High School Hellcats

May 25, 2014 at 4:24 pm (6 Heads, High School Hellcats) (, , , , )

High School Hellcats – 1958 – United States

A teenager named Joyce enrolls in a new high school. Between her oppressive dad and blasé mom, her home life is less than nurturing. Because of that, and her growing sexual awareness, Joyce is insecure and emotionally unstable. Connie, the leader of a girls’ gang called the Hellcats, takes an interest in Joyce and browbeats her into joining. Willpower depleted, Joyce becomes a member, eventually shoplifting and acting like a jerk. When the girls throw a wild party in an unoccupied house, Connie falls down some stairs and dies. Dolly, the Hellcats’ sadistic new leader, threatens the girls if they reveal the death. In actuality, Dolly pushed Connie down the stairs in order to take over the gang. Being paranoid and deranged, she believes Joyce suspects her, and plots to murder her as well.

American International Pictures made numerous juvenile delinquent films during the 50s, including Hot Rod Gang (1958), Hot Rod Girl (1956), Reform School Girl (1957), and Daddy-O (1957). Like these others, High School Hellcats stands between being a public service announcement and a crime thriller. It warns teens about destructive behavior, while also making it exciting.

High School Hellcats attempts to have psychological depth. Details about Joyce’s troubled relationship with her parents explain how she is tempted into delinquency. The logic is weak, but she is more believable than the gang leaders Connie and Dolly, who are a little too twisted. Joyce seems especially vulnerable because her actress almost looks young enough to be a teenager, despite being 23 at the time of filming.

High School Hellcats is satisfying because Joyce is easy to relate to and the challenges she confronts are timeless. Thirty years later, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince repeated some of the same sentiments in their song Parents Just Don’t Understand. High School Hellcats has a few surprising moments too. Connie’s death is unexpected, as is Dolly’s psychotic episode in the finale. None of the events are believable, but they are certainly dramatic. Watching the film made me both nostalgic for high school and relieved to have escaped from it.

Rating: 6/10 Shrunken Heads. The moral for parents: Show your children love and compassion or they will turn into maniacs.

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