Another typical day at Santo Bello High begins as a pickup truck hauling Jerry Lee Lewis and his piano stops to entertain the teenagers. The "Killer" frantically pounds on the keys and belts out a frenzied rendition of the title song, thus starting HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL off with a bang. We then meet Tamblyn, a street tough recently arrived from Chicago,...read more
Another typical day at Santo Bello High begins as a pickup truck hauling Jerry Lee Lewis and his piano stops to entertain the teenagers. The "Killer" frantically pounds on the keys and belts out a frenzied rendition of the title song, thus starting HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL off with a bang.
We then meet Tamblyn, a street tough recently arrived from Chicago, who is living with his over-sexed aunt, Van Doren. Tamblyn assures his place at the new school by bullying nearly everyone he meets (including the principal), flashing a huge wad of cash, casting a lustful eye at attractive
English teacher Sterling, and stealing local gang leader Barrymore's girl friend, Jergens. After this whirlwind entrance, Tamblyn sets out to make a big drug deal. Seeing that Jergens is such a dope fiend that she keeps joints in her bra, Tamblyn cons her into revealing her contact for pot. After
weeding his way through a chain of small-time dealers, Tamblyn finally meets the big man himself, Mr. A (played by former child star Jackie Coogan), who works at the local hangout and pounds a piano with an intensity that rivals Lewis. There, Tamblyn sees a girl from his high school, Fair,
experiencing painful heroin withdrawal in the back room. Coogan offers to give her a fix, but only if she will agree to become a prostitute. Tamblyn wants to buy some heroin from Coogan, but the ever-suspicious drug dealer wants the kid to prove he needs it by shooting up for him. Tamblyn fakes
the injection by shooting the drug into a rubber ball hidden in the crook of his arm. Meanwhile, events occur that indicate tough guy Tamblyn isn't all he seems. At home he is seen to drink milk and he consistently resists the sexual advances of his nymphomaniac aunt. Among his friends he always
declines when drugs are offered to him. While waiting for Tamblyn to return home with more marijuana, girl friend Jergens discovers that her beau has tape-recorded his meeting with Coogan. Stopping by to pick up money for the big heroin deal, Tamblyn refuses to explain and asks Sterling to come to
his house and keep an eye on Jergens. Soon after he leaves, the home is invaded by Barrymore and his cronies and they discover that Tamblyn is actually a narcotics agent for the FBI. Having been warned by the teenagers that Tamblyn is a narc, Coogan awaits his arrival, gun in hand. When the
unsuspecting Tamblyn confronts Coogan, the drug dealer tries to shoot him, but the quick-thinking narc throws heroin in his face and after a brief struggle the police subdue the criminal and take him away. The film ends with the bad boys in reform school, Jergens kicking her pot habit, Van Doren
revealed to actually be no relation to Tamblyn, leaving the FBI man and teacher Sterling vowing to continue their battle against teenage drug abuse.
Produced by Zugsmith, a man with an amazingly diverse career (he has been involved in such notable efforts as Orson Welles' TOUCH OF EVIL, 1958, Douglas Sirk's WRITTEN ON THE WIND, 1957, and THE TARNISHED ANGELS, 1958, but then he is also responsible for such vile exploitation films as SEX KITTENS
GO TO COLLEGE, 1960, TEACHER WAS A SEXPOT, 1960, and LSD, I HATE YOU! 1967, as well as a host of others), HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL was sold to the public as a hard-hitting expose of the tragic drug abuse running rampant in US schools. The teenagers who went to see this film in droves knew better.
The film is high camp, tongue-in-cheek fun on a par with the cult classic REEFER MADNESS (1936). The dialog, with its "hip" 1950s jargon, is a delight to hear spoken with such flair, and the rebellious attitude of the teenagers fits right in among the midnight show crowd. This is not to say that
the problems of drug abuse are played for laughs. The film's treatment of these scenes is fairly straightforward and Tamblyn's character is shown to have deep concern for his heroin-addicted classmate. The amusement derives from hindsight and the thought that a major studio (MGM) tried to address
the horrors of drug abuse in a film that obviously panders to the rebellious attitudes of the very people to whom the "message" is aimed. While certainly not a great film (it's barely even a good one), HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL is certainly a curiosity worth looking at. Sequel: COLLEGE
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