Friday, November 20, 2020

Gun Girls

Gun Girls
Robert C. Dertano

Gun Girls takes elements of the Juvenile Delinquent (J.D.) films of the era and mixes it with a bleak film noir aesthetic. It opens with a lengthy speech that most J.D. films usually close with, the warning that the youth are out of control and are going to not only destroy themselves but somehow bring America to its knees in the process. The parole officer delivering this speech is quick to point out that kids don’t go bad because they are rich or poor, they go bad because…. uh, well… he never quite gets there. Kids go bad because they are young and the vaguer a film like this can make that threat the more sensational it is and the more curious viewers will be to see it.

"Ladies, I assure you that I have your,
best interests at heart."

Interestingly Gun Girls starts in media res with Dora (Jacqueline Park) already having trouble with the law and going on probation for committing various petty crimes with her friend, Teddy (Jeanne Ferguson). We aren’t seeing someone innocent seduced into a life of crime, Dora is already in and shows no signs of slowing down. Dora and Teddy sell their stolen goods to a guy named Joe (Timothy Farrell). Joe sells them some guns and encourages them to steal the payroll from a company. The Gun Girls use their friend Joy (Eve Brent) to gain access to the building, but things go wrong. In the fallout, the girls are looking to leave town and Joy needs to tell Joe that she is pregnant and wants him to marry her. Things get even worse and because this is a J.D. film and a noir everyone dies horribly.

This is a cheap little production, but the grainy film and threadbare sets enhance the experience. They give everything a seedy look that melds into the story perfectly.

"The painting isn't that bad is it?"

Gun Girls is interesting in that you can watch it in two completely different ways simultaneously. On one level you can enjoy its preachy scaremongering for the kitschy fun it is. Gun Girls paints a world where these high school girls are the most dangerous criminals their town has ever seen. They are wild and dangerous to the established patriarchal order and it's glorious to see them push back against the staunch unmoving world of the 1950s.

The second way of watching it is taking in the unflinching grimness. Gun Girls tackles a lot of things and does so in a pretty direct way for the 1950s, casual sex, unwanted pregnancies, murder, and the inescapable doom these women face as all the men working against them descend on them for stepping out of line. The noir elements really take hold in the third act and don’t let up. 

If you are looking to take a look at the J.D. phenomenon of the 1950s and need something that you can enjoy for its corniness but also take seriously at the same time Gun Girls is a shining example of the genre. It is also a great little film to see women as the lead anti-heroes of the story in an era when gender roles were strictly enforced.  

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