Monday, April 29, 2013


This is one of those darkly comic satires of the 1960s that probably felt wild and crazy at the time but now feels forced and weird. High school senior Roddy MacDowell (who was in his mid-30s at the time of filming) is a loner and a misfit who calls himself "Mollymauk," after an extinct bird, and who, when excited, starts squawking like a bird. On the day before classes begin, he befriends fellow senior Tuesday Weld (22 at the time) and commits himself to helping her make her dreams of stardom come true. (Is he straight and in love with her, or gay and fascinated by her? I was never sure.) He helps her get the twelve cashmere sweaters she needs to own to join an exclusive girls' club, pushes her into marriage to a young and handsome marriage counselor (Martin West) who works with a minister at a drive-in church, and arranges for her to meet a beach movie producer who has never actually been on a beach (his latest movie: "I Married a Teenage Vampire") so she can get a part in his next flick. When West proves to be an obstacle to her plans, McDowell goes after him, eventually with a bulldozer, and the movie falls apart.

This is all over the map, satirizing everything it can, but never striking very deeply—or coherently. Everyone—kids, adults, free spirits, squares, parents, educators, the church—is made to look silly, leaving no real moral center. For a while, it seems like MacDowell might be a "holy innocent" or perhaps a devil, but I could find no evidence that he's anything more than just an unhinged guy who is good at hypnotism which he uses on a few people. MacDowell and Weld (pictured above) are too old to be playing high school students. I could buy them as college students, which is a compliment to MacDowell who didn't look 18 but also didn’t look over 30, and there seems to be no good reason why they're supposed to be teenagers rather than 20-somethings. Having said that, the actors give themselves whole-heartedly to this mess, with Weld in particular doing a nice job—and looking quite beautiful. Martin West, apparently best known for playing a popular doc on General Hospital, is wholesomely handsome and does a nice job as Weld's clueless husband; Lola Albright is good as Weld's mom; Harvey Korman plays the principal. Good old Ruth Gordon (pictured at right) steals her scenes as West's feisty mother. The craziest (and most uncomfortable) scene has Weld picking out 16 colorful sweaters with her father (Max Showalter), both in states of nearly orgasmic bliss. My favorite line: Weld's major is "adolescent ethics and commercial relationships." Very strange indeed; a must-see only for hardcore fans of 60s movies, or fans of Weld. [TCM]

No comments: