Sunday, February 19, 2017

Too Young, Too Immoral (1962) movie review and The Death Of The IMDb Message Boards

Too Young, Too Immoral (1962)

This review is going to be a bit different.  Other than the review, I am going to include an essay on the closing down of the IMDb message boards.  Why am I doing this on this particular review?  Well, there is a reason, but I guess I will get to later.  First, the review.

Anthology Film Archives here in NYC runs a series called :


You can read a bit about it in the link, but it is basically a series of films that were independently made in NYC from 1945-1970.

Too Young, Too Immoral is an interesting movie, more so for its history than its subject matter.  Raymond Phelan is the director, writer and star of this film, so this baby is really his.  He was mostly a cinematographer for Doris Wishman, a director who is known in the low budget B movie genre.  He started making this movie in 1957, and it was a long hard road to get this released 5 years later.

The plot is simple and very much like many an exploitation movie.  A school kid is dealing drugs and suspects something is amiss.  He goes to do the pick up, and something goes wrong and he ends up dead.  His brother starts to investigate his murder, and slowly but surely he starts to pick up clues as to what happened.  There is a fair amount of plot in this small film, which is actually a good thing.  The film doesn't lag, and the twists and turns keep the film moving quickly and entertainingly.

So what took 5 years for this to be released?  And why didn't it get shown for 50 years?

Well it seems like once he made the film no one wanted it, or wanted to show it.  According to Michael Bowen, a Doris Wishman biographer, he found out that after the film garnered no interest, the director went and added a couple sex scenes to the film to spice it up.  Supposedly this is one of the first sexploitation scenes ever filmed, and predates the sexploitation genre by a year or two.  One of the two sex scenes in the movie was filmed with Brenda Denaut who just happens to be the mother of Roseanne and Patricia Arquette (and other Arquettes).  Her sex scene is with the character Scribbles, who in the film is a deaf mute heroin dealer.  The actor playing him is Warhol mainstay Taylor Mead, in his first ever acting role.

When the sex scenes failed to spark any interest, the director decided to take advantage of The Twist craze in 1960 (or the second Twist wave in 1961) and he threw a twist scene in the middle of the movie and changed the name to Twisted Morals.  Again, this failed to grab anyone and the film sat around for another year or two.

Finally, as the sexploitation craze started to get legs, he brought the film (now titled Too Young, Too Imoral) to the Rialto Theater on Broadway in NYC, and convinced them to show it.  It was finally a hit and played for 3-4 months before making a tour across the country for the next year or two.  After that, like many smaller films like this, it was retired and the director ended up with the only print.

At some point, Michael Bowen contacted the director while he was writing the Doris Wishman biography, and although the man was pleasant and answered his letters, he had no wish to talk about working with Doris Wishman or the film he worked so hard to get released.  Years went by, and every year or two Michael would contact the director to see if he was ready to talk about it.  Unfortunately, the director died without ever giving the world any further information on working with Doris nor working on his own film.  Thankfully, one of his family members bequeathed the film to Anthology Film Archives, and it was put back together and shown 50+ years after its last showing.

There are some VERY interesting things in this movie, other than the ones I have mentioned.  One, the filming of NYC in this is pretty amazing.  The beginning scenes start in Times Square, and even though it is in black and white, the neon is obvious and amazing.  You get to see people wandering around at night, stores and restaurants, and other establishments.  At some point one of the scenes takes place on a roof in Times Square, and the view is great.  Try doing that nowadays in a small indie film!

There are other NYC scenes in Little Italy during the San Gennaro Festival, the Thanksgiving Day Parade, 6th Avenue from 34th Street to Radio City Music Hall, the NYC subway, plus scenes on the East Side by the river, and even some scenes in Riverdale!  There's even some filming done on Fire Island.  What makes this film great, other than the beautiful shots of NYC, is the care and attention to detail the director obviously took shooting it.  Anyone who knows what it's like to shoot a movie knows that you can shoot a simple shot of something to get a point across, but most movies have multiple angles, reverse shots, close ups, etc etc.  Most smaller films did not have this luxury, as they were shot on a small budget, and costs were kept down.  But in one particular scene of a car pulling up to a toll booth, it is done very professionally.  The first time they shoot it there's a couple shots, then I noticed for the next scene at the same booth, they did a shot from the side of the road, then a closer shot, then a close up, then a shot from the other side of the road as well.  While you might not even notice this one way or another, since it flowed and looked fine, it dawned on me while watching it how much he put into this film.

The acting is good, but far from great, but very acceptable for a film like this.  The story is more than adequate, and the ending is well done and satisfying, which is more than I can say for many a film.  For a film that took 5 years to be released, had a short but profitable run, and was retired for over 50 years, this film has held up well.  Seeing it was a complete treat, and I feel honored to be one of the 100 or so people who saw it the two days it played at Anthology Film Archives.

