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The 100




Jail Bait
(1954)
Reviewed by Ned Daigle
Rating: 7.5 Beans

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h Ed Wood! How do we love thee?

Before you get hot and bothered about the title of this little opus from schlockmeister Ed Wood ("Glen or Glenda", "Plan 9 From Outer Space"), let me just set the record straight. "Jail Bait" does not refer to a hot-to-trot underage bad girl. No sir. The jailbait in question is actually...a gun. "Jail Bait" is the story of how guns get an ordinarily nice guy into bad bad trouble.

Now, let me just say right off the bat that "Jail Bait" is not the film for those looking for quality filmmaking, but, it's not for those who love Ed Wood either. This particular film has some things that none of Wood's other films had: an actually comprehensible plot, a narrative flow, and a Twilight Zone type trick ending. The acting, dialogue and sets are just as bad as they ever were, but overall it's just not as bad as it could've or should've been.

This is the story of Don Gregor (Clancy Moore), the son of a plastic surgeon who, as the film opens, is being bailed out of jail for possession of an unregistered firearm by his sister, Marilyn (the ever awful Delores Fuller of "Glen or Glenda" fame). She is introduced to the two cops in charge of the case (played by Lyle Talbot and pre-"Hercules" Steve Reeves), her response "I hope I'm happy to know you" is bad enough as it is, but she says it with the inflection of a question, making one ponder the depths of its meaning.

Once Marilyn gets Don home (I guess they live together), he immediately finds another gun and goes to meet the local crime boss Vic Brady (Timothy Farrell, also of "Glen or Glenda"). Brady and Don go to rob a local movie theatre which goes awry ending up in the death of the nightwatchman and the shooting of a woman. During this scene one cop asks another if the nightwatchman is dead, "He's dead. Couldn't be any deader."

Oh, I almost forgot, after Don takes the gun, and before he and Vic rob the theatre, Director Wood, for some reason, cuts to a striptease that has nothing to do with anything. On the video box it states that this strip footage was actually restored from the original cut which was censored out. Why it was restored is anybody's guess. I figure Wood realized his film was pure crapola and that a little T&A would have to secure an audience. The video box went on to explain that the striptease footage was replaced by a "uninspired blackface number", the mind reels at what that could possibly have been.

Anyway, to protect himself from arrest, Vic shoots and kills Don, and calls father Dr. Gregor to blackmail him into giving him a new face. Before the operation (on Vic's living room couch), Dr. Gregor finds Don's body. Weeks later, Vic arrives at the doctor's house to get bandages removed, the police arrive and see that Vic now has Don's face. Since the woman shot in the holdup fingers Vic-as-Don to be the actual shooter, Vic-as-Don goes to prison, for Don's crimes.

Clever, no? However, the sheer lack of competence in almost every other department sink it. For an Ed Wood movie, what else was to be expected? The music is atrocious-a bizarre Mexican mariachi guitar score. All of the acting is deplorable, it's hard to say who gives the worst performance, it might be Fuller, but since her part is small, the winner is Herbert Rawlinson as Dr. Gregor. He's given the worst dialogue of all: "I reconstructed a guy's face tonight and it was strenuous and very very complicated. Plastic surgery at times seems to me to be very very complicated", or when allowing Don to escape to protect him from the police: "Out the back door and into the alley. The Doctors of the night will hide you." Doctors of the night????

There's so much more: a reel countdown is left unedited, the decor is so slight and tacky that one of the biggest laughs comes from Fuller who calls Brady a "cheap crook" only to have his girlfriend Loretta (Theodora Thurman) say "Ha! Cheap? Just look at this place. Vic is anything but cheap."

If you are looking for total "Glen or Glenda" type incompetence, look elsewhere. "Jail Bait" is bad, but it just might be Ed Wood's best. Which would still make it anyone else's worst."


Other reviews for this movie:

Nicholas D'Amico




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