Take one handsome leading Hollywood actor, add two foxy Broadway hoofers, throw in some hip-grinding jazzy music and mix it all up in a soufflé of psychosexual angst set against New York City sleazy nightclubs and ‘Presto!’ you’ve got this forgotten 1960’s oddity.
From the cheesy theme tune and Saul Bass-inspired title sequence to the shattering climax, this 1965 chiller reeks of exploitation. Sal Mineo (yes, he of Rebel Without a Cause fame) plays Lawrence, a busboy at a 42nd Street discotheque run by a fierce-but-fair dyke called Marian (the utterly fabulous Elaine Stritch).
Spinning the decks in the dingy club filled with grooving babes and middle-aged men on the make is hostess-cum-DJ Norah (the alluring Juliet Prowse – you might remember her dancing with the Muppets back in the 1970s).
Sexually-frustrated and forced to look after his mentally-challenged sister, Sal Mineo’s Lawrence gets his jollies from making dirty phone calls to Norah in the dead of night. Cue lots of heavy breathing and a very frightened young woman.
Enter equally mixed-up cop, Lt Dave Madden (played by US stand-up comic Jan Murray). Madden is determined to put every pervert in New York behind bars and obsessively plays audio tapes of various criminals confessions as his daughter listens from her bedroom – now, that’s just not right. Madden then sets out to help Norah, but there’s a problem – she thinks he might be the psycho.
I won’t spoil the rest of this sleaze-fest for you, but the gritty New York City location shots, sleazy nightclub shenanigans and shocking twist at the end makes this new DVD release a must-have. And, while the sound and picture quality is questionable (some scenes have been edited from different sources), seeing a beefed-up Mineo trying on his best Dean/Brando impression in tight jeans and muscle shirt is real hoot. As for the other shocking twist – Prowse and Mineo hip shaking to a groovy beat – well, enough said. But film music lovers will like to know that the catchy discotheque numbers are by Four Seasons’ legend Bob Gaudio and Al Kasha (the man behind those fanastic Maureen McGovern songs in The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno).
Who Killed Teddy Bear may not be a cinematic masterpiece, but it’s an oddity that belongs in the collection of anyone who loves trashy cinema and rightly deserves high cult status. The Network DVD release also has two extras for Sal Mineo fans – an episode of the 1960s World War II legal drama series, Court Martial and the turned-on 1960s documentary LSD: Insight or Insanity? which Mineo narrates.
Released January 26
For your viewing pleasure, here’s the official trailer.