Young Captives, The (1959)

US / 66 minutes / bw / Paramount Dir: Irvin Kershner Pr & Scr: Andrew J. Fenady Story: Gordon Hunt, Al Burton Cine: Wallace Kelley Cast: Steven Marlo, Luana Patten, Tom Selden, James Chandler, Ed Nelson, Dan Sheridan, Marjorie Stapp, Miles Stephens, Edward Schaaf, Joan Granville, Raymond Guth, Carol Nelson.

Young Captives 6 - Just a nice picnic in the desertAnn (Luana Patten) and Jamie (Steven Marlo): a campfire in the desert.

Drunk and enraged, no-good James “Jamie” Forbes (Marlo) beats to death the oil-rig boss, Mr. Kingston (Guth), who kicked his transistor radio to bits and fired him, then steals Kingston’s wallet, dumps the corpse into the dead man’s own oil well, and goes on the run.

Young Captives 1 - Benjie persuades Ann they should run away and marryBenjie (Tom Selden) persuades Ann (Luana Patten) they should run away and marry.

When his motorcycle breaks down (or doesn’t: the plot’s a little confused here), Jamie hooks up with Benjie Whitney (Selden) and Ann Howell (Patten), a young couple who’re eloping to Tijuana to get married even though she’s aged just 17. En route to Mexico, as they pause at a diner/garage, Jamie kills again, his victim this time being a blonde (Stapp) who resisted his advances.

Young Captives 2 - The young couple's first view of Jamie The young couple’s first view of Jamie ( Steven Marlo).

 Young Captives 3 - When a dame moves like that, Jamie's first thought is for her carWhen a dame sashays like that, Jamie’s first thought is naturally to check out her chassis — the chassis of her car, that is.

As the trio nears the border, the kids try to ditch their passenger, but Jamie pulls his knife on them and demands they divert to Tecate . . . Camped out in the Mexican desert, Jamie explains to the other two what his plans are for the future:

We’re going to get married. Not the three of us. Just you [points the knife at Ann] and me. Now, I could tell from quite a ways back she’s been giving me the big eye—bet you didn’t know that, huh, Benjie boy? I’m Mister In. You’re Mister Out.

Ann looks appropriately revolted at the prospect, looking appropriately revolted being something of a Luana Patten specialty.

Young Captives 4 - Jamie tries to infuse B & A with his love for oil rigsJamie (Steven Marlo)tries to infuse Benjie (Tom Selden) and Ann (Luana Patten) with his love for oil rigs.

In pursuit are the cops, in the shape of Detectives Dave Mahalik (Sheridan) and Norm Britt (Ed Nelson), as well as journalist Tony (Chandler), who supposedly has a knack for sniffing out mayhem. It’s Tony who, after Jamie has—as one would expect—gone to his maker and his young captives have been rescued intact, speculates that in another ten or twenty years perhaps society will be better able to deal with psychos like Jamie, helping them rather than simply catching or killing them. Dave Mahalik knows better—”That’s the trouble with us cops, Tony. We’re just born cynics”—although whether the cynicism is about the permanence of human evil or society’s lack of the will to help itself is left open to question.

Young Captives 7 - Norm and Dan know they're closing inNorm (Ed Nelson) and Dave (Dan Sheridan) know they’re closing in.

Marlo is really very good as the superficially charming psycho whose easy ingratiation fools those around him until, usually, too late; the character is completely credible, almost sympathetic despite his willingness to kill on the slightest whim. His philosophy of living entirely for the moment is simplistic, but it’s quite well worked through in the screenplay, giving the movie a shade of additional depth that one doesn’t expect in the average juvenile-delinquency flick. The other characters are less fully realized, as if from central casting, although Sheridan does a good turn as the cop who, despite his world-weariness, is unafraid to listen to the voice of his own compassion.

Young Captives 5 - Jamie's genial mask suddenly fallsJamie’s genial mask suddenly drops.

Kershner made a few noirish offerings—like STAKEOUT ON DOPE STREET (1958), The Hoodlum Priest (1961) and a couple of episodes of the TV series Naked City (1962–3)—before moving on to grander projects like A Fine Madness (1966), The Flim-Flam Man (1967), S*P*Y*S (1974) and EYES OF LAURA MARS (1978). He’s probably most remembered today as director of the second-released (and arguably best) Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

Young Captives 8 - Face burned from the campfire, Jamie makes a last bolt for freedomBring on the traditional hail of bullets.

One of the commenters at The Blackboard complained that this movie should have been included in my A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir, and on balance I think that they’re probably right; I plead ignorance in mitigation. My thanks to that critic.

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On Amazon.com: Young Captives

Young Captives x - A case for Apostrophe WatchA case for Apostrophe Watch.

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5 thoughts on “Young Captives, The (1959)

  1. Good you, John–that was me and, really, I was just kidding around. After all, your magnificent doorstop of a book should just somehow magically include all of the films that keep turning up despite everyone’s best efforts to close out the search. Which, of course, is what you’re doing so well here!

    But shame on you for not noticing Jamie’s neckware–that “tiki god” that (apparently) turned him into a proto-Mansonesque prophet of mayhem. The Italian poster for the film plays up this strange, silly but sinister icon and reminds us that the Europeans were always attracted to the psychoexotic in noir, whether in the ways they appropriated the “tropes” from American films or by focusing on the ironic details of such accoutrements.

      • Thanks, John. Sorry to have been unclear! It’s not easy to come up with a film you’ve not already covered, so the folks at the Blackboard tend to get giddy whenever that happens (and it’s getting more difficult all the time!)

        The festival went extremely well and we are gearing up for #2 in San Francisco, scheduled for late September. Then it’s likely that there will be other stops around the USA. Some wise guy suggested we reintroduce these films to the French, since Godard and Truffaut pretty much succeeded in burying them for the past half-century…who knows, we just might do that!

    • the folks at the Blackboard tend to get giddy whenever that happens (and it’s getting more difficult all the time!)

      Ha! I hadn’t known this was going on. Do you have a URL for the page where it’s happening, please? I haven’t been to the Blackboard in forever, alas. It would be really handy to find other movies I’ve missed.

      Glad to hear the fest went well. If it gets across to NYC/Jersey, do please lemme know.

      And many thanks again!

  2. Hi Don. Thanks for dropping by, and for the kind words! I’ve just been checking out your THE FRENCH HAD A NAME FOR IT page and drooling. I hope the festival went well. I’m jealous as hell of the lucky audiences.

    Good you, John–that was me and, really, I was just kidding around.

    Sorry: I’m not understanding you.

    Thanks very much for the pointer on the necklace. You’re right: I didn’t notice it — or, at least, don’t remember doing so (it’s over a year since I watche3d the movie). That’s a very useful addition to the post, and I shall shamelessly steal the observation should I write about this movie elsewhere.

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