March 29, 2018

Movie Review: The Teacher

There was probably a time when a teacher seducing a student was considered taboo and was an act that was completely unheard of. It must have been a long time ago. It seems like we can not go all that long without story of some young teacher seducing a student for illicit sexual escapades. Just the other day I saw a news story about a guy who took off with a female student on the sports team he was coaching, only to get caught trying to get a job to make some money to get across the border. It all makes the plot of The Teacher seem all that more mundane when all you need to do is turn on the news for something more scandalous. Still, I found the movie to be pretty watchable, although not terribly good.

The Teacher was written and directed by Howard (Hikmet) Avedis. It was the Iraqi born filmmaker’s second film after his Oscar-nominated debut, The Stepmother (Best Original Song). He would go on to direct such films the crime thriller Scorchy and the horror film The Mortuary. With the movie at hand, it is a tame romantic comedy about an illicit affair and a murder thriller with a crazed madman. It can never decide what it wants to be and ends throwing its overall tone around like a tennis ball getting volleyed about.

The movie opens with a creepy fellow named Ralph (Anthony James, Burnt Offerings, Blue Thunder, Unforgiven) following a pretty young teacher out to the docks where he spies on her sunbathing topless from his little hangout in an old mill. It turns out Ralph is a bit unbalanced since coming back from Vietnam. Meanwhile, Sean (Jay North, yes, Dennis the Menace) is following his best friend, who also happens to be Ralph's kid brother, to the hideout so they can spy on the teacher, whose name is Diane (Angel Tompkins). Well, Ralph catches them and, startled, his brother falls off the ledge to his death. Crazy Ralph blames Sean for the murder and vows revenge if he tells the police anything.

That story gets set to the side for awhile, as we now follow Diane’s efforts to seduce young Sean. This probably a little scandalous for the time (1975), but even then they were hedging their bets as Sean was a recent high school graduate and not still a student. In any case, they get along quite well with Sean’s mom encouraging it, thinking it will help him break out of his shell. Of course, his father can see exactly what is going on and does not like it one bit, on it to be talked down by his mother.

The two stories collide as crazy Ralph has a crazy crush on Diane and since he already doesn't like Sean, makes it easier for him to want to kill him. It all builds to a tragic conclusion that doesn't actually resolve anything. Well, maybe not anything, but it definitely could have used a little beefing up on the plot and character side.

I really have a hard time understanding why I liked it, well Angel Tompkins’ topless moments are a good reason. Still, I think I liked the crazy swings between the Ralph stuff and the scandalous romance stuff. They stand in pretty stark contrast to each other. There is also the wide eyed performance of Jay North, where his lack of ability is exposed to the world. Them there are actual plot elements like the death of the boy, there really is no emotional payoff or reason for it, it only exists to kickstart the movie. Then there is that theme song about every man needing a woman to teach him. Pretty funny stuff. The whole thing is pretty strange and oddly watchable despite not being terrible exploitational.

The Teacher does run too long at 97 minutes. It could have used some tightening up and perhaps a rewrite or three. Still,I found it oddly enjoyable. I would hardly call it a Drive-in Cult Classic nor would I suggest putting much effort into finding it, but should you stumble across it, give it a watch. There are worse things you could do with your time.

Mildly Recommended.

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