Upbeat Cynicism

what do you mean i lost my mind?

Trip with the Teacher, 1975

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Sleaze. Pure 1970s drive-in grindhouse sleaze.

And I enjoyed it, without even a slight inclination to shower afterward. Mostly because, while Trip with the Teacher certainly strives to be dark, it’s rather hard to take seriously.

The parents of four female students ((High school? They never really say, but the girls are older than that, of course. )) have convinced one of their teachers to take them on a learning vacation over the summer. To that end, they have chartered a shortbus (No, seriously) which takes the women through the California desert to go to unspecified historical places, the only one really discussed is some kind of Indian ghost town. Don’t worry about this, it’s never important.

Elsewhere on backroads in the California desert, two brothers are having some problems. One of their motorcycles has blown a tire, and they’re nowhere near anywhere that can repair it. Plus, they never think to ride two on the one good bike to get to a garage.

But that’s okay, because a handsome stranger stops by and has a kit that will let them hotpatch the innertube and reinflate it enough to get to a garage.

One of those brothers is played by Zalman King ((The mastermind behind 9 1/2 Weeks and Red Shoe Diaries. )), who does a really good psycho, by way of James Dean, and for the first half of the movie hides his eyes behind some Bono-style sunglasses, making his off-kilter performance even more creepy.

Anyway, the three bikers and the shortbus brigade end up at the same gas station at the same time. By this point, all thought of fixing non-psycho-brother’s tire has been dropped, never to be mentioned again. The girls flirt with the bikers, the bikers harass the proprietor, the bus gets gas, and the bus driver acts all bumbly but protectively over the girls. The shortbus leaves, and the bikers get guff from the gas station proprietor, but they get the gas the need. Psycho brother then goes in to pay the guy, does, and then we find out how psycho he is. The station owner is in the garage, working under a car on a hydraulic jack, his legs sticking out. Psycho bro drops the jack, and the guy gets crushed. His scream of agony is covered by the two other bikers revving their motors (they have no clue what’s going down).

Down the road, the bus has broken down. Of course.

Then the three bikers pass by. They stop to “help” the damsels in distress, though they mostly seem interested in how the damsels can help them relieve stress. (And the damsels are not averse to this course of events, either.)

Anyway, the non-psycho brother remembers biking through that area a couple of years before, and happening across a farmer not too far away. So the three bikers tie up the bus to their bikes, and tow it to the farmhouse.

Which has been abandoned. Of course.

And is nowhere near the highway and incredibly isolated. Of course.

Then we get the keystone scene of the story, to which everything has been building and from which everything else proceeds. Having discovered the farmhouse (which looks nothing at all like a farm, and more like a small cabin than a house) is abandoned, the shortbus brigade starts complaining about how they’re now worse off than before. The brothers take it poorly (Handsome Guy just kind of stands in the background, which seems to be his true forté), and then bumbly bus driver says something that sets off Psycho Brother. Psycho Brother and Non-Psycho Brother get on their motorbikes and start chasing Bumbly.

So, does Bumbly act like he has even the remotest iota of sense or self-preservation? Does he run into the bus, which stands open and maybe ten feet away from him, within easy reach on foot and impossible to enter on motorbike?

Of course not!

Does he run into the trees, where the bikers brothers would have to at least slow down and be careful of roots and trunks?

Of course not!

No, Bumbly Bus Driver proves that he was driving a shortbus for a reason, and legs it out into the middle of an open, flat field, which offers no cover or protection of any kind.

And trips!

Non-Psycho Brother passes close by, putting a scare into him. But Psycho Brother runs over his neck, breaking it and killing Bumbly. (This bit is well-edited, not really showing what happens, but leaving no doubt in the viewer’s mind.)

So now everyone goes into the abandoned cabin and sits around, moping. Because that’s exactly what you do in this sort of situation.

From here on out it’s a hostage movie, the Biker Brothers holding everyone else in the cabin while convincing themselves that they have to kill the witnesses without acting like that’s what they’re going to do, and the hostages making various escape attempts before the final confrontation.

There’s more murder, though not as much as I expected going in, rape, though not graphic, and not nearly as much nudity as I expected from an exploitation film. The teacher is the one with the most skin exposed, and the students mostly don’t.

It might sound dreadful. It might even sound on par with Naked Massacre, which I loathed. But there are some important differences.

First, it’s not nearly as grim or self-important.

Second, the biker brothers are at no time made sympathetic or meant to be the characters with whom the audience identifies.

Third, this movie’s only purpose is to entertain. To be sure, it’s lowbrow, pure exploitation, and most of the characters aren’t even caricatures, they’re simply placeholder roles filled by warm bodies. But audience sympathy is always meant to be with the girls, and at no time are the portrayed as deserving of what happens to them. ((Here’s a shocker — both the avowed virgin and the avowed slut survive to the final credits. Bet you didn’t see that coming! ))

If you’re able to watch it as just a piece of trash, it is quite enjoyable, with some really well done scenes, and Zalman King’s already-noted performance as the Psycho Brother being an added treat.

I got this on the Drive-In Cult Classics 8 Movie Collection linked below, another incredible deal — 8 drive-in movies (all from Crown International, again) for five bucks. It’s also available as a double feature with Malibu High (also on the Drive-In collection), which plays with trailers before and between the two movies, a feature the 8 movie collection lacks. Otherwise, though, the Drive-In Collection is the far better deal.

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  1. I’m going to bed. Have a great time alone! Love you!

    Herself

    13 July 2008 at 8:04 am

  2. […] hairier moments tries to run a motorcyclist (who, in his goggles, looks a bit like Zalman King from Trip with the Teacher) off the road, and they contest for a pretty young hitchhiker. The whole bit runs nearly nine […]


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