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From director IRVIN S. YEAWORTH, the man who made The Blob, 4-D Man
, and Dinosaurus
, comes the “True-Life Story” of Fred Garland, a liquor-lovin’ producer, talent agent, swindler, and “complete bum” who gets hooked on heroin and ends up becoming… a preacher! Shot in 1952 as Twice Convicted
, the film was eventually transformed into The Flaming Teenage
when additional non-Yeaworth footage was added of Teenage Alcoholics making damn fools of themselves. The result is one of the oddest – and oddly enjoyable – cinematic mutants: the first story’s hilarious, the second disturbing, and the whole thing refreshingly nasty.
“For those of our sons and daughters who cannot find understanding in the home, there are a hundred evil substitutes abounding everywhere, and oft times with disastrous results,” says the stilted on-screen narrator (who sits at a desk behind a huge map of the globe). To prove his point, we’re introduced to teenage Tim Kruger who goes to a party, starts drinking with other teenage hotshots, and is later found by the police face down in the gutter, drunk as a skunk and covered in puke. The next morning, his concerned dad (GEORGE R. RUSSELL, the defense attorney in The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald
) takes Tim on a tour of seedy bars and dance-hall dives to show him what horrors lurk in “recreational drinking.” Don’t watch this part of the film sober.
We then meet Mr. Garland, a former soda jerk who tries to be a big shot on Broadway and, instead, finds he loves booze better. His drinking leads to his failure as a producer so he tries to run a talent agency until he attempts suicide after the girl-back-home rejects him. Penniless and still on the sauce, Fred slimes around as a low-level swindler until a drug dealer offers him a shot of heroin as “the ticket to take care of his blues.” Convinced he won’t become a junkie from one little poke, Fred wakes up in jail four year later with a monkey on his back. His only hope: religion. Fred not only accepts God, but is reborn as a skygrifter who preaches about his sinful lifestyle and the battles he waged against the demons Alcohol and Heroin: “Christ has done wonderful things for me and He will do the same for you!”
A former seminary student and maker of 16mm religious shorts, director Yeaworth has always made good-looking films on tiny budgets but his part of the film – shot (like The Blob
) in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania – remains so cheap looking, it actually adds to the overall despair of the characters. Yeaworth eventually returned to this drugs-and-salvation material for his last theatrical feature, Way Out
, with its inspirational story of Puerto Rican junkies in the Bronx ultimately saved by finding God.
And remember: “We must effectively cooperate in leading our teenage sons and daughters through the half-world of adolescence into responsible citizenship of men and women!” You betcha. Now repent and bottoms up!
From a 16mm “Fierce and Furious” print. -- Mr. Daddy-O
Ethel BarrettOther cast:
Jerry Franks, Shirley HolmesDirected by:
Irwin S. Yeaworth and Charles Edwards