601. Girls Town (1959)

Although not a favorite of mine this is a solid episode made palatable by the appearance of The Platters. They’re really good. Great cast here! Besides Mamie and The Velvet Fog you’ve got Elinor Donahue, Paul Anka, Gloria Talbot and even a quick appearance by Daddy-O himself, Dick Contino! Even my non-favorites are still fun to watch anyway! Mst3K is good even when it’s not so good :grin:

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lol…I met her sister last year. Gigi was often a sidekick to Natalie Wood, apparently. She was in such memorable films as Mrs. Skeffington and The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit.

And of course, I’m all, “And she was in GIRL’S TOWN!”

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While I was over at the Club MST3K archive, I went to refresh my memory on this one. It is the one I thought it was. My original comment there:

This whole movie is a roller coaster for me. Start with Mel ignoring rape to go back to making out with his girlfriend. Then the painfully stupid and awful gang fight. Then fantastic riffing mixed with catcalling. Then Mel, who let the rape happen, obstructed justice, fled from vehicular manslaughter, kidnapped an underage girl, set her up to be sexually assaulted again, and planned to sell her into prostitution in Mexico (all because the only thing he cares about is his car) gets to walk away scott free just for agreeing (under threat of physical violence) to testify the truth (most of which he didn’t actually witness). Then some more good riffs and a mostly happy ending. Then the toxic sexism in too many of the comments below… I want to enjoy the nun jokes, but there’s so much pain.

I’m glad we’re not dealing with those comments here.

There’s a lot to like in the episode. Some stellar riffing. Mamie is great. (And I love that she hosted the Turkey Day marathon with Adam West.) Making fun of Paul Anka is fun. But the movie isn’t just bad (as in poorly made). It’s evil. And that makes the episode harder to enjoy.

I always have mixed feelings about the catcalling riffs. Are they calling out and making fun of the film’s obvious sexism, or are they supporting that sexism? It always seems to be a mix of both, and I’m never quite sure how to digest that.

It’s not Kitten With A Whip. I can watch this episode and mostly enjoy it. But it’s never going to be on my list of favorites.

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Part of that for me is that Kitten With a Whip is a stressful movie (see also: Teen-Age Crime Wave, which gets into my dislike of hostage situation movies), David’s laughable dumbassery aside.

Even though STUFF HAPPENS in Girls Town, I don’t really get that sense of stress from the movie (possibly due to its ham-handed execution?) which helps to make that register as a better and more enjoyable episode for me than Kitten With a Whip.

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Yes, exactly. Kitten With A Whip is all about him being stressed and embarrassed while she twists the knife over and over and it just keeps getting worse. I can’t watch it.

Girls Town is a lot more lighthearted with song and dance and frolicking. With the message that “delinquents” are often lashing out because society mistreats them, but if you give them support, patience, and understanding, they can start to thrive.

So, yeah, as you say, STUFF HAPPENS, but it’s a far better and more watchable movie than Kitten With A Whip. But that’s a very low bar. Like I said, I can enjoy this episode, mostly, but it’s never going to be one of my personal favorites.

But I get that others like it more, and that’s cool, too.

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Plus you have all that business with that one guy getting his arm cut open by a straight razor and the search for a “not gonna say anything” doctor, and… there’s a great deal of tension, some of which threatens to overwhelm the jokes.

Mmhmm. It’s like the movie is camp without being OVERTLY campy, if that makes sense.

It’s under-the-radar stealth camp.

And although there’s conflict and attempted tension near the end, the movie never really effectively succeeds at working that tension, which prevents the riffing from being overwhelmed by the onscreen action. I mean, the hard-rock nuns hauling keister to stomp the frogsnot out of Mel Torme kinda has that effect.

I can dig it, yeah. [fistbump]

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I, for one, refuse to simply accept this without at least a token effort being made by the filmmaker to indicate that such is the case. Have a few of the girls carry around some text books; have some one say, “Oops, I’ll be late for Sister Rotunda’s shorthand class. We’re having a quiz today.” Have Sister Mary Wickes in her nun’s habit and tennis shoes and with her coach’s whistle in your movie. (To be honest, though, “Put Mary Wickes as a nun in it” is my personal recommendation for every movie. I bet that one simple move would have solved the whole Batgirl movie fiasco.)) Just something to say, “Here folks, ya got it? They go to classes. We don’t actually have enough money left in the budget to build a classroom set, but ya got it now? They go to classes here.” That would satisfy me. I’ll be generous and assume that something along those lines is in the movie, but got cut in the MST version.

