Monday, August 13, 2012

Mischief (1985) - The Climax of '80s Teen Sex Comedies

Original poster of Mischief, showing Doug McKeon holding Kelly Preston's panties
This is one of my favorite films of all time, and for all the wrong reasons.  But even beyond its obvious prurient appeal, it has a quirky charm all its own.  You really do get a feel for the repression of the 1950s and the associated impositions on ordinary folks yearning to break free from.... Oh, who am I kidding - it's a teen sex comedy, folks! Enjoy it for what it is!

original still of Kelly Preston and Doug McKeon falling out of their car
That's how falling out of a car looks when carefully posed....

Mischief, directed by Mel Damski (sorry, I LOVE that name) and written by Noel Black (who claims it is "somewhat autobiographical," yeah, well, probably not the Kelly Preston part), belongs in the pantheon of teenage sex comedies.  If you watch this largely (unjustly!) forgotten film, it should be because of Kelly Preston's awesome performance as the beauteous fair maiden Marilyn, the object of lust for our hero, Jonathan, played by Doug McKeon.

Kelly Preston and Doug McKeon actually falling out of the car
That's how you REALLY fall out of a car! Notice the prominent panties!

Set in small-town Ohio in 1956, this tale follows the path of Jonathan as he pursues the aforesaid wondrous Marilyn, the prettiest girl in town.  At first (and, to some eyes, always) a complete nerd, Jonathan gets advice from a transient friend Gene (Chris Nash) who has watched one or two too many James Dean films.

Kelly Preston dancing in water from broken fire hydrant after car accident
He just ran into a fire hydrant because of her, so what does she do?  Dance in the water! And he loves it!

That is the whole story.  It's a simple lust-after-the-impossibly-beautiful-yet-seemingly-unattainable-girl-but-somehow-finally-get-her film.  Isn't that true wish fulfillment?  Along the way, there are various sub-plots and complications (there are bullies and runaways and school events and that sort of thing) that do little to distract from our hero's quest.  This guy might as well be Sir Galahad given his single-mindedness! Everything but Jonathan's mission to seduce his love object really is just there to fill the time.  Oh, and speaking of annoying sub-plots,   Catherine Mary Stewart plays a classmate who is the object of Gene's lust, and, yes, they play out the whole classic James Dean film scenario, leaving town on his bike.

Doug McKeon smashing his car into his rival's car
Those old cars took a lot of punishment

As usual in these sorts of seemingly throwaway films, there are some minor characters played by then-unknown actors who went on to bigger things.  Terry O'Quinn, the best (and, some would say, only good) thing about the 2000's TV series "Lost," plays Jonathan's very strict dad, a violinist of all things.  Jamie Gertz, who had some minor TV success in the 1990s and 2000s  (she almost got a part in "Friends"!), also is around but makes little impact here.  Interestingly, this was probably the height of  the careers of Doug McKeon and Kelly Preston - if you don't count Kelly's subsequent relationship with Charlie Sheen and marriage to John Travolta as career moves, that is.

black and white shot of Kelly Preston holding up her skirt and dancing in water from broken fire hydrant
This is the picture that was in my local paper when they reviewed it.

Seriously, the best thing about this film - apart, obviously, from Kelly Preston - is the atmosphere.  You are immersed in small-town 1950s life.  The main set, the actual town square in Nelsonville, Ohio when the film was made (and probably today, too!), apparently was little changed from the 1950s (and still is, according to some locals).  There are lots of classic old cars and situations that feel authentic, but the sexual shenanigans are strictly 1980s.

Kelly Preston with look of lust before sex
I really shouldn't have to say anything about this picture sequence....

The key scene is set in Marilyn's bedroom with Marilyn and what's-his-name, sorry, Jonathan.  No, they aren't playing Parcheesi!  Kelly completely dominates this scene.  Ah, the look of outrageous lust!  Kelly sure has it.  If female desire repulses you, stay far, far away from this film.

Kelly Preston look of lust before sex, without dress on
Wait!  Where did her dress go?????

Kelly is very natural about getting naked.  I think she has the best eyes in the business. She really knows how to communicate raw, overpowering seduction.

Kelly Preston look of lust before sex while topless and about to go bottomless
Oh My God, now her bra is gone, too, run and hide the children....

 Kelly is, of course, just as beautiful with her clothes on.

Kelly Preston at school in Mischief
That nerdy girl with the glasses is always around in the background to emphasize Kelly's beauty.  Thank you, nerdy background girl!

Let's be honest, shall we?  Most people are going to view this now in order to see Kelly Preston disrobe and get in sexual situations.  She does a fantastic job of taking off her clothes, one of the best such performances I, personally, have ever seen.  And, again being honest, I've seen quite a few. Yes, she gets completely nude, naked as the day she met John Travolta.  It turns out that she has desires of her own, and is very forthright about fulfilling them.  This is one of the best "the sweet and blazingly hot, innocent girl really isn't (innocent, that is)" performances you ever will ever.  You may not be into seeing the object of lust for all the men in town being taken down like, well, a prize stag, but if you are, well, this is your film, buddy.  You are welcome!

guy on motorcycle pretending to be James Dean

Let me put this yet another way.  If the only thing that interests you about the film poster at the top of this post is the fine, fine classic American automobile in which our two heroes are situated, well, that is another reason that this may not be the film for you.  But, if you are here for the sex, the film also does showcase fine old US wheels!

classic car, 1956 Chevy?
You really can play "ID that car" with this film.

If I haven't fully communicated the true thrust of this film completely enough yet, here's one last odd fact about it: the original film poster was subtly altered for the much later DVD and other releases.  In the original 1985 poster put in all advertising in newspapers and outside theaters (with the classic shot of Marilyn sprawled on a car seat after the passenger door has been opened), Jonathan is shown holding Marilyn's panties in his right hand.  That still may be the case in foreign releases, I don't know, but the panties are no more on current US DVDs and other media.  Airbrushing is evil! I want my panties! LOL. Anyway, that is why I found and put an original (foreign, that's all I could find) poster atop this post.  Incidentally, my old VHS copy also has the panties shown where they should be.  I suppose they figured that a boy holding a girl's panties was just a little too risque for modern family audiences of the 2000s... or, much more likely, some bullying, censoring stores that were still minor players in 1985 wouldn't agree to carry a DVD like that after they got big and arrogant (cough cough WMT cough cough).  Sadly, I guess times have changed.

Kelly Preston and Catherine Mary Stewart at school in Mischief
Yep, there's the girl with the glasses in the background again to make Kelly look even prettier. Thanks, nameless nerd girl!

Highly recommended for the reasons stated above.  I don't know this for a fact, but I think that free-thinking female viewers will (at least secretly, who knows) like this film too, for its portrayal of female maneuvering toward the ultimate goal of everybody involved (and it may be a good test of such free-thinking hint hint). This is not "Citizen Kane," but if you enjoy films such as "Two Moon Junction" and "The Hot Spot," you really should find a copy of this one. 

1 comment:

  1. Jami Gertz is the nerdy girl who turns out to be very pretty without the glasses!!


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