Movie Madness and/or Mania: Girls Town (Charles F. Haas, 1959)

While Father Flanagan may have claimed that “there are no bad boys”, its opposite number begs to differ. With a cast led by eternal bad girl Mamie Van Doren, the girls of Girls Town are born to be bad…

Girls Town

So how does one get sent to Girls Town? In the case of the baffled Silver Morgan (Van Doren) it is for pushing an attempted-rapist off a cliff, although she claims to have been at the big rumble with a rival gang at the time.

Silver only gets a reprieve from juvie because the Girls Town wood-paneled nunmobile rolls up to collect 15 year old Serafina Garcia for stalking Paul Anka. Anka’s smarmily insincere performance (his delicate sensibilities are offended by the very idea of a GIRL in a NIGHTGOWN in his room!) is painful to watch. He does promise to come and perform a special concert for the inmates of Girls Town, and even promises to tell everyone that he and Serafina have been friends for years. Overall, Paula Anka is full of bad ideas.

Silver isn’t in for much of a welcome, as her hardboiled roommates Vida and Flo are pretty quick to relieve her of her smuggled cigarettes and start judo-chopping her when she complains about it.

Girls Town

This movie pretty much has everything. It has 35 year old Mel Torme as a teenaged delinquent. It has beefcake accordion king Dick Contino as a love interest. It has the collective acting talents of Charles Chaplin, Jr., Harold Lloyd, Jr. and uh, well, Jimmy Mitchum. It has musical numbers from The Platters. And it has a lot of Paula Anka’s extremely forced earnestness as he plays his greatest hits for a bunch of dangerously hormone-addled teenaged girl-prisoners.

Girls Town

The concert ends badly when Serafina freaks out over her imaginary boyfriend Paul Anka dancing with another girl and takes a massive dose of sleeping pills and ends up in the infirmary. Paula Anka comes to visit her and remind her that he will never love her, and then sings “Ave Maria” while bathed in a pool of heavenly light.

Meanwhile, Mel Torme and the gang have figured out that it wasn’t Silver that shoved their buddy off a cliff, it was her younger sister, Mary Lee (Elinor Donahue from Father Knows Best!) so they kidnap her. Why? Unclear, although they plan on sending her to Mexico to avoid “jailsville”.

Mel Torme is not very good at kidnapping, as Mary Lee easily escapes and shows up at Girls Town looking for her sister, and then she gets re-kidnapped and the girl-delinquents have to steal Paula Anka’s car after Silver throws herself at the mercy of St. Jude. The nuns are all away on some sort of outing, although they get back at time to arm Paula Anka with a baseball bat and go out to crack some skulls at Mel Torme’s beach house.

It all ends well, as Paul Anka takes Mel Torme out and then stands on his throat until the cops arrive.

In the final scene Silver and Mary Lee are headed out of Girls Town with Paula Anka in his snappy convertible, while Serafina has decided to remain behind as a novitiate nun. Because if you can’t marry Paula Anka, marrying Jesus is the next best thing.

Stray Thoughts: So much slang! Silver asks for the “Alexander Graham” to call a doctor for Serafina (although everyone knows the cool kids are calling it an Ameche).

Also the only home for wayward girls that has its own snappy theme song, as we learn:

You will always find,

You come out with peace of mind,

From Girls Town! Girls Town! Girls Town!

Availability: VHS

An edited version of the movie was also featured as a 1994 episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000; the MST3k version is missing a performance by Cathy Crosby and a scene of Silver petulantly demanding breakfast in bed.

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