Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Trip with the Teacher (Earl Barton, 1975)

Feeling a tad sluggish in the everything department, I took a much needed break from scouring the internet for pictures of Samantha Mathis, and I decided to bask (I always bask, never watch - watching is for losers) in the sun-baked seediness of Trip with the Teacher (a.k.a. Deadly Field Trip), a rough grindhouse picture directed by some guy named Earl Barton. Screaming the mid-1970s at every turn and lacking the intellectual posturing that was not prevalent of the era, this girlish bus excursion gone awry, psychopathic hippy biker tale could not have been made at any other time. I mean, it's like Easy Rider, only with more sadism. There's no enlightenment, or carefree frolicking on this road trip. And you can forget about peace and love. Taking the film's straightforward title and not expanding on it, the film is about four girls who take a trip...with their teacher. What else is there? Oh, yeah, traveling on a short bus through some nameless wasteland, the attractive girls and their attractive female teacher (Brenda Fogarty) come across a trio of bikers along an arid stretch of road. This threesome contains two brothers named Al (Zalman King) and Pete (Robert Porter), and Jay (Robert Gribben), a helpful guy who's just tagging along. Now this Jay fella is completely harmless, it's the brothers the girls should be worried about it. Well, actually, Al's the one the girls should be worried about (car mechanics and bus drivers should take some heed, too). Anyway, the girls and these bikers battle each other over the course of the film. Sacrifices are made, faces are slapped, feelings are hurt. It's cinematic degradation for the wounded spirit.

Rife with girl-on-girl fights in a desert setting, leggy coeds in colourful outfits that are barely there material-wise, sneering rapists in over-sized sunglasses, and gullible do-gooders who have a habit of coming back from the dead, this unexpectedly violent film is a gritty opus, one that does a terrific job of titillating as it revolts.

The cotton panties/yellow short-shorts dilemma that arises over the character of Bobbie (the enchanting Dina Ousley) best exemplifies this titillation-revulsion conflict. You see, Bobbie is told to remove her yellow short-shorts by one of the unruly bikers (Al, of course), which leaves her standing there in nothing but her flower-adorned panties.

Who was shocked that she was wearing any in the first place? Panties, that is. Anybody? No? Okay. Anyway, Al is distracted and moves onto something else, rendering Bobbie short-short-less.

Now, part of me wanted her seek out her short-shorts and reattach them to her lithesome frame, while the part of me that stares at mindless infomercials while eating cornflakes in unwashed sweatpants at three in the morning wanted her to stay in her panties. And I have say, the pantie part of me had its way for a large chunk of time. Which, as you would expect, did nothing but confuse the short-shorts part.

He couldn't understand why she didn't put them back on immediately after Al left the room. Maybe she figured he'd come back and would make her take them off again, or maybe she enjoyed the newly acquired airflow around her genitals (after all, the short-shorts did look extremely tight). Well, what ever it was, this bit of attire-based confusion confounded me like you wouldn't believe.

Loathsome to the outer fringes of debased lunacy, Zalman King is malevolence personified as Al. Sporting an unkempt mane of hair, garish sunglasses that seem to cover his entire face, a wheezing cackle of a laugh, and an ultra-nasty disposition, Zalman creates one of the most unlikable scumbags I have ever seen bandied about in an exploitation picture.

It's mildly ironic that the future director of the Red Shoe Diaries should be so convincing as a detestable asshole. In that, his work as a director is renowned for its depiction of sex as a gentle act of love between two consenting adults. At any rate, even though he's vile and completely uncouth, I thought he was fantastic as a thuggish creep.

The lovely Dina Ousley, who plays the repeatedly aforementioned Bobbie, gave my favourite performance out of all the girls in Trip with the Teacher. She stood out from the crowd, and not just because she was the sexiest and had the most interesting hair, but because she enunciated her lines more competently than the others. And plus her character was scrappy, and I love scrappy. The other girls were hard to tell apart at first (they all wore either skimpy skirts or short-shorts).

