Thursday, July 1, 2010

Altman for teens

Tonight being July 1, it's the start of a new month, with new features on TCM. One of those features is a month of teen movies, airing every Thursday night in prime time. This first Thursday in July includes well-known movies such as Rebel Without a Cause at 8:00 PM. But a more interesting movie would be the less well-known The Delinquents, coming up at midnight.

One of the earliest movies directed by Robert Altman, The Delinquents shows the lives of teenagers in Altman's native Kansas City in the mid-1950s. Scotty is a nice young man, who is going steady with Janice, until Janice's parents decide that she's much too young to be going steady with anybody, even somebody as harmless as Scotty. Poor Scotty is heartbroken, and allows himself to be used by a gang of punks led by Cholly. The thing is, Cholly likes Scotty and his innocence. He convinces Scotty to rebel a bit by bring Janice to a house party. What Scotty doesn't realize is that this is going to be a pretty wild party, and that Cholly and his gang have broken into the house to hold the party. When Scotty and Janice realize what's going on, they leave. Luckily for them, it's before the police can raid the place.

However, it's also unlucky for them that they don't get picked up in the raid. Cholly's #2 in the gang, Eddy, has grown jealous of Cholly's relationship with Scotty, and sees this as an opportunity to get back at Scotty by telling Cholly that it was Scotty who snitched to the cops and got the party raided. It's here that the action really begins to pick up, as Cholly and Eddy kidnap Scotty and get him involved with forced drinking and a stickup at a gas station! Poor Scotty: these teen movies seem to have to have a moral about not getting mixed up with the bad kids. (In some ways, this second half of the movie is reminiscent of the really fun Teen-Age Crime Wave.)

Many people may not consider The Delinquents to be as good as, say, Rebel Without a Cause, but to be honest, it's not bad at all, and a really zippy, fun movie. Robert Altman already shows that he's got potential, crafting an interesting story out of what to be honest is fairly routine material. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be available on DVD, so you're going to have to catch tonight's TCM showing.

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