Teenage Thunder (November 27, 1957)
Released on November 27, 1957: Johnny doesn't have a hot rod and the big shot in town makes fun of him because he doesn't have a muscle car. He discovers that 'chicken' isn't just a word . . . it could be murder.
Directed by Paul Helmik
Written by Rudy Makoul and Paul Helmick.
The Actors: Chuck Courtney (Johnnie Simpson), Melinda Byron (Betty Palmer), Robert Fuller (Maurie Weston), Tyler McVey (Frank Simpson), Paul Bryar (Bert Morrison), Helene Heigh (Aunt Martha Simpson), Gil Perkins (Sergeant Benson), Bing Russell (used car salesman), Gregory Marshall (Jimmy Morrison), Marshall Kent (Mr. Palmer), Mona McKinnon (Betty's sister)
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"Oh, why aren't boys as smart as girls are?" asks teenager Betty Palmer, played by actress Melinda Byron. When I was a teenager many centuries ago, I often heard that teenage girls matured faster than boys, and I often secretly wished that teenage guys like me could be equal to the girls instead of years behind. Today teens brag about how well they can navigate the latest computer games, but back in the 1950's it was all about hot rods and muscle cars. 'Souping up' and old car until it roared like a lion was a rite of passage for young boys. It was all about 'Hollywood' mufflers, leather wrapped steering wheels with a knob to grab for fast turning, finely tuned carburetors and maybe even an 'oogah' horn. If you were a teen in those days, or if you are a teen today and want to see how it used to be when Grandpa was a teenager, pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn with warm melted butter on it and see what the real 'Happy Days' of the 1950's was like.
I guess that every generation thinks that the transition from child to adult is mysterious, difficult and fraught with dangerous choices, and it was no different for Johnnie in 1957. Eighteen year old Johnnie has a girlfriend that works at the local malt shop, and a well-to-do businessman father that gives him a good home, but Johnnie wants more. Hot shot teen Maurie, played by Robert Fuller, later to star in the 1970's television show "Emergency", makes fun of Johnnie because he doesn't have a hot rod. He walks, or rides with his girlfriend when his dad won't let him borrow the family car. Maurie bugs him until Johnnie is willing to break the law in order to defend his man-hood and play hot rod 'chicken' with Maurie. Without the support of his father Johnnie heads further and further into the world of outlaw teens as he struggles to find himself and do the things he thinks he must do to become a man. Will Johnnie cross the line once too often and become an outlaw to society, living on the wrong side of the law? Will Betty bring him back from the wild side before he's gone too far? Will Johnnie's father ever wake up and give Johnnie the attention he needs instead of spending all his time working? Will the San Fernando Drag Racing Strip races be Johnnies greatest victory, or his final fall into a life of crime?
Chuck Courtney and Robert Fuller about to race each other.
Bing Russell as a used car salesman, wants Johnnie to bring back his car a.s.a.p.
Robert Fuller tries to make time with Melinda Byron as Chuck Courtney looks on
Gil Perkins and Marshall Kent
Gregory Mashall and Paul Bryar
Helene Heigh and Tyler McVey
Melinda Byron chats with Chuck Courtney as he works on the hot rod
Melinda Byron as Betty Palmer in Teenage Thunder
Mona McKinnon and Melinda Byron
Paul Bryar and Chuck Courtney
Paul Bryar confronts bully Robert Fuller at his service station with the Nehi soda pop sign in the background
Tyler McVey, Gregory Marshall and Paul Bryar watch as Chuck Courtney gets ready to drag race with Robert Fuller
Tyler McVey tries to teach Chuck Courtney how to fight
Tyler McVey in Teenage Thunder