First there was “Welcome to the Grindhouse”, a collection of double features released through BCI that were designed to recreate the halcyon days of 42nd Street. Cult film fans quickly took note of the new line and its attractive price point, but after ten volumes the Weinstein brothers decided to make a stink and claim that they owned the rights to all things “Grindhouse” (which is ludicrous, but I digress), forcing the popular line to be sidelined and re-titled. Reemerging with a new moniker, “Exploitation Cinema Double Feature”, BCI released eight more volumes until their untimely demise (Rest in Peace), leaving fans to question as to what would happen to the beloved line. Thankfully Code Red has heeded such a call and stepped up to take over the series, their latest offering being a double dose of teen angst, youthful rebellion and poor decision making that concludes with one of the most graphic acts ever captured on celluloid.
Did you hear? Josh’s (Michael Driscoll) foster parents were so proud of him graduating high school and being accepting into college that they got him a new car! A convertible, complete with clouds and rainbows painted all over the hood. His two foster brothers aren’t too thrilled though. They’ve been working their tails off, day in and day out on the family farm and have next to nothing to show for it. He ain’t even blood related but you can tell Josh’s old man favors him over his own kin. Now that he's got that sweet new ride, you don't see much of Josh anymore. He's been doing his own thing. Heck, he spends more time with that rich, young couple his dad works for than he does with his girl Annie (Jeanetta Arnette). Which is a crime if you ask me cuz that gal’s sweeter than peach and here she is, left alone, nothing to do all day ‘cept make ice cream and feel sorry for herself. Last I heard Josh was wanting to leave town altogether, but his Pa offered him the farm so long as he stuck around for awhile longer. I tell you, if’n his brothers ever hear ‘bout that, well, they’d probably kill him.
TEENAGE GRAFFITI was reportedly filmed in North Carolina under the alternate title, COUNTRY DREAMIN, around 1975. Having been born and bred in the Tar Heel state, I can definitely see this being the case, as the film's setting actually looks a lot like the area where my father was raised and my grandmother still lives in. The side of a rescue boat, dispatched to help aid in the search of Josh’s body after his brothers ran him and his car off the road and into a crick (a southern term for a flowing body of water too small to be a river and yet too big to be a stream. Also referred to as a creek by those with book learnin’), bares the marking “property of Orange County”, which would place the production in and around the Chapel Hill area.
The film attempts to capture the feel of a small southern community and in many ways succeeds, but as a whole the picture is far too sugary. Teenagers sneaking into the neighbor’s yard to smash up their watermelon garden may look like sticky fun but its not exactly high drama. Despite a number of topless shots and a dash of expletives, the film received a PG rating upon its initial release, probably due to its overall timid nature. Even during the fight scenes between Josh and his vengeful brothers, the action comes across restrained and is poorly choreographed, with almost every attempt at dramatic conflict feeling forced and unnatural. Storylines are left open-ended and it’s simply hard to relate or route for a lead whose biggest problem is that too many attractive women want to sleep with him. TEENAGE GRAFFITI does mark the silver screen debut of Jeanetta Arnette, and a topless one at that. Jeanetta has continued to work in the industry in both film (BOYS DON’T CRY) and television, where she is probably most noticeable from her reoccurring role on the 1980s sitcom "Head of the Class".
Arlene Taylor (Arlene Farber, FEMALE ANIMAL) is knocked up, or at least that’s what she wants her boyfriend Tony (Howard Le May) to believe. Jealous of the attention her high school sweetheart is getting from Claremont High’s new “anatomical biology” teacher, Miss Peterson (Julie Ange), Arlene decides to step up their relationship. Tony however is rather reluctant to take things to the next level; after all, he needs to focus on his grades if he wants to be doctor someday. Determined to settle down, Arlene attempts to make Tony jealous by flirting with local badboy Duke (Frederick Riccio). A douche by all accounts, Duke wants nothing more than to make it with Arlene and to see pretty boy Tony get his but can’t seem to land his hands around either. Between selling pot to the freshmen, dancing like a Rock'em Sock'em Robot and trying to rape Miss Peterson, Duke agrees to help frame the Swedish sex ed teacher, for reasons that are more or less unknown, by helping to plant pornographic pictures in her desk. The plan works, coming to a head when Arlene’s father blows a gasket upon hearing of his daughter predicament. After tracking Arlene down at the local drive-in, which just happens to be playing the Jerry Gross produced GIRL ON A CHAIN GANG, Tony races back to the school where a town meeting has gathered to discuss the expulsion of Miss Peterson. The two sweethearts arriving just in time to get a front row seat to Miss Peterson's showing of an educational film on the wonder and joys of child birth.
As the father of two, I can attest that the birth of a child is truly one of nature’s greatest miracles, but so is an eclipse, and they teach you not to stare directly at those. In the same vain as MOM AND DAD and BECAUSE OF EVE, TEENAGE MOTHER’s selling point is the inclusion of footage of a live birth passed off in the context of being a hygiene or educational film. The footage, which is narrated, presumably by a doctor (albeit one doing his best Father Guido Sarducci impression), is very clinical in both its terminology and execution, presenting every graphic detail of child birth, including an episiotomy! Clearly without the birthing footage this film would not be anywhere as notorious as it is today, but even if you were to stop the picture just before said footage rolled, and trust me, you may want to do just that, the picture holds up as a drive-in drama filled with drag racing and go-go dancing.
Director/ Producer/Distributor Jerry Gross knew how to market a picture. Most noted for devising the memorable double bill of I DRINK YOUR BLOOD and I EAT YOUR SKIN, Jerry would create Cinemation Industries shortly after directing TEENAGE MOTHER, choosing to focus on distributing films rather than directing them. Cinemation would grow and eventually flourish throughout the 1970s, distributing such pictures as THE BLACK GODFATHER, SON OF DRACULA and Melvin Van Peebles' SWEET SWEERBACK'S BAAD ASSSSS SONG. A man of many hats, Jerry even gets in a little acting with MOTHER. That’s him as the truck driver that picks Arlene up hitch-hiking, only to be dropped off 5 miles down the road at the local truck stop that Duke just so happens to frequent. Keep an eye out for a baby faced Fred Willard (BEST IN SHOW) as well, playing the high school's resident sports coach.
Both films are featured with widescreen anamorphic transfers with varying degrees of clarity. TEENAGE GRAFFITI suffers from a constant barrage of dirt and debris, including running lines and large spastic cigarette burns, but such flaws are oddly appropriate given the nature of the “Exploitation Cinema Double Feature” series. Coloring leans to the red end of the spectrum with flesh tones often bleeding into the brown of the country soil. TEENAGE MOTHER does however fair much better, with far less print damage, cleaner colors and sharper detail. Both features come with English mono tracks, with MOTHER again favoring a crisper quality over GRAFFITI.
Special features include individual trailers for both films as well as a number of others that can be viewed individually or book ended between the two features, allowing you to recreate the experience of attending a double bill within the confines and comfort of your own home. Such trailers include CHEERLEADERS' WILD WEEKEND, CHEERING SECTION, KING FRAT, I'M GOING TO GET YOU... ELLIOT BOY, FAMILY HONOR and MARK OF THE WITCH. TEENAGE MOTHER stands out in the extras department by the inclusion of a comedy commentary tack by Cinema Head Cheese which adds little to the film save for some crude comments. The track sounds as if it was recorded in a tin can and the audio for the feature itself drags slightly, with dialogue falling shortly behind its corresponding mouth movements, which is annoying but only slight as much as the comedy track itself. (Jason McElreath)
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