High School Confidential (1958): Revisiting Juvenile Delinquency High School Drama, Starring Mamie Van Doren, Russ Tamblyn

Jack Arnold directed High School Confidential, a crime drama starring Mamie Van Doren, Russ Tamblyn, Jan Sterling, John Drew Barrymore, Jackie Coogan.

The film also features a cameo by Jerry Lee Lewis who opens the movie singing a song of the same name, which Lewis co-wrote with Ron Hargrave.

Lewis released the title track as a Sun Records 45 single which became a Top 40 hit, reaching #21 in the Billboard charts.

Mike Wilson, a young police officer, poses as a student under the alias Tony Baker, infiltrating a high school in order to investigate a narcotics ring. He lives in an apartment with Gwen Dulaine, a married woman who pretends to be his aunt in public but attempts to seduce him in private.

“Tony” flirts with pupil Joan Staples and incurs the wrath of teacher Arlene Williams. He discovers that Joan uses marijuana and inquires about where she purchases it. He ultimately learns that a mysterious man known as Mr. A, sells drugs to the students, helped by assistant called Bix.

With help from undercover cop Quinn, who risks his life to save Mike, the criminals are apprehended, and Joan promises Mike that her drug use is over.

Russ Tamblyn as Tony Baker/Mike Wilson
Jan Sterling as Arlene Williams
John Drew as J. I. Coleridge
Diane Jergens as Joan Staples
Mamie Van Doren as Gwen Dulaine
Jerry Lee Lewis as Himself
Ray Anthony as Bix
Jackie Coogan as Mr. ‘Mr. A’ August
Charles Chaplin Jr. as Quinn
Michael Landon as Steve Bentley
Lyle Talbot as William Remington Kane
Robin Raymond as Kitty

Vet character actor Charles Halton appears uncredited in his last role as Mr. Robinson, the high school principal.

The film was based on an original script by Lewis Meltzer. It was produced by Albert Zugsmith, the first of a six-picture deal he had signed with MGM, where MGM would get 75% of the profits and Zugmsith 25%.[6]

George Raft was meant to play a role, but in March, MGM announced Jackie Coogan would be playing the part.

The film earned $1,290,000 in the U.S. and Canada and $625,000 in other markets, resulting in a profit of $578,000.

However, the follow up films that Zugsmith made for the studio, including The Beat Generation and Platinum High School, were not popular.

In popular culture
This film is sampled on White Zombie’s album La Sexorcisto: Devil Music, Vol. 1 on four separate occasions. The “Do you want to start a rumble?” conversation, the “Drop it, buster!” line, the “tomorrow’s a drag” poem, and the Columbus speech (“the only thing square about this world…”).