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Film / Untamed Youth

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Jiggle and wiggle and wriggle and rock!

Untamed Youth is a 1957 Exploitation Film produced by Aubrey Schenck, directed by Howard W. Koch, and starring Mamie Van Doren, John Russell, Lori Nelson, and Don Burnett.

Hitchhiking sisters Penny and Jane Lowe (Van Doren and Nelson respectively) are arrested on trumped-up charges of vagrancy and sentenced to a stretch of jail time; the judge (Lurene Tuttle) offers to commute the sentence if the two agree to a work-release program, picking cotton on a nearby ranch-cum-halfway house where several other prisoners are already employed.

Said ranch is run by the local cotton magnate (Russell) like a Southern plantation, complete with all the slavery overtones; the man employs usury, extortion, and outright fraud to keep his workers permanently indentured, and even schemes to drive the other cotton farmers under by maintaining a monopoly on the local labor pool with help from the judge. Things get even more complicated when the judge's goodhearted son (Burnett) takes a job on the ranch and begins to take notice of the less-than-ideal working conditions.

Will the kids ever get out from under the cotton magnate's thumb? Will the judge oppose her own son for her own greedy ends, or will she come clean? Will Mamie Van Doren sing another song?

The film was known for being the first non-science fiction/monster film featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000; for details on that treatment, visit the episode recap page.

The film untames the following tropes:

  • Affably Evil: Probable; the cook seems to be on good terms with the workers, but he falls into the "evil" category if you presume he's fully aware that he's feeding them dog food and procuring Penny for Tropp.
  • Atrocious Alias: "Baby" hates being called that — although, notably, she never offers a better alternative.
  • Bad Boss: Russ Tropp makes his workers pay exorbitant fees for their own (substandard) room, board, food and work supplies, out of the already low wages he's supposed to be paying them. Further, he occasionally allows one female worker to get out of the fields to be his "housekeeper" (read: live-in mistress), and turns his Right-Hand Attack Dogs loose on anyone who so much as looks at him cross-eyed.
  • Boxed Crook: There's a labor shortage in the area, so Tropp pays for the local government to ship him petty crooks to work off their sentences as farm hands (manufacturing charges if they can't find real criminals), who he doesn't have to pay market rate for — and can find various reasons to garnish their wages so that they have to keep working for him as long as he needs them.
  • Closest Thing We Got: A couple of the workers get deputized at the end.
  • Company Town: Tropp's farm is a small-scale version of this. He's both the landlord and the boss, and most of the workers don't have the option of quitting because the alternative to working for him is doing time in the county jail.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: When they first arrive at the ranch's bunk house, Penny and Jane get into a fight with another girl over bunking arrangements. Jane beats the sarcastic out of the girl, after which they almost immediately become BFFs.
  • Disposable Vagrant: The cornerstone of the racket, and the reason Sheriff Bowers resorts to blatantly false charges to arrest people for the work program, likely has something to do with this trope. Namely, no one will question why those hitchhikers went to jail, then into that work-release program, and never came out.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Mr. Tropp is rotten to the core, but even he gets irate when he catches one of his (paid) farmhands drinking on the job.
    • Sheriff Bowers is corrupt, and is colluding with Tropp's scheme for personal gain. But when Tropp tells Bowers to run over the rebelling teenagers at the climax, Bowers refuses.
  • Insult Backfire: Bowers accosts the Lowe sisters while they're swimming nude. When told he's "not much of a gentleman," he retorts, "I never was! Now get out!"
  • Karma Houdini: Judge Stone gets absolutely no comeuppance for her part in the plot. She does lose her job as a judge, but this is entirely voluntary. And to be perfectly fair, the film does imply that she didn't truly realize the horrible living conditions Tropp was making the workers endure.
  • Love Martyr: Judge Stone is totally in love with Tropp and so helps him with his schemes. Notably, he doesn't return the affection; when he speaks of his future plans, he says "I" rather than "we."
  • Mood Whiplash: If you're paying attention to the plot, the movie's characteristic scenes of "teenagers dancing and partying" seem seriously out of place after a shockingly dark turn of events where Baby dies from a miscarriage.
  • Moving the Goalposts: By charging his workers more for their room and board than they can pay, Tropp can make them continue working for him to "pay it off" — which, of course, they can never do.
  • Murder by Inaction: Baby faints in the field; Bob insists she get medical attention, but Tropp doesn't allow it. Later on, Baby dies from blood loss and exhaustion having had a miscarriage at five months pregnancy.
  • No Name Given: Baby. When she dies, Bob notes that no one even knows her real name.
  • Police Are Useless: Bowers, too, is in on the racket, arresting young people on trumped-up charges so as to create a "labor pool." Defied at the end, when Bowers is forced both to arrest Tropp and his henchmen, and to search Tropp for certain incriminating evidence.
  • Right-Hand Attack Dog: Tropp keeps a pair of Dobermans handy in case anyone gets out of line.
  • Skinny Dipping: The Lowe sisters are doing this when Sheriff Bowers catches them.
  • Small-Town Tyrant: Other than being rail-thin, Tropp is a Fat, Sweaty Southerner in a White Suit. And in addition to the racket he's got going with the judge, he's also scheming to smuggle in migrant workers from Mexico.