High School Confidential

One of the two great, outrageous rock'n'roll films (along with The Girl Can't Help It, with Little Richard), High School Confidential links rock with drugs, teenagers with sex, sex with rock...and never quite gets around to apologizing for any of it. John Drew Barrymore peddles narcotics at a California high school; his girlfriend is a pot freak; Russ Tamblyn talks jive and lives in an ambiguous relationship with his “aunt,” Mamie Van Doren. And Jerry Lee Lewis plays himself; he could hardly do more. Produced by Albert Zugsmith (who produced Sirk's Written on the Wind and The Tarnished Angels), the film was received with the righteous anger saved by critics in the Fifties for those films which showed white teenagers to themselves: “This film is itself a social evil.... (It) plants the suggestion,...the ghastly nihilism that life affords nothing of value greater than a ‘kick'” (Films In Review). “Man, it's terrible.... Written in the sort of hipsterical slanguage that can only be understood by the underprivileged few who really dig that crazy talk” (Time). Only Variety stooped to praise: “Although the presentation seems to ‘exploit' to the fullest every facet of this evil situation, it does so skillfully and with compelling effect.... Direction is well-paced and draws some believable and sharp characterizations.... Screenplay is well constructed and faithfully told in the special language of today's juniors....” (!) Variety particularly liked an existentialist poem, recited by Phillipa Fallon, which the New York Times claimed “has about as much coherence as a cat fight....” (J.B.)

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