Dave & Dennis Review: THE TEACHER

Posted: August 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

My frequent collaborator C. Dennis Moore and I are doing weekly … or at least something approaching that… reviews of whatever one challenges the other to review that week. I’m the author of the novels Gray Lake and Death Sight, the first novel in my Will Castleton series. Dennis is the author of the novels Revelations and the Amazon #1 horror bestseller The Third Floor. His new novelThe Ghosts of Mertland just came out. Dennis has written more than 1,000 reviews, many of which are available in a series of books . I used to write reviews for the entertainment section of a newspaper. Together Dennis and I have co-written a short novel called Band of Gypsies and the priced-to-sell $.99 full-length story collection Terror Is Our Trade. Right now we’re working on a new Will Castleton novel called Return to Angel Hill. Each week (or whatever) Dennis and I will post both our own and each other’s reviews of the subject at hand to our respective blogs – you can find Mr. Moore’s blog over here. This week, my pick was The Teacher.

Buy or rent THE TEACHER on Amazon
Watch THE TEACHER on Netflix

THE TEACHER: AN EPISODE OF THE BRADY BUNCH GONE HORRIBLY WRONG!

by David Bain

Four out of Five Stars

The Teacher (1974) is like an episode of The Brady Bunch gone horribly, horribly wrong. Similar hairstyles, similar music, a similar teen, similar cars, but now imagine Peter Brady coming home and announcing he’s just got it on with his “groovy” new teacher and he isn’t quite sure how to feel about it.

And, oh yeah, Peter mentions, Bobby got knifed while we were exploring an abandoned factory where it turns out Greg, who I just found out is a peeping Tom and cruises town in a hearse , has a creepy shrine to the teacher I just made the beast with two backs with.

Creepy is the operative word for this movie – and not in the usual Gothic, ghostly or even suspenseful meaning of the word, though there are indeed a few of those moments. Your skin crawls because, well, cradle-robbing. And because Anthony James is in it. James is about the oiliest, most cadaverous, most lecherous-looking character actor I can imagine next to maybe Angus Scrimm. (If you don’t know who he is, you’ll recognize him. He’s played every creep on TV, ever.) Even when James isn’t playing a stalker, as he does in The Teacher, you know he’s the type who’s going to be hovering over his computer in his parents’ basement, his hot breath fogging the screen as he stares at your Twitter account, waiting for you to announce what you had for dinner so he can buy a dozen cans of the same thing and reshape the Chef-Boy-Ardee wrappers into a collage which, in his imagination, looks just like your Facebook icon, and leave it on the front seat of your car for you to discover on your way to work the next morning.

If you haven’t guessed yet, the plot, in a nutshell, is Hot Young Teacher seduces Sexually Awkward Student over summer break. Creeper with Hots for Teacher doesn’t like this, and if he can’t have her, can’t no one have her. Bare skin and tensions sexual, situational and suspenseful ensue.

Which is to say The Teacher , for all its kitsch, is not a bad movie. To the contrary, once you get past the flared pantlegs, funky print shirts and every adult male’s muttonchop sideburns, it’s good, sleazy fun. We care about the teen protagonist, Sean (Jay North – formerly Dennis the Menace!).  And we are certainly reviled by the mere presence of James on the screen – I mean seriously. It doesn’t matter if the man overacts in this. They could just include pictures of him sitting in a chair and the audience would release a collective “Ewww.”

And maybe it’s because, like every male of my generation, I had this Marcia Brady thing going on as a pre-adolescent, and she bears more than a passing resemblance to the young Maureen McCormick, but if tawdry Seventies eye candy’s what your male gaze is looking for, you’ll find every bit you’ve ever asked for in Angel Tomkins, the titular teacher.  (Get your mind out of the gutter – “titular” means “denoted by the title,” not … well, okay, maybe in this case it does.)

A caveat – and maybe a little bit of a spoiler – but the ending is a bummer, man. And I mean a major bummer, dude. The cheaper aspects of the movie- budgetary and ethical – its relative good cinematic intentions, its comparative competence despite its cheesiness, all of these make it an enjoyable little flashback thriller with a decent drive-in aesthetic. You’re smirking to yourself, in B-movie contentment if not exactly bliss, when the ending punches you in the nose … and suddenly the popcorn doesn’t taste so good anymore.

It remains a worthy indulgence nonetheless. You wouldn’t see this movie made today. These days “The Teacher” would be all sex farce or all stalker/slasher, no middle ground. All about them demographics, dontyaknow? It’s a popcorn and beer on a late Saturday night kind of movie – just be sure to finish the popcorn before that final scene.

Buy or rent THE TEACHER on Amazon
Watch THE TEACHER on Netflix

THE TEACHER

by C. Dennis Moore

Four out of Five Stars

Holy crap was that ever the 70s.  I mean, I don’t know if it’s possible to be any more 70s than that.  I didn’t even know any one thing could, all on its own, be so much the 70s.

