Friday, September 7, 2012

Teenage Hitchhikers (1975)

Directed by Gerri Sedley
Starring Chris Jordan, Sandra Peabody, Nikki Lynn
Rated R

Filmed in two weeks in Woodstock, New York, Teenage Hitchhikers (made in 1974, briefly released in 1975) consistently evokes the hippie-free-love vibe associated with the historic concert that took place there a few years before.

The story concerns two young female runaways, soon to be joined by a third, on an episodic quest for life's meaning. Or failing that, a set of wheels and chances to get laid.

Though hastily made and full of the usual cinematic shortfalls one expects to find in these drive-in obscurities, there's enough inventiveness and variety in Teenage Hitchhikers to keep the viewer interested throughout its 80-minute running time. (Not to mention an abundance of skin, too.)

We open on our leading ladies, Mouse and Bird, seeking their destinies thumbs first.

Quirky blonde Chris Jordan (first credited as "Kathie Christopher," then "Kathy Christopher" at the end), star of several soft- and hardcore titles throughout the early 1970s, portrays Mouse, while Bird is played by Sandra Peabody (a.k.a. Sandra Cassell), best known as doomed Mari in Wes Craven's nightmarish The Last House on the Left (1972).

In fact, the circumstance with which the film beings -- two young girls on their own, vulnerable and seemingly at risk -- kind of resembles the beginning of Craven's film, as does the ultra-low budget and film-on-the-fly approach. However, the mood here remains mostly playful throughout, aimed more at frivolity than fright.

Sort of feel like the characters' names might've been reversed. Jordan's angular frame and toothy grin does kind of resemble a bird. And with her pigtails and cute pout Peabody often looks kind of mousey. In any event, after an unsuccessful initial stretch the wayward duo finally catch a ride in a motorhome full of musicians, a band called the Energy Crisis, who have a couple of groupies in tow.

The guys seize the opportunity to perform a song for their new audience, and for a short while everything's real groovy, man.

As the song plays on, the girls engage in conversation with the two groupies who perhaps represent a possible fate for Mouse and Bird. After their talk, Mouse cynically concludes the guys in the band probably "want us for the second team." "I wouldn't mind being a groupie… just for an hour or two," says Bird, but Mouse isn't as interested.

Sure enough, when the song concludes the fellas set their sights on the girls, suggesting what one refers to as some "groupie therapy" with Mouse and Bird. When Mouse insists on some "bread" in return, the band leader has a ready rejoinder: "You chicks want bread, go fuck a baker." "Come on, Bird, that's our exit line," says Mouse, and back out into the night they go.

The next day they are back on the highway, again failing to find rides. Hungry, they decide to stop by a pond and try to catch fish with their bare hands.

As was the case during the earlier encounter with the Energy Crisis, the dialogue continues uninterrupted, with Mouse more upbeat than Bird about the situation.

"This is the spirit we left with and this is spirit we've got to keep… the pioneer spirit!" says Mouse.

"Some spirit," answers Bird. "Give me a credit card any day."

"Cut the chatter. The trout can hear you, you know? Just like the Indians, you gotta respect your prey."

"Fuck 'em."


"Indians, trout, pioneers. This 'adventure' as you call it is one big pain in the you-know-what!"

Despite her pessimism, Bird actually does succeed in catching a trout, although not with her hands…

…however, it gets away, and soon the girls are on the road again. They reach a truck stop diner, and when Mouse suggests they go in, Bird reminds her they have no money. "In this economy, boobs and butts are legal tender," says the still sanguine Mouse, and they proceed.

Inside they find a young soda jerk with a lone older customer. The girls order big meals, and when asked if they have money make suggestive comments about alternative methods of payment. Before long the jukebox is playing and Mouse and Bird have engaged in a manic dance-slash-striptease for their male audience.

But the scene ends abruptly, a fizzing bottle of beer suggesting some sort of premature climax before a jump cut lands the pair back roadside complaining about how they never did get their meal. "Let's activate emergency procedures," suggests Mouse, alluding to a previously discussed plan to increase the likelihood of getting a ride.

Alas, that fails. Rapidly they proceed to "emergency procedure plan number two."

Success! A grinning toupee-wearing ladies clothing salesman named Dick Dagger (Peter Carew) stops to pick them up in his station wagon. When they tell him their unusual names, he says with a giggle, "Well, it's only fair to warn you, I've done some cattin' around in my day!" Soon they are trying on his merchandise in the car, all the while Bird explaining "We're just a couple of lonely young virgins, innocent to the vices of the world, on an adventure down the highway of life in search of truth and beauty."

"Look, who's kidding who," says Dagger. "I've got truth right here in my pants… and it's a beauty!"

Dagger's salesmanship appears to work on the girls, as soon they are taking turns in the back with him. The fun ends, however, when a cop pulls them over. Ultmately Dagger is the only forced to pay any consequences.

In fact, not only do the girls escape the situation, they make off with Dagger's cash, too. Danger lurks, however, as the arresting officer sees them off with warnings about an escaped rapist on the loose. Unsurprisingly, they soon find themselves face-to-face with the criminal after rescuing a potential victim in the woods. Our heroines decide to employ "emergency defense plan number one" which apparently involves Bird seducing the rapist by stripping and chomping on an unsubtly-symbolic apple.

