Riot on Sunset Strip (1967)
“What to do about the youth problem? Where teenagers and young adults wearing outlandish clothes and hairdos congregate every Friday and Saturday night. Walking around aimlessly blocking traffic and the sidewalks.”
If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that this narration was prepping me for a zombie flick that predates George Romero’s landmark film, Night of the Living Dead, by one year. As it stands, this Sam Katzman production released by AIP was apparently torn from recent headlines when teens were frequenting a club known as Pandora’s Box and clashing with both police and the older generation running businesses on the “strip.”
This time capsule offers us a compelling matchup. It sends us spiraling back to ’67 where we can enjoy house bands including Deborah Travis and the Longhairs, The Chocolate Watchband or The Enemies playing at Pandora’s while at the same time jetting Andy Hardy from the 1930’s to the swinging sixties.
What I mean to say is that The Mick’s son, Tim Rooney looking like an Andy Hardy double is on hand tempting fate with spiked drinks and even has a hotrod to ride around in that would have fit right into the world of Judge Hardy and Son. What Tim will see here on the Sunset Strip that Andy never did are the swinging hips and breasts grinding it out on the dancefloor that the “code” never allowed for when Andy/Mickey was America’s number one teenager hanging with Ann Rutherford down at the malt shop.
Tim is mixed up with a bad group including Gene Kirkwood and Laurie Mock. One that involves drugs and alcohol. The trio will welcome the blond haired Mimsy Farmer into their inner circle. She’s new to the community and it’s her father, Aldo Ray, who’s the police chief running the crackdown on the teens invading the strip and illegally hanging out at Pandora’s Box that is owned by Pat Renalla. It’s during a drunken brawl in the club that will see Aldo’s baby girl arrested. That will prove to be just the tip of the iceberg for the one time star of multiple military films of the 1950’s.
For his part, Ray, is siding with the kids. He’ll even meet with some representatives of the movement and is impressed by the leader who promises to police themselves and stay in line provided the police profiling comes to a halt. The teens are frequently carded on the street and there is a curfew in place they want lifted for Friday and Saturday nights. Ray is in agreement but is not getting help from the higher ups in the chain of command at city hall. One has to just marvel at a line calmly delivered from one of our elderly suits in response to police clashing with teens on the strip, “ Well, they’re bound to lay the wood to a few heads.”
The plot will take on a darker tone when Mimsy tags along with the gang to what amounts as a break and enter. A large gang of teens will take roost and party in a palatial estate that has currently been vacated by the owner. Sex and drugs are on the menu and the dark haired Miss Mock is higher than a kite for the balance of the evening. Poor Mimsy knows she’s in a bad place and refuses both drugs and the overt advances of one of her fellow partygoers.
“Time to trip.”
Sadly she’ll be handed a drink laced with a narcotic. Once the drug takes hold she’ll launch into a very sexy dance akin to an Ann-Margret show on the Vegas Strip. Worse still is the bedroom scene to come….. I’ll leave that to your own imagination as does the film while attempting to keep the Rating’s Board happy.
I will say that once Aldo Ray learns that his only child has been drugged and molested he momentarily goes vigilante as any father would or dare I say should. It’s only a brief temper flare up but it did give me pause to realize that an Aldo Ray of the late 50’s into the 1960’s would have made a ferocious vigilante on screen in the right film. Unfortunately that wasn’t meant to be and by the time the 1970’s arrived with the vigilante movement in high gear, Ray, was by this point finished as a leading man and now primarily relegated to smaller roles in low budget affairs.
I’ll leave the outcome to you should you come across the film as I did on a TCM airing.
While Ray’s leading man status of the 1950’s opposite the likes of Judy Holiday and Rita Hayworth may have evaporated, he was a busy actor in the late 60’s. In 1967 alone he appeared in four films aimed at the double bill crowds, Sunset Strip, Kill a Dragon, The Violent Ones and a curious western with Henry Fonda, Welcome to Hard Times. He’d follow these up with a role more akin to his on screen persona in The Green Berets opposite The Duke in ’68. Tim Rooney’s career didn’t amount to the length of credits his Dad would have on screen. Rooney scored a few guest bits on TV in the 60’s with some movie work that petered out in the early 70’s.
The attractive 22 year old Mimsy Farmer was herself coming off some television work to star in a succession of drive-in favorites, Sunset Strip, Hot Rods To Hell, Devil’s Angels and The Wild Racers. Genre fans may know her best for starring in Dario Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet released in 1971, Autopsy in 1975 or Lucio Fulci’s 1981 thriller, The Black Cat.
The narrator who set us up during those opening minutes? Well I guess he’d go on to do voice work in multiple films though that plot device, often utilized for budgetary reasons, seems to have become a thing of the past.
Check that TCM guide for this “trip” back in time.