Can any film possibly be as sleazy as the title for veteran exploitation director John Hayes’ 1977 “coming-of-age” Z-lister Jailbait Babysitter suggests? The answer to that is, unsurprisingly, “of course not,” and frankly this flick doesn’t even try to be — but it earns a few marks for never taking itself very seriously and for being almost disarmingly upfront with its intentions to in no way deliver on the “promise” its lurid advertising campaign suggests.
17 (so we’re told, she looks more like 30)-year-old Vicki March (Therese Pare) is a high school student and part-time babysitter who we are told, first thing out of the gate after opening crdits roll, won’t — ahem! — serve up the goods to her dork boyfriend, Robert (Roscoe Borne), or any of his slightly-older (the script claims they’re around 21) friends. In one of many awkward make-out scenes, when he’s trying to put the moves on her while they’re on a couch, she tells him “you can just cool off!,” to which he memorably replies “you can just go fuck yourself!,” but little spats like that aside we’re led to believe he’s generally a good-hearted, harmless guy.
One night while babysitting, her infant charge asleep upstairs, Robert’s stoner friends show up and throw an impromptu Roman-style toga party figuring they’ve got a few hours to spare until the “lord and lady” of the house come home, and we get one of the very few glimpses of nudity in the film as the revelers take their act into the bathroom for some kind of dull group shower (and the film’s ultra-low-grade production values really show here as the entire five-or-so-minute scene unfolds without synch sound and with the same annoying boogie-woogie, not-quite-disco recording looping endlessly while the “action” unfolds). One of the older cats gets the hots for Vicki, who’s still downstairs having taken a pass on the communal shower, she fights him off with a fireplace poker, a hutch full of supposedly expensive knick-knacks gets knocked over in the altercation, she flees into the night, and while the other kids are left scrambling when the couple who actually owns the house they’re “partying” in shows up early, the randy older fella gives chase to Vicki, who’s on foot, in his van.She’s eventually rescued from her ordeal by a woman passing by in a car , who we later learn is named Lorraine (Lydia March), an apparently good Samaritan who takes it upon herself to pull a gun on the horny “van man” — who promptly gets the point and fucks off. Lorraine takes Vicki into her home, fixes her dinner, offers her the run of the place, including use of her Lincoln Town Car, and Vicki, to no one’s surprise, likes the set-up and decides she’s gonna stick around. She apparently never even calls her parents to inform them of her new supposedly high-class living arrangements.
Come to find out, Lorraine’s a high-price hooker (and here I had her pegged for a lecherous lesbian — damn!), and she has a Pygmalion/My Fair Lady-type “home finishing school” scenario in mind for our supposed 17-year-old, with Vicki in the Eliza Doolittle role. She teaches her how to drink Irish whiskey (Vicki’s first solo attempt at imbibing it in a fancy restaurant ending in disaster), takes her shopping, and takes her out to something called the “Mulholland Tennis Club,” where Robert just happens to be working his new gig as a ball boy and notices his (now former, at least in her mind) gal pal associating with the hoi polloi. While at the club, our intrepid heroines make the acquaintance of two “gentlemen,” one of whom takes a very keen interest in young Vicki (for the record, she tells him — and Lorraine, for that matter — that she’s 19), and even though Lorraine doesn’t want Vicki to enter her chosen profession, she consents, for whatever reason, to let the older creep take the “jailbait” home with him.
After a little bit of lame smooth talk — which, to Hayes’ credit, he plays more or less entirely for laughs — Vicki decides that she’ll surrender her virginity to this bald, old dude, but when he tries to slide the snake into her, he ends up having a hear attack! Fortunately, Robert has tailed her from the tennis club to the sort-of-john’s place in his new van (talk about a romantic at heart — when he’s showing off his wagon to his older friends and they decide to try to start balling in the back seat, Robert throws them out, letting them know in no uncertain terms that “this van is for me and Vicki!”), they’re able to phone the cops, medical help arrives in time, and Vicki has learned her lesson and decides it’s time to go back home and settle for Robert after all.
Things aren’t quite done yet, though, as we get an out-of-nowhere-competently-staged Halloween party, complete with fog machines, interesting camera angles, and generally- pseudo-creepy atmospherics, and at said party, while Robert makes time with another chick absolutely out of the goddamn blue after pining after Vicki inconsolably for the previous 99% of the film, fireplace-poker-boy makes another run at Vicki’s virginity by force, Robert arrives just in the nick of time to fight him off, Vicki finally gets it on with Robert in his snazzy new pussy-wagon, and the happy couple drives off into the sunset, her 48-or-so hour run at a supposedly “better” life now a distant memory.
If all of this seems like a rather toned-down version of Malibu High, it is — the girl here is a prude rather than a cocktease, and she almost becomes a hooker rather than definitely becomes a killer, but the morality-play set-up is essentially the same, as is the inherent message — accept your station in life, kids, and don’t try to break the mold, or you’ll be flirting with disaster. While the posters and ad campaigns for flicks like this promised risque hijinks, in truth this kind of story was a moralist’s wet dream, and frankly probably appealed a lot more to the parents of the teenagers this movie was marketed to than to said teens themselves, who probably found the whole thing pretty dull and preachy. As for the pervs who showed up at the box office hoping to see some ripe “jailbait” flesh — well, normally I’m not one to stick up for this crowd, but they really should have been given refunds.
Jailbait Babysitter is available paired with SuperVan as part of Code Red’s “Exploitation Cinema” series of double-feature DVDs under their “Saturn Productions” label (which they generally seem to reserve for flicks they’re less than proud to have their main brand name associated with). It’s a horribly shitty-looking looking direct-from-VHS transfer (the tracking’s even off in spots) that’s so blotchy and washed-out that you can barely make out John Goodman’s cameo in this, his first film appearance (SuperVan, by contrast, looks great, in case you were wondering). Sound is mono and pretty crappy as well, and the only extras are trailers for some other Code Red titles.
Marketing what’s essentially a tired and conservative “lesson” in morality as a scintillating and downright prurient skin-flick is an old grindhouse trope and I certainly don’t hold that against Jailbait Babysitter. What’s refreshing, though, is how brazen they are in admitting the switcheroo they’ve pulled on their audience almost from the get-go, and how director Hayes steadfastly refuses to take any of it very seriously. It’s certainly in no way a “step above” most other films of this ilk, but it’s pleasingly self-deprecating and harbors no illusions about being anything other than the seen-it-a-million-times-already crap that it is. Not worth seeking out by any means, but if you’re bored at home on an uneventful weeknight, it’ll do in a pinch.