Luckily, costume designer, Carol Evans, choose to put them in different coloured outfits to help the audience differentiate, much like say, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers or possibly the members of Esplendor Geométrico ("possibly," because I have no idea what they look like). Though, I couldn't help but notice that Dina Ousley's Bobbie wore all yellow, while Julie (Cathy Worthington) rocked a yellow and white combo. Tragedy is averted when the two similarly-coloured gals managed to develop their characters beyond their initial chromatic sameness.

Rounding out the cast: Jill Voigt plays Tina, the shy one in the group (her light blue sleeveless shirt and checkered white skirt ensemble gave Tina an almost ethereal temperament), the earthy Brenda Fogarty imbues Miss Tenny with a motherly aura (her signature outfit was a drab off-white number that often got lost during some of the film's outdoor scenes), and Susan Russell makes her presence felt as Pam, a demure yet feisty brunette (the saucy green skirt with a matching top she sports throughout the movie helped her stand out from the crowd, this is especially true during her brief scrap with Bobbie).

An extended foot chase (featuring this great sinister sounding music I've heard used in a couple of other movies from this era), an off-road bike pursuit, and beautiful scenery also help pass the time. However, the insane Zalman King and Dina Ousley's headstrong Bobbie are, in my opinion, the main reasons to check out this flick.

Quirky fun-fact: Dina Ousley is now a makeup artist whose work can be seen regularly on Deal or No Deal.


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6 comments:

  1. Hi there, apologies for leaving a comment but I couldn't find a contact email address.

    I work for TotalFilm.com and was ondering if you could drop me an email.

    We're currently putting together our short list for our 2009 movie blog awards and would like to put House of Self-Indulgence forward.

    You can reach me at:
    chris.hicks@futurenet.co.uk

    Hope to speak soon,

    Chris

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow, thanks for the nomination. I'm all twitter. Seriously, though, I'm honoured and stuff.

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  3. PT-1
    Enjoyed your review of Trip with Teacher.

    I had just watched this on googlevideo of all places.

    I was very engrossed in this movie! It was that type of action suspense I miss. It's all under the table low budget but done with dedication.

    Al.. wow, yes, what a character. VERY unlikeable. I'm not sure if you mentioned a Sean Penn reference (someone else must have) as he looks like his brother.
    I truly think, if he had got that lucky casting, he would be one of the top old men in Hollywood acting golden guys club today. He is of course, there according to his income charts from his productions.
    Amazing! Versatility is inspiring. Even the way he plays the maniac is dedication. You see his physical motions while creating the vortex point of total control of the scenes. As if he was the director on and off camera. It was that convincing to me, and I'm sure he was keeping both sides in mind.

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  4. PT 2--
    GREAT REVIEW..
    I have just ordered Blue Sunshine on DVD and eagerly await that for another performance by ZALMAN KING, although the topic of that movie intrigues me on another level than the movie on Topic.
    You did nail the observation of the gals and their depths. I was surprised that the bookworm was snuffed!
    The last shot of the film (you show), which stuck in my mind while I was watching, reminded me of some utopian scene, the way they set it up, that stretched depth of field shot. What a mixed bag of nuts. I did believe the Hero was still alive, but it took about a minute after he crashed to sense this. Initially I was hoping the bus driver was going to stay in the background and end up breakin' necks to earn his cheques.
    Anyways, great observations, and Awesome job for making the totalfilm list 2009! hey.. 3% is a HUGE number in reality.

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  5. LOL, I just watched this last night for the first time as part of a "drive-in movie" set I ordered. It totally floored me, the bomb!! You're right, it reeks of mid-70's at every turn, I was surprised at how good it was for a grindhouse sleeze film, the director did a great job of suspense and the casting is superb, the combination of these two elements usually translating to a good film. Great review and pics!

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