Juvenile Jungle (1958)

A faux-fight with one of his cronies allows Hal to have a "meet cute" with the girl he plans on kidnapping. (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
A faux-fight with one of his cronies allows Hal to have a “meet cute” with the girl he plans on kidnapping. (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

This film was watched as a “Netflix double bill” along with Young and Wild, which it was originally released in companion with. Be sure to check out yesterday’s review of Young and Wild, which was the superior of the two films!

Hal McQueen (Corey Allen, best known as Buzz Gunderson in Rebel Without a Cause), Tic-Tac (Richard Bakalyan) and Monte (Joe Di Reda) are a couple of small-time thieves who decide it’s about time that they get their hands on a bigger “paycheck.”

Determined to make the big bucks, the three craft a plan which includes kidnapping Carolyn Elliot (Anne Whitfield), the daughter of a businessman who owns the liquor store where they sometimes find targets of their pick-pocketing.

Things go awry, though, when Hal begins to fall for Carolyn.

From director William Witney and screenwriter Arthur T. Horman (the same pair who made yesterday’s reviewed film, Young and Wild) comes a story of the grand criminal adventures that take place in the Juvenile Jungle of the 1950s.

This film begins with a decidedly lighter mood than Young and Wild, the film it was paired with as a double bill. Whereas Young and Wild digs into the crime right away, Juvenile Jungle takes a few minutes and actually begins with a short beach party scene.

Lively music and amusing character quirks make this film far less serious than Young and Wild, and much closer to what is typical of the genre. As one may expect from a film with the “juvenile delinquency” genre label slapped on it, it is quite tame by today’s standards, despite the fact that there’s a kidnapping involved.

Kidnapper Hal meets the parents. (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
Kidnapper Hal meets the parents. (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Though more of an expected delinquency film than its pair, Juvenile Jungle is still a pretty good watch. The level of drama isn’t quite as immediately high – it tends to come in waves of highs and lows rather than maintaining high tension throughout – but some zippy dialogue and a slightly less predictable plot make up for this.

The pacing of the film is pretty good, never dull but not always running at break-neck speed either.

The performances are also very entertaining. I wouldn’t exactly call most of them “realistic” or “believable”; they’re quite obviously exaggerated, giving the film a little bit of a cheese value. But being a big fan of the cheese, for me  they were definitely fun to watch.

I can’t say I was completely impressed by this film. Having watched it as a double feature with Young and Wild and knowing that the same people were involved in making it, I had quite high expectations going in that Juvenile Jungle didn’t reach. It’s still an exciting little tale of juvenile crime, ever so slightly bringing the corn and definitely worth a watch on Netflix Instant. The score: 3/5

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