Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, August 20, 2010

Bad Movie Month alerts you to the stranger danger of Teenage Strangler

One of the inspirations for Bad Movie Month is the impressive mockery done to many a horrible film by the good people at Mystery Science Theater 3000,whose far reaching references and goofy riffs on minor details amused their viewers for hours on end. No BBM tribute would be complete without highlighting a feature from their vastly awful film library.

In keeping with our Terrifying Teens theme,our movie this week is Teenage Strangler,a story that begs this all important question to be answered-"Is this about a teenager who strangles people or someone who strangles teenagers?":

Our tale of teen terror(which also was released as "Terror in the Night")is set in a small California town in the mid-1960s where a rash of murders has everyone in a bit of an uproar or rather a massive wave of overacting by the blander than bland cast.

A possible break in the case comes when Betty, the witness to the latest killing,remembers a weird white mark on the strangler's jacket that resembles the logo of the local drag racing gang(too bad she didn't know any self defense moves,which would have been way more useful than screaming while her friend wound up dead with a lipstick mark on her forehead).

Unfortunately,Betty's boyfriend Jimmy happens to be a member of that gang and was out late that night in order to secretly hook up with Betty,whose parents don't approve of their relationship. Yes,this gets quickly resolved but another murder eventually crops up and Jimmy is a suspect yet again,due to his "troubled past."

While the cops are busy hassling the local young toughs(who look old enough to have kids of their own,not to mention mortgages and taxes),everyone else down at the local malt shop tries to get over these recent deaths by having a barefoot proto-hippie chick hop up on the counter and sing a little ditty called "Yipe Stripes". Guess singalongs and bad dancing was the equivalent of grief counseling in those days:

One of the hilarious high points of this film is Mikey,Jimmy's kid brother who was surely the template for Saturday Night Live's oddly androgynous It's Pat. When he's not whining about Jimmy taking the blame for stealing a bike that he actually borrowed without permission,Mikey is either falling down or on the constant verge of a crying jag. Mikey's wimpy-whiny ways actually make indie nerd sensation Napoleon Dynamite seem like a pillar of strength and seriousness in comparison:

Sure enough,the killer is discovered and the murders are solved in a style reminiscent of Scooby Doo and a bad episode of the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries.

It's too bad that the strangler didn't get a chance to off more of the annoying alleged kids here but then again,leaving a few of them alive to crack wise at the neighborhood greasy spoon while pretending to know how to dance to the strained strands of "Yipe Stripes" was a necessary evil there.

Teenage Strangler is a juicy joke of a film and perfect B movie fodder that was ground up nicely in the MST3K mirth mill(teamed with a silly short about early marriage called "Is This Love?")and watching Mike Nelson and the bots riff on this deservedly hidden gem helps you get through the bad acting,mild mannered car chases, a drag racing sequence that has all of the excitement of a traffic jam and of course,Mikey.

The scariest thing about this movie is not the killer or even Mikey's wail of "He didn't steal no bike!",it's that damn "Yipe Stripes" song,which is hard to get out of my head. Then again,the MiSTies had to watch this movie several times in order to get the right riffs,so my sympathies should be more for them:

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