February 25th, 2008

TRIP WITH THE TEACHER (1975) ***

Before making a fortune producing the immortal Red Shoe Diaries series, Zalman King starred in this minor drive-in classic of rape n’ revenge. 

 

The plot has a group of dumber than a box of Cracker Jacks teenage girls who take a field trip with their teacher (Brenda Fogarty from Fairy Tales) down to Mexico to see an Indian reservation.  At a gas station, the girls poke fun at King and his grubby hippie biker brother which doesn’t set well with Zalman since he’s pretty much a ticking time bomb.  When the bus breaks down, Zalman and Co. tow the bus with their bikes (?!?) to a dilapidated shack (it makes the cabin in Evil Dead look like the Taj Mahal) located smack dab in the middle of nowhere. 

 

You can probably guess what happens next. 

 

Zalman gets horny. 

 

Blouses are ripped. 

 

Women are violated. 

 

And the bodies start to pile up…

 

King gives a memorably slimy performance that goes down as one of the better scuzzbucket psychopaths of 70’s cinema.  Dressed in a cool looking blue blazer and wearing sunglasses the size of Utah, King resembles the bastard love child of Sean Penn and David Hess.  He exudes a cool menace at all times and goes gleefully over the top in some scenes, chewing scenery left and right.  King only has one expression throughout the entire movie, but he’s so creepy that one is all he really needs.  That’s not entirely true though because he DOES flash a mischievous grin every time he’s about to do something slightly amoral like drive his motorcycle over some guy’s head, rape a girl wearing hot pants, or squash a gas station attendant under a car.  (In a movie like this, any mechanic lying under a jacked up car is dead meat.)  

 

What makes his performance different is that you actually CARE about Zalman.  After he rapes and kills a girl, he curls up in a ball on the floor and cries and moans like a Zen Buddhist.  It’s that kind of sensitivity that sets Zalman King apart from the rest of the pack.  I have to admit, I didn’t care for his work in Blue Sunshine, but here he really cooks with all burners at full heat.  That last scene when he gets the crowbar shoved through his kidneys?  I FELT every bit of his anguish.  Definitely a performance for the ages.   

 

The movie is FAR from perfect, but King’s edgy performance will keep you watching.  There are some viewers that will complain that the females in the cast are all too stupid to live as they pretty much blow every single opportunity there is to escape, but you have to realize something people:  These girls WERE RIDING THE SHORT BUS after all.  Only Fogarty has half a brain to fight back, but at least she has the good sense to wait 90 minutes to do it so we can really see Zalman show off his acting chops.   

 

Writer/director Earl Barton never wrote or directed anything else, but when he’s got Zalman King delivering dialogue like “You’d be amazed what a piece of ass would do for my disposition!”…  Well, Earl was smart to quit while he was ahead.   

 

AKA:  Deadly Field Trip.