High School Confidential

When James Dean and Elvis exploded on the scene more than half a century ago, Hollywood realized en masse that teenagers were a gold mine — and ensuing generations of studio functionaries haven’t stopped mining their pockets yet. The 1960s scaled the peaks and plumbed the depths of teensploitation, as evidenced by tonight’s "Return to Vortex High" double bill of rare, campy melodramas. The Explosive Generation (1961) stars a young William Shatner as a forward-thinking high school teacher who makes the earth-shattering and career-threatening mistake of allowing a discussion of sex education in class. (How amusingly anachronistic — until you remember that a swath of the population in 2010 believes that abstinence, and nothing else, should be taught in school.) Patty McCormack stands out as a student who helps turn the brouhaha into a referendum on free speech. She also turns up in the reefer-happy second feature, Maryjane (1968). Clean-cut pop star Fabian plays the liberal authority figure. He’s a football coach and art teacher (!) who can relate to the kids who’ve fallen under the sway of the seductive herb. Be advised: A toke or two may raise the laugh quotient, but you risk missing the moral of drive-in maestro Maury Dexter’s cautionary fable.
Thu., Sept. 16, 9 p.m., 2010

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