Teen-Age Strangler (1964)

Teen-Age Strangler PosterSomeone is stalking the distinctly inbred-looking ladies of Huntington, West Virginia leaving them laying in a heap, choked out with a stocking, and a big red “X” tattooed on their forehead with lipstick. What demented freak could possibly be behind this mildly interesting crime spree?

Is it Jimmy, the kid with the troubled past? Is it Marty, the malt shop owner who doesn’t like to give credit to the kids for sodas and burgers? Is it one of Jimmy’s gang of hotrodders?

Maybe it’s Runt, the dopey-looking slug who gets picked on by Jimmy’s gang of hotrodders despite him being Jimmy’s friend (though that would have to be pure pity on Jimmy’s part).

Could it be that creepy school janitor, Mr. Wilson, who doesn’t like cleaning up after a bunch of punks?

Heck, it might even be Jimmy’s little brother, Mike. He’s a four-eyed sissy with girlish voice and a secret past of his own. Though if he did turn out to be strangler, they might have to call the film Pre-Teen Strangler.

The movie really isn’t that much of a whodunit since most of the time is spent following Jimmy around as he periodically gets put under the umbrella of suspicion by the police and grounded by his parents.

Frankly, I wasn’t going into this one looking to unravel any densely-plotted mystery. I was hoping for some gang slang, bad music, and lots of posing by whitebread guys in leather jackets. If they could mix in some murders and a drag race, that would just be so much gang gravy.

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Well, they did it and they did it all in just about an hour! Teen-Age Strangler himself wasn’t terribly active until the end of things, but I was having too much fun counting all the fake sports pennants hanging up at both the malt shop and in Jimmy’s bedroom to really mind all that much.

Jimmy is sort of secretly dating Betty since Betty’s folks are against Jimmy’s type of boy, despite him looking as clean cut as Wally Cleaver. It’s Jimmy’s membership in that rowdy group of racing freaks called the Fastbacks that’s probably causing them the most consternation.

Jimmy’s status in that group though didn’t seem to lend itself to too much worrying since he’s out making time with Betty and getting himself named a prime suspect in the slaying of her friend while the rough guys in the Fastbacks are out dragging where it isn’t sanctioned. Hey, it’s like one of the Fastbacks says, “drag it or drop it.” Though I can’t quite grasp the meaning of that statement, it does sound like words to live by.

Huntington P.D. puts its best man on the case in Lt. Anderson and he wastes no time in visiting Betty’s house to get the low down on what exactly she saw when she was running away screaming while her friend was dying an agonizing death.

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Following textbook police procedure to the letter, he immediately gets in a shouting match with Betty’s dad about how he should be doing his job as a parent and making sure that Betty wasn’t out at all hours so that she could end up seeing murders.

Betty reveals that she thinks she saw that the killer was wearing a leather jacket with a bulldog emblem on it! “A bulldog! I think I saw a bulldog!” she screams as she collapses into tears while I collapsed into paroxysms of laughter. You see, the bulldog is the exclusive symbol of the Fastbacks!

All five Fastbacks are now under Lt. Anderson’s microscope and he hauls them in to find out which one did it. Perhaps not surprisingly, they all deny any involvement and so they are released into the custody of their parents who presumably have to promise that none of them will be allowed to strangle any more dames.

Back at the malt shop, another horror unfolds before our disbelieving eyes. Some girl gets up on the counter, proclaims her and this guy with a guitar the Huntington Astronauts, and starts singing one of those abominations that these low budget teen pictures traffic in.

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This time, it’s something called “Yipe Stripes” and is apparently about striped clothes. Accompanied by the sort of dancing that that guy in Footloose surely had in mind when he wanted it banned, you’re left to goggle in amazement as the Drew Carey-lookalike Marty, begins shimmying behind the counter! I would also complain that as soon as the guy with the guitar started playing, invisible horns and drums began to mysteriously play along with him, but I had already suspended whatever disbelief this movie caused when no one started pelting the Huntington Astronauts with half-eaten burgers and empty parfait glasses.

A meaningless drag race and a silly confrontation with the killer that sees Lt. Anderson shooting his gun at Teen-Age Strangler through a broken window despite a prospective victim being in the line of the fire close out the movie.

Funny moments, chiefly involving Jimmy’s little wuss brother Mike, give the movie whatever value it has. Between Mike simpering on about how he let Jimmy take the rap for something he really did, getting kicked in the face by Jimmy for being a sniveling pansy, and Mike riding his bike out onto the drag racing course to give Jimmy a message from Lt. Anderson, before crashing his bike into a fence, the creepy little dingus steals the show.

This is the other feature on Something Weird’s Teenage Terror Drive-In Double Feature along with the rougher more gang-ish Teenage Gang Debs. Teen-Age Strangler starring Mike is the perfect chaser to all the deb action of the first film and will leave you debating with your friends which one of them showcased the worst song: This one’s ode to pin stripes or Teenage Gang Debs insane attempt to start a kung fu dance fad with “Black Belt.” Regardless of where you come out on that issue, Mike will surely end up being your favorite gang deb.

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