Sunday, December 14, 2008

Teen Lust (1979)

AKA The Girls Next Door
Directed by James Hong
Starring Kristin Baker, Leslie Cederquist, Robert Gribbin, Michael Heit
Rated R
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"Is this your cesspool superstar?"

I should mention at the top here that yes, that's the same James Hong as the one you're thinking of - the beloved character actor with over 300 acting credits to his name, from the maitre d' on the legendary Chinese Restaurant episode of Seinfeld, to the Japanese general in Airplane! (1980). He's been the go-to Asian character actor in films and television for over fifty years now. And, very occasionally, he directs. Besides this one, he's only taken the directorial reins on two other films: 1989's comic-horror romp The Vineyard, and Singapore Sling (2000), a low-budget thriller starring Shannon Tweed. Both have their own merits and flaws, but neither hold a candle to this, his incredible, frequently jaw-dropping directorial debut.

Teen Lust begins like all good teen sex comedies do: with a shot of a girl's ass. In this case, it belongs to the fetching Lee Ann Barnes, and it's being hugged ever so tightly by a heart-breaking pair of white hot pants. This is the film's money shot, and if it had ended there, we could all go home happy. But it is not the end, it is the beginning of one of the strangest cinematic rides you'll ever take.

Lee Ann plays DeDe, a thrill-seeking bimbo with feathered hair and a raging libido. At the film's opening, she's on the make, doing her damnedest to seduce Terry (Perry Lang), a generic nice guy and best friend to musclecar-driving superjerk Hotrod (Richard Singer). DeDe takes off her shirt to impress the boys. It is, in fact, a magnificently impressive sight. But when Terry and Hotrod's girlfriends show up, Terry shoves DeDe into the trunk of Hotrod's car. And leaves her there as the four go joyriding.

This is the first sign that all is not well with this group.

Kristen Baker - best known as the first kill in Friday the 13th, Part 2 - is Carol, the film's protagonist, and Terry's sometimes-girlfriend. She and her best friend Neeley (platinum-haired Leslie Cederquist), have just joined the volunteer police force. That is why this film is also known as Police Academy Girls, or, alternately, Girls Police Academy, although the film actually has very little to do with the police academy. It has very little to do with anything, really, except the near-constant humiliation of it's lead actress.

After their ride with a kidnapped DeDe, we are introduced to Carol's demented family. There's Dustin (Robert Sloane) her airplane-obsessed, mentally handicapped brother, who she promises to marry someday. I know how that sounds, and yes, it is extremely creepy, although not quite as creepy as the scenes with her father (Stan Kamber), a greasy bruiser who attempts to tongue-kiss her whenever she comes home. Mom (Dolly Carolla, a mousy blonde who cannot be more than three or four years older than Baker) is an unrepentant lush, who spends all of her time in the kitchen, slugging hard from the endless bottles of hooch she has hidden in every cupboard. It's no wonder that Carol is so interested in a job that involves a gun.

There are a few scenes where Carol receives police training, but it's obvious that the cops she travels with are only interested in sleeping with her. And on her second day of training, they put her on the vice squad, dressing her up like a street hooker and getting her to bait johns. Not surprisingly, she almost gets raped on the job. It will not be the last time that Hong uses rape as a gag. The whole fuckin' movie is a rape gag, really.

A little further on, there's a bit where she tries to get her mother to quit drinking by emptying her bottles in the sink while her mother screams and thrashes around. There's a punchline - mom glugs down yet another bottle while hugging her daughter - but it's still more disturbing than funny. And that's the main problem with this film: cruelty is often confused with humor. For example, there's a recurring gag with a heavy girl named Bambi (Liza Stanley) - every time she eats something, her mother slaps her face. It's admittedly funny the first time, but after the third or fourth time, it's just vindictive.

The second half of the film is just a blur of outrage. There's an exceedingly bizarre scene where Carol is making out with her goony boyfriend in his car. Suddenly the car starts rocking violently. It's being shaken by a group of 10-12 year old kids who proceed to punch him and hit him in the face with clumps of dirt. Then they drag Carol out of the car. She manages to wriggle free and takes off running, but they catch her and start tearing off her clothes. It's not until the cop shows up and threatens to shoot them that they leave, and even then, it's with shouts of "Oink Oink!"

