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BLACKJACKETS [Raggare!] (1959).

Sweden's response to US films such as REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and THE WILD ONE was this gritty, black-and-white glimpse into Stockholm's unique greaser/hot-rod subculture (which still exists to this day). The young men all have big, slick pompadours and plenty of cocky attitude, cruising for chicks and treating their cars better than they do their women. Although this Scandinavian variation of American-International-style teensploitation lacks much of a plot, it overflows with incredible '50s fashions, vehicles and locations. Best of all, writer-director Olle Hellbom was unafraid of tackling darker subject matter and gives the film an authentic, uncompromising edge... All of the town's cool kids hang out at a local roadhouse café, where they can avoid square adults, blast jukebox tunes, smoke, play pinball, and make out. It's a wild ten-minute introduction to this scene, as Hellbom's camera glides amongst the various characters -- girls in search of cheap thrills, guys looking for virgins. Meanwhile, the leader of these delinquents is a callous, quick-tempered jerk named Roffe (Bill Magnusson), whose girlfriend -- feisty blonde runaway Bibba (Christina Schollin) -- likes to get dolled up and fleece rich older men. That is, until jealous Roffe decides to teach her a lesson by locking Bibba in his car's trunk, tossing her into a filthy roadside ditch, with he and his young sycophants pelting her with rocks and mud. The script takes a slightly more introspective direction in its second half, when Bibba meets legitimately thoughtful Lasse (Hans Wahlgren), but this screwed-up girl refuses to accept the idea of falling for nice guy. Subplots include a pair of ambitious adolescents attempting to steal a car, Bibba's worried parents searching for her, Roffe's little brother dealing with his drunken father's abuse, plus a sleazy older guy offering naive teen Anne Marie (Anita Wall) "mind-blower" pills, which have her dancing on tabletops and losing her virginity to the creep. Let's not forget about the story's "Chekhov's gun," in the form of a dangerous stretch of local roadway... The filmmaking style and performances are appropriately energetic, but unlike many of its US antecedents, this doesn't glamorize the greaser lifestyle. Roffe is just a mean-spirited asshole lacking the charisma of a Brando or Dean, and deserves his brutally blunt fate. With its brief nudity (during Bibba and Lasse's chaste skinny dip) and upfront conversations about teenage sex, this was obviously far too racy for US theatres of that period. The closest it ever came was a London members-only cinema screening in 1961. 21-year-old Schollin would go on to star in the Oscar-nominated DEAR JOHN and marry co-star Wahlgren three years later, with the pair still together after 58 years. Hellbom later directed 1969's 13-episode PIPPI LONGSTOCKING television series starring Inger Nilsson, which was edited into two feature-length movies for English-language theatrical consumption.

© 2020 by Steven Puchalski.