Renegade teens on the loose

I love the music and the styles of the 1950s—the shiny chrome, the doo-wop music, and the regimented righteousness that now seems a bit absurd. I adore those kitschy old hygiene films. I also love to watch other movies from or about this time period. Most people have seen Grease (Randal Kleiser, 1978), and American Graffiti (George Lucas, 1973). If you haven’t, I would highly recommend them. Today I’m going to tell you about two others you might not have seen. They’ve got some similarities.

First I’ll give you an Elvis movie. His films vary in quality, but there’s always a good song or two to make up for it. I recently saw King Creole (Michael Curtiz, 1958), which I truly enjoyed. I thought it was an interesting movie beyond the great music, and there’s a lovely song before Elvis even appears. King Creole is a musical about crime and juvenile delinquency, set in New Orleans. It has all the elements of the genre—gangsters, floozies, and hoods. There’s a bit of depth to this one, but not so much that it gets in the way of the fun. I found myself very entertained.

I am also very entertained by my second pick, another musical about crime and juvenile delinquency (a rare genre, to be sure). Cry-baby (John Waters, 1990) is one of my favorite movies. It’s a send-up of Elvis and the 1950s at the same time as it as an homage to the styles and the music. The soundtrack is full of original pieces, but also contains some classics from the period. It highlights how enormous the changes were in the music of the time, switching from sweet four-part harmony pieces to raucous blues-inspired growls. This movie also features Johnny Depp in an early role. If you’re a fan of his, you ought to see it. I love the “wink wink nudge nudge” tone of the film, and John Waters adds a few Diane Arbus touches with his casting and script.

If you’d like to revisit old memories or perhaps escape to a time before you were born, I suggest a double-feature of these two films. Pass the popcorn.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

156. Is there a time period that you feel a special affection for? Seek out some movies that capture the essence of what you love about that time, and share them with others. Theme party, anyone?

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