Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

JAIL BAIT

Steve Reeves and Lyle Talbot
JAIL BAIT (1954). Director: Edward D. Wood Jr.

"Stay here, he says. Where does he suppose I'd go dressed in this?" -- Loretta in a negligee.

Don Gregor (Clancy Malone), the son of a respected plastic surgeon, Dr. Gregor (Herbert Rawlinson of King of the Royal Mounted), is pulled into a box office robbery by his slimy buddy, Vic Brady (Timothy Farrell of Gun Girls). When Don shoots and kills a night watchman, his father convinces him to turn himself in, but not before he confronts Brady, with tragic results. Brady forces the doctor to make him a new face, but the doc has an ironic scheme in mind. Jail Bait, directed by the notorious Ed Wood, really isn't much worse than a lot of low-budget C movies, although one can't say it's directed with any flair. Apparently Wood couldn't afford an orchestra so the score is played entirely on guitar and is rarely appropriate. Homely Delores Fuller, who appeared in a number of Wood's pictures, is typically poor as Don's concerned sister, Marilyn, but Mona McKinnon is better as a witness to the robbery, as is Tedi Thurman as Brady's saucy moll, Loretta. At one point Loretta complains, "I don't like dead men cluttering up my place." When she sees others looking around her apartment, she asks "Does this place look cheap to you?" -- yes, it does. Lyle Talbot, who apparently would appear in just about anything, plays the Inspector on the case, and compared to some of the actors seems like Laurence Olivier. Despite his good looks and physique, Steve Reeves [Athena] makes little impression as Lt. Bob Lawrence, although he would go on to better things, more or less. Clancy Malone gives a rather good performance in this but it was his only movie. Rawlinson amassed nearly 400 credits! The climax of the film is surprisingly suspenseful and has a clever denouement, even if the business with the surgery is completely absurd. Oddly watchable -- once. A cheap TV-style production.

Verdict: Sadly. Wood made much worse movies. **1/2.
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