DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
JAIL BAIT (director/writer: Edward D. Wood, Jr.; screenwriter: Alex Gordon; cinematographer: William C. Thompson; editors: Igo Kantor/Charles Clement; cast: Dolores Fuller (Marilyn Gregor), Lyle Talbot (Inspector Johns), Herbert Rawlinson (Doctor Boris Gregor), Clancy Malone (Don Gregor, son of Rawlinson), Theodora Thurman ( Loretta), Steve Reeves (Lieutentant Bob Lawrence), Timothy Farrell (Vic Brady), John Avery (Police Doctor), John Robert Martin (Detective McCall), Mona McKinnon (Miss Willis), Bud Osborne (Paul McKenna, Night Watchman),; Runtime: 80; Howco; 1954)

 
"This is Wood's attempt to be taken seriously, and he makes this the best film he has ever made."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Legendary schlockmeister Ed Wood cited for winning the Golden Turkey Award for Worst Director of 'All Time' and for bad films such as Glen or Glenda, Bride of the Monster, and Plan 9 from Outer Space, and for being an inspiration to all bad directors, tries desperately to make a film noir out of Jail Bait. The film is so poorly acted, the script is so ludicrous, the settings are so tacky but, unfortunately for Woods, the plot and the narration tell a complete and understandable story (something not done in Wood films). This is Wood's attempt to be taken seriously, and he makes this the best film he has ever made. Unfortunately, this film is not as prone to unintended laughs as his others and therefore fails to live up to what the director has built his reputation on. But this film has its moments, such as when Inspector Johns (Lyle Talbot) says: "Carrying a gun can be a dangerous business." Doctor Gregor's daughter Marilyn (Dolores Fuller) responds: "So can...building a skyscraper."

Jail Bait tells a conventional tale about the misfortunes of Don Gregor (Clancy Malone), the privileged son of a successful plastic surgeon (Herbert Rawlinson, in a part intended for Bela Lugosi...it should be noted that Rawlinson died on the night after the film was completed. It should also be noted that Bela Lugosi died after four days of filming Plan 9 from Outer Space (58) and was replaced by Wood's chiropractor). Don Gregor comes to a life of crime when he takes up with a small time criminal Vic Brady (Timothy Farrell) in his pursuit for juvenile kicks.

When Don's sister Marilyn comes to the police station and talks with Inspector Johns and Detective Lawrence (Steve Reeves-the future Hercules and Superman in his first talking role in films), they explain that her no-good brother is hanging out with criminals. She bails him out for carrying an unlicensed gun and he returns to his father's place and takes another gun with him before storming out of the house.

"Jail Bait" is a misleading title for the film, as it is a phrase that usually refers to underaged women. In this film "jail bait" refers to the fact that when Don takes the gun he puts himself in a position of "jail bait." He will be placed in jail, if caught, for a violation of bail terms.

At the Hunters' Inn Don gets his cut from a robbery pulled earlier on from Vic Brady, and is talked into going on another heist. They rob a theater of $25,000, but in the process Don gets nervous and kills the nightwatchman (Osborne), who happens to be a retired cop. This makes him a cop killer. Thereby Vic wounds a secretary (McKinnon) who was working late and just happened to be passing, as he wants to make sure there's no one around to identify them.

When Vic takes the frightened Don back to his swell pad he keeps with his gun moll girlfriend (Thurman), Don mentions that he wants to give himself up to the cops -- which greatly displeases Vic. Don sneaks out of Vic's place and visits dad's office, where he promises to give himself up soon. But as he leaves, he is grabbed in the back alley by Vic and taken back to his apartment. Vic then kills him so that he won't identify him with the crime and stuffs his body in the kitchen telling his girlfriend, we'll dump his body in the river later at night.

Warning: spoiler to follow.

Vic then gets the bright idea that he'll force Don's dad into doing plastic surgery on his face so that no one will recognize him. Dr. Gregor is told that once the surgery is successful the ones holding Don will release him. But, while in the kitchen to get some water, the doc discovers the body of his dead son. He completes the surgery and utters out loud "that plastic surgery at times seems to me to be very very complicated." When the operation is over he tells Vic not to take off the bandages until two weeks pass. At that time the doc has the police over to his place and when the bandages come off, the face is that of Don's. Not wanting to go to the electric chair Vic tries to escape, but is gunned down.

REVIEWED ON 5/3/2001     GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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