm and get lots of sleep" health tips dispensed by the coach (Fred Willard, Best in Show), who usually teaches the class. Miss Petersen (June Ange) is focusing on "anatomical biology," which is code for sex education.
Determined to make a little carnal knowledge go a long way, Arlene gets Tony to drop his inhibitions and his peg leg jeans during a romantic romp on the beach. When, a few days later, she announces she's pregnant, Tony is less than thrilled, so Arlene runs away, hitching a ride with a trucker. At a roadhouse, she runs into Duke, who takes her to a drive-in. In the meantime, Arlene's parents have contacted the school board, and the whole town is out to fry the visiting Swede. Will Arlene be able to handle being a Teenage Mother?
Jerry Gross knew a good bandwagon when he saw one, and in the early 1960s, exploitation films seemed like the best bandwagon around. He made a cheesy drive-in movie called Girl on a Chain Gang starring a girl he knew from Long Island, Arlene Farber. When he couldn't get anyone to distribute his film, he did it himself, and his no-budget potboiler turned a nice profit. (In a funny bit of self-reference, the long-in-the-tooth "kids" in Teenage Mother turn film critic and extol the virtues of Girl on a Chain Gang, then head out to the drive-in to see it.)
Gross formed a distribution and production company called Cinemation. Cinemation's bread and butter came from distributing exploitation films (including re-releases of two of the Mondo Cane movies, and the otherwise A-list Baby Doll) and soft-core foreign imports such as Fanny Hill and Inga. The two films on this set represent Gross' efforts to make his own down-home USA exploitation film and a sex film gussied up to look like an import.
Female Animal is done up to look like a European production -- Gross went so far as to create a foreign language credit sequence with names of people who don't exist ("Dirección de Juan Carlo Grinella"). Gross understood the popularity of Eurosmut, and dressing up his tawdry tale to pass it off as a foreign art film evidently paid off. The auteur himself actually directed this high-strung, decadent soap opera, ladling on the "perversions" like a moldy layer cake. Poor ignorant Angelique finds herself an unwitting pawn in the midst of a sexual power game involving the wealthy count and his kinky kin. Even the poor stable boy can't escape this web of venereal shenanigans, and gets smacked with a riding crop for his sins. Sort of like a low-rent Dynasty spin off with a few topless shots, it's all very lurid but also kind of quaint, with a trippy LSD hallucination and a twist ending that makes it seem more intriguing than it is.
If Teenage Mother had been one-tenth as sordid as its trailer promised, it would be the greatest exploitation film of all time and Quentin Tarantino would be hosting annual Jerry Gross retrospectives. Opening with an underwear-clad Arlene murmuring, "I know how to make all the boys hot," it promises a sleazy, no-holds-barred tale of a post-pubescent slattern who takes on all comers and winds up in hussy hell with a bun in the oven. Arlene prances about in various states of undress, seductively noshes on a chicken leg, and coos about showing everybody a good time while the Bronx-accented announcer booms, "Teenage Motha...means nine mont's o' trouble!" [sic]. Running nearly five minutes, the trailer is a vile and brilliant piece of marketing. If only it bore even the slightest resemblance to the film.
Instead, Teenage Mother is a ridiculously pedestrian affair with no real point of view. It ambles along for about an hour, giving us the not-very-compelling adventures of the generally chaste but whiny Arlene and the monotonously straight-arrow Tony; the curvaceous Miss Petersen's attempts to bring sex ed to the masses; and the cretinous, drug dealing, teacher molesting, but well-groomed and neatly dressed Duke. All the little dramas are just a run up to the closing minutes where, at the school board's kangaroo court trial of Miss Petersen -- done in the middle of the night, evidently in an old storeroom -- the teacher shows everyone the educational film she was going to share with her class. Yes, folks, it's that old roadshow favorite, "Birth of a Baby." Now, I know, I know, life beginning is a miracle, and when it's one of your own, it's the most beautiful thing you've ever seen, but this grainy color clip is revolting and just made me wish I'd been assembled rather than birthed. Of course, by including this horrible bit of business, Teenage Mother was able to be advertised as an education film that the family should see together -- a grotesque, salacious educational film, but educational nonetheless.
In the end -- and here's a big spoiler that's actually revealed about halfway through -- little Miss Knickers-Around-Her-Knees isn't pregnant after all! She's not going to be a teenage mother, and when the doctor tells her so, she decides to lie to force her boyfriend into marrying her! In the trailer, this is sensitively handled by cutting out the line when the doctor tells her she's not pregnant, instead misleading us by presenting out-of-context reactions.
Secret Key gives us both films one a single-sided disc. Transfers for both look very good, considering age and budget, with solid mono soundtracks but no subtitles. Female Animal was released a couple of years ago through Secret Key's sister company, Retro-Seduction, with some nice supplements that are included here. We get a 32-minute commentary with exploitation producer Sam Sherman, friend of Jerry Gross and president of Independent-International Pictures. Sherman offers a lot of background on Gross as well as on Female Animal. He also provides a 20-minute on-camera interview. We also get trailers for both films as well as an insert with the poster artwork for Female Animal on one side and Teenage Mother on the other.
A skeevy but satisfying double bill, this set is a "must have" for exploitation fans. The films are enjoyably terrible, but Secret Key's presentation is more than respectable.
Awful filmmaking, but not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2009 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice, Teenage Mother
Perp Profile, Teenage Mother
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 68 Minutes
Release Year: 1966
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Distinguishing Marks, Teenage Mother
Scales of Justice, Female Animal
Perp Profile, Female Animal
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1970
MPAA Rating: Rated X
Distinguishing Marks, Female Animal
* IMDb: Female Animal
* IMDb: Teenage Mother