Just who the fuck are these little savages?

Incidentally, while this scene is playing, you hear the future theme from The People's Court!

Carol comes home from her near-gang-rape to find her mother bent over the sink, getting banged by the crusty, bearded plumber ( an uncredited Buck Flower, naturally).

"How could you do this to daddy?" She cries.
"Oh, it's ok," her mom says. "Your daddy isn't really your father. Your father is impotent."
Carol is, understandably, incredulous. "What?" She asks. "Mom!"
"Oh, I'm not your mother, dear. You're adopted."

Next scene: Carol visits a priest, who has a slimy gas station mustache.
"I keep having dreams that I'm being raped, every night," she tells him.
"And by all different people. Not just men, women too. Maybe I'm queer!"
"I'm glad you came to me with this problem," says the priest. "You've helped me with my decision. This Sunday at church, I'm coming out of the closet."
"But, there's no closet in church." Can we get a cymbal crash, please?
"No, Carol. What I'm saying is...I'm sweet."
"Oh, you are sweet for listening to my problems."
"Carol, all I'm saying is to show your love. You know, all Hitler needed was a hug. Not that he was my type."

Back on vice duty, Carol finds out that her partner, Officer Drury (Robert Gribbin), is hopelessly in love with her. She finds this out because he rapes her in the front seat of her car. Some other cops show up to make sure everything's ok. They assume she's enjoying it, and take off.

Yes, this is still supposed to be a comedy.

Carol comes home dressed like a hooker, which excites dad. He lunges for her and topples down the stairs, hurting his back. He tells his wife to "Get Lena, she's the only one that can fix my back!"
Lena (Ernee Simpson) shows up soon after. She is a large black woman with a platinum white wig. She starts karate chopping his back while his wife points at him and yells, "Impotent! Impotent!"
"Carol honey, I want you to meet your real mother," Dad says, pointing to Lena.

Suddenly, a banana cream pie fight breaks out.

"Honey, I'm sorry I left you here with these honkies," Lena says. And then she splits.
Dustin, the handicapped son, starts playing the piano. You really can play!" says Carol.
"Sure I can," he says, in perfect English.
"And you can talk!"
"Of course I can talk, Carol."
Prior to this moment, he talked with a strange accent that was supposed to denote retardation, but actually made him sound deaf. Whatever.
"My mother won't let me marry a nigger," he says, out of fucking nowhere. And then he tries to molest Carol.
Carol runs out into the street just as Hotrod shows up to run over Dustin. And then he splits. Officer Drury shows up as Carol checks to see if Dustin's alive.
"I want to see you again tonight," he says, with complete disregard for what's happening.
"Why, so you can rape me again?" Carol asks.
"Who's this guy?" The cop says, finally realizing there's a body on the street.
"It's Dustin. We were going to get married."
"Well in that case, I hope he's dead," says the cop. And then he drives away.

It all ends in a chaotic wedding scene. Will Carol really marry her retarded brother? Or will she run away with the cop who raped her? And are those really her only choices?

Teen Lust is one of the weirdest and creepiest films you're likely to find in the teen sex comedy genre. All the humor is based on cruelty, and were it not for Kristin Baker's feather-light performance, this could easily devolve into grueling exploitation. I mean, this fucker is just plain mean. I cannot claim to know what James Hong's intentions were, but the end product feels like John Waters with a grudge. Interesting, there is no writing credit listed anywhere for this film. I'm guessing Charlie Manson.

Obviously, Teen Lust is mandatory viewing. You'll hate it so much that you'll love it. Just be sure not to watch it with your wife, sister, girlfriend, or mom, unless you want to spend the rest of the evening trying to explain just what your fuckin' problem is.

Kristin Baker, by the way, quit acting in 1987. Can you blame her?

Availability: Teen Lust is available on VHS.
Buy Teen Lust on Amazon.
-Ken McIntyre

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