By Richard Winters
My Rating: 5 out of 10
4-Word Review: Teen enjoys seducing women.
Phil (Kristoffer Tabori) is a cocky, self-centered teen who uses his good looks to get practically any girl he wants into bed with him. He even has a fling with the wife of his basketball coach, but when he thinks he has gotten one of them pregnant things begin to spiral out-of-control especially when his emotionally fragile mother (Joyce Van Patten) starts to have some ‘problems’ of her own.
Peter Bart’s script, which is based on James Leigh’s novel ‘What Can You Do?’ has some incisive comments, but surprisingly it’s more on being middle age than adolescence. It shows with a depressing clarity what a thankless, pain-in-the-ass the middle age years can be and how people at that stage secretly wish to go back to their teens if only to experience for a fleeting moment the carefreeness and idealism once again.
The on-location shooting done at West Mesa High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico nicely captures the gorgeous, crystal blue skies of that region. The students are made up of actual teens that look and behave very much like teens of today. However, John Erman’s direction is lackluster and flat. Everything is shot in a conventional, unimaginative way with a pace that is slow and only manages to improve towards the end when it becomes dramatic.
Phil’s spirited debate with his English teacher, played by Lawrence Pressman, is engaging as is a rebellious student played by Bob Balaban arguing with his beleaguered principal (David Doyle) about his right not to have to stand at attention during the pledge of allegiance. The film is also famous for the novelty of casting real-life siblings Dick and Joyce Van Patten as lovers and includes a sequence showing him kissing her on the mouth, which had to be awkward to perform let alone rehearse.
Tabori, who is the son of actress Viveca Lindfors and Dirty Harry director Don Siegel shows an impressive amount of composure and maturity for such a young age, but I wasn’t so sure I liked the sound of his voice. Louise Latham, who plays the mother of the girl Phil thinks he might have impregnated, is memorable and had her part been just a wee bit bigger she would have easily stolen the whole thing. She is also involved in the film’s funniest moment where she asks Phil for some weed and thinking she doesn’t know “grass from her ass” he decides to take a regular cigarette, roll it up like a joint, light it and then let her smoke it where she ends up getting a ‘high’ anyways.
The film’s staple though is its twist ending that is genuinely shocking and most likely to leave even the most jaded viewer’s mouth agape. It could’ve been played out a little more, but remains nasty nonetheless and it’s something you’re guaranteed not to see in any other movie. It is also the one thing that gives this otherwise undistinguished teen flick a kick and probably explains why it has never been released on either VHS or DVD nor ever shown on broadcast network television.
My Rating: 5 out of 10
Released: March 21, 1971
Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes
Director: John Erman
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Available: None at this time.