Which brings me to...

The Death Of The IMDb Message Boards

Literally the day before this filmed screened the announcement was made by IMDb to shut down the message boards.  I could give you the official reasons (not many people use it and it has outlived its usefulness) or the rumors (IMDb can't figure out a way to monetize it, the trolls ruined it, they have wondrous new ideas planned), but no matter how you slice it, this is a disaster and a sad occasion.

I am not a typical movie watcher.  I watch movies in many genres, from every era, in all kinds of styles, from different countries, and I even watch movies that I have seen before and hated, just to see if I have changed my mind at all.  I have seen almost 2000 movies in the last 4 years.  Over the past 12+ years of being an IMDb member I have rated over 1700 films, and obviously seen countless more.  When I first found IMDb they were not an ordinary site.  They were special.  That had info, LOTS of info.  They had info I didn't know existed, info about things I didn't even care about!

I found out that regular people like me could add information.  I could even add movies that weren't listed!  I have added movies, trivia, actors, songs, and all sorts of other information.  This was a site for me.  Then I found the message boards.  Regular people talking about movies, plots, actors, and all sorts of other nonsense.  It was near perfect.  Then Amazon bought IMDb.  Although I wasn't jumping for joy, Amazon buying it made sense.  They could promote the sale of a movie, and I could even find movies that were not easy to find anymore.  Again, this was a good site, one of the best ever at this point.

Somewhere down the line I heard that a lot of message board posts were lost, or deleted.  I do not know why, nor do I know the reasons or details, but just the idea this happened one day was depressing.  But I didn't hear about it until years later, so I tried not to let it be a bother.

I slowly developed a pattern for using IMDb.  I would see a movie, log on to the site, rate the movie, then read, if available, trivia, goofs, awards, soundtrack, crazy credits, alternate versions, movie connections, FAQ, box office/business, release dates, filming locations, taglines, and lastly, but most importantly, the message boards.  What kind of stuff would I fin there?  I would read about alternate theories on what the movie was about, answer questions that people had, and generally just read all kinds of stuff about the movie or what people thought.  I would read questions from trolls about if they thought Saw was appropriate for their 10 year old niece.  Or read threads on how whatever character seemed gay in a movie.  Or what actress what hot or had nice boobs.  On more serious notes, I would read alternate opinions on real topics, ones I never even thought of.  I would watch fan videos cut from movies I loved.  I would see comedy videos that had vague connections to the movie I just watched.  I would find out some crazy movie I just saw had a podcast on it.  Many times it was Junk Food Dinner, but so many times it was some podcast I had never even heard of.

Sometimes someone would write a question or comment that spurred on an answer even I didn't expect from myself.  Someone wrote a thread about how Basket Case is just a bad movie.  I had just seen it again and felt compelled to answer them as to why I disagreed, normally an exercise in futility, but regardless I had some serious thoughts on it.  I wrote my answer, and what came out was nothing like what I expected to write, but did, when I thought about it, reflect how I felt towards the movie.  It was good enough to get a positive response from someone who actually didn't like the movie but understood where I was coming from.  We chatted about it and that was a nice feeling. In some ways I am sure my hundreds of posts helped teach me to write, especially about film.

I also connected with people on the message boards.  Sometimes it was just a few messages back and forth, but that was some of my movie social time.  Other times it was dozens of messages back and forth, including one that spilled over into emails, skype calls, IMs, and eventually phone calls.  Over 4 years later we still talk often and we plan on meeting this year.  That was on a Salo post I made that ended up with over 50 responses, which was something I could never have thought would happen.

You could also compare movie with other people who made their ratings public.  While I guess maybe we can still do that, who cares?  They become just a screen name and nothing more, no way to interact with them, just an anonymous, uncontactable person.  One or two people always had comments on whatever weird or crazy movie I just watched, as if they were following my movie patterns, or I was following theirs.  One such person was named WarpedRecord, and great name and someone who shares my tastes in terrible movies.  Another one mentioned a band I loved in their name, Polysics.  These people ALWAYS posted, they were there on so many movies I saw.

One time I got called a troll for suggesting there was a genre of comedy horror movies.  The guy sure I was a troll, until I pointed out my many non-troll posts about movies.  To him comedy and horror did not belong together, something I find unfathomable but hey, it's the internet.  I was using Jason Vs. Freddy as an example, and he just wasn't buying it!  It was amusing being called a troll when I wasn't trolling, something I rarely did, though I did make many a sarcastic and stupid post, as many did as well.

The trolls never bothered me in general, although I was told by many I movie person I talked to in real life and respected how horrible the message boards were and how toxic and useless.  Personally I have never felt this way, but I have always had a knack or ignoring trolls and spotting them a mile away.  The experience I had on the message boards was an amazing one.

