Howard Avedis Week: The Teacher (1974)

“Well, come on in a minute. I’m not gonna rape you.”
— So says Ms. Marshall to her student, Sean, as she washes her car, squiring her legs off with the hose

So, courtesy of the IMDb and Wiki — we’re saving you the digital trip — we know Howard Avedis graduated from the University of Southern California with a Master of Arts, where he also won the coveted George Cukor Award. But instead of being recruited by say, Universal or 20th Century Fox, he was recruited by . . .

Crown International Pictures. And no one escapes their Crown International Pictures fate. Not when your George Cukor award leads to filming suggestive scenes of nymphos with water hoses. The studio hired Avedis to write and direct the pseudo-Giallo murder thriller The Stepmother (1972) starring Latin sex symbol Alejandro Rey (Fun in Acapulco with Elvis Presley; the when-animals-attack classic The Swarm; TerrorVision). Next up in the Avedis-Crown contract was The Teacher, a film shot in 12 days for $65,000.

Okay, so . . . as you can see by the very cute and prim-and-proper Angel Tompkins (we kid you not: in another when-animal-attack flick, The Bees and, we kid you not, closing her career with a bit part in Micheal Fischa’s Crack House; which we review this week, so look for it), we’re in a grindhouse variant of the award-winning box office bonanza that was the Dustin Hoffman-starring The Graduate. Yep. Angel is our “Ms. Robinson” this time.

Now, I remember my parents getting dressed up to see the “dirty” The Graduate (read our review of Rage that gets into those bygone days of yesteryear when going to the movies was an “event”). Seriously, that 1967 romantic-comedy was a HUGE DEAL with its college student played by Dustin Hoffman seduced by — and having a sexual relationship — with Anne Bancroft. The Graduate was right up there with Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy, Patty Duke in Valley of the Dolls, and Warren Beatty in Shampoo — in terms of being “dirty” because of its shedding the ’50s aesthetic and having “adult themes” that were, like The Teacher, branded “vulgar” and “lurid.”

Yeah, right. I watched all of those films years after the fact on VHS and was, well, bored by the films. I mean, they’re good films, but not the “shock” I was expecting. The same goes for all of those Golden Age of Porn films: yawn. This is it? So, if you take away the Mike Nichols restraint — and give his cougar Anne Bancroft a hose, and eliminate the iconic, artful “through the legs” shot and the memorable church scene of that film — you’d get The Teacher. Only, Tompkins, while enjoyable, ain’t no Bancroft and Jay North — while good here in his first adult film role — still ain’t no Hoffman. And Avedis, god love ’em, ain’t no Nichols.

And neither is our other, love struck (crazy) pup here: Anthony James. We are talking the go-to screen baddie of the ’70s from Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter and the forgotten ’70s apoc’er Ravagers. He was Malcolm McDowell’s right-hand heavy in the Roy Scheider helicopter flick, Blue Thunder. James is pure awesome. You need a sweaty psycho: call Anthony James. (We just lost James in May of last year.) And Uncle Howie knows this because he brought James back for the 1978 hicksploitation romp, Texas Detour (which we also reviewed this week, so look for it).

So, anyway . . . it’s the summer. And love is in bloom — and stalking, natch, has blossomed because, well, it’s Anthony James and he must stalk — the 28-year-old Diane Marshall (at the time of filming, James was thirty-two; he’s not a “teen” but the older brother to one). And one of his buds in on the leering is his brother’s fellow high school friend: Jay “Dennis the Menace” North. Bikini bathing on boats and strip-naked exercising, ensues — all watched from the comfort of an old warehouse down by the docks where James lives with his brother.

Now, before we go onward: a school teacher who can afford to live on a boat on the riverfront? How, on a teacher’s salary . . . well, because, if not, this film review would stop right here. And her drifter-dreaming husband doesn’t have the required two pennies to rub . . . but I digress. Well, wait. I also need to point out she lives in a nice Cali-style split-level with a shiny Corvette in the drive way (for a sexy-boner car wash). Now, I dated a couple of school teachers . . . and between the salary and the student debt, they either lived in a dump or a crackerbox or had a bitchy-bossy roommate that dissed me at every opportunity. So what’s the dealo, here? Is our fair-haired teacher a prostitute on the sly? Dealing drugs? Her hubby’s a drifting, ne’er-do-well bum. so he’s no help. . . .

