Wednesday, January 13, 2016

"Kitten With a Whip" (1964) d/ Douglas Heyes

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In the fifties and sixties, it's no surprise that a subgenre of films concerning juvenile delinquents became wildly popular, thanks, in part, to legendary performances by the likes of Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Vic Morrow. Before too long, there were widespread cinematic snot-nosed punks abandoning the sock hop for hot rod-fueled games of chicken on the railroad tracks, trading their malted milk and penny loafers for flick knives and cigarettes. Necking parties, jazz records, beat room for squares in this scene, man.
Tonight's review focuses on one of these movies, centered around a bad girl, as portrayed by superlative sex kitten and titilating target of Elvis' Vegas veiner, Ann-Margret, whose flowing red locks certainly had to be a harbinger of the movie mischief to come. C'mon, even the Romans knew about gingers.

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"I'd be two Oscar Goldman-balls deep in that, last night...", quips Grant (Richard Anderson).
David (John Forsythe) is a wealthy enigma who runs a detective agency full of smoldering hot birds from behind the anonymity of a speakerphone-no, wait, that's the wrong role. David is an aspiring politician who's on the verge of a paramount pow-wow with influential people, as he's constantly reminded by his smothering straight-laced chum, Grant (Richard Anderson). His wife and kids are briefly out of town, but he's hoping his upcoming bid for office will bolster his strained marriage. Only,  he comes home to find a troubled, transient teenager named Jody (Ann-Margret) fast asleep in his bed. After she serves him up an obligatory sob story, complete with war wounds and freshly whipped up insta-tears, he springs for a new outfit for the hard luck story before giving her a ride to the nearest bus station and seeing her off like a decent, God-fearing American would. Just when he's about to divulge his crazy story to Grant, a public television reveals that Jody may or may not have set fire to the reform school she's just dramatically escaped from, shanking up one of her matrons in the process, leaving the poor old girl in critical condition. What was that crazy story you had for me, Dave, old bean? Oh...oh, nothing.

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"Everything's so creamy!", notes Jody (Ann-Margret).
Thinking he's dodged a fucker of a bullet, he comes home to...Jody, who's just dyed her hair red and fresh from a shower, with blackmail on her mind, fire in her eyes, and passion on her lips. Naturally, David is forced to comply with the venomous vixen's slightest whim, which include some close calls with Grant and nosy neighbors, tense phone calls from the missus, and an impromptu jazz party with three of the smoky somethin's closest associates, which lead to all sorts of delinquency, Dad: straight razor fights, blowing pot, listening to records and dancing... and it's not long before a visibly frazzled David is spotted on the streets of fucking Tijuana (of all fucking places), wearing a bloody-sleeved cardigan, and clutching a bottle of booze, by the very would be-constituents he's been avoiding while desperately dealing with the home wrecking hoolies. That's some pickle that flame-headed flapper's gotten you into, boyyo. If you want to see how it all turns out, I suggest you hunt down a copy for yourselves.

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"Bosley, get my Angels on the horn...Charlie's cardigan-deep in trouble, daddy-o!"
Apart from his work here, Heyes also directed an episode of Night Gallery, three episodes of Thriller, and nine of the original Twilight Zone series. If the motel scene seems vaguely familiar, it's because Norman Bates himself famously prowled the very same set four years earlier.
Many folks throw Kitten on their "Worst of" lists, thanks in part to that show involving that snarky nerd and his space puppets whose name eludes me at the moment. Don't listen to the naysayers concerning this one, kids. It's saturated with plenty of everything that makes movies of this nature so damned entertaining. The story is a hoot, the dialog is a scream, the characters' philosophy is kooky,  the rear-projected car rides are snicker-worthy, and then, on top of all that, there's Ann-Margret. She goes from doe-eyed innocent to strait jacket nuts and back at will, and there's not a man in all of history who wouldn't get reeled in by this tasty little slice of strawberry shortcake. The movie's worth multiple viewings for her, alone. On the scale, three wops, and a strong recommendation.

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I'd let Ann have me, and I wouldn't even charge. The sweetest kittens have the sharpest claws, as they say.
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CowboyX said...

I really enjoyed this although I didn't know a love-tap with a straight razor could nearly cut your arm off through a jacket and shirt.

CowboyX said...

I also liked the car chase scenes and the hotel room fight. Well done.

beedubelhue said...

Yeah, I dug this a lot, too. I'm gonna have to unearth some more examples in the coming weeks.


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