Directed By: Jerry Gross
Starring: Arlene Farber, Frederick Riccio, Julie Ange
Tag line: “Teenage Mother – Means 9 Months of Trouble!”
Trivia: Director Jerry Gross paid a hospital $50 for the graphic footage of a baby being born that’s featured at the climax of the movie
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Despite what the film’s advertisements might suggest, Teenage Mother is little more than a ’60s educational picture, addressing the then-controversial topic of teaching sex ed to high school students. In fact, aside from a short film that shows, in sometimes nauseatingly graphic detail, the birth of a newborn, there aren’t many shocks in Teenage Mother at all.
Ms. Peterson (Julie Ange) is a recent arrival at the local high school, brought in by the principal to teach a course on the finer points of sex education. As you might expect, not everyone is pleased with the added curriculum, but Ms. Peterson will soon discover she couldn’t have come at a more crucial time. Arlene Taylor (Arlene Farber), a beautiful, outgoing girl in her senior year, is in love with Tony (Howard Le May), a star athlete who, after graduation, plans to attend medical school. Arlene has been desperately trying to convince Tony to marry her, even going so far as to flirt with Duke Markell (Frederick Riccio), a drug-dealing bully, in the hopes of making Tony jealous. When all else fails, Arlene resorts to lies, telling everyone she’s pregnant with Tony’s child (despite the fact a medical examination has determined she’s not pregnant at all). Convinced her sex education course had something to do with his daughter’s pregnancy, Arlene’s father (George Peters) calls a special meeting of the town council to discuss Ms. Peterson’s future. It’s Mr. Taylor’s hope that this gathering will expose the new teacher as little more than a well-educated pornographer, thus leaving the school with no alternative but to remove sex ed from the curriculum altogether.
Far from exciting us with scenes of teen debauchery and the occasional glimpse of firm female flesh, Teenage Mother is more intent on preaching at us. Ms. Peterson is not so much a teacher as she is a crusader, spouting off historical precedent and gobs of statistics to justify the need for a class on sex education (credit herminio). When she’s informed that the school’s librarian has refused to carry a copy of Male and Female because of its sexual content, Ms. Peterson takes matters into her own hands, confronting the librarian and outright demanding that she add the text to her shelves. While the majority of the film follows the troubled romance of Arlene and Tony, occasionally spruced up by the illegal activities of Duke (more than a drug dealer, Duke also works as the front man for a local pornographer, who makes a killing selling nudie pics to horny teens), Teenage Mother is a movie driven by its agenda, and it’s certainly not a subtle one!
Still, Teenage Mother is an interesting time capsule of a movie. Along with a few painfully dated ’60s dance sequences (I almost bust a gut watching Duke strut his stuff at the local hang-out) and some out-of-place stock footage taken at a racetrack, Teenage Mother also offers the first screen appearance of funnyman Fred Willard, here playing the school’s straight-laced athletic director and one of Ms. Peterson’s few supporters. But if its the typical exploitation fare you’re after, then steer clear of this one; the most exploitative thing about Teenage Mother is its title.