Sometimes it’s fun to play in the hinterlands of exploitation cinema. The kinds of movies that were meant to be featured in cannibal drive-ins in the back roads of Oklahoma, and only the cannibal drive-ins in the back roads of Oklahoma. With that in mind, I’ve unearthed the black-and-white shoestring nightmare Delinquent Daughters.
Tagline: YOUTH RUNNING WILD! UNHEEDED…UNCHECKED!
More Accurate Tagline: YOUTH RUNNING MILD! UNSEEN…UNLIT!
Guilty Party: Albert Herman has made more movies in his life than you will make mistakes. Which is good, because judging purely by the titles, every last one of his movies was a mistake. The kind of mistake that eventually leads to a vengeful deity swallowing the world in floodwaters, the undead, and mediocre frozen dinners.
Synopsis: This movie has the storytelling skills of an active crime scene at the bottom of a well. You have to put together what happened from the bloodstains, a few half-glimpsed images of the crime itself, and maybe a couple muddy echoes from the possibly helpful gnomes that live down here. What I’m trying to say is, I only have the vaguest idea what’s going on.
Okay, so this (I think) high school girl Lucille killed herself. She was running with a bad crowd or something, and her friends June the blonde everygirl, Sally the brunette bad girl, Betty the clearly developmentally disabled girl, and Francine the out-of-focus girl aren’t too broken up about it. They get questioned by dogged cop Lt. Hanahan in the principal’s office, and Sally refuses to talk, despite getting enough noir slang thrown at her to open a detective agency.
Sally’s dating Jerry, and he’s a no-account hoodlum. Or else he has a weird idea of what constitutes a date. He knocks over a liquor store, gets chased by a cop, then runs down a pedestrian outside a local nightclub. He then drops Sally off at the same nightclub, because hey, might as well make an evening of it. Yes, this whole scene was supposed to be a date.
Sally runs into her friends there, and June is worried that her dad is going to beat her if she stays out too late. Turns out, she had every reason to worry. When she does get home, she immediately has to flee to what I can only assume, based on the lighting, is a cave at the bottom of the ocean where light goes to kill itself. Her boyfriend Rocky runs into her, and thinking she’s going to kill herself, proposes. Considering what a twit Rocky, is, I’m shocked this didn’t push her over the edge.
Sally and Jerry embark on a crime spree, and then break up, which is exactly what Bonnie and Clyde assured me would never happen. Rocky hooks up with local crime boss Nick, and goes to knock over a payroll with Rocky’s dad’s gun (it’s a long, and let’s face it, stupid story). Jerry gets shot.
Nick flees as Lt. Hanahan chases him. Stupid fuck that he is, Rocky has to follow along to see what’s up. He ends up accidentally forcing Nick off the road, and in the crash, Nick is killed.
Then the town turns Nick’s seedy club into a wholesome place for teenagers to hang out.
Life-Changing Subtext: Only through murder can we attain Golf ‘N’ Stuff.
Defining Quote: Jerry: “She was no angel… she used to hang around the merry go round didn’t she?” This makes sense in context — the Merry Go Round is Nick’s seedy club. I prefer to think of it as a literal merry go round, though. You know those badass tough kids, always riding their favorite ceramic unicorn to the strains of “Music Box Dancer.”
Standout Performance: Mary Bovard plays Betty, who, as I mentioned, is clearly not all there. I suspect they were going for the kind of daffy blonde archetype, but they went too far, and wound up in the “How the fuck is this chimpanzee feeding herself?” archetype. Which is less funny and more sad.
What’s Wrong: This entire movie looks like it was shot at the bottom of an oil drum. A full oil drum. Full of oil, and the black hearts of a thousand demons condemned to a lightless abyss. Then with like, no flashlights, either.
Flash of Competence: From time to time, the dialogue rises to the level of noir camp. Lines like, “Listen, you!” and “Oh, a wiseguy, huh?” It’s not what you’d call good, but at least it’s fun.
Best Scenes: We need to talk about Hanahan. It’s not just the overly Oirish last name that sounds like it was come up with by a racist Cockney keyboard with only three keys. It’s more his unspoken superpowers. See, the thing about Hanahan is that motherfucker is everywhere. Seriously, in the middle of scenes, he’ll just wander out of the shadows, like a combination of Bob Hoskins and Edward Cullen acting like he’s been there the whole time and he wants to talk about Koopas and/or Bella’s panties.
The best teleportation scene is when June is looking at the water, and Rocky thinks she’s contemplating suicide. Mostly because he knows what a dipshit he is and is pretty sure this is June’s only way out. Then Hanahan staggers in (it’s tough to tell because of the Stygian lighting), and starts talking to them. Well, they throw him in the water, possibly confusing him for Bruce Willis in Unbreakable, and run.
Then they come back, fish him out of the drink, and he takes them to a judge’s house in the middle of the night for a lecture. Yes, this is a thing that happened, and not that Cockney keyboard getting its revenge.
Transcendent Moment: Hey, remember that suicide that kicks everything off? Remember how that sounded like what this whole thing was going to be about? Well, the movie sure doesn’t, and would much rather prefer you stopped bringing it up.
Delinquent Daughters was made on the cheap as a way to titillate theatergoers. But then they forgot to titillate! It’s like trying to masturbate in oven mitts. Best case scenario, your next pot roast is going to taste a bit off.