Drag Racing Week: The Young Graduates (1971)

Editor’s Note: We first encountered this lost ’70s teensploitation romp on February 7, 2021, when we reviewed it as part of Mill Creek’s B-Movie Blast 50-Film Pack. Since it has rails, we’re bringing it back for our “Drag Racing Week” tribute to those rails of the ’60s and ’70s running the quarter mile.

Image courtesy of Vectezzy.

Sam, the Chief Cook and Bottle Washer and Mix Master of Movie Themed Drink for B&S About Movies, is scary-psychic when it comes to my writing assignments. I don’t recall Dennis Christopher and Bruno Kirby ever popping up in conversation . . . Sam, how do you do it? It’s like my head is a Magic 8-Ball and you give it a shake. . . . It’s like Christmas!

Anyway . . . this why I love Mill Creek box sets — in this case, their B-Movie Blast 50-Film Pack — as it gives me a chance to see a movie that I never heard of, or seen. Yes . . . even with the Den and the Kirb in the house, so I don’t know how this one slipped by me. Sure, I’ve seen my fair share of ’70s soft-sexploitation flicks and T&A coming-of-age romps (but beware of advertising department scams) but this one . . . I don’t recall ever seeing The Young Graduates on a home video self. And, based on the college chick (What, high school?) showing off some strappy-sandals leg, along with the dune buggies, cycles, and rails . . . and that Crown International logo, well, what’s not to likey, here?

Now, you know how we are about particular actors ’round the B&S About Movie cubicles, right? In this case, for moi, I was into this lost drive-in ditty from the get, as it features early starring roles for two of my favorite actors: Dennis Christopher (Fade to Black and the really cool 10-Speed romp Breaking Away) and Bruno Kirby (How is Almost Summer not on a Mill Creek set? But, you know Bruno best from City Slickers and Good Morning, Vietnam). See? All actors have to start somewhere — and sometimes it has to be a Crown International flick.

Will you just look at Dennis! He’s just a kid, for gosh sakes! Yep, 16!, and he went on to appear nearly 40 movies and made-for-TV flicks since this debut (he was also in the proto-slasher Blood and Lace that same year). And Quentin? Well, he obviously knows both of Dennis’s 1971 debuts from his video clerkin’ days, so the Q recruited Dennis as Leonide Moguy in Django Unchained. Oh, and Dennis is such a stoner dude that his name is “Pan,” and not a more stoner name there be.

Anyway, while Bruno was a bit older, at 22, he was still able to play “young,” as a high schooler seven years later — at 29 — in, again, one of my favorite of his films, Almost Summer. But I’ll always also remember Bruno for The Harrad Experiment (which, in spite of the title, is not a horror film, but a coming-of-age drama led by James Whitmore and Tippi Hedren . . . with a babe-in-the-woods Don Johnson). Then there’s Bruno’s oft-aired HBO favorite, Baby Blue Marine with Jan-Michael Vincent (that also needs a Mill Creek bow).

Oops. I digress with the Charmin squeezin’ over the actors I dig.

This is loaded with mini-dressed dancing chicks, hippes in flower-power vans, wah-wah psychedelic guitars, and drag-racing rails, hippie chicks, doobies and roach clips, squares in suits and ties who want to be engineers, and those teens who just want to dropout and ride their motor scooters. Truth: When it comes to errant draggin’ rails in a film, I choose The Young Graduates over More American Graffiti — even though the later is clearly the better made film, because the former is the more entertaining film.

Rompin’ through this Partridge Family-cum-Easy Rider-lite world is the requisite sort-of-bad girl, Mindy, who’s like an early version of a romantically confused, can’t-make-her-mind Rachel Green with her endless I-hate-Ross-I-love-Ross insanity. Here, Mindy’s dilemma is between her decent, educated boyfriend Bill or her hunky married-but-he’s-so-hot teacher.

Oops. She’s hot for teacher and the rabbit just hopped in: Mindy’s pregnant. And how does she deal? Well, she runs away with her bestie, Sandy, on motorbike ride to Big Sur, California.

Now, while this sounds like another T&A romp of the Crown variety, it’s not. Surprisingly, for a Crown flick, this ended up being a sensitive exploration of coming-of-age-teens in the ’70s that’s actually well-written. As it should be, since it was scribed by Harvard-educated screenwriter Robert Anderson, who earned two Oscar nods for “Best Screenplay” with The Nun’s Story (1959) and I Never Sang for My Father (1970). Steve McQueen and war flick fans (Hey, there, Pops!), well, you know Anderson best for The Sand Pebbles (1966), again, nominated for an Oscar. And you have to feel a bit bad for Dennis and Bruno, as I am sure, being cast in a film written by a three-time Oscar-nominated writer, they had high hopes for this film . . . then Crown International had to come up with that dopey, exploitative theatrical one-sheet.

And that’s the tale of the three-time Oscar nominated screenwriter appearing on a Mill Creek box set.

Only in the B&S Movie-verse.

You can get this from Mill Creek on their B-Movie Blast 50-Film Pack, but we found a copy on You Tube and and extended teaser on You Tube.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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