In 1974, Howard Avedis’s tale of lust and murder was a thing to behold.  It’s a classic story.  Boy meets girl (she was his teacher for 3 years before he graduated high school, which makes me wonder how the hell do you have 1 teacher 3 times in high school?  I took 5 years of high school and never once had that kind of overlap), boy falls for girl (he’s 18, she’s 28 and a knock-out, you do the math.  And, to be fair, she DID pursue him), boy is threatened by girl’s psycho secret admirer who blames boy for the death of his brother.

You could practically write the script yourself.  But you didn’t.  Unless you did, in which case, you need some new material.  But if you didn’t, and you’re relying on THE TEACHER to be your conduit into the seedy underworld of barely legal 1970s action, then you’d better grab your platform shoes and hang on cuz it gets pretty wild.

Lemme give you the skinny.

Sean and his friend Lou sneak to an abandoned building on the edge of town, just off the water (Lake? Ocean?  River?  The world may never know) so Lou can show Sean his (Lou’s) brother’s binoculars, because in the 70s, no one had ever seen so strange and exotic a gadget as binoculars, and they merited the special after school trip.  What they find when they look through the strange magical glasses is Sean’s old teacher, Diane, sunbathing topless on her boat.  Well, that just won’t stand, Jack: peeping on Diane is Lou’s brother Ralph’s gig, you dig?  When Ralph jumps out at them from the shadows of his shrine to the lovely Diane, he screams, startling his brother who falls to the ground several stories below, dead!

“You killed my brother!” Ralph yells at Sean.  “You pushed him!”

But Sean’s all like “Whatever dude, catch you later,” and he takes off, booking it back home.  Ralph shows up at Sean’s crib that night, peeping in his bedroom window, telling him if he spills anything to the fuzz, Ralph will cut out his tongue with a bayonet.  Sean’s tongue, not Ralph’s.  So Sean does what any self-respecting 70s wuss who didn’t grow up on a healthy diet of KARATE KID and DEATH WISH movies–and since “Starsky and Hutch” was still a year away, Sean was really SOL–does: he says right on, and he shuts the hell up.

Enter Diane.  Diane the former teacher is not only a good friend of the family and a neighbor, she’s also a lonely, lonely woman.  Her husband is a vagabond biker who can’t settle in one place, and he’s been gone for a while.  So Diane decides she’s divorcing him and getting herself a new man.  Who better than the 10-years-her-junior son of her friend Alice?  Because the dating scene in the early 70s, it was rough out there, man, what with your Watergates and oil crises.  And since Sean is not only a virgin, but a very very incredibly naïve and cowardly virgin to boot, all the better.  He’ll be putty in her hands.

The two embark on a whirlwind affair, complete with 20-second petting sessions in Diane’s boat that leave them both, somehow, breathless and spent.  She gives Sean free paneling from her garage to use in fixing up his van, and even takes him to dinner at a fancy restaurant where she orders a bottle of wine (Coke for Sean), then gives him some in his water glass, making sure no one sees.

Things are looking pretty groovy for Sean.  But there’s still Ralph to deal with.  And Ralph will have his revenge, dammit!!!

THE TEACHER is one of those movies you watch simply out of morbid curiosity, because there’s nothing about it that sounds the least bit interesting, but once it gets going and you see just what a train wreck it is, it’s already too late and you can’t NOT finish it.

If there was a narrative arc, I missed it.  To me, the bulk of the movie was just Sean and Diane’s affair, with the last 15 minutes finally spent on something resembling a climax.  Then again, considering some of the other “climaxes” featured in this movie, I already knew not to expect fireworks, or even smoke for that matter.  And I was right to expect disappointment.  Hey, it’s okay, it happens to all writer/directors once in a while, right?

And while I understood, mentally, that it was 1974, probably didn’t have a very large budget, and that the main character, Sean (Jay North), was being played by Dennis the Menace of more than a decade earlier, there was just so much wrong with this movie in ways the boggled the mind.

For one, there was Ralph, played by Anthony James (Skinny Dubois from UNFORGIVEN) who, while he played the role of pervert so well I had to register my copy of the DVD with the State, I think a big part of acting is knowing when to dial it down.  Holy God that dude was creepy!

Angel Tompkins (of the “Fall Guy”, “Knight Rider”, “Knots Landing” and “Hardcastle and McCormick” Angel Thompkinses)  played Diane.  She was a pretty good seductress, but she was hardly subtle and, at times, I just felt bad for the couple.  Diane obviously wanted good loving while Sean was totally in over his head and not ready mentally or emotionally for the responsibilities of an adult relationship  Then again, Diane’s character had all the markings of a grown woman who married too young and now just wants some juvenile fun.

Avedis’s direction is fine, for the most part.  It was the 70s, and everything about the camera work declared that loud and clear.  There was no action, no effects, and the few instances of something resembling a “fight” going down were obviously choreographed by a man with no depth perception, a drinking problem and a limp.

What I’m saying is, this was a BAD movie.  And I still dug it.  Because a movie like this is the very epitome of cheese.  If I’m going to be watching a bad movie, this is the kind of movie I want that bad movie to be.  So for me, THE TEACHER is a terrible movie in all the right ways.  If a movie can’t be high quality, the least it can do is be entertaining.  And by God, and despite every single thing about it, this movie does that.

Buy or rent THE TEACHER on Amazon
Watch THE TEACHER on Netflix

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