Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965)
January 31, 2022 8:16 AM - Subscribe

In New York, a disco hostess is stalked by a sexual predator and she requests help from a vice squad detective who takes a personal interest in the case. The era is pre-clean-up Times Square New York.

1965. Great cast, with Sal Mineo, Juliet Prowse, Jan Murray and Elain Stritch.

Here's the groovy dance sequence from the movie.

Apparently, the censors didn't know what to do with this film featuring suggested masturbation and a lesbian come-on scenes, not to mention stalking and drugtaking.

The jacket notes describe the movie as a "forgotten neo-noir masterpiece of American independent cinema" the "still retains the power to shock."

Further warning: strobe light effects.
posted by Short Attention Sp (3 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's a really fascinating movie, effective in its way, sort of a reverse Cat People where sexual anxiety/perversity is the norm and the well balanced girl the anomaly. It is definitely not a movie for everyone, sexual assault, rape, homophobic elements, children in sexual situations and other things might make it a tough watch for some, but there is something more than just exploitation involved too, even if the psychology too may seem outdated. It's movie some would find interesting and maybe even "good" (in varying ways), but others would probably be better off avoiding.

Also worth noting, for comic fans, the movie is written by Arnold Drake, who co-created Doom Patrol, Deadman and Guardians of the Galaxy.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:09 AM on January 31, 2022 [2 favorites]

This is a deeply weird movie that feels its age. Simultaneously salacious and engaging, it makes its victims and villains both sympathetic. Mineo's Lawrence is stunted victim, predator, and caring (if domineering) brother, all at once. He's given the heavier cheesecake treatment of any character, and revealed fairly early to be the main antagonist. Jan Murray as Det. Madden, despite being a "good guy", is one hell of a creep, all around weirdo, and straight cop on top of it all. Nightclub owner Marian, played by Elain Stritch, has clearly been around the block a few times, and justly views everyone with at least some suspicion while seizing the opportunity to engage with her own bit of aggression when the opportunity is ripe. And Prowse's Nora, been around the block herself, it seems, keeps fairly guarded, and never seems to express much joy until right before being violently victimized by the truly screwed up Lawrence.

It's interesting how the difference (as little as it may be) is made between Lawrence and Det Madden, both caring for younger female family, both seemingly obsessed with sexual/deviant behaviors, and quite capable of threatening behavior on women. Marian even imparts a bit of wisdom on how thin such a difference between predator and victim can be. Also interesting the females the two men care for: Lawrence's tragically developmentally disabled sister who's old enough to want to act out her sexual maturity, and the Detective's precocious daughter, as well versed as her father in the sexual deviancy of the day.

This isn't a great movie by any stretch, but it does hold the attention and it's characters are captivating enough.

It's also currently viewable for free on tubi.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:05 PM on February 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

I dunno, I mean, yeah, it feels its age, but it also shares a lot of DNA with things like David Lynch's films, I'd be a little surprised if he hadn't seen this. It takes an initial premise, sexuality as communicable pathology, and then follows it through to the end in an effectively intense manner, making it difficult to just shake off as "camp", though some do indeed go that route. It's got plenty of grounds for being objectionable to be sure in how it treats the characters and events, how it seems to posit "deviance", though without really ever establishing a healthy norm through interaction, just allowing it as a given with Nora.

Some of the ways it plays out its exaggerated elements are fantastic of course, like Lynch or, as I mentioned before, Cat People from which this movie even shares some settings and themes in a reversed manner, the zoo for example, and how Irena(in Cat People)/Nora represent/carry an alternative sexualized identity to all the other characters. The way every other character essentially seems to allow their own sexual desires/issues to determine their thinking and potentially "infect" those around them has some bite to it, as when Madden keeps playing the tapes of dirty phone calls and the like where his daughter can hear them without thinking about the consequences of that, along with all the other characters fronting their desires or problems in their various interactions.

It may not be great, but there's more to it than most movies that are easier to digest, which isn't to say it should be "liked" of course, just that the things that make it stand out are worth noticing as having, for its specific context, an appropriately crude power to it, as with Lynch, like a dream gone bad.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:23 PM on February 6, 2022

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