High School Confidential! [1958]

Director: Jack Arnold
Stars: Russ Tamblyn, Jan Sterling, John Drew Barrymore, Mamie Van Doren, Diane Jergens
Genre: Drama, Crime
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Runtime: 85 minutes

Is it a serious look at drug addiction and the "narcotics problem," or is it pure exploitation? Well, High School Confidential opens up with Jerry Lee Lewis rolling into town on a flatbed truck, pummeling an upright piano as he bellows one of his hits, so that should tell you something right off. Eminently slappable punk Russ Tamblyn enrolls at the local high school and immediately starts to hit on the teacher (Jan Sterling). Soon he proves that he's even cooler than jive-talking king daddy-o John Drew Barrymore (Drew's dad), and is getting acquainted with the local dope peddler (Jackie Coogan). Never mind that Barrymore should be able to pick him up over his head and throw him; Tamblyn has a switchblade at the ready should trouble break out. At home, he's constantly fending off the amorous advances of his "aunt," Mamie Van Doren. Of course, Russ's character is a narc, sent undercover to infiltrate the school dope ring. High School Confidential's cast includes Lyle Talbot, Michael Landon and famous offspring William Wellman Jr., and Charlie Chaplin Jr. Fifties teen movies (and drug-hysteria movies) just don't come any better than this; simultaneously absurd, exciting, and hilarious. --Jerry Renshaw

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