An absurd conversation follows, with Bird insulting the rapist by suggesting he comes up short manhood-wise. Her criticism working to lessen his motivation. "From now on, every time I try to rape somebody, I'll be thinking something's wrong with me!" he complains. "Not wrong, just inadequate," smirks Bird.

The actor (Ric Mancini) actually looks a little like David Hess, who played the villainous Krug in The Last House on the Left. Mari didn't try the same tactic in that film, not that it would've worked in any other world than the absurd one developing in Teenage Hitchhikers. Bird actually gives the rapist a shot at proving his "technique" can overcome his physical limitations, but her yawning response only further withers him (literally and figuratively).

Mouse then suggests to the rapist they have a threesome involving bondage, and he instantly agrees.

Of course it's a ruse, and soon the girls leave the moron tied to a tree to go take care of the young girl they'd saved before, the virginal Jenny (Nikki Lynn). While giving her a bath at a pond that looks suspiciously like the one they'd visited earlier, they recruit her to join them on their journey, adding that "six tits are better than four."

Soon the trio gets picked up by wealthy woman named Toni Blake (Claire Wilbur) who says she wants to take them back to her mansion for some "parlor games… something… tongue in cheek."

Once there, Mouse and Bird plan to keep Toni occupied while Jenny is instructed to fill her bag with whatever valuables she can find. Sad strings provide the soundtrack as Bird initially rolls around in the grass with the decadent dowager. Then Mouse goofily plays with her in the bath with her over a goofily-plucked banjo.

Meanwhile, Jenny fails in her mission to gather anything, too distracted by being away from her boyfriend who happens to be the soda jerk from the truck stop, Kylie. The girls aren't too upset with her, though, as "Madam Toni" gave them some money before they left and now they're confident they can afford a car.

The group has a quick run-in with the cop from before, but a fast-motion, slapsticky montage has them take care of him in short order.

Next comes a lengthy sequence in a used car lot -- really a junk yard -- which the proprietor (Kevin Andre) proudly describes as Farquhar's Classic Car Emporium. The scene proceeds slowly, then unsurprisingly resolves in a way that provides further evidence boobs and butts really are legal tender. In other words, they get their car, and like Dick Dagger and the policeman before him, Farquhar is left in a somewhat similar state.

"Now that we have a car, it's going to make all the difference in the world," says Bird excitedly as the three enjoy dinner out. But Jenny is still whining about being homesick and missing her Kylie. Subsequent discussion reveals a little how Bird and Mouse ended up runaways. Finally they cheer Jenny up to the point of resuming their adventurous quest, and with everyone back on board they leave to buy some new clothes.

With a Joplin rag playing, another speeded-up montage follows as the girls try on clothes, with the shop's owner -- it's Peter Carew again (the same actor who played Dick Dagger) -- peeping on them as they do. But the girls get theirs as Mouse steals a credit card from his wallet while he watches...

...and they purchase tons of clothes using his own card which he somehow fails to recognize.

Now behind the wheel, the girls pick up a couple of hitchhikers themselves, a spaced-out chick and a dude claiming to be the rock star "Mongo Donny" who is in fact Jenny's love, the soda jerk Kylie (Donald Haines). Their passengers are heading to a party and invite the girls. Mouse says "Right on!" and off they go.

"Who belongs to the wheels?" asks the spaced out chick as they drive. "We all went in on the car together," explains Bird. "Thumb-tripping was getting to be a drag."

"It's the only way to be free, man," comes the reply. "I guess the material world is your bag."

"The rip-off world is our bag," answers Bird defiantly. "We've had a lot of experience." "From ballin' to bankin'!" adds Mouse.

Meanwhile "Mongo Donny" makes out with spaced-out chick in the back, which understandably puts Jenny (who knows it's her Kylie) in a mood. They soon arrive at the party, and Jenny rolls her eyes some more at a couple going at it in the hammock out front.

Inside they discover a wild scene hosted by "Bruce, the resident fag" (played by Kevin Andre who appeared as Farquhar from before). They change their clothes for the party, although soon it becomes apparent clothes aren't really necessary, as everyone begins to strip for what instantly becomes a shameless, uninhibited orgy.

Mouse and Bird quickly find mates and join right in…

…although Jenny continues to remain unsure about it all.

The lengthy, inspired sequence features tons of skin and a few scattered grins, including Bruce offering to show Mongo/Kylie his snake and a game of reverse strip poker in which losers put back on clothes. (The scene likely comprises most if not all of the six minutes excised from some versions, a cut undoubtedly necessary for the R-rating.)

There's more, including some drama over whether or not the girls might get ripped off at the party as well as what might become of young Jenny and Kylie a.k.a. Mongo. Mr. Rapist also makes a threatening return.

But as with most of the film, a light tone prevails.

Though toying with themes of innocence and experience, suggesting at times some greater purpose or message may have inspired it, Teenage Hitchhikers ultimately isn't really coherent enough to work as a "coming of age" story. Even so, this boobs-butts-and-bush-laden bildungsroman does entertain throughout, with the returning of characters from earlier in the story (characteristic of the genre) and actors playing dual roles adding an extra layer of whimsy.

A few of the episodes successfully produce laughs, and some of the dialogue and occasional wordplay might even recall the much more witty and successful drive-in classic The Cheerleaders (1973). Like that film, the teenaged protagonists here demonstrate a strange mix of worldliness and naïveté, although in this case the balance is less steadily maintained. Even so, for fans of '70s drive-in sexploitation, Teenage Hitchhikers is probably worth stopping for.

- Triple S

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