I know, quit over thinking and just trip n’ fall into the plot holes and get on with the review.

Yikes. I’d be “Hot for Teacher,” too.

So, in addition to James and North, their other horny little buddy — and James’s little brother — played by Rudy Herrera, Jr. (who did this and The Stepmother for Howard, then quit acting — at least on film), also has the hots for Ms. Marshall. And the trio fights over her. Well, see yahs later, Rudy: he goes over the warehouse railing to his death. Of course, this puts James’s Ralf Gordon and North’s Sean Roberts at romantic odds and sets up our needed “love triangle.” Of course, Ralf has the upper hand: he’ll tell the cops Sean murdered lil’ brother Louie.

Well, it seems no one is going to Scarborough Fair, for there is no scent of parsley, sage, rosemary, or thyme. And here’s to you Mr. Gordon and Mr. Roberts, for Ms. Marshall lusts after you more than you know. And Ms. Marshall needs a little Jesus more than she knows.

Yeah, that’s right: Ms. Marshall is not officially divorced yet. And when the ol’ drifter-hubby returns from his drifter excursions, she tells him she wants a divorce, because, well, she’s having fun playing these two emotionally immature ne’er-do-wells against each other — the type who, when they get upset, go for an old army bayonet, in short order. That’s this film: hoses and bayonets. And binoculars that our faux Ms. Robinson was aware of all along: for she’s a kitten with a whip, but she’s no Ann-Margret. Or Mamie Van Doren.

Regardless of the scathing press accusing CBS-TV’s Dennis the Menace star Jay North “bottoming out” in a (Golden Age of) porn film, The Teacher is in no way on the level of the works of producer Bill Osco, he the king of the “erotic art film,” aka porn, that launched the “Golden Age of Porn” and unleashed the likes of Linda Lovelace in Deep Throat and Marilyn “Rabid” Chambers in Behind the Green Door. Yeah, the grindhouse Golden Age’er The Devil in Miss Jones may have cleaned up at the box office the year before, but this Avedis entry is not the least bit “erotic” or “art” for that matter. Yeah, the repetitive grindhouse washout plays and VHS replays add that grainy, 8MM feel of the uploads on this — and there’s the cheesy “wah-wah” guitar n’ flute music that adds to the porn vibe — but it’s not a porn. So watch without the worries of having to Ivory out the eyeballs . . . or stuffing a dish towel down your frontside for any “accidents” of the tent-pitchin’ variety. Prop your popcorn box on your lap without concern — and watch with boredom.

Yeah, Hollywood sucks (no pun intended). And its critics and puritanical gossip columnists are worse. Jay North — again, who’s actually very good here; not Hoffman good, but decent — filled with high hopes at this attempt at an adulthood transition into films with The Teacher, wrapped up his career. He reappeared in two more projects: a 1980 TV movie Scout’s Honor and 1985’s Wild Wind (I’ve seen nor never heard of either) in small support roles. Today, after a stint in the U.S. Navy, he came to work as a counselor for the Florida Department of Corrections, a career he still holds today.

Here we go again! The copy of The Teacher we bookmarked to share was gone by the time we went to press. However, we found a copy on a new Tubi-styled free-with-ads stream service called FlixHouse — and it’s an app that can be downloaded though Amazon Prime and runs on your Android, Amazon Fire TV tablet, and Apple TV. However, you can also stream FlixHouse online on your PC or laptop without a download. It looks safe and legit to us. You can watch, HERE, on FlixHouse.

Oh, if you’re keeping track, Uncle Howie loves “affairs” in films, so be sure to check out They’re Playing with Fire and Separate Ways (that review is coming), the former with Sybil Danning, the latter with Karen Black. Just wow.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

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