Monday, February 06, 2017

Too Young, Too Immoral (Raymond Phelan, 1962)

Raymond Phelan was the cinematographer for several early Doris Wishman nudist films as well as Jazz on a Summer's Day. So with the title Too Young, Too Immoral, I assumed I was in for a sexploitation romp. Instead, written, directed, shot by and starring Phelan, it's a convoluted crime story about dope pushers in New York City (with a naughty oral sex scene tacked on to the beginning). Taylor Mead at his cutest is on hand as a deaf pusher named Scribbles. He shares a scene with Brenda Denaut, the mother of the Arquette clan (Alexis, David, Patricia, Rosanna, etc.). There's a probably queer crime lord in a wheelchair named Mr. Claude. It's all sadly forgettable but of course, I'm glad to have seen a film that was languishing in Phelan's Vermont home from which Anthology Film Archives extracted it for the first screening in 50 years. It works best as a document of late 1950s NYC (you can tell the year because the 1958 film The Quiet American is advertised on a marquee). In fact, it's an orgy of NYCness. This scene is in the 42nd St. subway station, that one's by the East River, that location is on 35th between 1st and 2nd, then out to Fire Island, then up to Riverdale (!), let's look at this map of Manhattan, that toll booth charges ten cents, etc. And neon enthusiasts will get the vapors after about fifteen minutes. Best of all is a scene about gentrification. A building is being torn down and an old man laments the fact that he can no longer afford to live in the neighborhood because the rent is too high. This is the late 1950s, mind. Was New York City ever good? Was New York City ever bad?