Appellate Judge Tom Becker was a middle school meerkat.
Substitute Home Ec Teacher (Male): Uh, please take your seats.
Hellcat Connie: Well, where do you want us to take 'em, Teach?
Joyce (Yvonne Fedderson, I Was a Teenage Werewolf) is the new fish at the High School for Large-Breasted Girls. Almost immediately, she catches the eye of Connie (Jana Lund, Frankenstein 1970), leader of the school's toughest—and, apparently, only—gang, the Hellcats. After browbeating the mousy Joyce, Connie zings her with her initiation rite: the dreaded "slacks" challenge, wherein Joyce will wear slacks to school in open defiance of the dress code. Despite the fact that her chosen pair of bottom separates makes her look hip-heavy and matronly, Joyce passes this grueling test. She's accepted as a Hellcat, and now this lonely, buxom teen has a much needed "home away from home."
The Hellcats have some pretty stringent rules, which are laid out for Joyce at the club's secret hideout, an abandoned movie theater:
• Pass your classes with nothing higher than a D;
Rebel that she is, Joyce runs home to study and do homework, and she takes up with the cute but dour Mike.
Clearly, the confused and passive Joyce is on a collision course with danger. Desperate to fit in, and misunderstood at home by her aggressively middle class parents, she knows that rejection by the Hellcats will make her uncool at school—someone might even put gum in her hair! But she's a good girl at heart, so when the Hellcats force her to steal, she secretly leaves cash on the store counter. For Joyce, rebellion—including rebelling against the rebels—is an attractive option.
But there's nothing attractive about the way these hooligals conduct themselves, and when the good times come to a thudding halt, Joyce finds herself in deeper trouble than she'd ever imagined.
Like an episode of Father Knows Best reimagined as an Afterschool Special to be screened at a drive-in on Cautionary Tales Night, High School Hellcats is possibly the least exploitative exploitation film I've ever seen. Even for the comparatively tame 1950s, this is one tepid watch.
I figured there had to be something salacious or daring, at least a little subversive subtext—after all, the word "Hell" is in the title, albeit, as the first part of a compound word, but still, I don't think movies were allowed to say "hell" at the time, unless they were referring to a location, so this, in and of itself, should make the movie some kind of "adult" fare.
Nope. These "Hell" cats are more like Heckcats, and darned if they do anything that rises above the level of annoying.
Joyce is such a mamby-pamby, that you have to wonder why the tough Connie even bothers with her. Then it occurs to you: LESBIAN ATTRACTION! Only, it's not, or at least it never comes up, even in subtle ways—though Connie's number two girl, the pouty-faced, pocket-knife wielding Dolly (Susanne Sidney, Angels from Hell) seems more than a tad disturbed at Connie's attention to the new girl.
Maybe this is one of those suburban exposés, a SHOCKING take on how IRRESPONSIBLE PARENTING can cause a wave of JUVENILE DELINQUENCY? Well, kinda. Joyce's folks are shown as those bugaboos of the cracking façade of '50s families: the uninvolved parents. Dad, who works at some non-descript job, is taken aback at how quickly his little girl is growing up. At one point, Joyce trundles into the living room wearing a slip, and her father slaps her for being indecent. Mind you, if there were any more material on the slip, it would be a parka, but still, the whole idea of "undergarment" throws Dad into a tizzy. REPRESSED INCESTUOUS DESIRES? Nah, he just doesn't want his daughter walking around in her underwear.
Maybe it's Mom? Maybe Mom is one of those Eisenhower-era hussies who cats around while presenting an air of respectability. After all, Mom spends her days swathed in furs and pearls claiming to be at her local bridge club. Is this really a SIRKIAN MELODRAMA OF A FRUSTRATED WOMAN'S INTIMATE DESIRES? Nope, evidently, Mom's just hanging with a bunch of well-dressed bridge players.
Are Joyce and Mike exploring their BUDDING SEXUALITY? Negative. Are the Hellcat girls SELLING THEIR AMPLE FAVORS to traveling salesman? Nix. They do smoke and have the occasional drink, and there is a mid-point death that rejiggers the naughty fun and games, but by and large, these are just over privileged suburban girls with snotty attitudes who would have been laughed out of The Breakfast Club.
We don't even get a cool rock score, just some generic "bad girl" jazz, like the Hellcats just time-warped from the Prohibition era.
I don't know what the ad campaign was like for this one, but I'm sure it promised more than the film delivered.
The disc is from MGM's "on demand" line of DVD-Rs, and the full frame image looks pretty good, though there's some print damage here and there. Audio is a serviceable mono track, and there are no supplements.
Like rampaging Smurfs, these Hellcats are too blue and fuzzy to be taken seriously. The film's good for a laugh, but you really need a lot of patience and a strong sense of humor.
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