The Molestibles

DON’T TALK TO STRANGE MEN is a late (1962) offering from director Pat “Miss Jackson if you’re nasty” Jackson, and it’s queasily watchable.

I have to use the adverb because there’s something off-putting about it. The story, by actress and one-shot scenarist Gwen Cherrell, is a bald illustration of the title, a cautionary tale/public information film warning teenage girls to beware. It’s hard to imagine any actual t.g.’s not feeling patronised by the whole project, and regarding the winsome protag as unbelievably stupid, even if they might, in reality, behave as foolishly. In the modern real world, the film’s device of the stranger grooming a gullible teen by call box would instead happen via social media.

In picturizing Cherrell’s tale, Jackson has added an ever-so-subtle leering quality, or it may be me that’s done that, I’m not altogether sure. In movies combining suspense and sexual threat there often seems to be a hint of the carnival come-on, a shared understanding between viewer and filmmaker that the very thing we’re supposed to be afraid of happening in this story is also the thing that has been used to entice us to watch, and keep watching.

By casting a well-spoken young model (Christina Gregg, aged twenty-three) in the lead schoolgirl role, Jackson adds a hint of lechery. The pretty but unbelievably stupid female innocent is a slightly sinister movie trope, allowing frustrated men to dream of a woman so dim she’ll sleep with them without knowing it. The little sister, played by Janina Faye, is smarter by far, kind of like Emmy Kockenlocker, and has the advantage of being portrayed by an actual child. Still, both girls are so sweet and innocent and middle-class, they almost have the effect of Mrs. Wilberforce in THE LADYKILLERS — it’s so shockingly unthinkable that the movie might allow anything bad to happen to them.

The entire movie is a big, excited build-up to rape and murder, fortunately averted — suspense really kicks in when Faye, riding to the rescue, becomes the one in danger. You can’t tear your eyes away, even though nothing is terribly convincing. A bus, pulling up in a day-for-night sequence, has no lights on. Fortunately, Dandy Nichols is aboard, lending quality. Mrs. Ethel Shroake dispenses sage advice but is of no practical help to the lemming-like teen.

The movie does have a brilliant punchline, which comes out of the blue (should a film like this even HAVE a punchline?) — when the relieved parents, after all is done and the sex maniac arrested, ask Faye how she even got to the potential crime scene, she shrugs, “I hitch-hiked!”

Eyes and minds boggle. Fade out.

7 Responses to “The Molestibles”

  1. Mark Burden Says:

    The actor playing the sexual predator is never mentioned, which I find very disappointing. Janina Faye previously played a paedophile’s victim in Never Take Candy From A Stranger.

  2. A mystery man! Like whoever plays the Ripper in Hands of the Ripper. Maybe it’s the same chap.

  3. chris schneider Says:

    “Hitchhike and damn be done!” ~ Laura Nyro

  4. David Ehrenstein Says:

    “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” has completely subsumed potboilers like this.

  5. In the UK, TV cop shows have almost completely subsumed police dramas on the big screen, apart from occasional fancies like Hot Fuzz. And yet American movies still regard detectives as suitable big-screen entertainment.

  6. bensondonald Says:

    Movie detectives, if they’re the stars, are rarely workaday cops. They have to be lone wolves pitted against madmen, shadowy conspiracies, corrupt officialdom (including their own department), and so on. Loose Cannons Willing To Take The Law Into Their Own Hands Against Impossible Odds. If they’re not the stars, they’re Lestrade and/or Javert versus the hero.

    Modern television detectives, on or off the force, tend to inhabit a soap opera or sitcom interrupted by lurid crimes. Criminals and victims are generally guest stars, so you can get downright horrific every week while preserving regulars with a consistent level of sanity.

    Never really a noir man myself. I prefer the amateurs annoying the police, the schleps trying to clear themselves, and the occasional knight-errant. And psychopaths who are perfectly mellow until the sleuth trots out the fatal clue — then eyes go wide and they’re screaming a confession laced with grievances against the victim and the romantic lead suspect.

  7. The best cop show on telly right now may be Year of the Rabbit, a nastily hilarious spoof on Victorian crime shows, though I’m perhaps biassed there, as I’ve met some of the people concerned…

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