Camp Cult Classic? Late Night Shlock? Sleazy Trash? Decadent Depravity? Homoerotic Hoke? Sexual Psychodrama? Lost Noir? Yesssss!!! All of the above and beyond.
Five years after giving us Girl Of The Night (1960) director Joseph Cates returns to the underbelly of New York City with Who Killed Teddy Bear? The film was written by Arnold Drake (The Flesh Eaters (1964)) and Leon Tokatyan a writer for TV. The cinematography was by Joseph C. Brun (Walk East on Beacon! (1952), Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), Girl of the Night (1960)). The Music was by Charles Calello (The Lonely Lady (1983)) and the disco songs used in the film are composed by Bob Gaudino (of The Four Seasons) and Al Kasha.
|The Captain (Campanella) lt.|
|Carlo (Travanti )|
Who Killed Teddy Bear is the story of Nora (Prowse) a virginal "Goldilocks" and the three weirdos, Larry (Mineo), Dave (Murray), and Marian (Stritch). Nora is a slightly jaded dancer/actress looking to break into Broadway. She has a gig at a chi chi discotech as a DJ. Her job is to keep the records spinning and customers dancing, the more they dance the more they drink. She has to fight off the various patrons unwanted advances all night.
|Is a frankfurter a metaphor for something else?|
Rude Customer: You hungry?, let me buy you a frankfurter.
Nora works for Marian the hard boiled swaggering manager, with Larry the busboy, and Carlo (Travanti) the mute bouncer. Nora starts to get obscene phone calls. Then one day she comes home to find a decapitated Teddy Bear in her apartment and everything goes Noirsville.
The film starts with a shadowy out of focus title sequence that seems to be of two people having sex it segues to a shot of a little girl standing in a doorway staring, she's holding a Teddy Bear. We see her get up and run down a stairs, we hear a scream then see her lying motionless on the stairway. This is part of a pivotal chain of events in the psychological make up the characters in the story. All this and subsequent scenes depicting deviant behaviour are shot through a vaselined lens giving the periphery of the frame an out of focus nightmarish quality. Conversely all sequences depicting Nora have a bright heavenly almost overexposed glow about them.
The Three Weirdos
Larry sexually molested as a teen by an older woman, is a Times Square hoodie, a mope with psychological and sexual hang ups, he works as a busboy at the Discotech. He seems innocent and harmless at first. He's alienated and can't relate to women nor approach them normally. We soon discover that this perp's a stalker and a peeping tom with a serious yen for Nora. Larry calls her up, disguises his voice, and makes highly suggestive comments. He practically worships her as the temple of purity and the embodiment of innocence on one hand but fantasies about doing the nasty with her on the other.
|Vaselined lens for deviant sequences|
|Larry's tightie whities|
|Larrys porno collection|
|making the call|
|Stroking his leg but we know what they are hinting at...|
When Eddie starts putting on makeup, wearing high heels and dressing up like a hooker, twisted Larry gets some obvious lumber in his way, way, too tight pants. Larry about to erupt, locks sissy Eddie in a closet and heads out to make the rounds of the "Live Nude Girls Peep Shows", the adult bookstores, sex shops, and Grindhouse XXX movie theaters to get relief.
|lumber in Larry's pants|
|Dave's porn filled apartment (research of course)|
Pam was nestled all snug in her bed while visions of depravity danced in her head
After Dave meets Nora and hears about her stalker he takes on her case personally. He knows better. Dave also sees Nora as the embodiment of innocence and now turns his slightly unhealthy attention, expertise, and obsessions fully on her. After Nora finds the decapitated Teddy Bear in her appartment Dave offers his place as a refuge.
Marian is the manager of the Discotech, she rules the place with an iron hand in a no nonsense manner. She has a mute bouncer Carlo who also doubles as a sort of bodyguard. At first Marian is like a motherly figure to Nora.
Marian Freeman: You gotta learn to handle 'em baby. If you're gonna make it in show biz you're gonna run into some pretty weird types. Of course, that is assuming you mean to make it on your feet. Uh... so to speak. No offense.
Later after Nora confides in her about her stalker Marian offers to come to her apartment to keep her company.
Marian Freeman: I dig soft things…don’t you?
After the phone rings a number of times Nora breaks down and embraces Marian. Marian though, has other things in mind of a lesbian nature, which totally freaks out Nora.
Mineo as Larry is doing a sort of mini Marlon Brando/James Dean riff. Though Larry isn't gay he's filmed that way put on obvious display, laying around in tighty-whities touching himself while calling Nora, wearing painted on pants, pumping iron, and swimming in what can only be described as a homo ertotic boy toy fantasy. Prowse, playing the slightly demure and yet volatile when cornered, virgin seems from a time long, long, ago. Murray is surprisingly believable. Stritch is good as the tough, hard as nails butch broad.
One of the big attractions of the film for me is the sequences in Times Square. For me it's a trip down memory lane. I went to school in Manhattan from the mid to late 60s. My school was on W54th Street and Times Square was my playground. The typical trip would begin with an after school walk West to the corner of 6th Avenue. There one encountered one of NYC wacky denizens, the blind Viking Moondog. Wearing a helmet with a nose guard and horns and holding a staff his designated parking spot was the sidewalk in front of the Warwick Hotel, where he hawked his poetry. Continuing to 7th Ave one turned South towards Times Square. The Metropole Cafe was a magnate on 7th, it's blackened front window had a head sized peephole where you could watch the topless go go dancers do their stuff until you were shooed away by the door bouncer. It seems that the rest of the avenue and into the square was a mix of perpetually "going out of business" businesses, peep shows, theaters, cheap or tourist centric restaurants (The Brass Rail, Tad's Steakhouse, Howard Johnson's, Horn & Hardart, The Stage Delicatessen) sidewalk Sabrett's dirty water hot dog vendors, Orange Julius juice bars, pretzel vendors, sidewalk newsstands, Follies Burlesk, Playland arcades, movie palaces, souvenir shops, and adult bookstores. I even remember vividly the stripper attire shop that Mineo stops in front of, in the film, to gaze upon the various g-strings, pasties, and other burlesque accoutrements. 47th street East of 7th was loaded with whores, the cops must had standing orders to herd them all off the square, it was hooker heaven. Our usual goal was extra large the Playland arcade below the Majestic Dancing Ballroom, which BTW still had taxi dancers. All through this odyssey you had to negotiate weirdos, women in see through tops, shoeshine boys, three card monte scam artists, guys selling watches, the blind selling pencils, punks, drunks, and geezers. It was creepshow but an infinitely entertaining one.
Dave: Every scrawny broad thinks she’s the only one entrusted with the crown jewels, and then she’ll die if she loses them!