Monday, January 16, 2012

Netflix'd :: Clearing Out the Instant Que :: Lets Have a Smashing Prison Riot, Eh Wot?

After taking a long walk alone, young Ann Turner (Ireland) heads to the local teen hang-out to watch her new beau, Tommy, front his band for an appreciative crowd. Unfortunately, Tommy (Charlesworth) is the ex-boyfriend of Lucy (Britton), who just barely got away with robbing the mansion she used to work at as a maid. Caught in the act by the butler, Lucy's accomplice, Claire (Swanson), manages to bop Jeeves on the back of the head -- but not before he recognized Lucy.

Knowing it's only a matter of time before the heat catches up to her, then, Lucy gives the majority of the stolen jewels to her accomplice, whom the butler never saw, for safekeeping, except for one piece, which she sneakily dumps into Ann's coat pocket. See, the conniving little shit's plan is two fold: first, by implicating Ann, Claire will stay in the clear and the loot will be waiting for Lucy once she's served her time. And second, this will show that uppity Ann what happens to anyone who would dare steal a man from her. And so, fingered by Lucy, coupled with the police finding the diamond bracelet in her coat, with no alibi, poor Ann is probably regretting that solitary walk right about now.

Once Ann is sentenced to three years at the Wilsham Reformatory School for girls, So Evil, So Young doesn't stray a whole lot from the standard good girl gone bad formula. In short order, Ann has a bulls-eye painted on her back by the head guard, Smith (Pollock), a combination of Nurse Ratchet and Evelyn Harper, who prefers the stick over the carrot when dealing with her charges. Of course, then, the head matron is a reformer, who takes a liking to Ann but won't believe her wild story about being framed. And with Smithy on one end of the stick, and Lucy on the other, a familiar figure at Wilsham, with plenty of friends already on the inside, life is hell for poor Ann, who always gets caught finishing the dust-ups her adversary starts, landing her in solitary.

Luckily, Ann finds a friend with an older prisoner, Mary (Whittingham), who is up for parole soon. And with her help, Ann soon learns the rules -- the most important one to never snitch on a fellow inmate for anything. Alas, to celebrate that impending parole, the dormitory decides to hold a clandestine going away party but are caught in the act by Smithy. Told this will probably derail her parole, the distraught Mary hangs herself. That's the last straw for several inmates, giving us our required riot as Lucy leads the charge to beat the hell out of Smithy, whom the girls blame for Mary's death. Only Ann abstains, going so far as to free another matron taking hostage during the chaos that is eventually curbed.

Once order is restored, Ann refuses to name the ringleaders, earning the respect of several others, including one inmate who has proof that Lucy framed her for the robbery. Armed with that information, Ann engineers a jailbreak to get that crucial evidence to Tom and her father, who were already on Claire's trail, namely the obscene amount of money she's been throwing around town. Will she succeed? Will the battered but ever watchful Smithy catch her in the act? Or will Lucy once more screw her over and rat her out?

So Evil, So Young wasn't breaking any new ground for the production tandem of Edward and Harry Lee Danziger. Basically, the film is a remake of the Danziger's So Young, So Bad; a balls-out screed on the horrors of what happens behind the walls of a girl's reformatory. Walls that Paul Heinreid did his best to tear down. Walls that contained the likes of Anne Francis and Rita Moreno in their big screen debuts getting blasted by a fire-hose when they chose to riot. And though there are no fire-hoses here, there still isn't anything that any genre veteran hasn't seen before, story wise. But, when you chuck in that British technicolor and temperament, and that crazily canned, xylophone-heavy spaz-jazz soundtrack, it gives this film such a prim and proper weirdness, subbing in for the usual sleaze, one can only giggle at all the cat-fights and boggle at one of the nicest prison riots you'll ever encounter, making So Evil, So Young a total scream. So, by all means, check it out as soon as possible.

So Evil, So Young (1961) Danziger Productions Ltd. :: United Artists / P: Edward J. Danziger, Harry Lee Danziger / AP: Brian Taylor / D: Godfrey Grayson / W: Mark Grantham / C: James Wilson / E: Desmond Saunders / M: Tony Crombie, Bill LeSage / S: Jill Ireland, Jocelyn Britton, John Charlesworth, Ellen Pollock, Sheila Whittingham, Bernice Swanson

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