Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hikmet Avedis, "The Teacher" (1974).

c. David Grim (taken 5/24/08)

... there's a lunatic driving a hearse, running around spying on pretty girls, and keeping his belongings in a coffin on the floor of an abandoned factory. But wait... over here is a stunning 28-year old teacher seducing an 18-year old ex-student (and son of her best friend). These two threads converge in the 1974-drive-in classic, "The Teacher". Fun and games is had by all.

Anthony James, the actor who plays the aforementioned pervert (who has recently returned from soldiering in Vietnam) is truly deranged looking. In the opening shots his character is seen running around gleefully stalking his object-of-obsession. His presence right from the beginning foreshadows some obvious nastiness, and the resulting anticipation drives the viewer's interest throughout the movie. Still, the prospect of seeing lead female Angel Tomkins sans her hip 70's wardrobe is just as enticing, if in an entirely different way. In fact it's her qualities that ultimately make this film work. Had the filmmakers chosen a less desirable actress, this would not have been nearly as fun.

And watching this type of thing (when it contains all the necessary exploitative elements) is certainly fun. Add in a recognizable face (child actor Jay North of "Dennis the Menace" fame, who spends the majority of his spare time paneling the inside of his van), and now you have amusement AND context. The acting and dialog sometimes fail to rise to professional standards, but the opportunity to see situations presented in a manner well outside the cinematic mainstream, along with some well-placed nudity, makes it all seem somehow worthwhile.

I'm not going to fully summarize the plot here, mostly because with this kind of affair that kind of analysis is fully beside the point. Suffice it to say that there is some romance, creepiness, violence, and humor thrown into the blender. What makes this so worthwhile is the glimpse into an era that is now long-past and is in no danger of being replicated. If you want to develop some perspective about how our country has changed in the last 40 years (and much of it decidedly NOT for the better), then sit down with "The Teacher". After all, it's not just teenage boys who need this kind of guidance.

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