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IN THE FALL OF '55 EDEN CRIED (1967; Video Screams).

Two teenagers, stupid and in love, face grown-up responsibilities in this bizarre, astonishingly amateurish trainwreck. Shot in 1965, the film premiered in '67 (in Newburgh, NY, the hometown of its lead actress) but didn't play larger cities (Los Angeles, Atlanta) until 1972, with the seven-year-old production suddenly advertised like it was a period piece set in 1955 -- even though its fashions, furnishings, cars, music, and nightclub marquees are obviously from the mid-'60s. Early on, I began to suspect that this film was shelved after its initial screening, until some dodgy distributor realized that it was so badly dated that the only way to salvage this dud was to repackage it as some sort of nostalgic throwback. No one will notice its constant anachronisms, right? So who exactly is to blame for this misguided, no-budget mess? It's hard to be sure since Fred Johnson and Alex Kolis are separately credited with its direction in the opening titles... At a typical Malibu high school, cool kid Skip Garroway (Tom Pace) spends his free time surfing or cruising in his convertible, until he falls hard for Lorraine Parker (Carole Holland), a blonde cutie from a wealthy family. Alas, Skip is a hot-tempered, blue-collar sort, and after a drag race results in tragedy, Lorraine's father (Victor Izay) forbids him to ever see his daughter again. The smitten pair find ways to circumvent her pop's wishes though, which leads to one insipid, saccharine complication after another -- parental corporal punishment, a suicide attempt, dropping out of school, a quickie marriage, money problems (since Skip's gas station job doesn't cover their bills), plus Skip's best friend putting the moves on sexually-desperate Lorraine... No question, this is a lousy film. But it's also fascinatingly atrocious. With its big hair, tacky thrift shop set design and absurd 'teenage' actors (31-year-old Pace plays a high school junior!), it occasionally feels like some sorta early John Waters project (e.g., when Lorraine's matronly mom is called to the local police station, she inexplicably shows up in pearls and a fur stole). Most of the time though, the acting is so abysmal that it's closer to a fifth-rate Driver's Ed film, while the script boasts a preachy message similar to Christian flicks of that era. We get continuity screw-ups (Lorraine's clothing instantly changes from outdoors to indoors), it's padded out with pointless classroom scenes, and with the exception of a little PG heavy-petting, the flick is remarkably tame -- its second half turning into a tedious diatribe about the impetuous decisions of youth; then the whole thing abruptly ends, without any resolution! In the oddest decision of all, a nasally narrator continually breaks in with bone-headed insights ("This is surfing. It's very difficult."), snarky quips about how dumb the characters are, and hints at what's going to happen in the next scene. The crude cinematography is by Ted V. Mikels, just before his directorial career took off, with both Pace and Izay later appearing in such Mikels oddities as THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES and BLOOD ORGY OF THE SHE-DEVILS. Oh, and we never learn what the hell its title means.

© 2021 by Steven Puchalski.