Format: TCM on DVR
Decade: 1950's (and how)
Director: Edward Bernds
TEEN GIRLS IN A GANG.
A gang that TRICKS YOU INTO WEARING SLACKS WHEN THAT IS STRICTLY AGAINST THE DRESS CODE.
High School Hellcats (1958) is part of the post WWII shock and awe that occurred when the Greatest Generation had their own kids, and since we were in our first real generation where kids weren't sent to a field or factory or married off at age 14, we accidentally invented "the teenager", and then, immediately, "the juvenile delinquent" when those teens used their free time and allowances to cause a ruckus by dancing to rock AND roll down at the soda fountain.
This movie is dumb as hell, following the dumber-than-a-bag-of-rocks protagonist/ heroine "Joyce" as she is moved to a new town. Borrowing from Rebel Without a Cause (3 years earlier), Joyce's parents are distracted with lawyering and Bridge Club, and just want for her to behave, be home for supper and not date boys. Also, pointedly, for a now kinda not exactly a slip of a girl to not run around the house in her underwear. In truth, Joyce is a moron and a boor, so you kinda understand why dad wants her on a short leash.
She moves to a new school which is apparently segregated by gender, and she's immediately bullied into joining a gang called "The Hellcats", who seem to both seem hate her and insist on her membership and loyalty. Yes, they neg her into joining. Their big initiation is tricking her into wearing pants, which she isn't supposed to do. When her teacher says "oh, yeah, we don't do that at this school. Not a huge deal. Do you have a skirt?" in tears she runs out of the school and seeks solace in the person of a local soda jerk who claims he's going to college and denies having any personal attachments, so he'll just focus on Joyce, thank you. Entirely on Joyce.*
The gang is made up of some real winners and insists Joyce get nothing higher than a "D" for a grade, and is otherwise obsessed with parliamentary procedure. Joyce is all in. If she's going to randomly decide who to people-please while acting shocked that anyone else has some pretty basic expectations of her as a human, throwing in with the down-slope of the bell curve is absolutely the way to a brighter future.
I'm not clear on what The Hellcats existed to do. There's no organized crime, there don't seem to be threats of violence from which Joyce needs protection - except the Hellcats themselves, and then it seems like telling a teacher or principal "hey, those girls just threatened me. Is this normal?" would start the needed conversation. We're told the school is crawling with gangs, but... it's not apparent this is true or why or what for. So, in the manner of all people searching for a reason to exist when there is none - they really do get hooked on their internal rules. And as we all know, nothings says "rebel" like coming up with new and arbitrary rules!
Look, this movie is prime quality MST3K/ RiffTrax/ Friday Watch Party material. At the same time, knowing how sneaky and dumb high schoolers can be (and more than occasionally homicidal), it's hard to say "oh, this is so unbelievable". Y'all, if you told me all this was based on real events, I'd just say "yeah, okay. Man, high schoolers are dumb." Not all of them, but, you know, a LOT of them. This is where we get dumb adults.
I HIGHLY recommend High School Hellcats. It's short, mind-bending, an absolute time-capsule, and shows what happens when you cross a second-banana who knows she's absolutely peaking before graduation.
Out of nowhere, it gets really dark really fast, and just gets darker from there as everyone on screen makes wildly stupid choices but which would make for a keen set-up for Season 2 of Mare of Easttown.
*it's a reminder that back in the day, anyone over the age of 14 was, apparently, fair game. And why we have certain laws in place.