I remember a couple years ago during the aforementioned Salo movie I saw, many members of the audience happened to be on Grindr, the gay Tinder site (Grindr was first, by the way).  It was Queer Night at the theater I went to, and it gave me an idea.  Us movie freaks needed our own Grindr, or Tinder, something that created an opportunity for those of us that see a lot of movies and want to connect with people near us.  In my mind, the idea of seeing movies with the same people, in the same room, creates a bond, almost like you have been on a date with them.  Therefore this seemed like a perfect fit for a site like IMDb, which had been stuck in the early 2000s since the early 2000s.  I contacted them with the idea, and of course they promptly ignored me.  But in my head, what IMDb needed was to be MORE social, not less, which is why this current move is a backwards one.

Over time I started reviewing movies on a site I write on, which is called Quora.  At some point I decided I would start a blog dedicated to the movies I see each day.  I tend to see a movie a day or so, mostly in theaters, so I figured this would be a challenge.  Obviously one I could not do, because writing a review on one movie a day is near impossible with seeing movies, reading about movies, and you know, trying to make a living.

So I start a blog, set everything up, start writing, and decide that I should promote the posts a bit.  So I start to add my reviews to the message boards, just a simple link under a new IMDb account, dedicated to only this blog.  A nice simple post linking my review, nothing more.  Amazingly, people click the link and read my blog.  I'm surprised this actually works, and I get about 10,000 views over a 6 month period on my blog.  This is no mind blowing amount, but it shows that the IMDb message board people actually DO read the posts, and even click through to other links (something IMDb should have taken advantage of as well, as they COULD have monetized the boards if they had a clue).

The closing of the boards came out of nowhere to me.  Every complaint ANYONE could have about these boards have been there forever.  NOTHING has changed.  The only thing that could change is how many people use it, and even if that ha dropped significantly, the system is already in place and it costs no money to run and upkeep.  But for some reason IMDb decided to do away with it, and not only that DELETE all the info listed there!  It's a sin!  There are posts from directors of movies, actors, people who were there at the filming, crew, and other people of importance.  Sometimes directors keep in touch with fans or answer questions, which is amazing.  IMDb is supposed to be the main hub for movie freaks like me, and they have left us in the dark.  So now we will lose all the info posted, the names, the facts that never made it to the trivia, or weren't exactly trivia.  I just saw What's, Up Doc? the other day, and someone had a post on whether or not you can follow the bags (you have to know the movie to know what I mean) throughout the movie.  They wrote a long post about where the bags go, and it was insane how much work they put in that.  The loss of this information is horrible, and this is akin to movie companies burning prints of films or erasing tapes to make room, these are things that need to be saved.

There were a couple of petitions to sign, and they got over 16,000 signatures between them, but since the boards are shutting down tomorrow and they will be gone forever, I do not think they matter anymore.  This is my eulogy, my wake, my funeral, and my burial of the IMDb message boards.  I am writing this review/eulogy as my way of saying goodbye, as I have no other way.  This will most likely be my final IMDb message board post, one that will be wiped away hours after I post it.

So what does this have to do with the movie I just reviewed?  Well, since this is a movie that hasn't screened in 50+ years, there was literally almost NO information on it.  Not even 5 people had rated it, and there were no message board posts at all.  Normally what would have happened is at the very least I would have rated it, and posted on the boards that I just got to see this.  Hopefully someone who has interest, or wants to know something about it, would message on the board and I would be alerted and let them know.  Now, this movie might be talked about somewhere, but the mail place where I would expect it to be mentioned will have no mention of it.  Sure, my blog post is here now, but I can't write a post for every movie I see.  I can't do more than 100 a year at most, probably less.  I can only imagine the lost info on movies I have yet to see, movies that are interesting and filled with vagueness that needs to be discussed.  No matter how much you love or hate the boards, losing valuable irreplaceable information which has no been saved anywhere is a bad thing.

As for me, I will definitely be using IMDb much less now.  Not only will I spend way less time there, I feel inclined to move on like many do, as everything else that is on the site is easily found other places.  Even if I do use it somewhat, it will never be the same.  It will be like hooking up with your ex and realizing it will never feel amazing again.

There are a few alternatives that exist, though I am not sure any will fill the lost void.  I have looked into LetterboxdRotten Tomatoes, and The Movie Database (TMDb).  So far only the last one seems to have a message board system like IMDb, though it is relatively empty and would take years to fill with information.  I guess the internet is splintering even more once again, and we are losing a valuable resource in the process.

So today I put you to rest, IMDb Message Boards.  I am glad we had the time together we did, it is unfortunate that we did not have more time, but you were killed by a company that has lost sight of what they were about, a place for people who love and worship movies.  I hope somehow someway you will be resurrected, but those kind of miracles only happen in the movies.

8 out of 10 stars.

Location : Anthology Film Archives, Courthouse Theater, NYC
Date and time : Sunday, February 5th, 2017 at 7:30 PM
Format : 35mm
Audience : 35 people