For back-to-school time here’s my review of the 1960 Juvenile Delinquent classic High School Caesar.
HIGH SCHOOL CAESAR (1960) Category: Bad, youth-oriented 1960 movie that is incredibly campy This movie may have a 1960 release date but it is the most classically campy example of the Juvenile Delinquent movies of the 1950’s.
That genre spawned many “so bad they’re good” films like High School Hellcats, Untamed Youth and many others featuring fast cars, silly slang and misunderstood or just plain malevolent teenagers. High School Caesar renders itself even more laughable than other Juvenile Delinquent films with its wonderfully absurd premise.
Yes, this movie takes its cue from the Edward G Robinson gangster movie Little Caesar and depicts the phenomenon of juvenile delinquency as if it’s a High School ROTC version of organized crime.
The title character is a kind of leather-jacketed Don Corleone overseeing a high school operation involving hallway protection rackets, rigged student elections and a black market of stolen exam answers.
All of this is played so straight that it will have you laughing at the earnestness of the players, especially when our lead does the George Raft bit of manipulating a coin from finger to finger.
Of course a Juvenile Delinquent movie without enjoyably goofy rock songs would be like a Western without horses and High School Caesar does not disappoint on this level.
Of the eccentric musical numbers in this film my favorite is the exhilirating title song, featuring wonderful lyrics like this: “He’s got the teachers on the ruuuuun — The principal just bought a guuuuuun — High School Caesar, you know you ain’t got a friend — High School Caesar, you’re playin’ a game you can’t win — High School Caesar, you’re gonna get it in the end” As Russ Tamblyn said in High School Confidential , “MAN, that swings!”
Most of the cast members in this Teenage Gangster Ghoulash are faceless and unmemorable with the exception of the lead, the one and only John Ashley. Ashley’s checkered career wound its way through lead roles in schlock like Frankenstein’s Daughter to supporting roles in Frankie and Annette beach movies back to leads in youth-oriented monster flicks like Attack Of The The (sic) Eye Creatures before he starred in and produced (with Eddie Romero) the Blood Island movies from the Philippines.
Ashley’s performance in this film is hopelessly bland, conveying absolutely no sense of menace or danger. Stalwarts like Richard Bakalyan and Mamie Van Doren played their JD roles with such anger and constant sneering that their faces must have ached by the end of filming. Not so our High School Caesar, who, even in his black leather jacket is so comically non-threatening he couldn’t intimidate Potsie on Happy Days.
Naturally this JD film has the Obligatory Drag Racing scene and just as naturally someone dies in a car crash in the story. In the end Ashley gets his comeuppance and is left in a sobbing heap as the cops arrive on the scene (“Mother of Mercy! Is this the end of Little Fonzie?”) but it’s a fun and wild ride getting there.
More bad movie reviews – Entries are in alphabetical order. Here is the link: https://glitternight.com/bad-movies/
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