Jail Bait

Jail Bait

Director: Edward D. Wood Jr.

Cast: Dolores Fuller, Lyle Talbot, Herbert Rawlinson

     
 

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Jail Bait was the place where Edward D. Wood Jr.'s career as a director entered the mainstream. Having exposed the world of transvestism in Glen or Glenda, he now turned to less ambitious fare in an effort at commercial success. Loosely patterned after the television series Dragnet, Jail Bait tells the story of Don Gregor (Clancey Malone),…  See more details below

Overview

Jail Bait was the place where Edward D. Wood Jr.'s career as a director entered the mainstream. Having exposed the world of transvestism in Glen or Glenda, he now turned to less ambitious fare in an effort at commercial success. Loosely patterned after the television series Dragnet, Jail Bait tells the story of Don Gregor (Clancey Malone), the spoiled, arrogant son of a successful plastic surgeon (Herbert Rawlinson), who is out for some kicks and excitement and hooks up with Vic Brady (Timothy Farrell), a career criminal. Opening with Don's arrest for illegal possession of a pistol, the film tracks his interaction with a pair of detectives (Lyle Talbot, Steve Reeves); his deceiving of his sister (Dolores Fuller) and his father; the robbery that goes wrong and leads him to murder an ex-cop; and his attempt to go straight, which gets him killed. That action, and Brady's attempt to force Dr. Gregor to alter his face, leads to a bizarre revenge that makes up the final 15 minutes of the movie. Little of this plot is unfolded skillfully -- Wood was already out of his depth in directing actors -- but having access to Howco's finances (meager as they were) and facilities gives Jail Bait a slightly smoother, less emaciated look than most of Wood's later movies. Coupled with the fact that he was trying to do a straight crime film, and the resulting restraint he showed in the writing, Jail Bait can just about "pass" as a normal, albeit very low-budget film, although, as with all of Wood's movies, there is still an unintended laugh every minute or so. And just to show how close to the edge Wood was working even at the outset of his career, in terms of using marginal talent, neophyte performers, and one-time successful actors, Bela Lugosi was not the first leading actor in a Wood movie to die during production -- that distinction went to Herbert Rawlinson, who played Dr. Gregor here. The former silent-era leading man reportedly died the night after he finished shooting his role in Jail Bait.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Jail Bait was Edward D. Wood Jr.'s first attempt at making a mainstream movie. Previously, he'd directed, written, and starred in Glen or Glenda, a very personal film about transvestism that was made for the exploitation film circuit. Jail Bait, however, was a crime film, really a film noir, made for Howco, a low-budget production company that specialized in genre entertainment and distributed its films to drive-ins and cheap but respectable neighborhood theaters. Co-written with Alex Gordon, Jail Bait follows the path of conventional crime movies, telling a cautionary tale about the privileged son (Clancey Malone) of a successful surgeon (Herbert Rawlinson, in a part intended for Bela Lugosi), who comes to no good end when he takes up with a professional hood (Timothy Farrell) in his quest for kicks. The plot up to that point isn't too different from that of the 1944 East Side Kids drama Million Dollar Kid, except that it's also presented partly as a police procedural. Wood was evidently intent on emulating the style and approach of Dragnet, which was then the hottest thing on television, although Jail Bait, thanks to Wood's strange direction, more resembles the radio version (then again, even the television version of Dragnet in those days strongly resembled its radio version). The focus is just as much on the two police detectives (portrayed by Lyle Talbot and Steve Reeves) as it is on the doomed Don Gregor or his family. Another bizarre element is the dialogue, both as written and as handled under Wood's direction. In between the police jargon and the tough-guy talk is very strangely written and paced developmental dialogue, especially between Rawlinson and Dolores Fuller (Wood's paramour at that time), playing his daughter, who sound like they're rehearsing a radio drama (and like they need a lot of work). It's when Rawlinson, portraying a gifted veteran surgeon, utters lines admitting that he finds plastic surgery "very complicated" that modern audiences start to laugh. Then there are scenes like the one where Don Gregor's corpse, left standing upright behind a curtain, tumbles out in front of his father without making enough noise to alert anyone in the next room. (Come to think of it, the idea of a day-old corpse left standing upright, perfectly still and without starting to smell of decay in a kitchen, is pretty funny too.) Those elements, plus the facial reconstruction surgery that Dr. Gregor improvises in a living room, would be enough to make Jail Bait worthwhile viewing for connoisseurs of the odd and unusual in filmmaking. But Wood also had the goal of emulating the zither score from The Third Man and the mood that it created, even though his movie is set in southern California and not Vienna. He couldn't find a zither player (or else couldn't afford to hire Ruth Welcome, who was certainly around at that time), so he reused Hoyt Curtin's guitar score from Howco's Mesa of Lost Women; thus, Jail Bait has this dramatic Spanish-style guitar, embellished with piano for the dramatic moments, noodling underneath its action and dialogue. That track, plus the presence of an embarrassing (but accurate) black-face comedy number set at the theater that's to be robbed, firmly place this movie in the main body of Wood's work, if not as well developed as it would later become in its mistakes and errors in judgement. It's not prime Edward D. Wood material -- as he gained experience and confidence, he grew bolder and began reaching beyond his grasp, making bigger and more interesting mistakes -- but, like watching a car that's starting to veer onto the shoulders of a highway at a medium speed, one can see here where Wood and his career were going.

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Product Details

Release Date:
09/25/2007
UPC:
0089218542595
Original Release:
1954
Source:
Alpha Video
Presentation:
[B&W]
Sales rank:
81,604

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Dolores Fuller Marilyn Gregor
Lyle Talbot Inspector Johns
Herbert Rawlinson Doctor Gregor
Steve Reeves Lieutentant Bob Lawrence
Clancy Malone Actor
Tina Lynn Actor
Wade Nichols Actor
Cotton Watts Actor
Timothy Farrell Vic Brady
Bud Osborne Night Watchman
Mona McKinnon Miss Willis
John Avery Police Doctor

Technical Credits
Edward D. Wood Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Charles Clement Editor
Alex Gordon Screenwriter
Igo Kantor Editor
Ray Mercer Special Effects
John Sylvester Makeup
William C. Thompson Cinematographer

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