And speaking of cuts – There is a musical number which got cut from the movie. While it would probably be considered PG fare today, it was deemed too hot for the times in 1959. Mamie sings in the shower. I won’t include the clip here in these family friendly forums, but it can be found in the usual places. That scene would have sent the wink wink nudge nudge factor of this movie off the charts.

Which leads me to one thing which kind of bothers me about this movie: the way they try to have it both ways – both salacious and sacred. It seems a weird juxtaposition the way they miss no opportunity to highlight Mamie’s physical attributes, but they do it against this prim and moral backdrop of this religious setting. It’s kinda like if The Song of Bernadette had been made by Russ Meyer.

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The exploitation flick generally did that: The idea was to have all the naughty fun you could get away with while framing said fun as a “bad thing” and a “moral hazard”. That way you could claim to be on the side of various people who like to control these sorts of things.

We’ll show you all these wicked things, but don’t YOU go thinking you should do them. :wink:

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Fair assessment on how it feels like they’re trying to craft a real characterization instead of having the movie dabble in tired stereotypes.

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Was/is her sister an actress as well? I looked at Gigi’s IMBD page and the only other thing I know I have seen her in is Dance With Me, Henry. It’s an Abbott & Costello picture. Looks like she did a lot of TV work too in the 1950’s and 60’s, so I may have seen her in a Perry Mason or Gomer Pyle episode and never known it.

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I did recently see her in a Perry Mason episode.

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This was their attempt to establish some “other science facts” but really didn’t amount to much, although given this was around the time I discovered the show, it felt way more important.

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Which seemed odd, given the (at-the-time) late stage of the game.

To paraphrase a riff from Racket Girls: “Science facts? Why here? Why now? Why us?”

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Definitely a great episode, very fun and watchable for being a teensploitation film. This film also has two moments that really makes my brain hurt for what it does:

  1. The entire sequence where Mother Veronica helps Silver scrub the floors and relays the story about the lemmings. First, the whole lemming tale itself is a ridiculous and long-debunked tale about their migratory patterns, not some behavioral notion of mass suicide, as she poorly attempts to allegorize with teenagers in general. Second, Silver COMPLETELY missing the point and believing she’s accusing her of killing Chip, like she’s wearing a wire or something. Third, and MOST egregious, is Mother Veronica practically stealing Spencer Tracy’s famous line from Boys Town (“I believe there’s no such thing in the world as a bad boy”), which, given the title and subject matter of this film (not to mention Mel Torme bearing a slight resemblance to Mickey Rooney), makes this whole thing feel like a means of capitalizing on the popularity of Boys Town…21 years later. :joy:

  2. When Silver needs to call back her sister, she asks “Ok if I use the Alexander Graham?” leaving Mother Veronica justifiably perplexed. SLANG DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY! The whole point of slang is to shorten words and phrases to make them easier to say and understand to the person you’re talking to, and “telephone” already has the built-in slang term “phone”. You DON’T use slang to make something more difficult to say, and Silver DEFINITELY wouldn’t be using it to show off that she knows who invented it.

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Green’s Dictionary of Slang lists ‘Alexander’ as slang for telephone.

https://greensdictofslang.com/entry/6wfcf4a

Which arguably is longer and harder to say than ‘telephone’. Slang isn’t just used to make language easier - it’s also used to identify with a group (jargon) and to make oneself harder to understand by people outside that group.

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I did think of that, using it as part of group speak like that. But it only proves how ridiculous it is to use it here because she’s definitely not talking to someone of her group, and considering how desperate she is to call back her sister (and her admonishment that her sister is “just a baby” is also hilarious, all things considered), using slang for such a request is ludiculous. Also, given the company Silver keeps, I don’t think any of them are exactly hip with the inventor of the telephone.

I question the etymology of the term. Green’s Dictionary of Slang was first published in 2010, and the example given is from 2002. It really sounds like adults writing teens poorly, which is pretty much my guess regarding all the slang in this film.

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Cockney rhyming slang does. Although sometimes it is shortened… but a couple of examples (these may no longer be valid, but they were ones my Cockney father told me): Apples and pears = stairs and Rosie Lee = tea.

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Ii think that’s an example of ‘group identifier’ slang.

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Yeah, I think it was the Perry Mason gig that convinced her wasn’t something she wanted to do, though I think she turns up here in there because she was always around movie sets and splits her time between Paris and L.A. so she was a good resource for American productions back in the day.

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To be fair, I don’t think it had been debunked at the time the film was made. Much like The Deadly Mantis mentioning the claim that the female praying mantis eats her mate after doing the deed. Though the lemming one came from deliberate fraud, while the praying mantis one was a result of flawed observation.

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