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TEENAGER [a.k.a. The Real Thing] (1974; Just For the Hell of It).

I have a fondness for movies about movie-making, as well as '70s biker flicks, and this weird, badly-titled no-budgeter covers both genres in one swoop. Directed by Gerald Seth Sindell (auteur behind the 1979 cable sexploitation fave, H.O.T.S.), it follows an obsessive director whose dream project is a biker movie so believable that it's difficult to know where fiction ends, and reality begins... Joe Warfield stars as driven young Billy Hazelrod, whose last effort was a "New Wave far-out film" that was part Fellini, part THE TRIP, and part film school masturbatory-slop. On the verge of a (self-proclaimed) breakthrough, his new project is a violent, improvisational biker flick, for which he dresses his amateur actors up as road-scum, takes them and his minimalist crew to a rural shithole, and without informing the populace, uses it as the backdrop for his grimy epic. In the process, a 16-year-old local girl (Andrea Cagan, from THE HOT BOX, and now a best-selling biographer who co-wrote Pam Grier's Foxy) is swept up by these sophisticated City Folk, and is soon swapping more-than-spit with one of the actors. Manipulating his actors and pissing off the unsuspecting residents, the cast occasionally loses their grasp on reality and causes actual vandalism and violence, which is then written into the script (e.g. when Billy stages a rape scene in the church, the locals beat the piss out of 'em, and it all becomes an extremely-realistic subplot). But when an accidental murder occurs on-camera, the actors realize they might've taken their craft too far -- even as Billy's only thought is to get a good shot of the body. Hey, it's all in the name of Art!... Although this provides little insight on how low-budget films are actually made -- simply using the idea as a springboard -- the script puts a likeably pretentious spin on its exploitative concept. Warfield makes a believable, self-destructive dickhead, while the only recognizable co-stars are 1966 Playboy Playmate Sue Bernard as Billy's lead actress, who gets lost in her biker-babe, psycho-bitch role (in a major departure from her passive supporting victim turn in FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!) and porn-stud John Holmes popping up briefly as a desk cop. Smarter and stranger than you'd initially expect, this is a solid concept, held back by some mediocre performances and a distinct lack of a budget.

© 1999 by Steven Puchalski.