The Pitch: If Garth Marenghi made a vintage exploitation movie…
The problem with US television is that unless there is something you intend to watch specifically, you are left at the mercy of several thousand channels of blah. In an effort to combat channel-surfing induced brain fartinosis, On Demand is your best bet. And TCM is a treasure trove of lesser known vintage classics straight from ‘the vaults’.
Great right? Well yes and no. On one hand, you could find a charming little curio of yesteryear that may be the greatest movie you have never watched. On the other, the curio you find could have lain unwatched because it should never have been released, and thus it never was.
Such is the case with Mad Youth, an exploitation flick in the same vein as the all-conquering Reefer Madness. Sleep inducing yet simultaneously riveting for all the wrong reasons, it is only one hour long but feels like a lifetime.
The plot (such as it is) follows a rich divorcee (so obviously a ‘loose’ woman) and her emotionally abandoned loose daughter. You can tell they are loose, not just because all the other bridge-playing matriarchs whisper about it behind their backs, but because they are peroxide blonde, and thin of eyebrow. Mama routinely keeps a roster of gigolos in pocket, while blondie junior throws wild parties at the family home (involving Jitterbugging – oh the horror) and generally leading the local teenagers astray.
Yes, the jitterbugging does rather punctuate the film in places, rather like Lena Dunham’s nudity in Girls, there is obviously a studio quota. Exploitation films of the period tend to be a platform for variety acts, so not only do we have various dance routines thrown in at every opportunity, but at one point a clown (!) pretending to be a matador (!!) fights a dog dressed up as a dwarf bull (!!!) Please insert drinking game as required.
Back to what passes for the plot; gigolo falls for teenage daughter, daughter’s friend is sex-trafficked to a brothel (presumably in Iowa), mother tells daughter she never really wanted her, daughter runs away to see friend only to wind up in the brothel, more jitterbugging, gigolo (whose inheritance from Europe has come in so now he’s all respectable-like) tracks down the girls and saves them. No one develops any redeeming characteristics. The end.
Phew, all that in an hour should be exhausting but due to the slow script, flat acting, terrible editing and wonky camera angles, all that stays with you is an urge to revisit Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. But in terms of film history, it is still interesting how Mad Youth and similar features were able to to be produced during the Hays Code era. Despite generally flying in the face of the restrictions (in Mad Youth’s case, the seduction and sale of young girls) by ostensibly cultivating a moral message, this film is glorifying a situation that would these days constitute an episode of Gossip Girl. A spoof musical version surely beckons…