Monday, April 21, 2008


My most recent MST3K movie was an early episode called 'Untamed Youth', one of the many teen-themed matinee fillers produced in the 1950s. I don’t know why the people of the 50s were so obsessed with the Untamed Youth. Presumably they were just more exploitable than the Domesticated Elderly.

Then again this film did star Mamie van Doren, so maybe these 50s obsessives were onto something.

Somewhere in the rural backwaters of America, sisters Penny and Jane Lowe are arrested for hitchhiking. Down at the courthouse the local lady judge sentences them to a month of hard labour on a local cotton farm as cotton pickers. This seems primarily to be an excuse to generate many cotton picking puns along the lines of "Now wait just a cotton picking minute!" which are, of course, spectacularly unfunny.

At the cotton farm the girls meet the rest of the Untamed Youth. They're a motley collection of saucy Bad Girls, wall-eyed beatniks and one geeky weirdo who appears to be the lovechild of Woody Allen and Jerry Lewis. They love dancing in the mess hall until all hours, saying "groovy" a lot, and harboring a smoldering resentment towards farm owner Mr Tropp.

For all is not well in the world of forced agricultural labour. Mr Tropp, who looks like a slimmed down and Gregory Peckified version of Boss Hogg, is a cruel and rapacious tyrant. He feeds the kids dog food disguised as beef stew, he ignores their medical needs, and sets the dobermans on them at the slightest provocation. It transpires that the lady judge who sent all of these youths to work for him is in fact his lover, and he's got the romance-addled old girl wrapped around his little finger. She doesn't know about the dog food, the harsh working conditions, or the fact that Tropp arranges for the prettiest girls to become his "housekeepers" in the homestead.

Naturally when he finds out about Penny he can't wait to get her into the house. Who wouldn't?

She thinks she's auditioning for a show on a TV station Mr Tropp owns, but she doesn't remain that naive for long. She escapes from his clutches with her virtue intact (a first for Mamie van Doren, I'm fairly sure) but she and her sister realize that they have to find a way out of this cotton picking mess and regain their liberty.

They get their chance when Jane’s new boyfriend, an all-American quarterback type named Bob, overhears Tropp’s latest scheme: he’s acquired some counterfeit work permits and is planning to bring three hundred Mexicans over the border to do the cotton picking even more cheaply.

This is the catalyst for the Untamed Youth to rise up en masse and overthrow Mr Tropp. Not for the sake of multicultural worker solidarity – especially after Jane’s boyfriend blithely refers to the Mexicans as “wetbacks” – but because this is something really beyond the pale (as it were) that they can use against him.

Meanwhile Jane has escaped and spilled the beans to the lady judge about the latter’s lover’s activities. The lady judge isn’t too perturbed about illegal migrant workers, dog food dinners or the death of one of the workers, but when she finds out that Tropp has been boinking his “housekeepers”, she goes berserk. She races out to the farm just as Tropp is about to mow down the kids with one of those aircraft carrier-sized 50s cars, and she has him and his bent police buddies arrested. She realizes that the inevitable scandal means that her own career is over, but she’ll be damned if she doesn’t take her cheating man down with her.

The movie ends with Penny finally making it on TV, doing a calypso number that’s about as culturally sensitive as the “wetback” comment, while Jane and her boyfriend go out dancing and the lady judge sits contentedly at home, having learnt the valuable 1950s lesson that women of her age should be sitting around watching TV and knitting, rather than pursuing a legal career or getting red hot lovin’ from an oily toyboy.

Of course all of this drama was just an excuse to showcase Mamie’s mediocre singing talents and her rather less mediocre physical attributes. She’s the archetypal blonde bombshell, with a wardrobe of tight sweaters and her hair so bleached that it could join the Klu Klux Klan. Anyone else on screen was just a foil to Mamie’s giggling and bouncing, which actually lead to one of the best lines from the MST3K boys during a song:

Mamie: (singing) Jiggle and wiggle and wriggle and rock! Jiggle and wiggle and wriggle and rock!

Tom Servo: Oh come on, she’s just reading the stage directions!


Blogger an9ie said...

I am speechless. As always, I wonder, how did these people manage to get someone to pay them to produce something like this? And how can I get in on the action? Ka-ching!

1:04 PM  

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