Just for the Hell of It

June 20, 2010 at 10:14 pm (6 Heads, 8 Heads, Just for the Hell of It) (, , , , , )

Just for the Hell of It – 1968 – United States

Scene 1: Teens dance at a party to arrhythmic discordant jazz music. One pours a bowl of water over another’s head. The wet teen flips out and smashes furniture. The others join and commence to devastate an apartment for (literally) 15 minutes.

Opening Credits: A folk singer rasps a song called “Destruction” (written by director Herschell Gordon Lewis) over a lame painted title card.

Scene 2: An awesome, grinding, psychedelic rock band plays at a bar. These guys are great—they should jam at my next virgin sacrifice party. Teens slouch and talk in a mixture of hip lingo and southern accents (it’s set in Florida).

Scene 3: The teens leave the bar and cruise around (in a sweet Mustang) causing trouble. This continues for the rest of the movie. The list of atrocities is massive and shockingly hilarious.  A newspaper is lit on fire as a woman reads it, a baby is thrown into a trashcan and his stroller is smashed, a man is painted blue, an old woman gets a pie in the face, a blind man is beat with his cane, a crippled man is beat with his crutches, a group of toddlers are assaulted—and this is hardly all inclusive.

The whole plot takes up four scenes. A group of hoodlums harass a square guy’s girl, eventually raping her. The square seeks vengeance and there’s a fiery, bloody motorcycle crash.

There is no denying director/producer Herschell Gordon Lewis’s contribution to exploitation film. He’s directed dozens of movies in a variety of genres (nudist camp, splatter, and juvenile delinquent flicks), some of which are even pretty good (for instance, Two Thousand Maniacs!). Just for the Hell of It is Lewis’s best-known juvenile delinquent film. While lacking the nudity and gore of his other work, it is no less extreme—the most savage juvenile delinquent film I’ve seen, even if the violence is more laughable than terrifying.

Just for the Hell of It is crudely assembled, with poor lighting and super-saturated color adding to the raw, sleazy ambiance. Coupled with a crunchy distorted soundtrack, featuring barely discernible dialogue (frequently overdubbed) and almost constant grating, noisy jazz music, Just for the Hell of It is as rough as the characters it portrays. Although not without it’s stylish moments:  In one memorable sequence, newspaper headlines of the teenage mayhem are burned, torn, sprayed with blood, chopped with an axe, etc.

In Just for the Hell of It’s final scene, the teen gang leader leans against his car, smirks, and says to his friend, “Who cares man?” The credits roll over a garbage pile while the folk singer continues, “The moral of this story is there’s no moral at all.” This probably reflects Herschell Gordon Lewis’s own outlook. Indifferent to the barbarism of the characters, he merely displays it for curious viewers like you and I to gawk or laugh at, turning a buck in the meantime. Somehow, it’s compelling stuff anyway.

Rating: 8/10 Shrunken Heads. One of the best (as in most interesting) juvenile delinquent flicks—the genre at its wildest, darkest, and most comical.

1/4/2017 Update:

The first time I watched it, Just for the Hell of It made a real impression on me. After seeing it a second time, its many faults are obvious. On the DVD extras, an interviewee refers to Just for the Hell of It as “the pornography of vandalism”. What an apt description! The plotless film is a series of overlong scenes of teenagers destroying things and fighting. It’s rare for a movie to have the audacity to be this pointless.

That being said, Just for the Hell of It is still fun to watch. In one scene, teenagers beat up some little kids, which is amusing. In another scene, an awesome garage band plays at a nightclub. In yet another scene, a really old Burger King can be seen in the background.

Rating: 6/10 Shrunken Heads. Two characters play a billiards variation called bumper pool. There are only two pockets and the table has rubber bumpers installed on it. I want to try it.

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