“Well, come on in a minute. I’m not gonna rape you.” – Diane, The Teacher (Angel Tompkins)
My old impulse buying habit left me with some strange dust collectors. In the days before I had to become an actual responsible grown-up, I could browse the electronics section at my local Walmart, come across a product and say “This intrigues me. Therefore, I must buy it now.” This is how I made my acquaintance with the Drive-In Cult Classics 32 Movie Collection.
Because I had money to spend, I suddenly found myself in the mood for marathoning those biker and teenspolitation movies Mystery Science Theater 3000 destroyed. Plus, you know, tits. And as a bonus, this set had the likes of Robert Reed and Donald Pleasence! Hopefully with their pants on!
With a $20 price tag, this was a steal. It also didn’t surprise me that such treasure was available at “family friendly” Walmart, the same place where I bought my I Spit On Your Grave Blu-ray. I couldn’t wait to take this home and indulge in hours of Z-grade vintage trash.
Well, that didn’t happen, exactly. More like I bought it, watched one or two of the movies, and then abandoned my purchase. Flash forward almost ten years later, when I brushed off the fine layer of dead human skin on the cover. Here’s hoping mean ol’ disc rot didn’t sneak its way into the case.
After that came the question of how to best approach such an endeavor. I looked at the listing on the back cover, thinking I’d pick out the most tasteless sounding titles to watch first. For instance, here was The Stepmother (scandalous!) Weekend With the Babysitter (just a weekend?) The Pom Pom Girls (is that all they shake?) They Saved Hitler’s Brain (did they!) and Land of the Minotaur (myths and mammaries?) I decided to watch them in disc order, and the first movie happened to be a 1974 flick called The Teacher. Fair enough.
The movie begins by introducing us to Ralph (Anthony James). Ever since Ralph was released from the VA hospital, his only hobby has been stalking Diane a local hot 28-year-old teacher. Ralph spends his days, nights and weekends following Diane around in his hearse, peeking through her windows, and watching her sunbathe nude from a lakeside warehouse.
Enter Sean (Jay North) and Ralph’s younger brother Lou (Rudy Herrera Jr). Sean and Lou share Ralph’s penchant for peeping on Diane from the same vantage point. Late one afternoon, they are too enthralled to notice Ralph creeping up behind them. He gives them a scare that sends Lou plummeting to his death. Ralph, unhinged and delusional, blames Sean for the accident.
By the way, if you’re brushed up on your early television history that’s the same Jay North who played the titular Dennis the Menace on the 1959-1963 sitcom. Here the impish little cherub is all grown up, and at 22 portrays a soon-to-be-devirginized 18-year-old. He doesn’t seem too shaken up about witnessing his friend’s fate, as Diane is quick to provide him plenty of “physical therapy.”
This comes with a catch, as Ralph is not only jealous of Diane’s lover but going mad with vengeance over his dead brother. He finds a new stalking target in Sean. With his faithful bayonet always in hand, Ralph looms his grisly, pockmarked mug everywhere Sean goes, head popping up like Creep Whack-a-Mole. One might even say that Ralph is quite…menacing?
Diane is still married, albeit with a husband who has disappeared on a motorcycle racing adventure. This hasn’t affected their living situation much, since Diane drives around in a sleek sports car and owns a small yacht named after her. No matter. She’s needy, dammit, and nothing short of tugging Sean’s George Wilson will satisfy her neglected based needs.
From there The Teacher establishes a formulaic pattern. Sean bangs Diane, Ralph shows up to threaten the couple, Jackie Ward croons a cheesy, saccharine theme on the soundtrack, repeat. We get treated to Angel Tompkins’s naked body in several places, including a scene where it takes her an exceptionally long time to slip a robe over her bare assets. Never has the pause button been rendered more obsolete.
Between the boobs and threats from Ralph are scenes with Sean’s parents, played by Med Flory and Marlene Schmidt. These bits establish some stability for North’s character, but otherwise they are just padding. The dad is typical no-nonsense conservative of the era, the kind of guy who likes his paper and things staying quiet. The mom has a more open-minded attitude, especially toward Sean’s romp with the teacher. Early on she comments to a neighbor about how attractive her son has gotten. To affirm her credibility on this matter: “And I’m his mother.” Well, then!
Other than that there isn’t much story to speak of. Considering the venue where these movies were shown, I imagine they were intentionally written to have the minimalist of plots. That way you could follow the movie while your wrist was up your date’s shirt. “Oh man, Ralph’s really losing it…what? Oh naw, baby, my other hand just kinda slipped is all.”
My biggest problem with The Teacher is its somber ending. It’s all fun and sex games until the last ten minutes, where the final confrontation shifts the movie’s tone from campy fun into grimdark moroseness. This jarring change cramped my enjoyment of what was otherwise an engaging nipple and cheese odyssey.
The Teacher is a mediocre movie, but I watched it expecting this. Since the appeal came from how brainless I wanted it to be, this has brought me to a dilemma: in the interest of fairness, should I subject The Teacher to my usual grading scale?
Hell, the Drive-in Cult Classics Collection has forced my hand. Thus, I have created a separate rubric exclusively for the movies in this set.
NORMAL GRADE: C-
COLLECTION GRADE: B-